My kids ate so many sweets over the holidays that I really thought maybe they’d be tired out on them. No way, Jose! Not even close. So back into the file I keep on (relatively) healthy snacks. I suppose everyone has their own idea of what constitutes healthy eating, so just for the record let me explain my criteria:
- Minimally processed. I prefer to make food from scratch both for the sake of our tastebuds and the sake of our health. With a few notable exceptions (wine, cheese, dry-aged beef, etc…) most foods taste best and contain the most nutrients when they’re fresh. I do, however, hit the fish sticks pretty hard at least twice a year. It’s a weakness.
- No artificial colorings or flavorings. I’m not freaky strict about this. I’ve been known to enjoy gummi bears and the occasional Shamrock Shake, but I am of the opinion that less is more in this category. Not that everything natural is good for you (think belladonna and digitalis, par example…) In most situations, though, adding color is completely unnecessary. Unless we’re talking ‘red velvet cake’, in which case it’s positively, very, very necessary… (I’m not eating it, though. Ew.)
- Use the real stuff. It is easier for the body to metabolize butter rather than margarine, olive oil (or canola, vegetable, peanut, etc…) than Olestra, sugar than High Fructose Corn Syrup, and so on. It is far better for you to eat less of the offending item.
- Variety is the spice of life. Instead of worrying about the food pyramid, food octagon or fifty servings or this or that we’re supposed to calculate and consume daily, just strive for variety: Variety in color, texture, preparation style, and taste will almost ensure your health. My sister shoots for something green and something orange at every meal. I shoot for brown and not-brown. (I.E. Beef and Snow Peas on Rice, Pork Roast and Sweet Potatoes with a Salad, Venison Stew with Potatoes, Carrots and Celery.)
- Anything you can do I can do better. I guess this is just the stubborn in me. I like to prove to myself that I can make nearly anything better from scratch than it can be bought in the store. It started with soft pretzels and has escalated past pickles and homemade pasta to homemade Worcestershire sauce. The Worcestershire sauce was a project for my sister’s family who deals with some pretty extreme food sensitivities. Ever try finding a Worcestershire sauce sans corn syrup or soy? Yeah. I made it in my kitchen. Not bad.
- Are you a good fat or a bad fat? The good fats are in almost every meal here. Think olive oil, avocados, canola oil, nuts, salmon, and more. The bad fats, well the saturated fats, make less frequent appearances in the forms of bacon, butter, cream cheese and half and half. The really bad fats, the trans fats, (non-dairy creamer, shortening, packaged snacks, and the dreaded margarine) almost never show up on our table.
I want to make clear that I’m not going to freak out and commit ritual suicide if my kids ingest a L’il Hug and a Ho Ho at a friend’s house, but I’m going to make sure to balance it out here at home.
In the spirit of balancing out some of what they’ve inhaled the past few weeks I’m back at it in the kitchen. Want sweets, do they? Alrighty then. It’s time to bust out the classic Knox Blox with a bit of a twist. There are a great many juices from which to choose in the markets these days and many of them would work admirably here. I applied the criteria given above and eliminated 2/3 of the juice right off the bat. Look at those labels if you haven’t before. You might be shocked at how many of them have High Fructose Corn Syrup and food coloring! Most often, something labeled ’100% juice’ is a good bet. This time I chose “Apple and Eve Fruitables Strawberry Mango”. It is a blend of fruits and vegetables and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Why not pack a snack with nutrition if you can? The best part of this is that you can let the kids eat as much as they want. There doesn’t need to be any added sugar and it’s juice, for Pete’s sake!
Who needs food coloring when it looks like this without help?
Power Juicy Jigglers
I think it probably goes without saying that I doubled this, but I’ll say it anyway. I doubled this. I’d imagine you could even triple it easily if you’re feeding even more kids than I do…
- 4 ’1/2 oz’ Envelopes (or 4 Tablespoons) unflavored gelatine
- 1 cup cold 100% fruit juice or fruit and vegetable juice blend
- 3 cups 100% fruit juice or fruit and vegetable juice blend, heated to boiling
- 2 Tablespoons honey, optional (I did not use this!)
Sprinkle gelatine over cold fruit juice in a large bowl. Allow it to sit, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Add the hot juice and stir for about 5 minutes, or until the gelatine is completely dissolved. Pour into a 13″ x 9″ pan or molds and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.
To serve, cut into desired shapes and watch the kids dive in. My kids are low maintenance here and like small cubes. Every now and then, my need to fuss with food takes precedence, and I find myself cutting the jigglers into stars, cowboys or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Yeah. Betcha I’m one of the few folks out there who has a Yooper cookie cutter, right???