Ambrosia

I imagine that the conversation on Mount Olympus went something like this the first time the twelve Olympians dined on ambrosia:

Zeus: “So, Hera, what’s for dinner tonight?”
Hera: “Oh, you know. The usual. Poseidon and Artemus are whipping up a little surf and turf.”
Zeus: “Again? Oh, Hera, you know that I enjoy the bounty of sea and land as much as the next god, but don’t you think we can mix it up every now and again? With something, you know, a little fruity.”
Hera: “Fruity? Seriously, Zeus, you picked today to get all vegetarian on us?”
Zeus: “Well, how about something sweet. You know how I like sweet little things….”
Aphrodite: “Did someone say sweet? Have I got a dish for you. I call it ambrosia, the nectar of the gods.”
Hera: “Nectar, huh? Well, that does sound kind-of tasty. I’ll ask Hermes if he can just run down to Macedonia and pick up a couple of ingredients.”
Aphrodite: “And while he’s at it, can he ask Dionysus to bring a bottle or two of a nice Beaujolais?”
Hera: “Beaujolais? Sounds lovely, but that sure is a funny name for a Greek wine.”

Make the gods happy and click here for our Ambrosia recipe.

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Very Berry Smoothies

Whenever I get concerned about our kids’ eating habits (is eschewing spinach at age three a habit, or right of passage?) I think about the advice a friend of mine got from her pediatrician. “They won’t eat any vegetables” my friend confessed about her children, thinking she was about to get a lecture on nutritional deficiencies and how all good parents find a way to coax and coddle their offspring into loving leafy greens. “Yes, but do they eat fruit?” her pediatrician asked. “Can’t get enough” she truthfully shared. “Then you’re fine” he told her. “It’s all good.”

All I can say is, whew.

And while veggies are, undoubtedly, something we should all make a habit of eating, it’s reassuring to know that fresh fruits do our bodies good as well. Our girls will eat just about any fruit we have in the house. During a recent shopping trip Daughter 1 talked me into buying a pomelo just because it was a fruit she hadn’t yet tried. But even they grow tired of one-too-many clementines or sliced apples packed in their lunch. To keep things fresh (pun intended), we make smoothies. As we get into the colder months it’s really hard to find fresh seasonal fruit in the Northeast. All I can say is, thank goodness for the freezer…or the freezer aisle in the grocery store. It may not be seasonal now, or here, but flash-frozen produce retains the benefits of fresh and can be a welcome reminder of the warmer months that have just recently passed us by.

Banana, frozen sliced peaches and frozen strawberries

Banana, frozen sliced peaches and frozen strawberries

Chances are good that 1)if you’re a parent and 2)you’ve ever struggled to get something nutritious into your child, that 3) you’ve made them a smoothie too. It’s a tried and true equation: A+B=C. Pulling out the blender can be a seminal light-bulb moment for many moms and dads whose tots have progressed past watery rice cereal. At least it was for us, with the added benefit of being FAST which, I don’t need to tell you, is important when you have a child for whom every decision of the morning is something to draw out and savor. And debate.

These days, the conversation in our house goes something like this:

Mom: “Guys, we only have half-an-hour until we have to be out the door. With teeth brushed and shoes on. Soooo….who wants a smoothie?”
Daughter 2: “Shoes on????”
Daughter 1: “Me! I want a smoothie!”
Daughter 2: “Don’t you mean boots?”
Daughter 1: “I want a smoothie!”
Daughter 2: “My boots don’t fit anymore.”
Daughter 1: “Can I help make the smoothie?”
Daughter 2: “My boots…hey, I want to help make the smoothie!”
Mom: “You can both help make the smoothie. Just promise me you’ll drink it quickly.”
Daughter 2: “Yes, quickly. Then, can I put on ballet shoes? Because my boots don’t fit anymore.”

Someone's idea of a joke...the whole banana, plus peel, in the blender

Someone’s idea of a joke…the whole banana, plus peel, in the blender

Part of the fun in helping make the smoothies is dumping ingredients into the blender. The other part is the blender itself. When I run it, both girls tell me it’s too loud. When they run it (with supervision!), it’s a magical kitchen appliance, turning whole fruit into a delicious purée in seconds. (“Is it ready yet?”) We have a VitaMix and I love its speed and power, though the price tag was daunting. If you make smoothies often, invest in a blender that can tackle frozen fruit and ice cubes. There is nothing quite as disappointing as making a smoothie and it not being smooth enough sip through a straw!

Fruit, yogurt and juice = quick & healthy breakfast or snack

Fruit, yogurt and juice = quick & healthy breakfast or snack

Another tip: you can always sneak some veggies into your smoothie if you’re stealthy enough. Try a little bit of baby spinach, which seems to work especially well in berry smoothies. Somehow, though, our girls ferret out the veggies. I have another friend who makes green smoothies every morning for herself and her boys and even puts parsley in them, which her kids love. I’m not sure our girls would go for that, but they are pretty open to new combinations.

Hopefully we’ve inspired you to break out the blender and try something new. If you’re curious about the smoothie that has my kids lining up, here’s how we most often make ours.

Brilliant color to this delicious smoothie

Brilliant color makes this delicious smoothie even more attractive

Very Berry Smoothies

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana, peeled
Approximately 3/4 cup frozen sliced peaches
Approximately 1/2 cup frozen whole strawberries
Handful (about 1/4 cup) of frozen wild blueberries
3/4 cup no-sugar-added 100% orange juice
3/4 cup no-sugar-added 100% cranberry juice (or cranberry/blueberry/raspberry juice, or pomegranate juice…I personally prefer a no-sugar-added, 100% juice variety)
1/2 cup low-fat French vanilla yogurt

Place all ingredients in the blender, adding yogurt and juices last. Start to blend on a low speed, and progressively work up to the highest speed. (This will keep your smoothing from doing that thing where the bottom gets blended and the top doesn’t so it just sucks in a bunch of air, and you have to stop the blender and allow it to “burp” before continuing.)

The smoothie is ready when it’s pureed to a smooth consistency.

My least favorite task — cleaning the blender — is pretty easily handled by partially filling the now-empty container with hot water and dish soap and turning on the blender at a low to medium speed. Turn it off, give the canister a quick wash and rinse and you’re good to go. But you probably already know this trick.

Serves: 2

Parent rating: four stars. I love a quick breakfast. So much so that we don’t necessarily wait for breakfast time to make this smoothie…instead making it as a nutritious and easy snack.
Kid rating: five stars. Our girls consistently finish these, serving after serving. No added sugar or sweetener necessary since the sweetened yogurt and natural fruit sugars do the trick. If you can sneak in a little spinach or other greens you get bonus points!

Healthy Banana Splits: Yes, You Can Have Them For Breakfast!

With apologies to Wheaties, the self-proclaimed Breakfast of Champions, we’ve discovered another classic that, when served in a fancy soda-shop style container, can just as easily appear on the breakfast table as it can be served for dessert.

Banana Splits for breakfast? Yes!

Banana Splits for breakfast? Yes!

It’s the “healthy” banana split, and it’s gotten us through any number of crunch meal times. I like this because it can be dressed up in many ways, from ultra-healthy to just a little indulgent (break out the whipped cream…). The kids like it because they can participate in choosing their toppings, which is something our “I can do it myself” three-year-old especially enjoys. Some days we go simple with just a few embellishments, and others we have half a dozen toppings to choose from though there is nothing that says you can’t have even more if you’re feeling especially adventuresome.

The essential "healthy" ingredients

The essential “healthy” ingredients

The “healthy” part is a simple substitute of yogurt for ice cream, and then we load up on other non-guilty goodies like blueberries, strawberries, raisins, chopped prunes, dried cranberries, chopped dried pineapple or peaches, granola, Rice Krispies, KIX, sunflower seeds, chopped peanuts, sliced almonds…the options are wide open.

Some of the toppings we have on hand

Some of the toppings we have on hand

And if your family really does like their Wheaties, well, make that one of your topping choices. It’s kind-of like making the Breakfast of Champions the champion of breakfasts. Or snack time. Take your pick. And here’s another secret: I have succumbed to serving healthy banana splits for dinner (vegetarian!) every once in a while and I actually feel good about it. After all, when is the last time your kids licked the bowls clean at supper?

Can't wait to dig in

Can’t wait to dig in

Here are some ideas for making yours.

Healthy Banana Splits

Ingredients:
1 banana per person
1/2 cup French Vanilla or Plain yogurt per serving (or go crazy with your favorite yogurt flavor)
Toppings of your choice, which might include:
– Any type of dried fruit, cut into small pieces
– Any type of fresh fruit in bite-sized pieces (like peaches, apricots, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries….)
– Shelled sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
– Sliced almonds, walnuts or crushed peanuts
– Granola
– Any other small, crunchy cereal including Rice Krispies, Cheerios, KIX, etc.
A drizzle of maple syrup or another syrup (hey, I’m not ruling out some chocolate sauce here!)
Whipped cream
Sprinkles or baby chocolate chips, if the kids have been really good
Maraschino cherries, if you’d like

Now, it’s not essential that you have a banana split bowl for this, but is sure does make it more fun to serve and eat.

Split the banana lengthwise (daughter 2 prefers hers cut into rounds and piled in the bowl), cover with yogurt, and load up on toppings. Finish with some syrup if using, a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry on top. If this will be dessert, go for the sprinkles or baby chocolate chips.

Serves: However many you need to serve!

Mom holds the yogurt while little hands make the split

Mom holds the yogurt while little hands make the split

Parent rating: Five stars. Truth be told, I wouldn’t want this for dinner every night but then, I wouldn’t want most things for dinner every night (except, perhaps, for Pad Thai…but that will have to wait for another post). This dish suits all tastes and can be served at just about any meal, or as a dessert. Creamy, crunchy, good for you, and FUN. Everything a busy parent could hope for.
Kid rating: Five stars. They have control over what goes ON the banana splits, which means it’s much more likely to end up IN the kid. Make these special with a couple of over-the-top touches: that whipped cream and cherry, for sure, but maybe your kids even deserve some sprinkles if they’ve had a really good day. I can pretty much guarantee your kids will be licking the bowl clean too. And if bananas aren’t your thing….1) kudos to you for reading this far, and 2) use a banana substitute! Sliced peaches, a baked apple, even some cubed melon would be good. Enjoy.