Written by Andi

The Unlikely Entrepreneurs

The New York Times this week has an article about the founding of Groupon–the discounts-are-better-with-friends web start-up that plans to go public soon, and is likely to be valued at somewhere around $25 billion. But the rags-to-riches plot behind Groupon isn’t what struck me today–rather, I was tickled by this little tidbit about one of the higher-up executives at Groupon:

Aaron With is Groupon’s editor in chief. The 29-year-old Mr. With has no journalism or marketing background: he worked for a Chicago nonprofit and, more relevantly, was once in a band with Andrew Mason, Groupon’s chief executive.

“People have grown numb to the elements of advertising that pander to their fears and hopes, that insult their intelligence with safe, bland approaches at creativity,” says Mr. With, who at nights and on weekends is lead singer in the band Volcano. “We’re mixing business with art and creating our own voice.”

Here’s the thought that entered my mind upon reading that paragraph: Is it just me or are more and more successful companies being founded by people who have no business founding companies? Certainly, ours is the age of the twenty-something billionaire– and I would argue it is also the age of the anti-professional, in which amateur videos are the funniest, personal blogs are more profound that tightly edited columns, and maybe, just maybe– ideas that come from real people, whose creativity grows organically from the real, actual fun they’re having, are the best and most lasting ideas.

Your trusty co-founder

The relevance here, of course, is that fact that 10,000 Licks is whimsical brainchild of Sarah Newberry, a music therapist, and me, Andi McDaniel, a journalist and web producer. Certainly, we have no special ice pop expertise. In fact, when I first had the idea for the business, I came up with a name–and a blog!–for it, well before I’d successfully made and eaten one delicious ice pop. The logic behind it all along has been “why not?”, and in the face of a never-ending gauntlet of licensing requirements, start-up costs, and other hurdles, “why not?” continues to be our guiding question. Some days, the answer to that question seems actually quite convincing. For instance:

Q: Why not?

A: Because you’d have to be an NSF-certified freezer, and pay for liability insurance, and rent commercial kitchen space, and find a source of food-grade popsicle sticks, and freeze copious amounts of berries, and, and….

Your fearless co-captain

But even in the face of those things, there is an element of fun, and whimsy, and most of all adventure, that I simply cannot resist about starting this business. On some level, it is almost more compelling by virtue of it not being particularly logical to be starting an ice pop business at a time like this.

At the end of the day, none of the answers to the question “why not?” sufficiently deter me. But even more importantly, I am haunted by that other driving question, which is: “If not us, whom?”

And let’s face it: the world needs more ice pops.

The Rhubarbeque Special

For six years running, some dear friends of ours have held an annual “Rhubarbeque,” at their Seward duplex, known affectionately as Fort Awesome (long story). The idea, of course, is to celebrate this sour and precocious spring vegetable (fruit?) with inventive dishes like Rhubarb Salsa, Rhubarb Steak Rub, Rhubarbaritas… you get the idea. I’m reminded of that scene in Forrest Gump when Bubba goes on and on about the various ways you can prepare shrimp (shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo…pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp…)

Well with this year’s RBBQ around the corner, I decided to take the popsicle route this year, and on Friday night, while the rest of you were out doing Friday night things, I whipped up this batch of Rhubarb Ice Pops.

Here’s our wildly productive backyard rhubarb patch. That’s Wendell there, guarding it fiercely.

Here’s a closer look. Look at all of that sweet and sour goodness, waiting to be transformed! I grabbed about 6 stalks of it and brought them into my laboratory (pronounced la-BOR-a-tory).

There was chopping.

There was boiling.

It doesn’t take long for rhubarb to fall apart into its own sort of self-made puree. So, I separated the liquid from the puree using a strainer, combined the puree with a basic simple syrup and some heavy cream, and voila! Rhubarbsicles!

Soooooo delicious! Next time around, I might use more rhubarb, and try cooking it with sugar or honey, rather than using a simple syrup, but for now, I’m quite happy to have 6 of these puppies awaiting me in the freezer. Yum!

Is Spring Edible? Chocolate Lilac Pops!

It’s hard to think of anything– a sound, a smell, an event– that captures the feeling of spring as gloriously as lilacs do. What is it about that smell?! It’s intoxicating, and in a way, maddening– I find myself burying my nose in the blossoms just to get closer to it, and yet, even that isn’t enough. I don’t just want to smell it, I want to BATHE in it– or maybe to eat it?

Thankfully, lilacs are indeed edible, and that was all the go-ahead I needed to turn them into popsicles. I mean, that’s what we do, right?

So here goes. It started with the crazily-blooming lilac tree in our side yard. Pardon the cell phone photo.

I grabbed some particularly fragrant blossoms, and brought them inside, to combine with water and sugar into a simple syrup.

The resulting syrup, after straining out the blossoms, was a dream come true. It was the essence of spring, in a pan, on my stove. Slurp.

I got lazy about taking pictures when it came time to make the chocolate base. But basically, I melted a dark chocolate bar in a pan with milk and cream. Then, I combined it with the simple syrup and poured it into the molds.

Twenty-four hours later, the Chocolate Lilac pops (limited edition!) were mine to enjoy. I don’t think we’ve quite figured out the right “Fudgesicle” consistency yet (pudding trials coming soon), since the thickest chocolate sank to the bottom on these, but I will tell you that the combination of “eau de lilac” and chocolate was memorable indeed. Yum, yum, yum. Spring, I eat you!

Sweet Corn Pops: Summer on a Stick

Let it be known that my very favorite ice cream flavor is Sweet Corn (Thank you, Tara’s Organic Ice Cream in Berkeley, CA). And my second favorite is Basil. And my third favorite is Green Tea. Sure, Vanilla’s great and all, but I simply cannot resist those ice cream flavors that take a taste, or a smell, that I adore, and capture it in the creamiest, most evocative way. I am a sucker for virtually any food I love, turned into ice cream.

So, it’s no wonder that I can’t get enough of our Sweet Corn pops, and when I say “can’t get enough,” I mean, that I am eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, sure, dessert.

Amazingly, my business partner Sarah, CAN get enough of the Sweet Corn pops– she loves the idea, and acknowledges that they’re super-tasty, but is much more loyal to Watermelon Mint. She’s also is in the “R & D” phase of developing a new Raspberry White Chocolate flavor (stay tuned), which while it sounds tasty, I can’t imagine could top Sweet Corn. Sweet Corn is my master. It is, as one Art Crawl reveler noted, like Summer on a Stick. (Actually said reveler was referring to our Strawberry Basil flavor, but I take artistic license here).

In any case, enough people have FREAKED OUT about how delicious the Sweet Corn pops are, saying things like “It’s the perfect balance!” and “It comes out of nowhere…I can’t believe how good it is” that we’ve decided it’s a keeper. Coming soon to a farmer’s market near you.

Now for a peek into the process of making them.

The chopping.

The Great Infusion.

The big close-up.

10,000 Artists

Okay, so there won’t actually be 10,000 artists featured in the St. Paul Art Crawl, but I’m kinda hooked on using our name as frequently as possible. Maybe the novelty will wear off? In any case, this post is to inform you that we will be handing out samples of 10,000 Licks ice pops at the St. Paul Art Crawl this weekend– so if you’re curious, or if this rain is making you crave something to “cool you down” (oh April, you cruel month), then stop by Sarah Newberry’s cool loft at the following address:

Carleton Artist Lofts
2285 University Ave W.
Apt # C554

Hurry, before they melt! (Just kidding, they’re in a freezer). See you there!

Watermelon, Lavender, Coffee…Oh My!

It’s on, folks! Sarah Newberry (business partner!) and I have been practicing our pops lately, and this last one was an A-team batch, let me tell you! From left, that’s Watermelon Mint, Lavender Lemonade, Vietnamese Coffee, Strawberry Basil, and in the fuzzy distance there is Avocado Chocolate. Still working on texture issues with a couple of them, but overall… yum!!!!! Stay tuned for updates on where exactly you might be able to get your hands on some of these suckers… (pun kinda intended).

The Blackberry-Yogurt Breakthrough

Sweet tooth=satisfied.

You’ve read about our mistakes, our breakdowns, the moments when we doubted that an ice pop could be as glorious thing as I’d imagined when I first dreamed up 10,000 Licks. But we’ve had a flavor breakthrough, you see, and its name is Blackberry. Yogurt. Honey. Yeah, punctuated just like that.

I found the basic recipe on Smitten Kitchen, which is a site that you should be be reading rightthissecond if you, like me, enjoy big beautiful pictures of super tasty food almost as you like eating super tasty food. I have since discovered that the recipe, which originated in Bon Appetit, was actually developed by our quasi-competitors– People’s Pops in New York City. Oops. Luckily, the thing that really rocked this recipe was the raw honey that Sarah Newberry brought from her aunt’s hives in Canada. And that right there makes ours unique. More importantly, at this stage we’re just practicing flavor and consistency, and anything that works now will be tweaked until it’s both 1) irresistibly, addictively delicious and 2) uniquely ours and uniquely Minnesota. But on to the divine experience of making and eating these pops.

Miss Patty, gettin' her puree on.

During our popsicle practice session, we tried out three recipes, and Patty was in charge of this one. She began by making a simple syrup (classic ice pop ingredient, I’m learning), and while that was heating up, she pureed the blackberries in the blender. (By the way, we’d considered just not even trying fruit recipes at this stage, since virtually nothing’s in season–but upon reflection we decided it’s best to get the recipes down now, and modify them later once we have awesome, seasonal fruit to work with. After all, if a fruit pop tastes good with Chilean blackberries, it’s going to ROCK with the ones from my neighbor’s yard).

Once the berries were pureed, Patty smooshed them through some cheesecloth, which was the next best thing to a fine strainer (should probably buy one of those). Next, she combined 2 cups of that puree with lemon juice, honey, yogurt, and the now-ready simple syrup, and voila! They were ready to go in their molds.

Blackberry yogurt pops co-mingle with the other flavors.

By the next morning, these suckers were ready to be enjoyed. They were AMAZING. And I ate them near-daily until every last one was gone.

Not a great photo, but what an amazing pop!

Next up: The ginger creamsicle pops- divinely delicious, though probably better as ice cream.


I’ll admit, it’s tempting, after last weekend’s wildly successful popsicle practice session, to skip ahead to all that good stuff and tell you all about the downright divine ice pops we came up with. But I’m afraid that first you’ll have to suffer with me through a play-by-play of the popsicle session before the one that succeeded. I like to call that episode, Chai-Tastrophe. Because it was.

Now, I’ve heard it said that “you can freeze anything and turn it into a popsicle!” but friends, I’m here to tell you that that is not the case. Because I’ve tried. Apple cider? Sticky, sugary ice cubes. Cherries in milk? I should have known. But surely, I thought, SURELY Masala Chai, that most creamy and soothing of beverages, will make a good ice pop.

Here’s my not-so-secret recipe for a delicious pot of chai– it’s tried and true.

4 whole cloves
2 green cardamom pods (crush them and use only the seeds and stuff on inside)
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger, about the size of a small grape, peeled and chopped
1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 cups milk
2 cups water
2 tbs Turbinado sugar (not sure what the distinction is)
2 tbs black tea, preferably Assam

Boil the spices with the water for about 7 min. In the meantime, heat the milk on low. When spice/water mixture has boiled for about 7 min, add the sugar and warmed milk. Remove the mixture from heat. Add the tea leaves; steep for 4 minutes (or until a nice, light brown color). Strain. Enjoy! Now here’s me making a pot of chai in the hopes that I’ll be able to freeze it into magical ice pops…
The water-and-spices part smells amazing!

Yum– here’s where you pour the tea leaves into the milk-and-spices concoction!

And once it’s steeped for a few minutes…. the results! Freaking delicious. But wait there’s more.  Because next I pour the remaining liquid into ice pop molds. And you have to admit– they’re adorable! I ask you: How could they not be delicious frozen when I could have slurped each of them up right then, and been deliriously happy?

I tucked them each in with their little hats…

Then into the freezer they went! And twenty-four hours later, when I opened up our freezer to enjoy a nice cold pop after a sub-zero walk… what did I find?!?? Viewer discretion advised.

Yuck. Icy, mealy, flavorless yuck. Next up… the big breakthrough!

Flavors So Far

I’ve compiled a non-comprehensive list of flavors that I’ve come across, of ice pops or otherwise, that have inspired me. Delicious! Now what am I missing?

  • Honey Lavender
  • Mojito
  • Rhubarb
  • Dinner Mint
  • Chocolate Earl Gray
  • Watermelon Rum
  • Peanut Butter Toasted Coconut
  • Mango Chile
  • Cherry Lime
  • Sweet Tea
  • Cherry Jalepeno
  • Rootbeer Float
  • Blueberry Vanilla
  • Key Lime Pie
  • Pineapple Basil
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Peace Coffee
  • Green Tea
  • India Pale Ale
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Potato Pie
  • Banana Split
  • Thai Iced Tea

Attempt #1: Cherry Not-So-Pops

What, exactly, does it take to start a business? Frankly, I have no idea. Nor do I know if my off-the-wall idea to start a popsicle business is ill-fated, or absolutely brilliant. I looked into what it would take licensing-wise to get up a mobile food cart, and it was all so confusing that smoke started to come out my ears. Something about how you can only sell frozen treats from a mobile cart if they’re pre-packaged? Can I pre-package mine? Hmmm. This may be my biggest obstacle.

Not that I’m doing so hot so far on the actual popsicles. Despite a running start, thanks to the Sitlers’ gift of a rather adorable popsicle mold, I haven’t yet produced any successful popsicles.

My first attempt–something simple: cherry popsicles. Keep it simple, right? Well, rather than resorting to a recipe (I’m a crazy popsicle maker! I don’t have time for recipes!), I just winged it, and took some cooked-down sour cherries that I’d simmered in sugar, mixed them with some Organic Valley whole milk, strained out the cherries after awhile, and poured the remaining concoction into the molds. So easy! Right?

Well, no. Many hours later I went to try my spunky little icy pops and I came upon two discouraging realities: 1) When I pulled the plastic stick to remove the popsicle from its mold, the stick came out but the popsicle stayed. Doh! 2) They tasted terrible. Way too sweet, and weirdly grainy. Yuck!

Thus, next time I’m using a recipe. And wooden sticks. Stay tuned for my next attempt.