Oh Sweet Day!

To Ethan (68 & 69 months) and Maya (44 & 45 months)

July 24, 2014 by Fanny | 4 Comments

Dear Ethan and Maya,

Thanks to the provincial teachers strike that cancelled your summer camp, your summer holidays have gone halfway, and you’ve done nothing productive or meaningful. Thankfully we have a big group of wonderful family members who love to hang out with you both although they are fully aware that you can bite.

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When Maya goes to day care, Ethan, you will go to your grandparents. And I think you enjoy it way more than anything else. Because going to grandpas means that you will be taken to the mall that has Apple Store.

“Mommy, what am I going to do tomorrow?” you ask.

“You will go to grandpa’s house.”

Right that moment, no matter how bad a day you are having, your tone will change instantly from CURRENTLY DYING to polite conversation over tea at the tennis club. “Maya, I’m going to grandpa’s house, and he will take me to the Apple Store, and I get to play iPaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.”

And Maya, last time you jumped right out from nowhere after you heard your brother, and asked, “Are you going to stay there for a long time?” And jokingly I threatened to leave your brother there forever. “FOREVER?” you asked, and just as I was about to assure you that I was only kidding, your brother dropped his spoon, wiggled her fingers in the air and shouted, “I WOULD LOVE TO STAY THERE FOREVER!

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Back in late May, you spent several days with your grandparents and your father’s sister, aunt Karin while your father and I took a trip to San Diego to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Our anniversary was a week ago, we moved the celebration earlier because Kaman was coming over from Hong Kong last month and we thought we should be around when she’s still new to this country. When we returned you both were happier to see us than you’ve ever been. You took turns to show us the new toys and books that your aunt bought you. We were told that you both were nothing but well behaved and delightful the entire time we were gone, and you remained that way for, oh, an hour. Right up until your father said it’s time to go to bed. Maybe because you were exhausted from having to hold your shit together for so many days or you really needed that extra five minutes to play, but something switched and you both started to whine about how your new toys were going to disappear after you went to bed and you did not want them to disappear, but they would be gone whatsoever AND IT WOULD MAKE YOU SAD! SAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDD! I kept reassuring you that your toys would not be going anywhere except sitting on your desks, but WHEN I FALL ASLEEP THEY WILL BE GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE! Before you started to turn the initial fear of disappearing toys into WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE, we carried you both to your rooms, dangled your toys outside the window and made you lie down on your beds before we said good night and closed the doors.

Just when we started to think how awful we are as parents, Maya, you yelled from your room, “I need to get a blue pillow for my bed like Queen Elsa’s.” I asked you from the small opening of the door, “Why is that important?” And you simply said, “Because you need to listen to me.” I looked at your father who was standing next to me, and we knew what we’d done was absolutely marvellous.

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This summer has been a total blur, lots of playdates, biking, beaches and pool parties at the backyard. Let me rephrase that. PLENTY OF pool parties. So much that you both spend too much time under the sun and became too tan. Not you, Maya, you will still be as white as Queen Elsa. Don’t worry! But Ethan, you are so dark that people have started to tell me that “your son looks like a Thai.”

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Every day we will have the pool ready at the backyard. Or I will have your father to get the pool ready, but he seems to have a hard time doing it every single day because he has what I call a lawn brain, the situation that occurs when a person’s brain cells are too focused on the grass growing that his brain doesn’t have enough cells to complete simple tasks, like putting up the pool so his kids can play instead of being bored inside the house. I will consider it a good day that he spends that long period of time cleaning the dishes instead of gazing at his beloved lawn.

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Last month, your father offhandedly bought another gadget that mounts an iPad in the backseat of our car so you could watch shows on the road. He simply thought it would be a good way to stop his yelling over your tantrums, especially when it’s a long drive. When you were first introduced to this idea, every car ride was extremely peaceful that I had to turn to check if you guys were still breathing. Your father couldn’t be more proud until we started to have the same conversation every time when we are about to go out – is it going to be a long ride so we can watch iPad? Not really. Is it a little bit long? Not at all. How many minutes? 20? Half an hour? IT’S GOING TO BE JUST THREE MINUTES BEFORE WE GET TO THE GROCERY STORE AND YOU CAN’T EVEN FINISH THE OPENING CREDIT. FORGET IT!!!

Sometimes you become so upset that I will tell you to go take that up with your father, he’s the one who came up with this brilliant idea, and while you are at it, could you please tell him that he’s been in the bathroom for too long, can he even feel his legs anymore? Some people run marathons faster than your father uses the toilet.

I don’t have anything specific to tell you each individually because these few months you both have gotten along pretty nicely. Being each other’s company and sharing imaginations is what you do most of time. Sometimes when Maya needs to take an afternoon nap where Ethan, you have to be alone for an hour or two, you feel lost. You do nothing but keep asking how much longer is Maya going to sleep for? Can I wake her up now? Is she going to have dinner with us? Can we play after she wakes up?

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One of the many things that I really enjoy seeing you both doing is when you have to pick a show on Netflix that you both like to watch. Amongst a couple fights, it has been pretty negotiable between you both.

I know kids need to go outside more, read more books and get their hands dirty in mud and grass and paint. They need to hug chickens and milk cows. I know this already. But that moment you both are snuggling up in the couch, sharing a blanket, watching that specific show that you both agree…You remain in this embrace for a good hour. You will get around to hugging those chickens, but for right now I’m thrilled that the television brought you together like this. And I just wanted to thank Netflix.

Love,
Mommy

S’mores Macaron

July 23, 2014 by Fanny | 15 Comments

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What do you think s’mores are? Traditionally they are a stack-up of graham cracker, chocolate bar and marshmallow over a camp fire. Crunchy, toasty and of course yummy! But you know what, things have changed. Internet will tell you s’mores are cakes, brownies, popsicles, ice cream…And you don’t have to have a camp fire in order to enjoy any of these.

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I don’t normally like to eat graham crackers, chocolate or marshmallow individually. But the combination of these ingredients plays a magic on me, and I will become a totally sucker. Some time ago I made these s’mores tartlets. Oh! I think I’ve started to miss them.

These macarons are another interest twist on the classic s’mores. The shells are made with graham cracker crumbs, then filled with marshmallow frosting, topped it with chocolate glaze and a little sprinkle of grahma cracker crumbs. Well, I’ve been looking for the right macraron flavour that I really like, because I am not a huge fan. And I think I’ve found one.

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Ingredients (around 30 sandwich cookies)

Macaron Shells
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Marshmallow Frosting
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
Chocolate Glaze
50 grams dark chocolate, cut into small chunks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon corn syrup
 

Directions:

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Put a master template under the parchment paper or draw circles, about 1 1/2-inch, in rows on the paper, about 1 inch apart.

Process powdered sugar, almond flour and graham cracker crumbs in a food processor until finely ground. Sift the mixture through a sieve. If there are more than 2 tablespoons of large chunks left in the sieve, grind them and sift again. Set the mixture aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium speed until frothy. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high and beat until very stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.

Sift the almond flour mixture over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the almond flour mixture into the egg whites until the batter has loosened and falls in a ribbon from the spatula.

Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tip and fill the bag with the batter. Using the template as a guide, pipe circles onto the parchment papers.

Tap the bottom of each sheet on the work surface to release trapped air bubbles. Let the cookies stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This allows the cookies to develop their crusts.

Preheat oven to 300F. Bake the macarons for 10 to 12 minutes, until set but not browned.

Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the macarons to cool completely on the pans. Once cooled, gently lift half of the cookies from the parchment paper and turn them upside down.

To prepare the marshmallow frosting, in a large heatproof bowl, combine sugar and egg whites. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat on high speed until foamy for a minute. Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Beat on high speed until frosting form stiff peaks, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and water, and beat for another 2 minutes until frosting thickens.

Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain pastry tip and pipe a teaspoon of filling onto each of the upside-down cookies.

To prepare chocolate glaze, microwave the chocolate and butter in 10-second intervals. Stir in corn syrup until the mixture becomes smooth.

Dip the top of each of the remaining cookies. Place it on top of the marshmallow filled cookie. Sprinkle the reserved graham cracker crumbs on top.

Baby Gender Reveal Cupcake

July 21, 2014 by Fanny | 14 Comments

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Over the past weekend, I made these cuties for one of my special friends who’s expecting her first child. The idea came up pretty quickly because I’ve made these before for one of my clients. Nothing brand-new, but this is one of the recipes that I would love to revisit over and over again. These cupcakes look chic on the outside and adorable inside. They aren’t only great for revealing baby gender, they can be customized for any party celebrations or holiday events. I made a couple extra for my kids who were fighting to eat all so they could see the colour inside.

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The cupcakes taste incredibly chocolate-y with the moist chocolate cake and the decadent ganache. The inside can be filled with buttercream, cream cheese frosting, or mostly used marshmallow frosting for fauxstess cupcakes. Again, I used my beloved one-bowl chocolate cake recipe which is unbelievably easy that a mind-blowing result.

Ingredients (12 regular sized cupcakes):

Chocolate Cake
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Blue or pink food coloring paste
Chocolate Ganache
100 grams dark chocolate, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
 

Directions:

To prepare cupcake, preheat oven to 350F. Grease muffin tin or line with muffin liners.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Crack in the egg, spoon in the sour cream, and pour in the oil and the vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Pour in the boiling water, and slowly mix until smooth and liquidy.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, about halfway full. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely.

To prepare buttercream, beat butter for a few minutes in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add powdered sugar and turn your mixer on low, beat until the sugar incorporates with the butter. Add vanilla and heavy cream, beat on medium speed for another 3 minutes, or until buttercream becomes light and fluffy.

Transfer 1/3 of the buttercream to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain pastry tip. Set aside.

Add coloring paste, one drop at a time, to the rest of the buttercream, continue beating until the color is nicely blended.

Using a small pairing knife, cut off the top of the cupcake in the shape of a cone. Flip the top over and cut off the cone. Fill the cavity with a teaspoon or two of frosting. Replace top.

To prepare ganache, place the chocolate, heavy cream and corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture using a wooden spoon until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes.

Grab each cupcake with its bottom, dip cupcake in the ganache to coat the top, let excess drip off. Place cupcakes in refrigerator for 10 minutes to set the ganache.

Pipe a question mark with the reserved buttercream on each cupcake.

To Ethan and Maya – A family of five

July 17, 2014 by Fanny | 0 comments

Dear Ethan and Maya,

It’s been over two weeks since my cousin Kaman arrived Vancouver. We all met her first time when we went to Hong Kong early this year. Already you both started to get crazy with this 16-year-old as if she were made entirely out of chocolate ice cream. Over these two weeks, you guys have become intensely possessive of Kaman. Like when we try to have a conversation, either one of you will crawl up into her lap and place your entire body in front of her face so that I cannot see her. So annoying that I have to tilt my head to one side in order to finish my sentence!

Kaman is going to stay with us for at least the next five years planning to finish high school. Huge obligation and responsibility for us considered I am still an amateur mother learning to parent the very young of you both. But Kaman has become so much a part of our family, so very close to you both, so helpful, easy-going and generous. A teenage girl with a good heart.

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I love this picture of you all, and I hope she remains a lifelong big sister so that I can show this to you when you are older.

Love,
Mommy

To Ethan and Maya – Eight years passed

July 15, 2014 by Fanny | 8 Comments

Dear Ethan and Maya,

Your father and I got married today eight years ago. Sooner or later, he is going to share with you one of my most annoying shortcomings that has never been overcome – my inability to deal with systems that have anything to do with directions.

Last week I had to go to downtown by Skytrain. Last time I took public transit, it was years ago when I was working in downtown. Every day I had to go on the same route to and fro, because I was scared to be taken somewhere else if I didn’t. What if I missed a stop and then out of a sudden I landed in Minnesota! In order to make sure I wouldn’t go to Minnesota, your father had to check the Skytrain station map in advance and brief me thoroughly, like which station to transfer, which platform I should go. If I don’t normally walk faster than he does, he would basically need to count how many steps I would need to take from one spot to another, just to be extra safe. Nobody wanted to go to Minnesota.

Last week after I successfully arrived downtown, we texted each other.

Me: I was a little late.

Your father: Really? Why it took so long?

Me: First of all, it was a long ride. Then I missed one station and I had to ride back.

Him: Oh! So it took an hour for the ride? That’s really long!

Me: You know there are two lines to the destination.

Him: Yes. But the one I told you is faster.

Me: I took the other.

Him: WHAT?????? You are really stupid on these things.

Me: Damn you!!!!!

Him: No wonder it took an hour! I told you to take another one!

So, your father, the King of Not Remembering Anything Even When He Was Told A Minute Ago, was trying to complain about my inability to manoeuvre the highly complex and intricate public transit system when just days ago he searched for his missing cell phone for the whole afternoon only to find it on the couch where it was supposed to be. Let’s recount how that episode played out:

Your father looks for his missing cell phone all over the house before he decides to drive back to the store where he visits that morning. Having no luck at the store, he tries to call his cell again, “You found my cell?”

I say, “Your son found it! Not me. Because if I had found it I would have made a point of telling you that YOUR WIFE, THE ONE WHO HAS TO REMIND YOU WHAT’S FOR DINNER WHEN YOU ARE JUST TOLD TEN SECONDS AGO, found your cell.”

Here we’ve just participated in the most stereotypical married-couple fight in history. And you both may start to go back to your rooms only to find your eyes are going to get stuck in the back of your heads.

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Love,
Mommy

Mini Cherry Shortbread Pie

July 14, 2014 by Fanny | 10 Comments

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I know a lot of people who are not really into cherry dessert. Baking with cherries sounds really gross to them. Some even have a hard time facing an apple pie because cooking fruits to them is nothing but YUCK!

I happen to be the opposite who loves to bake with fruits. I can’t really recall which fruit I haven’t tried to bake with. Maybe durian? Well, the thing is I don’t even like to eat durian.

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One of the perfect reasons to bake with fruits is you can make use of those not-really-good-for-eating ones, like these under-ripped cherries. They are cooked with sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest for a little while, before they become a bowl of tasty sweet cherry filling that goes perfectly with vanilla ice cream.

I reserved some to make these mini cherry pies. They are not crazily sweet like the traditional ones, thanks to the buttery shortbread crust which helps balance the flavour. The size is good for a single serving, wonderfully perfect to pair with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche.

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Ingredients (10 mini pies):

Shortbread Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cherry Filling
4 cups cherries, pitted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup and 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon zest
 

Directions:

In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt.

Cream butter and powdered sugar in a bowl of a standing mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.

Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

Gather dough and form a dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill.

To prepare filling, combine the cherries, sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over medium-low heat and cook for 10 minutes.

Mix cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water into paste. Add the mixture and lemon zest to the cherries. Keep cooking until it thickens. Allow the cherry filling to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 2/3 of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 4-inch rounds. Gently fit the dough rounds into the bottom of the prepared muffin tin. 

Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons cooled cherry filling into each cup.

Roll the remaining dough out and cut into 1/3 inch width strips. Lay 3 or 4 strips over the filling, evenly spaced, and then weave with the remaining strips diagonally. Adhere the ends to the edge of the shell.

Bake the pies for 18 to 20 minutes until lightly browned.

Remove from oven and let the tart shells cool a few minutes before inverting and transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To Maya – Only if it comes in my size

July 14, 2014 by Fanny | 8 Comments

Dear Maya,

You’ve been refusing to put on anything that is not a dress. Every morning I try to make you wear the other non-dress outfits that only fit you this week, but won’t next week because you will grow another foot taller.

Last week I successfully put this jumpsuit on you. In the midst of crying and stumbling around naked, you asked, “Does Queen Elsa really wear this all the time?” I answered, “Yes! That’s how she collects her magic powers before she put one the blue dress.”

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Love,
Mommy

Peach Cupcake

July 7, 2014 by Fanny | 10 Comments

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Summer fruits are my love. They are sweeter, more colorful and tons of varieties. Besides berries, my favourites are stone fruits, especially peaches and nectarines.

I love to cut them in small pieces and put them in plain yogurt for a refreshing and healthy breakfast. They are great for making popsicles or sorbet too. Even in baked good, like these cupcakes.

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These cupcakes are light, moist and very fruity, perfect base for the sweet and peachy buttercream. The cake itself would be great as breakfast muffins too.

Ingredients (12 regular sized cupcakes):

Peach Vanilla Cake
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup diced firm peaches
Peach Whipped Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup peach puree
1 to 2 drops of peach food coloring paste
 

Directions:

Preheat over to 350F. Grease muffin tin or line with muffin liners.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix eggs, granulated sugar and brown sugar until well combined. Gradually add oil and vanilla, mix until just blended.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the buttermilk, mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Fold in diced peaches.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely.

To prepare the frosting, beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.  Add powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar incorporates with the butter.  Add vanilla, heavy cream and peach puree, continue mixing until incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium high, beat for another 5 to 8 minutes until light and fluffy.

Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a preferred tip and frost the cupcakes. Garnish with a sliced of firm peach on each cupcake.

12 Summer Fruit Dessert

July 1, 2014 by Fanny | 4 Comments

Check out 12 Summer Fruit Dessert

by Oh Sweet Day! at Foodie.com

We are all suckers of fresh berries. Strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry…My kids eat berries by bowls. I have to keep that bowl of blueberries away during meal time, so they won’t be distracted and focus on that plate of pasta.

The thing is it’s kind of okay if your kids prefer eating berries over the sandwich or pasta. At least it feels okay because fruits are not junk food. You want them to eat fruits instead of candies or chips. So be generous and buy lots of summer fruits, feed your family or use them to cook or bake.

Summer fruits are full of vibrant colours, aromatic flavour and delicious taste. I love to bake with them, decorate my cakes with them, or just look at them. Trust me, it will make you happier!

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First Row

Mango Mousse Cake

Cherry and Walnut Buttermilk Cake

Fresh Mango, Coconut and Lime Ice Cream

Second Row

Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Tartlet

Fresh Mango and Strawberry Popsicle

Chocolate and Strawberry Mousse Cake

Third Row

Lemon Blueberry and White Chocolate Cream Cake

Fresh Berry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Blueberry Cream Pie

Fourth Row

Chocolate Cake with Mango Mousse and Nutella Panna Cotta

Strawberry Lemonade Cake

Ultimate Blueberry Cupcake

This post is brought to you by Foodie.com.

Fresh Mango and Strawberry Popsicle

June 29, 2014 by Fanny | 8 Comments

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Make these and your kids will love you more! I guarantee you!

Summer holidays started a little sooner that I expected, thanks to the teacher strike. And what happens now is every few days my house will become a day camp where my kids and their friends hang around at the backyard, splashing in the pool, scooching down the water slide, climbing tree, and having sweet treats, like these popsicles.

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Fresh, fruity, natural, fun, eye-catchy, versatile…these frozen treats are perfect for the whole world. Instead of mixing the fruit puree together, I decided to go for a fun striped effect by layering mango puree and strawberry puree and freezing them in stages. You can use any kind of berries, or you can try peach, nectar, cherry, even citrus would be a great idea.

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Ingredients (6 to 8 popsicles):

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh strawberry, hulled and halved
3 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
 

Directions:

In a saucepan, combine sugar and water. Simmer until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Chill in refrigerator for an hour.

Puree cooled syrup, lemon juice and strawberries until smooth. Set aside.

Puree mango chunks until smooth. Strain and set aside.

Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of strawberry mixture into the bottom of the popsicle mold. Freeze for around 30 minutes until set.

Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of mango puree into the popsicle mold, on top of the strawberry layer. Freeze.

Push popsicle sticks into the frozen mango layer. Continue with the another layer of strawberry and mango.  Freeze until solid.

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