Back to School Smoothies – Tropical Green Smoothie

green smoothie

Green smoothies are an excellent choice for those back to school mornings as they provide a ton of nutrients to start the day and get the kids energized. A green smoothie though, is not always the most popular with kids. They take one look at the color and won’t even try it no matter what you tell them is in it. (This is one of the reasons why I like making other kinds of smoothies and adding in a little greens. You can literally hide them in there as it doesn’t change the color and they get blended up so they have no idea!)

One of the reasons kids (and some adults too) steer away from green smoothies is because often times they are this ugly dark green and aren’t very tasty or sweet. And even though I like my vegetables, when my smoothie tastes bland and like just a glass of vegetables, that doesn’t appeal even to me – why would a kid like it? That being said I have found a green smoothie that I quite enjoy and has passed the ‘kid test’. It is actually the favorite of my youngest son.

This green smoothie is sweet in taste due to the 3 kinds of tropical fruits, but not overly so, and a bright vibrant green. Stocked with 3 kinds of greens as well this makes for a very good combination. The nice thing is to if you need it a little sweeter you just add a little more fruit.

I have even made this green smoothie in my kids cooking classes (ages 3-12) and most of them liked it. In fact, for some of them it was their favorite smoothie as well!

Why do you want kids to have a green smoothie in the morning?

  • They are an easy way to get in those greens everyday (and right at the start). I don’t know about you but sometimes I find this difficult and get to the end of the day with no greens whatsoever. I feel good when I start my day with some greens.
  • Greens are rich in fiber, high in vitamins like vitamin C, K, E, and minerals and have many disease fighting benefits. And if you’re using a green like spinach, it’s high in iron ( supports brain function, muscle health, curbs fatigue)
  • Greens are high in antioxidants
  • They are high in folate which maintains a healthy heart, is needed for body’s cell division and prevents depression
  • Supports healthy brain function

Tropical Green Smoothie

1 c. spinach

green smoothie3-4 stems of parsley

1 sprig of fresh mint (I love mint so I might add a bit more, add yours to taste)

*1/2 c. papaya

1/2 c. pineapple

1/2 c. mango

**1/2 -3/4 c. apple juice or water

Put all ingredients in Vitamix blender. Start on low moving up to high. Blend on high for 1 minute or until smooth. Enjoy!

*I use orange or yellow papaya as I like it better and find it sweeter; but you can also use red papaya

**vary the amounts of fruit to make it sweeter or less sweet to taste

**I have found over the years that if I add a little more fruit then I can use water instead of juice and it still tastes yummy, sweet and delicious

Serves 1

Give this green smoothie a try this weekend and see how the crew likes it. If it’s a success you can start incorporating it into your back to school smoothie rotation in the mornings and kick off the day with a nice green healthy breakfast.

Back to School Smoothies – Classic Berry

berry smoothie

One of my favorite smoothies is when there is an abundance of fruit – and I mean a variety of fruits that I really love. Yes I know they all taste great on their own but I love putting them all together in one glass. Seriously for me it’s like a treat or a sundae.

This is why I love a classic berry smoothie. Not only do I fulfill my desire for more than one berry at once, I can also amp it up a little with some added ingredients that get disguised in the mix. So to the eye and palette very much berry, berry and berry, but to the rest of the body, lots of yummy nutrients that I need or am trying to get in!

This is especially good for kids who naturally love sweeter smoothies and will be all over drinking this. They will enjoy it and you will be happy that you got that other stuff in there (I feel especially successful when I’ve gotten some greens into them first thing in the morning). My daughter, in particular likes this smoothie and will gulp it down very quickly.

berry smoothieNow I know in the first post in this back to school smoothie series I recommended go easy on the fruit, as it can create too much sugar (even if it is natural) in the body first thing in the morning. The key is that with the other ingredients we are adding this quickly balances it out and stabilizes the higher sugars that you get from the higher fruit content. Plus because we are blending and not juicing you still get the fiber from the fruits which also helps to counter balance the sugars. And well let’s be honest, it tastes good! And every once in a while we deserve a little treat.

This is also a great smoothie if you are trying to introduce smoothies to your kids but not having as much luck as you had hoped so far. Because of it’s higher sweet content you may have more success, knowing that you did successfully get that spinach in there to, without them even knowing. Then later you can work on the green ones…

Classic Berry Smoothie

1 banana

5-6 fresh strawberries

1/2 c. blueberries

berry smoothie1/2 c. raspberries

1 1/2 c. non dairy milk (we usually use unsweetened almond milk)

*1-2 tbsp hemp seeds

1 healthy handful of spinach

Put all ingredients in the blender and mix until smooth. Now if you prefer more blueberry to strawberry or raspberry, feel free to adjust the amounts accordingly. You may also substitute chia seeds for hemp seeds, just be aware that with chia seeds they can make it much thicker especially if not drunk right away.

Serves 3

Perfect for the morning and to add that variety to the morning smoothie menu.

Coming up… a yummy Green Smoothie (honestly it’s delicious! and your kids will love it)

Back to School Smoothies – Peanut Butter

peanut butter smoothie

Peanut butter smoothies are a staple for my kids at our house. Even though I recommend changing things up and giving the kids variety, they go for days if not weeks in a row where they only want this smoothie.

I really like the peanut butter smoothie because it is a super quick and easy recipe – with simply peanut butter, banana and milk. It is a nice thick creamy smoothie that is high in protein, filling and a great way to start the day!

We tend to add in a few other ingredients to this smoothie like dates and oatmeal for a little added sweetness and nutrient boost. Dates are high in fiber and a good source of vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin A. They are also high in natural sugars which provide an immediate and sustainable burst of energy (sustainable because it also has the high fiber content).

If you’re not a peanut butter fan or have an allergy, it is easy to substitute any nut butter in this smoothie or you can use Wow Butter, which is a soy based product (but does have added sugar) that has similar taste and texture to peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Smoothie

1 bananapeanut butter smoothie

1 tbsp. unsweetened or natural peanut butter

2 c. non dairy milk (we like almond but choose your favorite)

2 medjool dates, pitted

1/3 c. dry oatmeal

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Serves 2

Coming up… the Classic Berry Smoothie

Blueberry Pancake Mini Bites

pancake mini bites

I really didn’t think a pancake mini bite would be a big hit. What was the big deal it’s like a small bite of a pancake and wouldn’t you rather have a whole one? But that’s just it! It’s a small bite of a pancake – and you can have just a bite not waste a whole one!

Now there are tonnes of recipes for pancake mini bites, from maple bacon (I am definitely going to try that one) and pumpkin chocolate chip to your whole wheat and more traditional pancake. I decided that a blueberry one would be a great place to get started.

I honestly whipped these things up in 15 minutes, they are super easy to make, and I adjusted the original recipe slightly – as I like experimenting! At first I thought they looked just like a mini blueberry muffin and that they would simply taste like a muffin, but they do not taste like a muffin at all and definitely like a pancake. Besides I don’t know how many muffins you are dipping in maple syrup!

These are also a fantastic on the go breakfast. Super easy to grab and take with you, more so than a regular pancake. They’d be fun in kids school lunches as well for a little variety.

Blueberry Pancake Mini Bites

1 c. flour (I used white the first time I made them as honestly I wasn’t thinking, but could easily use whole wheat instead to make them more healthy)

pancake mini bites1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. coconut sugar

1 beaten egg

1/2 c. almond milk (or other non dairy milk of choice)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan spread, melted

1/2 c. blueberries

Dash of cinnamon – optional

1/2 tsp. ground flax meal – optional

Pure maple syrup

In medium size bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and coconut sugar. In another bowl, stir together egg, vanilla, almond milk and Earth Balance.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. In a well greased mini muffin tin scoop a tablespoon of dough into each hole. Bake for 10 minutes at 375F or until slightly browned.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then gently remove bites from muffin tin. Serve immediately with a side of pure maple syrup.

Makes about 20 mini bite pancakes

pancake mini bitesThese are also easily frozen ready to grab later or on those mornings you’re a little rushed. Freeze in an airtight container with a piece of wax or parchment paper between layers.

The fun thing about these mini bites is you can basically take any pancake recipe and simply put it into a mini muffin tin and bake it. And if you want to play with shapes a little and make them round, you can use a donut hole pan, which is super fun, like little mini donuts.

And like anything, there’s so much variety for what you can do! Because I don’t know about you but even though I like the traditional pancake I do like variety every once in a while. It keeps things interesting.

Have a favorite pancake recipe? Share in the comments below

Get Energized this Spring- With these Green Smoothie Combinations

green smoothie combinationsGreen smoothies are super good for us. Loaded with many health benefits, they are a great way to load up on antioxidants and vitamins in a delicious way that satisfies our hunger. But did you also know that green smoothies are also a great way to detoxify and eliminate toxins from our body?

I’ve been drinking green smoothies on a regular basis for a number of years now because it is an easy way to get some of those vegetables and leafy greens into my day, without chowing down on salad all the time. Not that there is anything wrong with salad, but sometimes I just don’t want it. Putting it into a smoothie makes it easy, palatable, tasty and easy to digest. The fact that it can also detox is a bonus!

green smoothie combinationsThe trick is what to include in your green smoothie in order to reap these detoxing benefits and have it taste good. Many of the best ingredients for detoxing are bitter and astringent fruits or vegetables and the wrong combination can turn out not tasting very good. I don’t know about you but I have had a few green smoothie combinations that I did not enjoy, basically gulping it down and vowing never to have that one again. I know for some people it is the green color in general that deters them, but I can get past that. For me, it needs to at least taste good or I don’t care how good it is for me, I am not drinking it.

What I have found in general is smoothie combinations are truly personal. A combination I enjoy may not be what someone else does. (I have found this to be true in my own family where I will create a smoothie that I love and the kids don’t care for it or vice versa). Because we all have differing and changing palates this is important to know and honor when creating a green smoothie combination that you like.

green smoothie combinationsWhat I discovered when I participated in a Green Smoothie Challenge recently, was an easy formula to use in creating a great, tasty detox green smoothie. A detailed combo guide and basic directions were provided and then we were encouraged to create from there. The guide included a list of different fruits, vegetables, spices and essential oils to choose from that aided in detoxifying. The challenge itself was to create as many different green smoothie combinations as you wanted over the week long challenge and share them on Facebook.

I thought this was fantastic! With this basic guide I could create smoothies that everyone liked and we’d all reap the benefits. Plus I love a challenge and I dove right in, thinking about and creating combinations that I thought would work well together. Because honestly I like variety and for some reason I had it in my head that there were only a few basic green smoothie combinations and you had to go with those. But with this, I felt like a whole new world had been opened up to me, and I was excited!

Throughout the challenge I ended up creating 3 new green smoothie combinations that I really enjoyed – and one that my daughter loves – it’s now her new favorite. Once I got the hang of it I branched out an experimented a little more than I usually would (like using dandelion greens), feeling more and more confident with each created combination.

3 Great Green Smoothie Combinations

Here are my 3 favorite green smoothie combinations that I created during the challenge

Combo #1

4-5 strawberriestropical green smoothie

3-4 leaves of black kale

1/2 – 1 tsp. vanilla

2-3 leaves of fresh basil

1/2 c. coconut water

Combo #2:

1/2 of lime

Mango

handful of spinach

2-3 leaves mint

1/2 c. water

Combo #3: (my favorite)green smoothie ingredients

1/4 of grapefruit

1/2 of orange

4-5 strawberries

3-4 leaves black kale

4-5 leaves dandelion greens

3/4 – 1 c. water

One important thing to remember when creating your detox green smoothies is to avoid adding milks and juices and stick with water or coconut water for your liquids. This is easier on your body to process and provides the most success in your detox. Give these combinations a try and let me know what you think. Or use the green smoothie combo guide and create your own coming back to share what great combinations you’ve discovered. Whether you’re detoxing or not your body will thank you.

Kids Healthy Cooking – Plain Pancakes

plain pancake recipeIn the spirit of celebrating Pancake Tuesday recently in February, I decided to make pancakes in my Mini Chefs class at Trico Center. Pancake Tuesday is a holiday I love, also called Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, it is the day before the beginning of Lent, and in the times of no refrigerator, it was a time to eat up all the foods that were considered fatty, would go bad and that people would ‘give up’ during the Lenten season.

Besides what child does not love pancakes? I do not know many, so I knew that they would be a hit with all my kids, even some of my more particular eaters. I decided to go with a basic plain pancake recipe, as I feel this should be a staple in every home, plus it is easy to ‘dress up’ in a variety of different ways. Of course, there is the traditional maple syrup and butter, but you can also have fruit toppings, ice cream and whip cream to name a few options.

plain pancake recipePlain pancakes are also really easy to make with kids, as there is a lot of measuring, scooping and mixing involved. It actually takes longer to cook the pancakes than it does to make the batter! I had each of the kids take a turn measuring an ingredient and dumping it into the bowl. Then a few of them had a turn mixing it up, which honestly this job is easily done by one person, but I find the kids really love to mix stuff. I could easily occupy them all day with mixing (parents something to think about lol).

plain pancake recipeThe kids were also very interested in watching the pancakes cook. I had them all stand at a safe distance from the pan and they watched as I poured the batter in and then waited for them to cook. For those that were interested, I pointed out the bubbles that were forming on top and that when they had lots of bubbles it meant it was time to flip them over. One little girl thought this was fascinating.

Once we had all the pancakes cooked we sat down to enjoy them! I had cut up fruit in advance, bananas, apples and strawberries and told them were we going to make faces on our pancakes with our fruit. Chloe who had done this before at our house, demonstrated what to do and then picked up her pancake and started eating. I was surprised to see all the other kids follow suit, with not a single one asking where the maple syrup was – which I actually did have to go with our pancakes that day. But since they did not ask for it, I just tucked it away and let them enjoy the pancakes and fruit faces they made. It was pretty easy and it was super fun.

Plain Pancakes

2 c. whole wheat flourplain pancake recipe

6 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 egg

2 ¼ c.  non-dairy milk of choice – almond milk, coconut milk, etc.

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl. Pour ¼ c. batter on hot griddle. When bubbles form on top, flip pancakes over. Cook for another 3 minutes. Top with favorite fruit or enjoy with pure maple syrup.plain pancake recipe

 

Coming up next in Kids Healthy Cooking Mini Pizzas!

Kids Healthy Cooking – Tips and Tricks for making it easy and fun!

kids healthy cooking

Cooking with kids can be a challenge. It’s messier, it’s slower, and often times can try your patience as a parent. Kids healthy cooking can be even more of a challenge with your little munchkins palates changing and developing, being sensitive to textures, smells and levels of salt and sweetness. One day they like a certain food and all of a sudden the next day they don’t? Even with these challenges, there are many benefits to getting little ones into the kitchen at a young age, benefits that will set a foundation for their eating and nutrition choices for life.  And these benefits will outweigh the extra time and patience you have to spend in the kitchen.

fruit2For little hands, time in the kitchen allows them to build basic skills, explore with their senses and create an adventurous palate! You can introduce healthy foods in a fun and unique way that will get them eating and enjoying it. Kids are also more likely to eat what they have made and it creates a foundation for them later in life – when they’re older in college and can actually cook. Not only that, but it creates a great opportunity for you and your child to spend some quality time together, learning and creating together, even having a little fun.

I recently started teaching a preschool class at the Trico Center called Mini Chefs and it is one of my favorite classes. You may think that cooking with a preschooler would be difficult, but when you choose recipes that are simple, easy and appropriate for their age, it is actually a lot of fun. I love how excited the kids are each week, curious about what we are making and what is in it.

IMG_6903One of the keys to making kids healthy cooking successful (especially with preschoolers) is to pick something with less than 5 ingredients and things that they can do themselves, like scooping, mixing, tearing (lettuce). Most kids at this age love to help and get very excited about mixing things, or scooping out the flour. Yes you may have a little more flour on the floor but encouraging them and letting them do it, will make them want to do it again.

For our first class we created Yogurt Parfaits, which is a very easy, hands on recipe with 3 basic ingredients and lots of scooping and sprinkling. They all wondered what a yogurt parfait was, as even my children had not made one of these before. What was in it? How did we make it? When were we going to make it? The when question was the best. They are so keen at this age to get started!

This is why it is very advantageous and less stressful for you to prepare things in advance so that the cooking process goes more smoothly. For the parfaits, I had the yogurt already in a bowl with a spoon for scooping, the fruit cut and the granola in a bowl ready for scooping as well. Parfait glasses were in a stack ready for me to hand out as well as the spoons. This made it easier for each child to do what they could themselves, once I explained how we made the parfaits.

It was so fun to watch each child create their parfait, scooping in their yogurt (some with fairly large scoops and some very small), choosing their fruit, then scooping in some yogurt again. Each parfait was creative and unique, and honestly it was not that messy. Some kids had lots of yogurt in theirs and less fruit, some had a lot of both, while others just wanted the granola off the top. Either way they all had fun and all tried it, it was a new taste adventure for many of them.

Now my kids ask for yogurt and fruit all the time now and it makes a very healthy snack!

Yogurt ParfaitIMG_6905

Ingredients:

Non-dairy vanilla yogurt  – such as coconut, almond or soy   *(can easily substitute dairy yogurts if desired)

Fruit – pick your favorite! Blueberries, strawberries, banana, honeydew

Granola (store bought or make your own – you can also substitute large oats if desired)

In a bowl or cup place desired amount of yogurt. Then place fruit of choice on top, layer with yogurt then another layer of fruit. One more layer of yogurt and top with granola. Enjoy!

And don’t forget, get the kids to help you clean up after as well. They are willing at this age and that way they learn that cooking whether creative, messy or fun, requires clean up at the end.IMG_6904

Next week… Tuna melts and Vegetable Flowers – who says vegetables can’t be fun!

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

IMG_6830I woke up Christmas morning this year feeling very excited! I felt like a kid all over again, the magic and anticipation of Santa and Christmas morning were very present. I didn’t sleep much, and by 5 am I was literally ready to get up and open presents. I seriously considered going and getting my parents up ‘for old times sake’ like when we were kids and getting up at 3 being told to go back to bed, then 4 then 5 and finally my parents would give up about 6.

I had the pleasure of sharing Christmas this year with both my parents and only me. No kids, no siblings, no in laws, just us, which is a rare and special occasion. It is not often that such an opportunity occurs and I felt that this in itself was a gift. Christmas Eve we watched a movie and my Mum and I sat up late talking and sipping gingerbread martinis. At midnight we toasted and wished each other Merry Christmas. We peeked outside, and experienced a calm beautiful evening. The snow gently falling and a peacefulness in the air, truly a unique energy that was not present earlier that day (or on Christmas morning when I popped outside either). It really was like in the movies, that magical energy, and presence there.

IMG_4491One of the things I love to do over the holidays is experiment with different festive recipes and on Christmas Eve I had already been thinking about trying a Cranberry smoothie of some kind Christmas morning. I googled a number of recipes and found some good ones, though undecided which one to try.

When I woke in the morning (or should I say finally got up around 8) I bounced out of the spare room wishing a Merry Christmas! Mum was at the sink, Dad dressing in red and I was moving towards the tree. Quickly with coffees or waters in hand we began a lovely ritual of opening gifts and sharing. After gifts Mum went to the kitchen to make brunch – a fabulous Impossible Quiche with Daiya smoked gouda, spinach and mushrooms and I proceeded to make the smoothies. I had decided to take the elements of some of the recipes I found that I liked and combine them, adding some of my own ingredients and creating my own. The result was fantastic! A smooth creamy, flavorful smoothie that we all socked back quickly, expressing how much we enjoyed it. I loved the added greens myself, which darkens the pink looking smoothie slightly but gets those greens in there without even tasting it! The added benefit is that cranberries themselves are considered a super food and are high in vitamin C, E, fiber as well as providing benefits such as improved immune system, antioxidant and decreased blood pressure.

When I arrived home after Christmas I made it again for the kids and they all loved it! Matthew who hasn’t been drinking many smoothies these days, tasted it said ‘Oh that’s good’ and drank the rest quickly. Chloe asks me every day since she tried it for one and has expressed that it’s her new favorite. Even my ex husband tried it the other day and said it was good (this is a big thing btw, as he is not really a smoothie guy and particular about tastes). I was quite pleased with the results and I think I drove my parents a little crazy that first day I made it when I kept saying throughout the day how good it was and how impressed with myself for creating it. Well it was good!

So if you’ve got a festive theme going over the holidays or simply want to try out a great new smoothie recipe, give this one a go! If you find it a little tart for your tastes just add more stevia when making it. Then come back here and comment telling me how you like it!

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

2 bananasIMG_6831

1 c. frozen cranberries

1 c. un sweetened almond-cashew yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. orange juice

1/2 of 1 g packet of stevia

handful of spinach* (optional)

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Garnish with slice of orange and a few cranberries if desired. Pour into 8 oz glasses and serve.

*if you would like a bright pink smoothie do not add spinach as it will darken it. I love tossing in that bit of green as it is a great way to get those greens in a quick and easy way. And you don’t even notice it’s there!

Serves 3 (makes 3 – 8 oz servings)

Bacon in All Things

I love bacon. And so do my kids. They want everything with bacon. If I am making eggs they are asking if they are having it with bacon. Pancakes, waffles, etc. are we having bacon too? I am not sure if they inherently inherited this love of bacon from my younger sister who basically has bacon with everything!

IMG_3309In fact every time I see something with bacon I think of my sister and how much she loves it. I have noticed entire menus centered around bacon and would take pictures and send it to my sister, never really thinking much of it myself. I thought some of these combinations may be odd, but having never tried them I didn’t discount that it had possibilities.

A couple of weeks ago as I was listening to the radio in the car, I heard the morning show crew on KISS FM talking about things with bacon and how the one DJ put bacon on absolutely everything, including her brussel sprouts! I am not a fan of brussel sprouts, but I was intrigued when she mentioned bacon with her macaroni and cheese. Hmmm, I thought, that might actually be good.

Then later that week, while at Beerfest, I noticed that one of the food items being offered was macaroni and cheese with bacon. I was tempted to try some…

Instead I decided to come home and make my own macaroni and cheese with bacon, that way I could make a dairy free version and enjoy it much more (cause honestly once you go dairy free when you have even a trace of it it’s just not worth the symptoms afterwards and just feeling gross). So we finished up at Beerfest, no rush of course :), and then came home for dinner.

IMG_5261I made my mac and cheese like I usually do, using the Daiya cheddar cheese, almond milk and Earth Balance. I maybe added a little extra cheese and I felt this dish would be much better being a little cheesier. Then I cooked up the bacon, I usually use Mitchell’s, which is a brand that does not add sugar to their bacon when curing it. Most brands do unfortunately, but there are a few you can find, like Mitchell’s that do not have the added sugar. My mouth was watering as I was preparing everything, so excited to try this out.

Once everything was ready I crumbled up the bacon, served my mac and cheese and put the bacon on top. Then scooped up some and tasted it. Omg! was it ever good. The flavours worked so well together, the salty bacon giving it just the right taste sensation in my mouth. It was really hard not to overindulge on this dish.

The next week I made it for the kids, who of course gobbled it up! Now I understand how people can combine anything with bacon. There is just something about it that creates a flavour that your tastebuds will enjoy and be asking for more! I love too that I was able to make this in a way that meets my dietary choices of no dairy and no sugar, and still appreciate the combination.

Now I don’t know if I am going to be putting bacon with brussel sprouts anytime soon, maybe it will improve the taste? But I am definitely going to be more open about trying bacon with more things!

Do you have any dishes that you love adding bacon?