I am always on the lookout for party favors that are not junk or candy. This year for Ladybug's birthday we had…what else…a ladybug garden party theme. An idea had been slowly forming in my head ever since I saw a picture from this post about the healthiest gummy bears you will ever eat. The pictures of these gummy bears are somehow captivating to me and I really like that she offers so many recipes. I thought it would be fun to make some of these snacks as treats or favors for Ladybug's party instead of candy.
We don't eat a lot of fruit snacks because they never really seem to involve a lot of fruit. But these DO! And I'd call them fruit snacks more than gummy bears, she just happens to use an awesome gummy bear shape for hers. If your kids would respond better to gummy bears, then go ahead and call them gummy bears!
I was on the lookout for small cookie cutters or maybe candy molds with ladybug or garden shapes and had not found any I liked. Randomly we were at Joann fabrics and wandered down the Wilton aisle. I found a cute set of fondant cutters with flowers and butterflies but no ladybug. They also had a set with just flowers in various sizes. I was pondering to myself when I thought I'd ask the guest of honor what she thought. She saw the alphabet shape set and said, “Well…Mommy…how about the letters?” So I said, “…….Yes, how about the letters?!” With a whole set of letters we could cut out the fruit snacks in the letters of each kid's name! GENIUS! Okay so it doesn't have much to do with a Ladybug Garden Party…unless you figure fruit can be grown in gardens…but I went with it!
Cutting up the fruit and blending is something you could easily do with kids and I really should have included Ladybug. She loves cutting fruit and would have enjoyed it. Alas, the time I had planned to whip them up was during naptime. And whip them up, I did. It was a really fast and easy process. I was able to prep the next batch as I was simmering the current one.
I used her basic recipe ratios and process the first time around:
I'm not going to print the process, I would rather you go check out her awesome post. She clearly put a lot of work into it and there are a lot of combinations for inspiration. Not to mention the pictures are great, as are all the reader comments.
I will comment on my results though and how I tinkered with the recipe.
As I said above I didn't freshly squeeze any juice. I think it would add a layer of taste to them but I was on a tight timeline. I did use “fresh squeezed juice” in a bottle from Mariano's produce section, though so it was close. I read comments on her blog saying that some were more tart and since I was going for a kid audience, I did some of the fresh squeezed citrus juice and some with apple juice, for added sweetness. This batch was decent (and better than store bought, in my mind) but wasn't intensely fruity and I felt was kind of more gelatin tasting than I had hoped (although it was the closest to actual fruit snacks and gummy bears in terms of texture).
The first batch was 2 cups fresh strawberries, 1 cup mix of apple juice and lime juice, a small blurb of honey and 5 packets of gelatin. The second was 2 cups fresh pitted cherries, 1 cup mix of apple juice and lime juice, honey and 5 packets of gelatin. The third one I tried was the banana one she lists on her site and I used orange juice. The best was the cherry. The strawberry was next best. My banana batch tasted like nothing. Maybe my bananas were not ripe enough? I would like to try again on that one, it sounds good! I'd wait until the bananas were pretty much brown, I think.
After tasting the first bunch and thinking I had too much gelatin, I adjusted it down for the next try, looking at my blender to see how much puree I had and adding one packet per cup of liquid in the blender. I also did one with frozen mixed berries from Costco and I switched from apple juice to 100% juice fruit punch to amp up the fruitiness. The strawberry batch came out pretty well this time but they were a little less sturdy due to the lower gelatin content. Still, they cut out well and tasted pretty good. The flavor of the mixed berry one was my favorite BUT it had a lot of seeds and could have used more gelatin. They held together through cutting and handling but barely.
In conclusion…Next time instead of the fruit punch (which was decent) I will try one of the fruit nectars found in glass bottles in the international section of my grocery store to boost the fruitiness even more. Additionally I think I'd go with one packet of gelatin per cup of liquid PLUS one more packet. For me this would have been 3-4 packets, not the 5 in the recipe. However, it's to each, his own and the basis of the recipe is awesome, in my opinion.
These adorable Wilton alphabet fondant cutters were pretty fun and not as fiddly to work with as one would fear. These are not jello jiggler/cookie size letters, they are very small…3/4 inch…just right for a fruit snack/gummy bear thing.
I poured my fruit juice mixtures into a non-stick metal lasagna type pan, a non-stick metal pizza pan and a glass lasagna dish…I preferred the metal pans when it came to cutting. What I found easiest was to let the poured mixture set up as directed and, while still in the same pan, I pressed out all the letters all in a row. Once I punched them all out I then peeled the excess off which left behind the letters sitting in the pan… as if you were peeling the paper off around stickers, leaving the stickers on the backing. This was there the differences in the amount of gelatin really showed. The more gelatin, the easier it was to peel. The mixed berry ones took way longer but were worth it!
As for depth…at first I wanted to make a thick (or deeper) batch, thinking more along the lines of a gummy bear but a 1/4 inch deep was really pretty optimal for me. One of my batches set up unevenly so I got to try thicker ones and they just weren't as good. Thinner was better!
Also, I was tempted to try to fit as many letters in as tight as I could to eliminate waste but I will say that peeling them was much easier when I left a little space between each letter. I also ate a lot of excess fruit snack during the process!
I did three of each child's name in each flavor (oh I tossed the banana batch) and it was enough to fit in the 8 goodie bags with some left over. I cut some into number 3's since it was ladybug's 3rd birthday and the rest I cut into squares and we snacked on them during the week. Ta-da! DIY Fruit Snack Name Favors!
Other Fruit Snacks from Around the Web
I hope you enjoy these little fruit snacks and make some of your own! Might as well pin a picture to remember! Please follow along over on our facebook and pinterest pages, we'd love to see you again!