Another school year done and parents everywhere are simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief and bracing themselves to fill those endless days of children’s professed summer boredom.
A common strategy is to fill the fridge and cupboards with snacks so they can graze all day long. What if you expanded that activity just a smidge by adding a step before they get to the instant gratification?
If your kids are big enough to use a blender, there’s no easier way to get a nutritious meal into them before lunch than a smoothie. Here are a few combinations to start them thinking about what they might like to throw in.
All you need to do is stock the ingredients.
For lunch, the two most fun things I can think of are quesadillas and kabobs. They are more assembly than cooking and allow kids to include the things they like and leave out what they don’t.
Banana Chocolate Smoothie
You can throw a few bananas in the freezer just as they are, but to make it a little bit easier for the kids to deal with, chunk them up and freeze them separated on a baking sheet or plate, then put them in a zipped bag. The secret ingredient in this one is the chocolate hazelnut spread and it really makes all the difference, so don’t leave it out.
You’ll get one large or two smaller servings, but increase or reduce the milk and yogurt for an easy adjustment.
1 cup chocolate milk or non-dairy chocolate drink
1/2 cup yogurt — plain or flavoured, regular or low-fat
1 heaping tbsp. chocolate hazelnut spread
1 tsp. vanilla
Whiz everything in a blender until smooth and serve in a cold glass with a big straw.
Peanut Butter and Honey Smoothie
This divine mixture makes a great dessert or milkshake, but if you have trouble getting grub into the little ones in the morning, this could do the trick.
Add a frozen banana for added oomph or to double up the serving size — these quantities make one very generous smoothie.
1 cup frozen vanilla yogurt or ice cream
3 tbsp. peanut butter
3 tbsp. liquid honey
1 cup milk
You can make this one without a blender by whisking the softened yogurt and other ingredients together, but the blender makes quicker work of it.
Strawberry Milkshake Smoothie
You’ll get four delicious smoothies from this recipe, but freeze any leftovers for a completely different sweet treat.
Using fat-free, sugar-free pudding and skim milk makes this a lighter option. Any instant pudding will work, so think about flavour combinations with any frozen fruit your family enjoys.
3 cups frozen strawberries
3 cups milk
1 package instant vanilla pudding, regular or light
Blend until smooth and serve.
So now it’s lunchtime. If your kids aren’t allowed to use the stove and there’s no adult to help, cold quesadillas (wraps but don’t tell them) are as easy as it gets. If they’ve graduated to cooking, then just put the ingredients in the fridge.
Cold Quesadillas (no cooking required):
diced ham or other cooked meat
drained canned tuna or salmon
hot sauce (for brave children only) or salad dressing
finely chopped onion
rinsed and drained black or other beans
drained canned corn niblets
For cold quesadillas just wrap a flour tortilla around the chosen ingredients and eat.
For the hot version, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and place a tortilla carefully in it.
Layer on cheese and any other ingredients desired, then sprinkle on a little more cheese to help hold everything together. Either fold the tortilla in half or top with a second tortilla. When the cheese melts, flip it over, cook until golden and serve.
I love serving grilled kabobs on rice with savoury sauce, but cold kabobs with the right ingredients can be just as much fun.
Buy a bag of bamboo skewers and fill zipper bags with a few of these suggested ingredients and let them spend an hour mixing and matching their favourites. If they’re big dippers, offer up some ranch salad dressing for the lunch skewers and some thawed frozen dessert topping or yogurt for the dessert version.
If sandwiches are on the menu for lunch, you can let them kabob a good part of the afternoon away with the sweet version.
For the really adventurous, maybe they’d like to combine the lunch and sweet versions.
chunks of cheese
thickly sliced salami or pepperoni
grape or cherry tomatoes
strips of sweet bell peppers
anything leftover from supper last night
cake or donuts, cut into chunks
strawberries or other berries
pineapple or melon chunks
marshmallows or marshmallow cookies
Tell them not to poke each other with the skewers and they’re good to go.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.