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)
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.
It's fig season! For a lot of fig lovers that means a daily battle with the birds for ripe figs. For us that means picking as many as you can before the evening monsoon catches you, as happened to my husband and the kids on this last bunch of freshly picked figs. But after reaping the benefits of some pretty laden trees I've been asking around about some great fig snack ideas. Below are some of the highlights, but first here's a fig crash course.
Most of the time people think if figs as dried, as in the filling for the classic Fig Newton. But fresh figs are in season throughout the Summer and are like honey, have a plump crisp skin, soft flesh, and crisp mild seeds. Overall they are naturally sweet and refreshing. They only last for a couple of days after picking, so if you buy or pick them you have to use them pretty quickly.
Figs are a great source of fiber, which is great for kids GI tracts. They also have calcium, potassium, manganese and B vitamins. They're also great for younger kids since they don't have large seeds that can cause choking. Essentially you can hand a whole fig off without having to pit them or remove a core.
So if you have some fresh figs on hand here's a way to incorporate them into your snacks. After all, with figs timing is of the essence so you better be quick! Enjoy!
1. Figs and yogurt: Chop figs, top with plain Greek yogurt, drizzle with honey and sprinkle on a few shelled pistachios.
2. Stuffed figs with blue cheese: Stuff a half fig with a pecan and sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles.
3. Figs with brie: Thinly slice fig, then top with a dallop of brie and place on a whole wheat cracker.
4. Poached figs: Stuff fig halves with a pecan or walnut. Place in a small pan and pour in fruit juice (I used orange juice). Drizzle with honey. Poach in fruit juice until softened, 5-10 minutes.
I hope you're kiddos enjoy these ideas as much as we did!Related reading:
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Happy almost fourth of July! What better way to celebrate this hot, Summer Holiday than with a cool, refreshing popsicle?
We love popsicles, as do many other folks slogging through these muggy Summer months. They are a great way to cool down and make for refreshing afternoon snacks on the patio. Making them yourself is a healthy, fun activity and really only involves having a freezer. If you don't have popsicle molds you can use small glasses and you can also swap out popsicle sticks for large pretzel sticks.
The next time you're going to buy popsicles at the store check out the ingredients. A lot of them have added processed sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. By making them yourself you can control the amount of sugar and make these frozen treats into vitamins on a stick by using lots of fruit. And by working in layers you can make some great color schemes, like red white and blue for Independence Day.
Independence day pops
Makes: 4 popsicles
~ 1 cup lemonade
1/4 cup chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup chopped blueberries
Divide strawberries to popsicle molds (this is enough for four). Pour in enough lemonade to immerse strawberries. Freeze until solid. Divide coconut and again immerse in lemonade. Freeze until solid. Add blueberries and top off with lemonade. Freeze completely.
With all the abundance of Summertime produce why not save some of it for the next year? A great way to use up extra fruit and save a little money is to make your own fruit jam when the pickings are ripe. And with all the great deals on berries and such during the Summer it's also cost-effective to make your own preserves.
When it comes to jams many times they have just one fruit (like strawberry jam). I personally love spreads that have lots of fruit, so that my kids are getting a bunch of different fruits in one bite. Here's a way to utilize the season, use up that Summer fruit, and sneak in some more fruit with that Pb and J- make a Summer fruit spread.
Just one note about added sugar. Some store-bought jams have high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener
. When you make it yourself you can make your jam sugar-free (if your fruit is sweet enough) or with a natural sweetener like honey or agave nectar if your fruit is a little more tart.These also make an excellent gift. I canned mine and gave a couple of jars away already. I have done a post on canning before, so check it out if you want to try canning your own.
Canning times vary based on altitude; I did mine for 10 minutes but take a look at this information from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
for what works best for your elevation.Enjoy!Summer fruit spreadMakes: 6 x 6 oz jars2 cups grapes1 cup blueberries6 plums, pitted and quartered3 large apricots, pitted1 teaspoon cinnamonhoney or agave nectar to taste (depending on fruit sweetness)Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan.
Bring to a steady boil. Let cook until fruit is soft and falls apart, about 1-2 hours. With a potato masher mash fruit well. Check for doneness by dipping a wooden spoon into the mix; if jam coats the spoon and doesn't drip off it is ready. Add to jars and can or freeze for long-term storage.
I'm on a "just because it's green doesn't mean it tastes bad" campaign with my kids. So I decided to use my daughter's weakness, carbs, as one of my weapons.Did you know you don't have to cook oatmeal to rehydrate it? You can also eat it after soaking it with juice and the effect is really tasty. You end up with a sweetened
oatmeal that is really easy to make and can be a snack anytime. And at first my green-despising kids were dubious, but after one bite they were sold.I used Naked Juice Green Machine to soak my oats. There are a variety of other green juices out there, and you can also use just about any juice if you can't find a green type. I like the green effect and Green Machine has an almost smoothie like consistency, which makes for a creamier oatmeal.To rehydrate let the oats soak for at least 15 minutes, or even overnight. Enjoy!Green oatmealMakes: 1 serving1/4 cup quick rolled oatsGreen Machine juiceAdd oats to a small bowl. Add enough green machine to cover the oats. Refrigerate for a minimum of 15 minutes, then serve.Related reading: