What Parents wouldn’t do for their Child’s Birthday – Make Healthy Sugar Free Jello

sugar free jelloI love birthdays. They are fabulous days to celebrate people, how much we love and appreciate them and how happy we are to have them in our lives. Celebrating kids birthdays are some of the best, as they can be super fun and creative.

There are so many themes, games, crafts and activities to do around a kids birthday and I personally love a good theme. I get really into it, creating details from the cake right down to the decorations.

The one thing that is part and parcel of a birthday is of course, the cake. It is a tradition that has been around for centuries and one I honestly feel is just wrong if absent on a birthday (I hear in Sweden they start birthdays with cake for breakfast – they know what they’re doing). I have always loved the idea of a cut up cake, or a theme cake, something more than your traditional round or square. The designs, the colors, the creativity. My Mom made them for us growing up and well, even though my Mom warned me not to, I continued that tradition with my children.

sugar free rice krispie squares

Homemade Marshmallows

So for the twins, who just recently turned 6, we had a Minecraft and an Elsa cake this year; which I thought would be fairly simple. And well, once I figured out what I was doing, and all the pieces I needed, they were.

Because we chose a number of years ago to go sugar free this has created some challenges in creating things like a sugar free birthday cake. The cake itself was easy enough to do but it was the decorating, the icing and other accessories that made it interesting. This year for Luke’s Minecraft cake we discovered a design that was pretty simple in itself but required Jello and Rice Krispie squares – which I had yet to figure out how to make sugar free jello or sugar free rice krispie squares. I had some ideas on how to do this but had not made them before.

The Rice Krispie squares were easy enough. A couple of years ago I discovered a recipe sugar free rice krispie squareson Wellness Mama to make marshmallows, so I simply made that recipe and then mixed in the gluten free rice krispies right away while the marshmallow cream was still soft (at one point I thought I would have to make the marshmallows let them set then melt them down…luckily my rational brain kicked in and realized that they would already be soft before they set and I could just mix it all together right away). Once it was mixed in I just pressed the rice krispies into a pan like I usually would. They turned out quite well, though not as sweet as an original Rice Krispie square, which I think was largely due to the gluten free cereal which is not as sweet to start with; otherwise they were great.

The Jello was a little more of a challenge and this was simply because of the color I needed. Jello in itself is easy you use plain gelatin add water and let it set. But when you’re using natural fruit juice as a base and trying to make blue… Did you know there is no natural fruit that creates the color blue? You might think what about blueberries? Nope purple. Red cabbage is as a natural food dye, also purple. I even Googled it to see if I could find anything. No luck.

sugar free jelloEventually I found somewhere, the idea of using white grape juice and then adding a drop or two of blue food coloring. Though I would have prefered not to use the artificial food coloring I thought how much work did I want to do for this Jello. I decided a drop or two would be ok. So I found a natural Jello recipe on Wellness Mama (the same site for the marshmallows) and had it made setting in the fridge in about 5 minutes. Easy.

It tasted great too. In fact I prefered the Jello to the Rice Krispie squares. With this Jello though you have to like white grape juice, which some people don’t. I find it is a distinct taste that you either like or don’t. With my kids, Chloe loved it and Luke did not. The great thing is that unless you are making an odd color of Jello, like blue, you can find fruit juice out there that will give you the color you need without adding any food coloring. Like I wish I had needed red, easy! raspberry, cherry, cranberry

In general, I was really pleased with how these turned out and how the cake turned out in the end. It looked great and tasted good, with the finishing touches being the Minecraft figures on top, which thankfully Luke got from Gran for his birthday and was quite happy to put on top (I was going to sit down and draw and design these things). Luke was really pleased with the result and everyone ooed and awed over the cake when they saw it. That’s the kind of reaction that I like, and what makes it worth it. Now Chloe’s Elsa cake this year… that is another story…

Sugar Free Jello

1 1/2 cups of white grape juicesugar free jello

1/4 c. cool water

1/4 c. hot water

1 tbsp. grain fed gelatin powder

1-2 drops of blue food coloring (number of drops depends on how deep a blue you want)

Pour the cool water in a large mixing cup or quart sized mason jar and add the gelatin powder. Stir until mixed- it will start to thicken a lot. Add the ¼ cup of really hot water and stir to mix- it should be thinner now. Combine this with the juice and mix well. Pour the jello mixture into an 8×8 dish. Put in the fridge, covered, for at least 2-3 hours or overnight and serve. Cut into cubes or scoop out with a melon spoon to make cute shapes.
Serves 4-6

Kids Healthy Cooking – Healthy Sweet Treats

IMG_6963As human beings one of our biggest vices is all things sweet. The same goes for our kids as well, they prefer bananas over carrots, the cookie over the banana and so on. But what if we could create healthy sweet treats for kids that they would not only love and meet their need for sweet, but would provide them with a nutritional impact full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients?

When we decided to go sugar free at our house I got a lot of looks from other people and questions about how can I deny them all the yummy things that are part of a regular kids life, like cupcakes, chocolates and cookies. The truth is they have never been denied, they still enjoy all those things at our house and more. The difference is not in the taste which is just as yummy if not more so than the ‘original’ – but in what they are made of. We have simply switched to natural sweeteners and added in foods that are super high in nutrients. And honestly they not only gobble them up but request them.

It is easy to make the switch at your house too. Just start slowly adding in one or two recipes and go from there. Make it easy. Plus if you get the kids involved in making these healthy sweet treats your chances of them eating them goes up simply because they have helped.

Also starting with ingredients and foods that they like is key to success when getting kids to eat and try new things. If you pick something they like, they are already interested and will be more open. This is why just before Valentine’s Day in our Mini Chefs class I chose two healthy sweet treat recipes for kids that were chocolate. You should have seen the kids eyes get big and how excited they got when I told them what we were making that day was chocolate (same thing happened when we made the chocolate banana smoothie a few weeks ago).

They were all so excited to try it when it was ready to eat, even though they had watched some ‘weird’ ingredients go in like avocado and chia seeds. Chocolate overruled it all.

Raw Chocolate Pudding

The thing I love about this recipe is the fact that you simply put all the ingredients in the blender and mix. In just minutes you have a smooth, fluffy and delicious chocolate pudding.

2 ripe bananas, peeled and slicedhealthy sweet treats for kids

1 avocado, pitted and peeled

2 tbsp. raw cacao powder (this is different than cocao powder)

1 tsp. agave nectar

Put all ingredients in blender in the order listed. Start on low, slowly turn speed up to high. Blend for 30 seconds on high or until desired consistency is reached. *it’s sweet as is, but if you’d like to increase sweetness add more agave nectar to taste – agave is twice as sweet as sugar so use small amounts and taste before adding more 

Avocados are fantastic additions to recipes. Not only are they mild in taste, they are high in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin K, B5, B6, C and E as well as Omega 3’s. They offer a lot of health benefits like improved mood, reduced stress, good eye health and more. They are also a great food that actually curbs sugar cravings! Because they are high in healthy fats they slow digestion and prevent the body’s blood sugar from spiking after eating. It is also true that when we crave sugar it is often because we are missing certain nutrients and adding a healthy fat will curb this craving as the body becomes satisfied.

No Bake Chocolate Macaroons

1 bananahealthy sweet treats for kids

¼ c. coconut oil, melted

¼ c. pure maple syrup

½ tsp. vanilla

6 tbsp. cacao powder

1.5 c. unsweetened coconut

1 tbsp. chia seeds

small pinch sea salt

In a medium size bowl mash banana well until there are no clumps. Stir in melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Sift cacao powder and stir into banana mixture. Stir in chia seeds, coconut and salt.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop a teaspoon at a time onto parchment paper. Put in freezer for 20 minutes or until firm. Store in freezer until ready to enjoy.

Makes approx 15 macaroons

Chia seeds are not only high in dietary fibre and protein as well as many other vitamins, they make you feel full as well as being an ingredient that stabilizes blood sugar. Cacao powder is rich in vitamins and nutrients such as iron, antioxidants and high in B Vitamins. Cacao does differ from cocoa as though they come from the same plant the difference is in how they are processed and the amount of nutrients that are left in it. Cacao is also considered a superfood while cocoa is not.healthy sweet treats for kids

So have fun, enjoy! not only will the kids love these healthy sweet treats you may find that you love them to (I have a hard time eating only one chocolate macaroon at a time…) They are quick easy and so yummy you and your kids will forget that they are actually good for you.

Next week pancakes with super cool faces!

Kids Healthy Cooking – How to Make Tacos

how to make tacos with kidsTacos are one of those great foods that are an quick easy dinner solution that you can easily incorporate many food groups (including vegetables) and taste delicious. They are also a fabulous way to get the kids involved in helping make dinner as there is lots of scooping and use of their hands. You may think it will create a big mess, but here are some easy ways how to make tacos with the kids and be successful!

How to Make Tacos with Kids

1. Prep in advance – Chop, grate, cut the ingredients you are using in advance and put them into separate bowls that the kids can easily scoop or grab things out of. Place a spoon with each item so they don’t mix them.

2. Provide a variety of ingredients – in Mini Chefs we used just lettuce and tomato and cheese, but you could include avocado, cucumber, spinach…basically any vegetable. Providing variety will not only makes the kids curious but it will also encourage them to try a little, especially when they are making their own.

3. Use some kind of dip or spread – sour cream, Veganaise or mayonaise, guacamole, salsa all add a little flavor and variety to their taco. It also makes it less dry and provides nice texture and easier on the palate.

4. Demo what it looks like – make one and show them what you would typically put in it, everything from sour cream to tomatoes and cheese. Let them know that if they choose not to put an ingredient in that’s ok. The example will not only show them what can go in it but might encourage them to put some of those ingredients in themselves.

5. Let them make their own – give them the tortilla or taco shell and show them all the options, then let them decide which ingredients they want to put in and how much. (Remind them that they need to close up the tortilla so not to put too much in). When they make their own they are more likely to eat it.

how to make tacos with kidsWhen I did this with my Mini Chefs class I had everything ready in advance and this made it very smooth when making them. The only thing we prepped together was to cook the ground chicken, which I did and they watched. They all really like watching what is happening as their curiosity makes them interested and that is the best way to get them engaged.

Many of them tried different ingredients, creating their own with various amounts of the things they liked. We used soft tortillas, which I find easier with kids because you can roll them up and have less stuff falling out! but you can use hard taco shells if you prefer. I did have to remind them that though they could put in what they liked, not to put too much in as we needed to roll it up and have it all fit.

Rolling them up was the fun part. I showed them how to do it and then helped each child coaching them through rolling it up themselves, which each of them did quite successfully. Once we had it rolled up then we chowed down and enjoyed our tasty creations.

I even had the next week a Mom share with me that her son had made tacos for supper one night after this particular class, which I was so pleased to hear. She said he insisted on clearing up which he never does and he is now also eating lettuce, which he never ate lettuce. Wrapping it up and presenting it in a different way is one of the many reasons why this has occurred. Plus he (and the other children) were allowed choice in what they could put in and weren’t told that they had to use this ingredient or that one.

I feel that this class has been our most successful class so far and that learning how to make tacos has taken the children’s learning in the kitchen to the next level. It really is a simple nutrition packed meal which can easily be modified if you want it dairy free, vegetarian or packed with protein (add kidney beans or chick peas). There are a large variety of different taco recipes and combinations to try, but I would recommend starting with a basic recipe to get the kids into it, and then expand upon it from there.

Tacos

Ingredients:

1 pkg. ground chicken (or any choice of ground meat)how to make tacos

1 tbsp. taco seasoning (recipe below)

tomatoes, chopped

lettuce, chopped

Daiya cheddar cheese, shredded (or regular cheddar if desired)

Vegan sour cream – I love Earth Island (or regular sour cream)

tortillas

Brown ground chicken in frying pan. Add 1 tbsp. of taco spice and mix.  Lay out one tortilla flat on counter or plate, spread a spoonful of sour cream on tortilla, add spoonful of chicken, tomato, lettuce and cheese. Fold tortilla over once, tuck in ends by folding over on each side, then roll the rest of the tortilla to end.

Taco Seasoning

(this is an easy seasoning that can be made at home with spices you likely already have in your cupboard. Pre-make it and skip the processed package stuff from the store)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon chili powderhow to make tacos

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

Do you have a favorite taco recipe that your kids love? Share it below

Coming up next…some chocolate delights, macaroons and chocolate pudding!

Don’t miss our other kids healthy cooking recipes such as yogurt parfaits, tuna melts and kids smoothies

The Magic of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds

Recently I have discovered a lot of recipes with chia seeds in them. I haven’t been purposely looking for them, the recipes I have been picking up lately (such as Chocolate Macaroons) just happen to have them in it. The nice thing about this, I discovered, is that chia seeds are considered another superfood with multiple health benefits. They stabilize blood sugar, reduce cravings for sweets, improve mental focus, are a high quality protein, improve cardiovascular health and many more.

When I first heard about chia seeds I actually wasn’t sure what to do with them and thought they were funny things, these tiny seeds that look like poppy seeds. I knew they had great health benefits but what was the use if I could not use them? Then I found this recipe for chia seed pudding, which I have to admit when I first looked at it thought “Eww! seeds in my pudding”. But since I am into expanding my repertoire of sugar free and dairy free treats I thought I would try it.

I decided to make it for the first time when I was in BC this summer visiting my parents. My Mum is into these things as well and I always like a willing crowd to be my guinea pigs. The first thing I loved about this recipe is that it takes no time at all to make; less than 5 minutes. You literally whisk together the ingredients in a bowl and let it sit. That’s it. I didn’t even divide it amongst individual glasses like it suggested, I just left it in the bowl I made it in. (I also found that though this recipe says serves 4 but you can easily serve 6 and everyone has a decent sized portion).

chia seed pudding

Raspberry Chia Seed Pudding

The second thing I really liked is that when you let the chia seeds sit for a bit they actually expand (size and weight), so it gives the pudding some texture, similar to tapioca. Which is another health benefit, as this ‘gelling action’ when the seed is exposed to water gives you a full feeling for hours – which is great for maintaining a healthy weight. (I also think it’s fascinating 🙂

The pudding was a hit with my parents and the kids. Enough that I have made it again recently and will do so again. I have also discovered a recipe for a Raspberry Chia Seed Pudding, which I have yet to try, but imagine will be just as good.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

chia seed pudding

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

1 1/2 c. coconut milk

4 tbsp. maple syrup or honey

2 tbsp. cacao powder

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/3 c. chia seeds

**top with berries or coconut cream if desired

Whisk coconut milk, maple syrup or honey, cacao powder and vanilla until smooth. Stir in chia seeds. May divide evenly between 4 glasses or leave in bowl. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours and serve.

Serves 4 **(You can easily serve 6 with this recipe and have decent sized portions if desired)