First and foremost, I'm sorry it's been a while since I've posted anything. I've been suffocating under a pile of grading, as so often happens at this point of the semester. But I have a little more breathing room and a couple of tasty recipes that my kiddos liked, so here's to getting back into the swing of things.
As some of you already know I am a part of a co-op, so my produce can really vary from week to week and in quantity. Last week I got a ton of avocados, which I absolutely love. My adventurous two year old is right there with me, eating the stuff off of carrot sticks like it's frosting. But my five year old, eh not so much. Or not at all. So here's a way to sneak in an avocado, plus a few other greens, into a creamy smoothy that even a more discerning palate will go for.
First off, what's so great about avocados? The one thing you always hear about is that they have a lot of fat. Commonly we make the mistake thinking that all fat is bad. In fact fats are a necessary part of our diets and children actually need to get 30% of their calories from fats, ideally from fats that are beneficial. That last part of the reason that avocados are a great source of fat- the fats they pack in our monounsaturated fats, which are good for you. Aside from their fat content, avocados are also rich in vitamin E, carotneoids, fiber, vitamin K, and potassium.
The honeydew part of this is really just a bit of trickery; there isn't much honeydew but its green color helped disguise my avocado and spinach ingredients. If you haven't made smoothies with avocado before you're missing out- they really make it a creamy concoction. Also my daughter had some dental work done the day I made these, so her diet was pretty limited and I wanted her to get some fat and protein in this snack. To that end I also added a little coconut oil, but you can use coconut water or opt out of it altogether if you don't want that additional fat.
If my picky daughter asked for seconds on this then I'm guessing other picky kiddos will like it too. Let me know how it works out. Enjoy!
Makes: 4 servings
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup any frozen fruit, such as peaches, berries, or if not on hand use ice
1/2 cup chopped honeydew
5-6 spinach leaves
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add all the above ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.
My publishing network is currently running a make ahead meals feature (shown at the top here), and it got me thinking about some make ahead snacks. As quick as some snacks are to make, sometimes you don't even have 5 minutes to put it all together. These parfait shakers can be made beforehand, stuck in the fridge, and mixed up when the kids get home from school. Perfect for when you're just walking in the door and need a snack right that minute.
Why are these shakers? When you're read to eat them, simply shake like crazy to blend and meld the flavors. Yup, this is a snack that's also an activity for hyperactive kiddos. You want to wait til right before eating to mix otherwise the granola will get soggy.
Aside from the joy of shaking the heck out of your mason jar you also are helping break up the fruit and mix the honey for a really well flavored yogurt treat.Any softer fruit, like peaches and berries, work really well for this since they'll break apart in the shaking process.
Peaches were in my co-op basket this week, so that's what I used but they're also great with ripe strawberries.You can also use regular yogurt as opposed to Greek, I just like the extra creaminess and higher protein content of Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is strained so that excess liquid is removed, which results in a thick, high protein snack. In fact 1 cup of a good quality Greek yogurt (I buy Fage) has 23g of protein, while regular yogurt has 11-13g. That will result in a snack that will satisfy hungry kids for longer.
The only caveat is that you do need to check the protein content of the Greek yogurt before you buy it, some are labeled Greek yogurt but have the same amount as protein as regular yogurt.Enjoy!
Yogurt parfait shakers
Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes: 1 parfait
6 oz mason jars with lid (or another small sealing container)
4 oz plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 oz sliced and halved peaches
2 tablespoons granola
Add yogurt to mason jar, then tap down smartly on the counter. Add honey and repeat tapping. Add peaches and press down with your fingertips slightly. Add granola, and again tap, making sure that contents are packed compactly. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just prior to serving shake up for a minute or two jars to mix contents.
The first time I saw these strawberry hearts was at my niece's first birthday party. My sister-in-law is an incredibly devoted and considerate Mom that put together this awesome Alice in Wonderland themed party. And, as my luck would have it, the battery was dead on my camera and I didn't get to capture any of it. But these hearts are so easy to do that I'd figure I'd bite the bullet, get over my poor food presentation abilities and try it out.To make these all you need is a pairing knife. Cut off the top of the strawberry, then slice off ~1/3 off from the face of the berry. Cut out a tiny triangle in the center of the top and viola
- a little heart.These are great all alone, on with cheese on fruit and cheese kabobs, or in a fruit salad
. I served them yesterday with golden melon balls and toothpicks so the kids could help themselves. Enjoy!
I recently swore off grocery shopping after a disastrous trip to the market. My solution: order the dry goods on-line from vitacost
and join a co-op. This is by no means a complete cold turkey, I still have to hit up Costco for milk and other highly consumed perishables, but it's a pretty big change from my previous routine.But after thinking I was a highly efficient Mom-genius, I realized that there might be a reason people have not been able to completely go off the grocery store wagon.
Case in point, don't order a chocolate bar during Summer when you live in the desert. My dark chocolate was a liquid mess the other day, though contained in the plastic freezer bag that it was shopped in. A truly loyal chocoholic like me couldn't just toss it, food poisoning be damned, but I figured the only way to salvage a grossly disfigured chocolate bar was by melting it with bananas.I'm not against giving my kiddos chocolate, though this is reserved for good chocolate. That means we typically only eat dark chocolate, 66%+ cocoa, with no other additives.
Dark chocolate has anti-oxidants which help cleanse the body of free radical contaminants, and thus is a healthy treat in small doses.Feel free to use whole wheat tortillas if you have them for these quesadillas. I was raised on tortillas and have never been able to make the jump, but if your kids like them then go for it for that extra whole grain benefit. These are really easy and ridiculously good- the banana and chocolate meld together in perfect harmony while the crisp tortilla adds that little crunch. They might not be the healthiest of my snacks, but they are well worth giving the kids after a long, hot day. Enjoy!Chocolate banana quesadillasTotal time:
5-10 minutesMakes: 2 quesadillas2 tortillas
1 banana, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced~ 3 tablespoons shaved (or grated through a box grater) dark chocolateOptional dipping sauce:2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon honeyIn a frying pan heat one side of the tortilla over medium heat. When it starts to bubble turn it and add half the bananas and chocolate to the warmed side. Cook until chocolate melts slightly, then fold the tortilla over in half. Brown slightly on both sides, then remove from heat. Repeat for second tortilla and remaining ingredients. Cut into kiddo-friendly slices, cool for a few minutes, and serve with dipping sauce (optional)
Did you know that Americans waste an estimated 40% of edible food (source: Natural Resources Defense Council
)? That's a lot of food simply tossed out or washed down the disposal. And with recent droughts in the Midwest and increasing oil prices you're grocery budget will probably get tighter in the next few months. So what are the top tossed out foods? Here's a list that was compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with some ideas for using them up so that you can stretch your groceries just a little farther.1. Fruits and Vegetables: 52% lost
Half of all fruits and vegetables are tossed out after they are past their prime. Bruised strawberries and gooey green beans = a trip to the landfill. To make them last longer flash freeze your produce if you bought more than you can eat by simply freezing separate pieces on a baking sheet overnight, then placing a cup or two into storage bags. You can also juice lots of fruits and vegetables that are just starting to pass their prime
, and while you're at it this is also a great way to sneak some veggies into your kiddos bellies.And here's a pampered Mom tip: one of my favorite ways to use up old produce that is past the point of eating is by making my own spa masks. Great bases include strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and avocado. Simply mash a tablespoon or two of your overdone fruits with a little bit of honey and rolled oats and it's a spa day. I leave my mask on for 10-20 minutes while the kids and I put cucumbers over our eyes and chat it up.Finally a great way to reuse really overdone fruits and vegetables is to compost them. Composting is incredible easy and doesn't have to be expensive, and in a matter of months (especially if you jump start the process with composting enzyme) you'll have rich soil to rejuvenate your yard or start a garden.
And you always have a science project in your backyard to teach your kids with.2. Seafood: 50% lostYet again, only half of what is harvested is actually eaten.
Given the over harvested state of our oceans and the environmental effects of seafood farming, it's hard to believe so little is actually eaten.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate seafood, and thus some lean protein, into my kids snacks is with hummus
or yogurt dips. Simply combine cooked fish in with yogurt, tahini, white beans and add lemon juice in a food processor and puree til smooth, then serve with crackers or sliced veggies.Another, cook-free way to use up uncooked salmon that is
in your fridge is to simply cure bite size pieces in salt, pepper and raw sugar in your fridge. Within an hour or two you have a great snack that your kiddos can munch on without much work.3. Grain products: 38% lostOne of the beauties about bread is that you can freeze it until you're ready to use it. Another great way to use up both stale breads and cooked rice is with bread pudding and rice pudding, respectively. Another one of our favorites are French toast mini's.
Grains like oats
also make for really tasty granola. All you need is oil, honey, chopped nuts and dried fruit and you have a tasty breakfast or yogurt topper that's really easy to make.4. Meat: 22% lostToo often you plan out your week's worth of dinners and then life gets in the way; soccer practice
, a late night at work or swim class interferes with your dinner. Or those cold cuts you got for sandwiches gets forgotten in the fridge and looks like it might be growing a new type of penicillin.For us the best way to conserve our meat is to freeze it
and only defrost the night before when I'm sure that I can make it. As for cold cuts they make for an excellent snack just by rolling them with sliced cheese and serving with grapes. You can also finely chop it and toss with peas for a fun nutritious salad
.5. Milk: 20% lostUnfortunately the big culprit here are school lunches- many time kids toss milk cartons that haven't even been opened. But in addition we also toss out that last bit of milk in the container, let our kids milk glasses sit out too long, or don't finish our coffee. According to the USDA, we toss 1/3 cup per day per person. That ends up being milk from 800,000 cows. And once milk spoils, there isn't a lot of recourse.
So in this case a little conscientious discussion with the kiddos is needed, and smaller portion sizes. Related Reading:
I've been under a real time crunch to get an after school snack on the table ASAP. I have a brand new kindergartener and she is hungry by the time she gets home from a long day at school. So here's a quick snack that takes about 5 minutes and is way better than store bough alternatives.Did you know that popcorn has antioxidants? True story, and I've yet to meet a kid that doesn't love the stuff. Popcorn contains antioxidants in the form of polyphenols, and in fact it has half the antioxidant content of walnuts.However if you buy microwave popcorn, you are risking chemical exposure when
perfluorooctanoic acid leaches out of the lining of the bag and into your popcorn during the heating process. This chemical accumulates in the body and has been shown to cause cancer in animal studies. But if you pop it yourself (trust me, it's really easy and kind of fun)
you are avoiding that risk. In addition you're also able to control the amount of salt and butter (which is synthesized with a chemical that has been implicated in lung disease) that your kids are eating.So here's a little way to flavor your home made popcorn that's free of added salt and butter- try olive oil and parmesan cheese.
It's light, satisfying and a natural alternative to the fake butter laden stuff from the grocery store. Enjoy!Olive oil parmesan popcornTotal time: ~ 5 minutesMakes: ~6 cups of popped popcorn3 tablespoons coconut oil1/2 cup popcorn kernels3 tablespoons parmesan cheese1 1/2 tablespoons olive oilIn a wok (my preference) or a heavy bottoms pan heat kernels and coconut oil over medium heat
. Cover with a lid, but make sure to leave a small gap so that steam can escape. Pop, lifting the pan and shaking to redistribute the kernels every minute or so to avoid burning. Once the popping slows down remove from heat and let sit for another minute or so until the popping stops. Then add the cheese and olive oil and mix. Serve immediately.Related reading:
Here's a really quick snack that uses apples, peanut butter (or another nut or seed butter will work, like almond) and granola. In just three ingredients you have these cute little wheels that are also fun to eat. And by combining fruit, peanuts and whole grains you have a really balanced snack with a little more protein and fiber so that your kids will be good to go until the next meal.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes: ~ 4 wheels, depending on the size of your apple
1 apple, sliced latitudinally into 1/2 inch slices
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup granola
Arrange apples on a plate. Spread on peanut butter and sprinkle with granola. Serve immediately.
I actually wrote this a few weeks ago, but I wanted to try out my canned peaches before posting this. We opened a jar this morning and they are kiddo approved! Canning does take a lot of time, but it makes it so you can enjoy ripe produce all year long without paying a ton of money.
One of the perks about where we live is that we’re about 80 miles from some great peach and apple orchards. It’s peach season right now so we went and got our fill, 59 pounds to be exact. Look out our haul, my kids barely fit in the cart! My kids are eating peaches with every meal, but I still have a ton so I called my Grandma for information on how to can them.
I grew up with jars of peaches in the kitchen cupboard. My Family is from Utah and every Summer my Grandparents canned sweet, delicious Utah peaches. I remember popping a freshly opened jar into the refrigerator and eating peaches by the bowlful every day after school. They also are great with oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese and in baked goods. So I figured it was time to carry on the tradition and give my kids those same tasty memories.
If canning intimidates you then here are some basic tips that have helped me. I think that canning fruits isn’t too bad, but I’ll admit that canning vegetables is still out of my league. But after canning rounds of jam here’s some of the things that I’ve learned:
- Do everything hot- that means once you get started don’t dilly dally. Can jams and jellies while hot and freshly cooked, and can you fruits in boiling water or hot simple syrup. This will minimize bacterial contamination.
- Place clean canning jars, rings and newly bought seals in a sink with hot soapy water. When you’re ready to can in them then rinse them off with hot water and fill with your jam/fruit. This will keep the jars clean, again keeping bacterial growth minimized. If you are boiling your jars for less then 10 minutes, you will also need to sterilize your jars by boiling them in hot water.
- Try to keep the rims of your jars clean when adding your fruit or jelly. If any food gets onto the rim wipe it completely as this part of the jar won’t be sealed and then you’ll be at risk for mold and bacteria growth.
- Leave at least ½ inch of space from your food and the top of the jar for head space.
I’ve covered canning apple butter before, but here’s how to can fresh peaches, courtesy of my Grandma. It’s really easy, satisfying and an economical way to eat delicious fruit and the cold of Winter. To peel your peaches you can either blanch them and peel the skin off or do it with a pairing knife. In the latter case you can keep the peels and use the remaining juice with honey and pectin for an easy jelly.
I don't have hard measurements and weights here, you can adapt based on how many pounds of peaches you have and the amount of time you have that's free of major kiddo interruption.
Peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
Two parts water, one part honey, 1/2 part lemon juice
In a canning pot fill with water so that you have enough to cover your jars with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil. Also have a kettle ready with additional water boiling in case you need to add more.
In a large sauce pan heat water, honey and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and keep warm while canning.
Soak large canning jars, lids and rims in hot soapy water. When ready to fill, rinse jar in hot water. Arrange peach halves in jar so that pitted side is in the middle and the curve of the peach faces out. When when the jar is filled to within roughly and inch from the top of the jar, pour in simple syrup so that peaches are immersed. Again, make sure that you leave about an inch from the top of the jar. Make sure there is not any syrup of peach peices int he trim of the the jar; if there is then wipe it off with a clean cloth. Add sealer and hand tighten lid. Place in a canning rack.
When you have filled enough jars to fill your canning rack (make sure your jars aren't touching, leave space around each jar ). Place canning rack into the boiling water. Top with additional water, if needed, so that jars are covered by ~1 inch of water. Boil for 20 minutes. After processing let cool on a towel on the kitchen counter. After jars have cooled, check and make sure that thee have sealed. Store in a dark, coo place for up to a year.
Cottage cheese goes pretty quickly in our house. It's just a matter of scooping a bowlful out of the container and you've got a ready made snack with little fuss, which can be really handy right after school. It's also mild in flavor, which means it can be paired with some tasty partners.
Cottage cheese is a great snack for the whole family. Here are some of the highlights:
- It's low in calories and low in fat if you purchase the reduced fat varieties. Even if you don't go that route, a 1/2 cup serving of full fat cottage cheese only has 5 g fat.
- In a half cup serving, it has 14 g of protein, making it a high protein snack that will hold your kids over til the next meal.
- It's low in sugar, with only 3g per 1/2 cup serving.
So if you don't have a container of cottage cheese in your fridge, maybe you should put it on the shopping list. Here are some great ways to make it a tasty snack it even more nutritional value:
1. Sprinkle it on: To boost the nutrient content of your cottage cheese, try sprinkling on a some nutrient packed toppings like wheat germ, flax meal or chia seeds.
2. Spice it up: For more flavor add a dash of spice to the top- we like to use cinnamon.
3. Fruit medley: Add berries, peaches, mangoes or dried fruit for a sweet and savory snack with added vitamins.
4. Use it as a stuffer: We love to stuff apricots, figs and cucumbers with cottage cheese for a pretty snack that has the added bonus of an edible bowl.
5. Seasonal fruit butters: Top with apple butter for a hearty Fall snack. Other options are fruit-filled jams that don't have added sugar.
Congratulations to Theresa Evanger! She won the whimsical sandwich cutters giveaway! Congratulations!
Do you have any ideas for another giveaway? Comment here and let me know what you'd like to win and I'll see what I can do. Thanks to everyone who contributed