Monday, October 26, 2009

Smoothie Heaven

Who loves smoothies? Kids sure do! The blender is never put away in our house and is often grabbed for breakfast, after school or even after dinner! Milk, fruit juice, vegetable juice, yoghurt, ice, fresh fruit, frozen fruit, wheat germ, ice cream, honey, vanilla, maple syrup, cocoa, carob, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg........the list goes on.

Great for kids to experiment with new and exciting flavour combinations - brilliant for value adding all sorts of healthy treats no-one knows about - ideal for using ripe fruit - perfect for a fast and healthy breakfast - terrific for an after school 'I'm starving!' snack.......

Here are my hints for making great smoothies:

Use frozen fruit for a creamier, thicker and colder smoothie.

Add the liquid to the blender first as this prevents the fruit from sticking to the blades.

The riper the fruit the sweeter the smoothie.

Freeze freshly squeezed juice in ice cube trays and add to smoothies. Try watermelon, orange, lime, apple or even carrot.

Freeze yoghurt and add to smoothie for a colder and thicker drink.

Serve smoothie immediately as it will separate on standing.

To make it more appealing to kids, serve in a tall glass and add a straw and some garnish.

Give the kids free reign!

1½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
500g frozen berries
½ cup natural yoghurt

Pour the juice into the blender and add berries and yoghurt. Blend until smooth. Pour into tall glasses to serve.

¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ cup natural yoghurt
6 strawberries
1 banana, frozen and chopped

Pour the juice and yoghurt into blender and blend gently. Add the strawberries and banana and blend until combined. Pour into tall glasses and top with a strawberry.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Your Little Foodie

Several years ago my husband and I stayed at a little boutique hotel with our 2 children, then aged 10 and 7. It was a wonderful place and we expected no less than the menu that was offered to us at breakfast next morning. Bircher muesli, porridge with banana and honey, poached eggs and sourdough toast, home made jams…… know the sort of thing! However my blood boiled when the waiter offered our children the ‘kids menu’ - coco pops, rice bubbles, white toast and vegemite!

My kids are more than happy to sample the offerings on the ‘adults’ menu and in fact are quite at home ordering from a whole range of culinary delights. Kids are more sophisticated than we give them credit for and restaurants need to know they are insulting the foodies of tomorrow by offering them the cheap and tasteless fodder of the typical kids menu.

Or will there be any foodies? How can children ever learn to value and appreciate good food if they are only ever treated as an afterthought? If they are time and again offered the oh-so-exotic fare of chips, sausages, nuggets, pizza and burgers and the bonus of ice cream for dessert!!(or coco pops instead of Bircher muesli!) A foray into the world of cheap fats, sugars, high salt and inferior flavours. All this while their parents are offered the pleasures and enjoyment of a cordon bleu meal at the same time.

To understand and appreciate good food now and for the rest of their lives, children need to be exposed to the genuine article as much as possible. That is, food that is fresh, delicious, appetizing and exciting to their taste buds. It is often wondered why kids don’t recognize, let alone want to eat, fresh food, or why they assume there is ‘grown up food’ and ‘kid’s food’. Yet given what is on offer most of the time it is totally understandable.

When I compare Australia with Europe, and their customs and traditions of unquestioningly including children at the meal table, I can’t help wondering why we are so inadequate at catering for kids. In France, for example, children just eat smaller serves of what the adults do - a ‘portion enfant’ of anything from terrine of rabbit, boeuf Bourguignon and exotic vegetables to pate de foie gras and a dozen varieties of cheeses. In Italy, the dining table simply would not be complete without the children.

We need to give kids the respect they deserve and acknowledge that even the most intractable junk food eaters can learn to dine well if given the chance. One of the suggestions I offer to families who want to stake their children’s claim for good food is, if you’ve never tried ‘real’ dining with the kids, start out slowly. Avoid sophisticated restaurants and try local cafes first. Many Asian restaurants - the local Thai, Japanese or Chinese for example - are often a good starting point, as they rarely if ever will offer ‘kids menus’ and have a wide variety of flavours and tastes to try. They are also less likely to frown or fret when they spy your children in tow.
Another good idea is to leave the ‘family’ restaurants, where children are usually offered cheap and flavourless meals, out of the picture altogether. Search for restaurants that offer ‘tasting plates,’ such as Middle Eastern, Spanish, Turkish and Greek. This is a great way to introduce new foods and flavours to kids and everyone sampling a little of everything is always fun.

Trying different cuisines can be enjoyable for kids and adults alike and a quick flick through restaurant guides in our major Australian cities produces an extensive list featuring a diversity of fare from around the globe. On offer is an A to Z of anything and everything from Afghan and African to Vietnamese and Sri Lankan. Recently we took our children to an Ethiopian restaurant where they were licking their fingers, and almost their plates, in delight! We shared an incredible platter of vegetable curry, creamy spinach, pumpkin, spicy chickpeas and lentils with steaming bowls of rice and heavenly bread and the kids loved it. No such thing as a kids menu here!

Taking the kids to ‘real’ restaurants, where they are acknowledged and respected and their palates given as much attention as an adults, can be the beginning of a life long love affair with real food and what better way to get the kids to eat their veggies!!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Roll Out The Red Carpet - It's Birthday Time!

I don’t know about everyone else, but I have a real aversion to kids’ birthday party tables groaning with frankfurts, party pies, lollies, chips and cordial. I think the kids must get a bit tired of it too sometimes. When we were kids, birthday parties were rare so ‘party fare’ was very exciting – a real treat. We didn’t often get to eat sausage rolls and lollies and drink soft drink. These days kids are heading off to birthday parties every weekend and every birthday party is the same. Fast food, fast food and more fast food. For various reasons parents are now seeking alternatives to the home party and the standard of fare in many of these kids party venues is outrageous. A friend recently held her son’s birthday party at a well known sports venue and the menu read like a fast food restaurant. When asked if they could provide a healthy menu, there was much consternation and discussion. Eventually a ‘healthy’ menu was provided which was barely a notch above the standard menu. And this from a sports venue!

I often wonder who is getting it wrong. Is this really what kids want? Are we harking back to own childhoods and thinking how much we loved party food? Are we obsessed with over indulging our kids? Or do we not know what else to give them? I suspect it is a combination of all these.
Kids today are a different generation and a different breed. They often have more sophistication than we give them credit for, so instead of insulting their taste buds, why can’t we pay tribute to kids and put a different perspective on the birthday bash? Why can’t we think about what kids really like to eat and give them the good food they love…?
They adore strawberries (especially if dipped in chocolate) and huge chunks of watermelon, grapes and freshly popped popcorn. They love chicken drumsticks and little pizzas, little pikelets, and cheese and tomato toothpicks, and mini muffins. Kids also love fruit kebabs
with sweet dipping sauce, and will eat anything frozen - so little bundles or bags of frozen grapes, frozen bananas on a stick, quartered oranges or home made icy poles are a huge hit! And instead of cordial, grab their fancy with an old fashioned punch bowl, complete with cups and ladle, and brimming with fruit punch.
Who remembers lolly gobble bliss bombs? That amazing name really sold them back then (what kid could resist?) For those who don’t remember, they were toffee coated popcorn. Here is my version which I made for my daughter’s birthday party a few years ago - the kids thought they were brilliant!

Popcorn Balls

½ cup popping corn
60g butter
3 tblsp barley malt
1 tblsp honey

Make popcorn in popcorn maker or saucepan and set aside.
Melt butter in large saucepan and add malt and honey. Mix well.
Toss through the popcorn a little at a time until it is all thoroughly coated with butter mixture. You may not need all the popcorn.
Using wet hands, quickly shape into golf ball sized balls, squeezing and moulding the mixture together.
Place on a tray and refrigerate until firm.