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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Homemade Healthy Pixy Stix/ Fizzy Straws Recipe, Sugar Free Traditional Foods Alternative Included

 photo 100_6700_zps0c1bbf34.jpgA few years back, I bought some "fizzy powder" candy, (it actually came in little packets, not straws) and when I looked at the ingredients, it was so simple- just sugar, citric acid, baking soda, and artificial flavorings. Said I to myself "I bet I can make that for a fraction of the cost- who needs the artificial flavorings anyhow?"
And then promptly forgot about it.
For a good few years.

My kids have an event coming up where they need "loot/treat bags" to hand out to their friends. I could have gone with healthy natural treats, like dates and nuts, but, to be honest, these kids eat so much junk on a day to day basis anyhow- why spend more money making them healthy treats when the next second they'll turn around and eat a boat load of crap...
Additionally, my kids stand out somewhat for being the only homeschooled kids in the immediate area, they stand out because we live an extra frugal life, I don't need to make them "weird" by making them give out treats to their friends that embarrasses them. I know what its like to be embarrassed of things your parents do (who doesn't?) and I don't make it my mission to do it any more than necessary.
But even though I want my kids to fit in, I have my limits. I can't knowingly give my kids or anyone else's kids artificial colorings, aka printer ink, I can't knowingly give my kids or anyone else's artificial flavorings, and I can't knowingly give my kids or anyone else's kids artificial sugar like splenda or aspartame.
And store bought candy nearly always has at least one or two of the above.

But if I make homemade versions of the candies, I can make them just as yummy, just as "cool", just as "normal", just without the extra bad stuff.

So I made fizzy straws, using that idea I had all those years ago. Sugar. Citric acid. And baking soda.
Tastes just like the real thing, but no scary chemicals in it.
Yes, it has sugar, and I have heard mixed things about citric acid, so I figured out a healthier alternative to that as well, with coconut sugar or xylitol instead of the sugar, and sumac spice (a wonderful pucker inducing spice that grows wild in much of the world, that you can forage yourself or buy in the store) instead of citric acid.
I won't be giving out those alternatives to my kids friends. But I will be giving the healthier versions to my kids. They're cool with that- as long as the food tastes good, they (Lee especially) would rather food without white sugar, as he understands that white sugar is very often GMO and he doesn't want that stuff if there is a decent alternative.



Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup sugar or coconut sugar or xylitol or rapadura or any other dry sugar
1 tablespoon citric acid or sumac spice, or more or less sumac to taste
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions:
1. If using sugar, citric acid, and baking soda, stick them all in a coffee grinder or high powered blender and blend until smooth. You may need to do it in batches.

2. If using sumac instead of citric acid, stick the whole sumac berries (you'll need more than a tablespoon likely) and whatever sugar you're using in the coffee grinder and grind for a few minutes, then sift through a mesh strainer to take out any large inedible chunks. If too sweet, add more sumac and repeat. If too sour, add more sweetener. Then add baking soda one pinch at a time until your mouth fizzes up deliciously when- you taste the powder.

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Here are the three different types of fizzy powder I made- the white is with sugar, citric acid, and baking soda, the brown is coconut sugar, sumac, and baking soda, and the pink/brown is xylitol, sumac, and baking soda.

3. The next step is to make the straws. At first I tried melting the straws closed with a bag sealing machine that we inherited from my mother in law, (similar to this one) but wasn't successful- it melted a hole right through the straw, but didn't keep it closed. I found that using an iron did the same thing. I had success, though, folding a piece of aluminum foil over the ends of the straws and placing an iron on top of that, and holding it for 10-15 seconds or until it was melted shut. Then my husband figured out that you could use the bag sealer after all- I just wasn't holding it closed long enough. The machine has a light that tells you when it is sealing- I needed to hold it for the entire time that light was on, and then for about 10 seconds longer, and then pull them out. Then they sealed nicely, most of the time.

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We tried sealing them, a bunch at a time, when possible- made it a lot faster. They can't touch or they'll all melt together and might open up when you pull them apart. If you don't have the machine, again, you can do this with an iron, if you sandwich the straws between to pieces of aluminum foil.

4. Once the straws were all sealed on one end, it was time to fill them. I tried making a funnel with a really small opening out of a piece of paper. It did NOT work. Don't bother trying this.

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5. To fill the straws, what you should do is make a bunch and shove them into a cup, leaving as little room between them as possible. Using a paper, make a funnel shape around the bundle of straws, so that the inside of the funnel inside the cup.

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6. Pour the fizzy powder of your choice (whichever is healthiest or cheapest, take your pick) by the cupful, into this paper funnel. Some will get between the straws and get caught in the cup beneath, and some will go into the straws. Continue doing this until the cup is mostly filled, then dump the powder in the cup back into the original container, put the straws back in the cup, make the funnel, and repeat.
Repeat until the straws are all the way full.

7. Sometimes, though, the straws will appear to be full, but really the powder is caught above the bend in the straw. If this happens, especially if this happens to a bunch of them, put your hands along the outside of the bundle of straws, and roll the bundle back and forth between your hands, squeezing it somewhat, until the powder works its way down. Then fill the straws the rest of the way as in step 6.

8. Check the straws to see how full they are. They can't be filled all the way to the top- they need at least a centimeter room so you can seal them shut. If there is any powder there when you try to seal it, it won't work and you won't be able to fix it after. Pour out the powder so that you can seal them properly. In the pic below, only a few straws are filled a good amount- the pink one second from left, the green one, and the yellow one third from left. All the rest are too full.

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9. Seal shut, either with a sealer or with an iron. Try to make sure to keep them upright somewhat when sealing so the powder doesn't spill out. Inspect to make sure they're fully closed/sealed, and reseal any that need resealing.

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10. Don't worry- there will be a few duds in every batch that don't seal properly, even after a few repeats. In such a case- eat those now, or give them to your kids. :-D

11. Enjoy! To eat, use scissors to cut off one of the ends. Pour into your mouth but don't place directly into your mouth and wet the ends or the powder will get stuck inside.

Don't these look pretty authentic? :-D And if you're willing to spend a little more, you can make them healthy and nutritious too! (Coconut sugar is an awesome source of vitamins and minerals, and xylitol protects/heals your teeth!)

P.S. If you don't forage sumac, you can buy your own sumac powder from most herb shops, from online stores, or from a Middle Eastern grocery.

Hope the kids like them!

P.S. You can just keep this as a dipping powder, not fill straws with them, and you can use it to dip lolipops or fruit, fresh or frozen, into the fizzy powder. How about frozen banana circles, speared with a toothpick, and dipped in fizzy powder?

Do your kids ever eat junk? Do you try to make it healthier junk or do you say a little junk here and there is fine? 
If you try not to eat junk or give your kids junk, what do you do when you need to give treats to other kids that aren't your own? Do you give then pure junk? Completely healthy food? A compromise? What is the compromise if so?

Do you eat Pixy Stix or do your kids or have you eaten them in the past? Does this look like a recipe you'd try out?
Which version do you think you'd try?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Penny. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome process, especially the careful explanations and images! I know our youngest of many,12 years old, would consider this "cool" to share with his friends. We might do this for school! There are so many good things to learn from the process, the different ingredients (and the tasting!)for young developing brains!

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