So you've weaned the kids off of the dye and high fructose corn syrup heavy popsicles lurking in the grocer's freezer — but where to go from there? Those frozen grapes and plain fruit popsicles may get a little unexciting after a while.

Spice up the traditional popsicle by making a favorite summer time Mexican treat — the paleta. A paleta is a little denser than your average popsicle and made with all natural ingredients. They are often in layers and do not strain out any pulp from the fruit.They take slightly more preparation than your average popsicle but are well worth the effort - your kids will be walking around with a delicious, healthy snack (that they think is a dessert). You just need a mold, some popsicle sticks, and recipes.

Some recipes take as little time as a couple minutes to prepare and a couple of hours to freeze. A few (particularly ones with milk in them) usually take overnight.

You can make them with any easy-to-clean, BPA-free popsicle mold such as Progressive International's Pop Freezer Maker.

Check out some great recipes from Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas.

Key to getting the paletas out of the molds is a brief warm water bath in the sink. When looking for something to help 'hold' the popsicle together, consider the banana or another fruit that binds.

Here are a few of recipes to try. Each should make 8 paletas (one complete mold full).

Vegetable Paletas

Sounds like it's never going to happen? Get kids liking veggies on a stick?! With a little ingenuity you can get them to like these.

Cucumber and Mint Paletas

Cucumber and mint are a great, nutritious combo for a summer treat.

Ingredients

  • 3 large cucumbers peeled
  • 8 large mint leaves (chopped finely)
  • 2 cups of crushed ice
  • 1 banana

Method

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour into molds and freeze for at least two hours.

Avocado and Lime Paletas

This one is a great one for teething babies and toddlers alike.

Ingredients

  • 3 avocados
  • 2 t of freshly squeezed lime
  • 1 T agave nectar (low glycemic index)
  • 1 cup crushed ice

Method

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour into molds and freeze for at least two hours.

Fruit Paletas

This is the closest one to our American popsicle. Summer fruits are in abundance. A favorite for us is always a berry one.

Tri-Color Paletas (Think 4th of July)

This is more complicated and takes three layers of freezing to work.

Bottom layer:

  • 1 basket of organic blueberries
  • 1 dash of cinnamon
  • 1 squeeze of lemon
  • 1 cup crushed ice

Mix in blender fill bottom layer of molds and freeze.

Middle layer:

  • 1 pint of organic whipping cream (Straus Family Creamery makes an excellent one)

Hand whip until frothy. Spoon and even into molds as second layer and let freeze while preparing third layer.

Top layer:

  • 1 basket of organic strawberries (Remember, pesticides do not wash off of strawberries easily and the chemical residue can overpower the natural sweetness.)
  • 1 cups of crushed ice
  • 1 squeeze of lemon

Mix in blender fill top layer of molds and freeze for two additional hours.

The result is a beautiful red, white, and blue berry perfection that retains both the natural sweetness of the berries and the tartness of them as well.

Spicy Paletas

Some kids are ready to try spicier foods. This is a great introduction to spicy and an authentic way many Mexican children enjoy their fruit! Teenagers especially might enjoy.

Mango Pineapple Paletas

Ingredients

  • 1 t of crushed red pepper
  • 1 can or the contents of one pineapple
  • 2 mangos
  • 1 banana to bind
  • 2 cups of crushed ice

Method

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour into molds and freeze for at least two hours.

Dessert Paletas

My family's favorite dessert is the Tres Leches (or three milk) cake. Originally created in the 1950s to sell evaporated and condensed milk from Nestle's (the recipe used to be on the back of the cans sold to Latin America), this classic Latin American dessert now has many variations. Here's our recipe for the paletas version:

Tres Leches Paletas

Ingredients

  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 2 t of vanilla
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2 t of cinnamon
  • banana to bind (optional)

Method

Whisk ingredients together in a bowl (blender will thin out too much). Do not use a fat-free coconut milk as it won't freeze correctly. Pour in molds and freeze overnight.

Kids are much more likely to try new foods when they've had a hand in making them. Make it a morning activity. By late afternoon you'll have the perfect snack.

Additional photo by Jayson Spiritos, used with permission.