Conscious Cook: Stay cool with sweet and satisfying peachy keen popsicles

“The peach lay there still, blushing deeper in the window light. She bent to smell, and the perfume was headier than before, a scent of meadows and summers home from school.” —Allegra Goodman

Eating a perfectly ripe summer peach is completely captivating. The fragrance is intoxicating, the color reminiscent of an early morning sunrise, and the flesh ever so luscious.

The flavor of a ripe summer peach is so sublime, it can be served solo, stunning in its simplicity. But under-ripe or overripe peaches have their place in the kitchen as well. Peaches not quite at their peak can be cut in half, pit removed, brushed with a bit of olive oil and grilled cut side down. Lay a bed of arugula on a platter and place the slightly charred peach halves on top, add a few dollops of ricotta cheese or a ball of burrata and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Summer salad extraordinaire! Firmer peaches are perfect for baked goods, including cobblers, buckles (cake filled with fruit), crisps, cakes, breads and muffins.

Overripe peaches can be cooked down into chutneys or sauces that will lend sweetness and lovely depth of flavor to grilled fish, pork or chicken. Diced and mixed with jalapeno or cherry pepper, sweet onion and lime juice, peach salsa is an excellent accompaniment to quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, pulled pork sliders or mixed with cream cheese for a zesty, sweet hot spread for crackers.

On humid, stifling days, peaches offer a wonderful cooling component. Peach popsicles will provide icy cold, calming relief. Add peach slices to Greek yogurt for a chilled, protein-packed lunch. Frozen peach smoothies make an excellent breakfast or snack. Peaches enjoy the company of other summer fruits and are particularly fond of raspberries and blueberries. Combine these with a squeeze of lime juice and a scattering of fresh chopped mint for a gorgeous summer fruit salad.

Peaches not only offer a wide range of recipe inspiration, they provide mighty health benefits. The fiber content in peaches may aid digestion and gut health, while regular consumption of peaches may promote good heart health. Enjoying more peaches may help skin retain moisture, essential during the dehydrating days of summer. Peaches appear to be linked to reducing certain types of cancer, and may boost immunity, protect against toxins and possibly lower blood sugar levels.

When purchasing peaches, do not be dissuaded if the peaches are rock hard. Leave peaches on the counter to ripen. Press gently near the stem, when the peach yields slightly and releases a distinct scent, your peach should be ready to enjoy. Humidity and extreme heat may hasten the ripening process, so check the peaches every day. Once ripened, peaches can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three to four days.

Fall in love with peaches as you prepare a delicious life!

Peachy Keen Popsicles

Makes 8

4 very ripe medium peaches (peeled)

1 cup vanilla whole milk yogurt

1/2 cup almond milk

1/3 cup honey (optional-if peaches are super sweet you won’t need any additional sweetener)

Cut peaches into large slices. In a blender combine peach slices, yogurt, milk and honey, if using. Blend until smooth. Pour into a popsicle mold or plastic cups. Freeze for 30-45 minutes, until slushy, add popsicle sticks. Return to the freezer and freeze for 6-8 hours. To serve, run warm water over the bottom of cups or mold, just until popsicles can be released. For a dairy free version, eliminate yogurt and milk, blend peach slices with juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/3 cup of water or peach juice.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,”writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener, and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.