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plum ricotta pops

It is so rewarding to see my daughters get as excited about cooking or baking as I do. Summer holds so much incredible fruit - berries, cherries, peaches, apricots, plums - that I find myself constantly wanting to create new desserts. These simple pops satisfied our ice cream cravings one hot afternoon and, since they're healthier than ice cream, I'm convinced they're fine for breakfast as well.

I've had a lot of heavy memories on my mind lately, regarding a past abusive relationship from what seems like a lifetime ago. Yesterday an essay I wrote on the subject of domestic violence was published on in the website's Mom Talk column. You can read my piece here. Nearly 18 years after getting out of that relationship, I still find hope and inspiration in my current life, my three daughters, my love for cooking and its daily correlation to both childhood and adult memories. The difference between now and 18 years ago, though, is that I've noticed I am stronger and I carry myself in a different way. I am more introspective at times, though less judgmental of myself. I know that I am a capable woman. I am teaching my daughters to be strong and confident as well. When we are in the kitchen, creating a recipe together, I watch them taking turns mixing and tasting, and I feel grateful that I am able to enjoy this life and write about my past without feeling devastated any longer. My abuser no longer controls me. He hasn't for a long time. He no longer lives in my mind and my emotions and the darkest places within myself that I hid in for so long.

I find joy in my everyday tasks now because I intentionally look for it, and I make the choice to be grateful. I believe that I will always struggle to some extent with depression and the way it can impact my life sometimes; however, without my past experiences, I wouldn't have such an incredible story to share with other women in need of encouragement and support.

I wish I could sit down with a woman I once knew named Joanne, have a long conversation and a cup of coffee and something sweet to eat. I would tell her that I got out, that I'm still alive, that I'm still healing even today, that I'm stronger than I used to be, that she was my lifeline. I wish I knew how many other women she has inevitably helped over the years, and I wish I could express my most sincere gratitude to her for simply listening when I felt I had nowhere else to turn.

Plum Ricotta Pops
These pops are lightly sweetened with honey and flecked with vanilla bean, and countered with a bit of tartness from the juicy plums. You could substitute any fruit you like for the plums.

Yields: 10 pops

1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese (a 15-oz container)*
1/4 cup unsweetened cashew milk
1 tbsp raw organic honey
1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure vanilla bean paste
3 or 4 ripe plums, washed, pitted, and thinly sliced

Place 10 ice pop molds on a rimmed sheet pan. Set aside.

Combine the ricotta, milk, honey, salt, extract and paste in a blender, and blend on high speed for a minute or two until the mixture is really creamy.

Pour the mixture into ice pop molds, dividing evenly between the molds. Gently push the plum slices down into the sides of the molds, so that the fruit is visible. Use all of the fruit, randomly placing the slices where you like between all of the molds.

Leaving the molds on the sheet pan, place everything in the freezer for about 45 minutes, then stick a wooden stick into the middle of each ice pop. Allow to continue freezing overnight before serving.

If you have difficulty unmolding the pops, carefully run each under warm running water for a few seconds until it's easier to pop them out of the molds. I like to unmold mine by using this method, then I wrap each in parchment and tie a bit of twine around each to hold the parchment in place. These will last for about a week in the freezer, but you'll be lucky if they last that long....

*You can use part-skim ricotta, if that's what you have. The pops will still be tasty, but not quite as creamy as with the whole milk ricotta.