Whenever croup visits the RRG household, it’s to the freezer I go, searching for things that will bring cooling relief to L.’s swollen throat.  It’s funny how the conventional wisdom about croup seems to vary from person to person; there is a camp that firmly believes in the hot steam treatment, which I’ve heard works like a charm, and yet our practice has always been not steam but cold air.  For L.’s yearly bout of allergic croup — as well as this week’s unexpected viral croup (yuck) — we go about caring for his little airway as though he had a sprained ankle.  Lots of cold, cold air, and lots of cold, cold drinks and foods seem to do the trick for us.

Of course, when a child is particularly sick and therefore not eating much, there’s a certain degree to which no parent really CARES whether or not the few calories they are willing to take in happen to be perfectly nutritious ones.  (How many sick kids do you know who happily chow down on their broccoli?)  If L. needs cold, and plenty of it, and he’s not eating anything else, I’m totally comfortable to let some of that cold intake be ice cream.  However, after a day or two of ice cream and popsicles, when he’s starting to feel better but still needs the occasional chilled treat, I begin to feel that motherly itch to feed him properly again. 

The  two goals — cold treats and proper nutrition — aren’t easy to reconcile if there’s not much else to bridge the gap.  But this week, I stumbled upon something that worked out for both L. and me.  As he started to recover, but still spent mornings in particular feeling uncharacteristically grumpy (and therefore refusing to eat breakfast, brush his teeth, get dressed, or do much more than glare sourly at me for even daring to pass by him in the living room), I started thinking about things that might tempt his morning appetite.  Soft things.  Easy to eat things.  Sweet things, but not too sweet…

It occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn’t put a sort of breakfast-y treat into a popsicle.  Sure, popsicles for breakfast are unorthodox, but I’m not exactly a play by the rules kind of mom most of the time.  Also, it did cross my mind that when the truly hot weather sets in for the summer, and we’re waking up in our beautiful 100-year-old home, wherein the whole first floor will be sticky and pent up from a night of frugally shut down air conditioning units, a breakfast popsicle might turn out to be just the thing for the kids.  (And, possibly, for J. and me.)

It happened, luckily, that as we’ve increased our from-scratch philosophies, we’ve made darned sure to always have on hand both nuts of some variety, and some sort of natural sweetener — honey or maple syrup, usually both.  The night of the popsicle adventure, however, yielded almost no honey and only small amounts of a few different kinds of nuts.  No matter, I figured.  With a little ingenuity, I could adapt my pistachio breakfast pudding recipe into a pudding pop, using the ingredients in the pantry. 

I ended up with Maple-Nut Pudding Pops — not radically different from the original pistachio pudding recipe, but somehow a completely changed creature.  I’d have included a picture, but they’re a relatively drab color, and like the original pudding, don’t photograph well.  As far as the kids’ reaction, though, I’d say they were a big success.  L. has enjoyed them for breakfast as he’s recovered from his bout of illness; P. has had a few for snacks and has happily slurped away, proclaiming “It a sy-bup possicle!” as he recognized the flavor of his beloved maple syrup.  As a bonus, I haven’t had to feel too guilty about letting the boys chow down on these pudding pops, which are largely dairy, nuts, and just a bit of natural sweetness. 

Maple-Nut Pudding Pops (makes 6-8 popsicles)
2/3 cup shelled mixed nuts (I used 1/3 cup of pistachios and 1/3 cup of pecans)1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
1/2 cup half-and-half or cream

In a blender or food processor, combine the nuts, honey, and water until they make a smooth paste.  In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the egg yolks, maple syrup, salt, and cornstarch and cook, whisking constantly, until the egg yolks are pale and thick (about 5 minutes).  Add the mixed nut paste and cinnamon and stir vigorously for 1 minute.  Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly.  Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 10 minutes).  Let the pudding mixture cool to room temperature, then pour into popsicle molds and freeze.