Roasted Root Vegetables, Three Ways

Roasted Root Vegetables, Three Ways

Roasted root vegetables

Yesterday I posted about how to make the perfect roasted vegetables.  It’s one of my go-to dishes when I am unsure of what I ought to make for dinner because it tastes great, it’s incredibly versatile, and it’s perfect leftover food for lunch the next day.  Recently, I had a collection of root vegetables I decided to roast up.  I had too many for just one tray, so I decided to do three trays, three different ways!

I have had people ask me about how to season the veggies when you are roasting them.  The reality is, you can season them with just about any flavor combination you love.  And you can cheat, too, by buying pre-mixed spice combinations like Chinese five spice or Mexican taco seasoning and using those.  Yes, that is a legitimate way to get a good flavor on your roasted vegetables!  Your guests will never need to know how easy it was to mix those spices up.

Just be sure to avoid liquid seasonings like teriyaki, hoisin, duck, or garlic sauce.  Save those for a stir fry or for dipping some tempura vegetables in.  It’s tempting to want to just drizzle on some sauce and stir it around, but often these kinds of sauce thin out when heated.  The result will be a sticky gooey mess on the bottom of your roasting pan.  Your vegetables will not be evenly coated and they will end up soggy.  Seriously, stick with a thin coating of extra virgin olive oil and dry spices and herbs.

Of course, if you are into mixing up your own spices, feel free to do so.  The vast majority of the time, I mix my own flavors and they turn out amazing.  I’ve spent a lot of time testing different flavors and generally have a pretty good idea what they combine well with.  When I come across a flavor I happen not to be comfortable with, I simply leave it out or experiment with it in small batches until I get a good feel for the flavor.  Just two years ago, for example, I was totally unfamiliar with tarragon.  It’s still not a flavor I use all that often, but now I know its uses pretty well (I love it with fish and, perhaps surprisingly, in a German potato salad).  So, rule of thumb, if you’re not 100% certain the spices and herbs you’re planning on using go well A) with the vegetables you’re roasting and B) with one another, just avoid them, OR make a small batch first .  Better safe than sorry!

Now that you know how to make Chinese flavored roasted vegetables (just add a tiny drizzle of Bragg’s seasoning prior to coating with olive oil, then mix in Chinese five spice mixture) and how to make Mexican flavored roasted vegetables (just mix in Mexican taco seasoning mixture), I’m going to move on to the more advanced class: Three ways I love to make my roasted vegetables.

*WARNING* I am NOT going to give amounts for each of the seasonings.  It completely depends on how much you are making and how strong you want the flavor.  Also, I suck at measuring things and didn’t have the patience to make these dishes several times to measure everything until I figured out the perfect amount when I could get the perfect amount the first time just by eyeballing it.  Sorry!

Roasted Root Vegetables, Three Ways

Winter Vegetable Mix for Roasting

These are the vegetables I used:

  • Potatoes
  • Butternut Squash/Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Rutabaga/Swede
  • Turnip
  • Parsnip
  • Carrot
  • Daikon Radish
  • Onion

(There is also garlic in these, but I didn’t use it for all of the mixes, only one.)

Preparing a huge batch of roasted vegetables

First you have to chop up your vegetables, then toss them in olive oil.  If you don’t know how to do this, please follow my tutorial on how to make the perfect roasted root vegetables.

The instructions for all of the following spice mixes is the same: Add the spices/herbs to your oil-coated vegetables, mix to coat, then cook (again, according to the tutorial – I’m not going to repeat myself a zillion times here.  I have two whiny kids begging me to take them to the park!).

Italian Style

Serve this one with some white fish poached in wine and some whole wheat garlic bread.

Italian Roasted Vegetables

Fresh garlic cloves (whole or sliced/diced/mashed – up to you)
Basil
Oregano
Rosemary
Thyme
Black Pepper
(Salt – optional)

Indian Style

Serve this one with a pot of dahl and coconut and lime whole grain basmati rice.

Roasted Vegetables Indian Style

Curry Powder
Garam Masala (mild – unless your kids like spicy food)
Garlic Powder
Ginger Powder
Organic Flaked Coconut OR cubed fresh young coconut
(Salt – optional)

Moroccan Style

Serve this one with some eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and couscous with raisins and pine nuts.

Moroccan Style Roasted Vegetables

Cumin
Coriander
(Sweet) Paprika (again, unless you have kids with asbestos mouths)
Nutmeg
Cinnamon
Ginger Powder
Diced Preserved Lemon

I hope you enjoy these three suggestions for good roasted root vegetable seasonings!  They make great meals and also make good lunches and fillings for wraps to send to school with your kids.

If you have your own favorite spice combo, please share!

Roasted Vegetables: A Healthy Meal How-To

Roasted Vegetables: A Healthy Meal How-To

Roasted vegetables sounds like the easiest healthy meal/side dish in the world.  And in some respects, it is.  It is simple to prepare, highly versatile, and is usually very healthy.  But there are a lot of ways to roast vegetables, some better than others.  This is a guide for how to make the very best healthy roasted vegetables.

 Preparing a huge batch of roasted vegetables

What Vegetables?

Before making roasted vegetables, you have to ask yourself what kind of veggies you want to roast.  Do you want it to have a more savory flavor or more sweet? Do you want to do winter/root vegetables or summer vegetables?  You can’t just mix and match any vegetables.  Some cook slower and others faster, plus some flavors just go together better.

Some vegetables can go either way, which I tend to think of as onions (especially yellow/white/brown/Spanish onions for winter vegetable roasts and red onions for summer vegetable roasts) and garlic primarily.  Tomatoes can also be nice in a winter vegetable roast, especially if you’re planning to puree it into soup later.  I find eggplant can also go either way.  If you do want to mix it up a bit, for instance to mix carrots in with “summer” vegetables, put them in to roast for a while before adding your other vegetables.  For the most part, however, I divide vegetables into “summer” and “winter” vegetables, although there may be some crossover as to when the veggies are actually in season.

Winter Vegetable Mix for Roasting

Winter Vegetables
Winter vegetables tend to be hard vegetables that take a bit longer to cook.  The ones in bold below are especially sweet and can be mixed in with a more savory mixture or selected on their own to make a sweet mix that will appeal to kids’ sweet tooth palates.

  • Carrots
  • Parsnip
  • Turnip
  • Rutabaga/Swede
  • Celeriac/Celery Root
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Pumpkin/Butternut/Winter Squash
  • Kholrabi
  • Radish/Daikon
  • Yam
  • Cassava/Yuca/Manioc
  • Jerusalem Artichoke/Sunchoke

Summer Vegetables
Summer vegetables tend to be softer, quicker to cook, and more varied in type.

  • String Beans/Green Beans/Wax Beans
  • Asparagus
  • Summer Squash/Button Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes/Cherry Tomatoes/Grape Tomatoes/Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Corn
  • Capsicum/Bell Pepper
  • Sweet Mini Peppers
  • Spring Onions
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Brussels Sprouts

Unusual Additions
Some foods are not “traditional” additions to a tray of roasted vegetables, but can actually complement a tray of roasted vegetables, make it “pop,” or become a great talking point.  If you’re making a savory dish, adding one sweet or tart element, like fruit or berries, creates an added flavor dimension that takes a dish above and beyond.  Who says roasted vegetables have to be simple or boring?!  For instance, adding sliced star fruit into a tray of green and red summer vegetables will be both visually and flavorfully appealing, but will also be a great talking point around the table.

  • Baby Bok Choy
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers (salt first to draw out extra moisture)
  • Olives/Capers
  • Berries (Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries)
  • Figs
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Apple
  • Grapes
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Seitan

Cut Them Up

Vidalia Chop WizardCutting up veggies to roast sounds simple, but some techniques are better than others.  I used to just roughly chop up vegetables into big bite-sized pieces, but after having kids I realized this was less than ideal.  Not only did it mean I had to cut them up further for my kids, but uneven sized meant some small pieces were overcooked while other big pieces were undercooked.  If you’re just planning to whiz them into soup, this won’t matter, but if you actually want to eat your roast vegetables, you need consistency.  Ideally, you want all pieces about the same size and you want them small enough for your kids.

Vidalia Chop WizardI use a Vidalia Chop Wizard to attain an even dice on all hard vegetables.  The cubes it makes are always the same size and are perfectly bite-sized for babies and toddlers.  Because they are smaller, they cook a faster, but it is so easy to use that you won’t have to spend lots of time chopping your vegetables.  I just slice them and then push them through my Vidalia Chop Wizard.  I have been using this thing for at least 10 years now and it’s still going.  I have tried other brands, but I’m nowhere near as enthusiastic about them.  This one, I would actually buy again.  It’s cheap and it saves me loads of chopping time. And it is apparently indestructible. What’s not to love?

For summer vegetables, I just try my best to get them in bite-size pieces all of approximately the same size.  I might slice beans and asparagus all into one-inch pieces.  Zucchini I will slice lengthwise in quarters and then slice into sticks or chunks depending on how skinny my zucchini are.  (Zucchini are my favorite summer vegetable.  LOVE their versatility!).

Seasoning

I use a huge variety of seasonings and I tend to season winter and summer vegetables differently.  In fact, seasoning roasted vegetables really merits its own post, which I think I’ll save for tomorrow.

Mixing Vegetables for Roasting

The most important part of seasoning roasted vegetables is getting the right amount of oil on.  You want just enough to lightly coat them.  Too little and your veggies will become too dried out.  Too much and you’ll have a disgusting oily layer at the bottom of your pan.  I used to just dump a whole bunch of oil on top of the vegetables in the pan and hope for the best.  The best was never what I got.  No, to get the right result, you really must season first in another bowl where you can thoroughly toss your vegetables.  I always used my hands so I can get a literal feel for how much oil is on my vegetables.  As a rule, I add just a couple of tablespoons, mix, and add more if necessary to coat.  By tossing in a separate bowl, you can make sure oil and seasonings are evenly distributed, but you also avoid gross roasted vegetables if too much oil goes in.  Just leave the extra at the bottom of the bowl when you transfer to a baking tray/pan.  (Don’t just dump the vegetables in – spoon them or scoop them in.)

At their most basic, season your vegetables with sea salt and cracked black pepper.  Roasted vegetables caramelize nicely so they really have amazing flavors on their own, which just need a note of salt to highlight.  As I said above, you can season with all sorts of flavors, herbs, and spices, but that’s for another post…

Now Roast Them!

Roasted Vegetables

For root vegetables chopped small, I will fill a whole tray with them – they shrink as they cook – and I won’t worry about even trying to do a single layer.  I then mix them up during the cooking process so that as the top layer gets a nice caramelized brown color, I mix it to put the bottom layer on top.  This ensures the nice crunchy caramelized bits are distributed throughout and nothing burns.  Summer vegetables, on the other hand, I always try to get in as much of a single layer as I can, because they tend to be more watery types of vegetables and benefit from having more access to the air circulating in the oven.

You want to get the temperature such that it is hot enough to cook the vegetables but not so hot it burns them before they have time to caramelize.  I generally cook mine at 180 C fan forced or 200 C if not (Americans should use 400 F).  Root vegetables take 45-60 minutes to cook through if they are chopped small or 60-75 minutes if chopped large.  Summer vegetables generally take 30-45 minutes.

Serve Them

Roasted vegetables are delicious as a side dish, but I also use them as a main so they can be the star of the show.  Starchy winter vegetables are hearty enough to really fill you up.  Pair them with a less conventional grain dish, like polenta, quinoa, or even couscous.  Roast some marinated tofu or tempeh in the oven at the same time or add cubed tofu or tempeh to your roasted vegetable dish and you’ll have a complete meal.

Roasted vegetables are also good cold.  This makes them an ideal part of a school lunch.  Both winter and summer vegetable roasts are good cold and lend themselves to becoming portions of a school lunch.  You can also send them as filling in a wrap or, rather than using a grain-based wrap, make a flat omelet and wrap that around your roasted vegetables for a high-protein lunch option.  This is where the small dice method really comes in handy – it is just the perfect size and shape for filling wraps and omelets!

So go ahead, enjoy your perfectly roasted vegetables.  Winter or summer, hot or cold, they are a delicious and nutritious addition to your kids’ diet.  Remember, even if your kids are vegetable-averse, you can tempt them by doing a sweet mixture, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut, and beets with apples or peaches mixed in.  Delicious, nutritious, and kid friendly! Yay!

Healthy School Lunch Ideas: Shish Kabobs (Part 2)

Healthy School Lunch Ideas: Shish Kabobs (Part 2)

Yesterday, I posted the amazing lunch idea of shish kabobs.  However, I was only able to get through the cold shish kabobs.  Don’t let that fool you – grilled shish kabobs can be made hot for dinner one night and put in the fridge for a yummy lunch the next day.  Trust me, they are delicious!  Don’t have a grill?  Place them on a tray on the top rack of your oven and turn on the grill/broiler setting (just keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn).  Remember to thoroughly soak wooden skewers so they don’t burn.  Here are some amazing and delicious grilled kabob ideas to help inspire your healthy kids!

Grilled Kabobs

Grilled kabobs can be served hot for dinner and then cold for lunch the next day, so this is a great opportunity to make two meals at one time.  Grilling makes it possible to include a much wider variety of vegetables that are not so palatable raw.  It also introduces a greater variety of vegan protein options.  You can grill kabobs with a marinade or send grilled kabobs to school with a dipping sauce.

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs

Any vegetables and fruits that can go on the grill can go on a kabob.  Zucchini and button or yellow summer squash are my go-to favorites, but cauliflower also ranks very high on my list of favorite slightly-blackened vegetables.  (Just make sure to spear cauliflower and broccoli through the stalk of each floret so they don’t fall off when grilled.)  Other good kabob vegetables are baby eggplant, button mushrooms, capsicum (bell pepper) – any color, banana peppers, red onion, thick asparagus, and cherry tomatoes.  Alternate colors for a beautiful kabob that will be especially appealing to young children.  Slice vegetables more thinly than you might normally to ensure they cook all the way through (if you hate biting into a kabob to discover your zucchini is still raw inside, then why would your kid like it?).  Include a small amount of fruit, like pineapple, to give a different flavor.  Marinades can run the gamut from Asian-inspired to garlic and herb.  Alternatively, grill vegetables plain and provide a simple dipping sauce.

Grilled Cheese Kabobs

If your mouth is watering with visions of a grilled cheese sandwich, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  Processed American cheese isn’t particularly healthy, but it also won’t do well on a kabob.  It will just melt and fall off.  However, there are some cheeses that can stand up to a flame.  Paneer (an Indian cheese), halloumi, and feta are all cheeses that do well on a grill.  You can of course pair them with any of the vegetable options listed above.  With the paneer, marinade vegetables in a (mild) curry marinade before adding them, to give an Indian touch.  Pair halloumi with flavors like basil, oregano, or thyme; vegetables such as red onion, cherry tomato, and zucchini; and fruit like lemon. Feta is amazing with olives, cubed whole grain bread, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced lemon.  Grilling the cheese will give it a smoky flavor it will maintain even once cool and in the lunchbox.

Grilled Seitan Skewers

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Gluten intolerants beware: Seitan is made from wheat gluten, which is awesome if you’re a vegetarian or vegan who thinks gluten is the protein of the gods, but not so good if you’re allergic.  I find the texture of seitan closer to meat than other substitutes I have tried.  It absorbs flavors wonderfully and is amazing on a gril and on a kabob.  You can grill it on its own, as you see above, or you can combine it with vegetables. Be sure to marinade it. Try something with personality like a green goddess dressing and chimichurri sauce if you’re grilling it on its own.  But you can also combine it with veggies.  Pair it with some broccoli and brush with a tamarind glaze, or add some baby corn and snow peas and brush with teriyaki sauce.  You won’t regret it, and your kids won’t even realize they’re not eating chicken.

Grilled Tempeh Kabobs

Unlike tofu, which is rather bland, tempeh has a more distinct flavor, which is pleasantly nutty.  Add it to any of the grilled vegetable kabobs and brush them with any marinade you like.  It pairs with just about anything and adds a great vegan source of protein.  Alternatively, grill it plain and send kabobs to school with your kids with a satay sauce. No peanuts allowed in school? Sub in cashews instead.  Kids go to a nut-free school? No problem!  Use a butter made from sunflower seeds to make your satay sauce!

Grilled Tofu Kabobs

Tofu is more bland than tempeh, but absorbs flavors wonderfully, making it perfect for marinades.  Marinate your tofu and vegetables together before grilling. Before marinating, ensure you are using extra-firm tofu, and squeeze the extra water out by pressing gently on the block with a tea towel.  Personally, I prefer tofu in Asian-style sauces, but it is so versatile there is no reason to limit yourself.  Want to marinate it in herbs and garlic? Go for it!  You can also cut your tofu in long sticks rather than cubes, so your skewer contains only tofu.  Consider coating your tofu in panko breadcrumbs or crushed wasabi peas after thoroughly marinating, for a crunchy outer coating.

Grilled Fruit Kabobs

Another dimension to dessert is actually grilling fruit.  I don’t find many people cook fruit these days, aside from the very occasional stewed fruit or cold fruit soup.  But trust me when I saw that grilled fruit is amazing.  Peaches, apples, pineapple, and star fruit are my particular favorites.  But step outside the box and try including fruits like bananas, watermelon, plums, apricots, strawberries, fresh coconut, and cantaloupe (rock melon).  Fruit kabobs are grilled to perfection in just about 7 minutes, making them easy to throw on the grill for dessert after a meal – just make some extra and chill them to send to school for a fruit kabob with a different and distinctly smoky-sweet flavor.

Get Kids Involved

Getting kids involved is one of the best ways to inspire them to be healthy kids and make good food choices.  They are also much more likely to eat foods they have helped make.  Plus, they might be tempted to snack on the leftover fruits and vegetables.  Putting together shish kabobs is also an entertaining activity for them, which saves you on finding something to entertain bored kids late on a Sunday afternoon, while also saving you time making their lunches!  Just place some sticks on the counter with a wide variety of items they can skewer.  Make sure you supervise them so they don’t hurt themselves (or each other) with the skewers.  That way they can add exactly the things they like.

In general, kabobs are a fantastic lunch food.  They are easily portable and they are lots of fun, especially if you send them with a dipping sauce.  They can be hot or cold, sweet or savory.  They can easily contain vegetables, fruits, protein, and grains all at once, so enough shish kabobs pretty much make up a complete meal.  They are a perfect way to use up leftover largely chopped, sliced, or diced vegetables.  I hope you enjoy these recipe ideas and please let me know how your kids enjoy them in their lunch boxes!!

Healthy School Lunch Ideas: Shish Kabobs (Part 1)

Healthy School Lunch Ideas: Shish Kabobs (Part 1)

Cold kabobs make great party hors d oeuvres, but they can also make fantastic lunchbox additions.  Try Italian style with mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil, or Greek style with kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Cold kabobs make great party hors d oeuvres, but they can also make fantastic lunchbox additions. Try Italian style with mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil, or Greek style with kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Yesterday, I shared a healthy school lunch idea: falafel plate.  Another great school lunch idea is shish kabobs.  Shish kabobs are basically skewered foods, which can then be grilled or eaten raw.  They are easy to hold in the hand and eat, easily portable, and very flexible. You can make them in so many ways – your imagination is the limit!

Shish kabobs are easily made with short wooden sticks sold at grocery, homewares, or cooking stores.  You can buy metal ones, but because they are sharp and you want to be able to send your child to school without fear of them getting in trouble, I recommend the wooden ones.  They can also be a bit sharp, but the good news is that you can use a scissor to just snip off the sharp ends before sticking them in the lunchbox! If you are grilling with them, just be sure to soak them in water for a while so they do not catch fire on the grill. Here are some of my favorite shish kabob lunch ideas:

Cold Shish Kabobs

Cold shish kabobs can come in many shapes and forms.  The benefit of these is that you do not need to cook them.  They are usually items that can keep well in the fridge, so you can make them the night before, or even make enough to send for lunch for a couple of days.  There’s also the benefit of being able to use raw fruits and vegetables, which contain more nutrients.  You can also use things that melt, like cheese, or that might burn, like cubes of bread.

Sandwich Kabob

A sandwich kabob is like a sandwich on a stick, in little pieces.  Think of what you would normally make a sandwich with and use those items.  This works best with homemade bread or a loaf of artisan bread you can cut into bigger squares (sliced sandwich bread is a bit too flat).  Use chunks of good sandwich foods, like tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum (bell pepper), baked tofu, or cheese.  Then send the sandwich kabobs to school with your kids with a container of a good sandwich spread.  (A slightly more liquid one is best – think tahina rather than hummus.)  It’s a different twist on a sandwich and you can load it up with more veggies than you would normally put on a sandwich.

Breakfast Kabob

Why not send your kids to school with breakfast for lunch?  In general, I think this is a great idea because it mixes things up a bit.  I love an egg or some lox and cream cheese on a bagel (okay, gluten free and vegan people you can hate me now).  But you can also make breakfast kabobs.  For a sweeter version, make some thick whole grain pancakes (these gluten free strawberry pancakes are super yummy) or waffles and cut into squares to put on skewers.  Alternate layers with fresh fruit and berries.  If you need added sweetness, drizzle on a tiny bit of date syrup.  A savory one can include lots of foods.  For an omelet kabob, make a nice thick omelet, let it cool completely, and cut in cubes.  Skewer with vegetables and cheese.  Add some carbohydrates by cutting up a toasted whole grain bagel.  You can also poach some egg whites and skewer those.  They are great with some home fries – cubed potatoes sauteed on the stovetop with diced onion, olive oil, and spices.  You can also add some savory pancakes or folded pieces of crepe for grains on this kind of kabob.  I find that for kabobs poached egg whites or whole egg omelets work better than fried or boiled eggs for staying on the kabob and not falling apart and making a mess.

Cold Vegetable Kabobs

I suppose in a way you can think of this as salad on a stick, minus the lettuce or cabbage (they aren’t so great for skewers).  For a less messy approach, try using cherry or grape tomatoes rather than cutting up regular tomatoes.  Cubed cucumber is also good, as is capsicum (bell pepper) cut in squares.  Avoid vegetables like carrots, that will be too hard to spear, or those, like onions, that will be too strong in large squares or cubes.  Don’t limit yourself to these traditional things, though.  Add some cheese or olives for a treat.  Wide leaves of herbs like basil also give a nice flavor and a different dimension.  For a grain component, include cubes of toasted bread (actual “croutons” will shatter but homemade ones that are just slightly undercooked will stay together but still give lots of yummy crunch). You can even add a small amount of fruit for a different flavor – fruits like strawberries, mango, pineapple, and figs all go exceptionally well in salads and do well on kabobs. Include a small container of a healthy olive oil vinaigrette for dipping.

Fruit Kabobs

Fruit kabobs are a great healthy dessert option and a good way to get your kids to eat their vegetables.  Basically the sky is the limit as to what fruits you can include, although for lunches some are definitely better than others.  Exceptionally juicy fruits like oranges can be a bit messy (unless you get mandarin sections), but more solid fruits like melons, berries, and pineapple are all great.  Apples and bananas can work well but you need to sprinkle them with lemon juice to prevent browning.  Sandwich tart fruits like berries between sweet fruits like melon so you do not need to artificially sweeten.  Want a super treat? Drizzle with a tiny bit of raw vegan chocolate drizzle mix extra virgin raw coconut oil, raw organic agave nectar, and raw vegan unprocessed cocoa powder (not Dutch process!) in equal amounts and drizzle over the kabobs, then chill.

More To Come…

These are just the cold kabobs.  However, grilled kabobs also work really well for school lunch boxes.  They taste delicious cold and provide you with a good opportunity to make dinner one night that you can send for lunch the next day.  They also include more protein options than the raw kabobs.

If you have any other uncooked kabob recipes or ideas suitable for lunchboxes, please do share in the comments section!

Raw Vegan Strawberry-Banana Smoothie/Ice Cream

Raw Vegan Strawberry-Banana Smoothie/Ice Cream

My husband is the champion of finding amazing deals on fruit and vegetables.  In fact, he taught me how to shop, back when we were first dating!  There I was, buying whatever took my fancy that day, for full price, until he came along and showed me how to really shop the sales.  I’ve always loved farmer’s markets, but never did I truly know how to get a deal until I met him.  He is the master of getting lots and lots of something for nothing (or pretty close to it).

The result of this shopping strategy is that we often have far more of a given ingredient than most people would ever buy at once.  I once bought 13 kilograms (that’s just shy of 30 pounds) of bananas for $3.  Even my hubby was impressed with that one.  It’s not unusual for an entire case of mushrooms, tomatoes, or zucchini to find its way into our fridge.  The challenge then is to find a way to use it all up.

Strawberries

This morning, my husband triumphantly brought home some strawberries.  Over 50 punnets of strawberries, to be precise.  That’s over 10 kg of strawberries!  Of course, some of the strawberries weren’t in the best condition, but the vast majority were beautiful.  The question: How do I use them?!  Not only that, but strawberries go off quickly, especially the kind you can pick up on the cheap, so I figure I have just a day or two to use them up.  So I suppose for the next couple of days I’ll share some recipes with you!

Just some of the 50 punnets of strawberries my husband brought home this morning.

Just some of the 50 punnets of strawberries my husband brought home this morning.

Our instant go-to use for most fruits, when we have too much to handle, is to smoothie them.  Chuck them in the blender and whizz them up.  And what could be better than a strawberry-banana smoothie?!

Not only that, but we like having strawberries year-round in our smoothies.  We could just buy a bag in the grocery store’s frozen food section, but in my mind that’s not ideal.  Strawberries as a crop are very highly sprayed.  I always make sure to wash my strawberries really well before I use them (even if they are organic – organic crops are still treated, just with natural methods).  Frozen strawberries in the supermarket are not washed to my standards before being flash-frozen.  I also find they are not the highest quality.

How to freeze strawberries

To freeze strawberries, first wash them and dry them well.  Then cut off the green tops and any bad spots.  (Use the freshest strawberries you can find unless you also have a husband who brings home 50 punnets of them at a time.)  Line a baking sheet with wax/baking paper.  Then place the strawberries, cut side down, on the tray, ensuring that none of them are touching.  Put the tray in the freezer for a couple of hours.  Pull it out and place the strawberries in a ziplock bag, returning them to the freezer as quickly as possible.

This method ensures that next time you want strawberries in your smoothie, you won’t have to hack them off from a giant frozen strawberry block.  They’ll each be nicely individual and not stuck together!  By placing them on baking paper, you will find they are extremely easy to remove and also, you won’t really need to clean the tray when you’re done. Just rinse and repeat!  If you plan to do this multiple times, you can even reuse the same baking paper.  Waste not, want not!

Smoothies are a great way to get extra vitamins and minerals into your kids.  Use a higher proportion of frozen ingredients to get a more “ice cream”-like consistency.  My toddler is an easy sell.  If it looks like ice cream and tastes like ice cream, he doesn’t need to know it’s pure fruit.  In our house, smoothies are more than just “breakfast” – they’re a “treat” our boys look forward to!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie/Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 large banana
1 punnet (250 g) strawberries
Juice of 1 freshly squeezed orange

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Enjoy!

Variations

  • Use frozen bananas and frozen strawberries to turn it into ice cream.
  • Substitute whey for the orange juice for a protein boost.
  • Substitute plain yogurt for the orange juice for a probiotic boost.
  • Vary the amount of strawberry and banana to suit your tastes.  I like to add a few extra strawberries because they’re so delicious (and I feel like the flavor of banana is really strong).
  • Use a very ripe banana or substitute apple juice for the orange juice to make the smoothie sweeter.

Enjoy your strawberries!  Coming up: gluten free strawberry pancakes and sugar free strawberry frozen yogurt.

Recipe: Super Green Smoothie

Recipe: Super Green Smoothie

Smoothies are one of my favorite family breakfasts.  They’re delicious, nutritious, and it’s so easy to make a big enough batch to satisfy everyone.

The best thing is that fruit comes in all colors.  Make a red smoothie with red fruit, a yellow smoothie with yellow fruit, and so on. And when you’re making a smoothie with green fruit, it’ll come out green.  Add some greens into it and it’ll still be green – and your kids will never know.

A pile of organic kiwi fruit

Today I had a surplus of overripe kiwi fruits perfect for making a smoothie.  Any green fruits can go into a green fruit smoothie – green apples, green grapes, etc. But my personal favorite is kiwi fruit.  They have just the right balance of sweet and tart, and they give a gorgeous color.  Plus, their flavor is distinctive enough that it drowns out the added greens.

Green smoothie in the blender ready to blend

I stuck everything in the blender and let it go for a minute or two. And voila! I have the perfect smoothie, in a big enough size to feed myself, my kids, and a hungry husband.

Green smoothie blending

Kids will love it because it’s sweet and they will never know it is chock full of greens. A good way to get fresh raw greens into your kids!

Akiva drinking his delicious green smoothie

Here’s how to make your own Super Green Smoothie:

Ingredients

10 organic kiwi fruits
2 organic avocados
2 organic passionfruit
2 frozen bananas
1 bunch of Swiss chard (silverbeet), stems removed
Juice of 3 apples

Instructions

  1. Wash and/or peel all ingredients.
  2. Dump them all in the blender and blend.
  3. Enjoy!

Akiva excited about his delicious green smoothie

I know my kids enjoyed and I hope yours will, too!

Juicing for Kids: Using Leftover Pulp in Everyday Recipes

Juicing for Kids: Using Leftover Pulp in Everyday Recipes

When you’ve got lots of leftover pulp, you have two options: discard it or consume it.  For the longest time, I just threw it all in the compost bin, but now… Now, I eat it!

One of the best things about juicer pulp is that it can be used in so many ways.  Initially, I had an aversion to the idea of eating this fibrous mess. I mean, all the flavor and nutrients already came out of it, right? Wrong!

It is true that the majority of the nutrients are extracted when juicing – that’s what makes juice so healthy. But there’s a reason why whole foods are so healthy: the whole food contains benefits.  The fiber and remaining nutrients in pulp are good for you, and they taste good, too.

Our bodies expend a lot of energy mashing up and processing foods.  Think about the whole process, from chewing on down: all throughout your body, parts are moving to mash up the food.  The pulp from your juicer has already had a lot of that breaking down of fiber done, which makes it easier to digest.

The best thing is, you can add juice pulp to a lot of recipes you already make.  Just make sure to always separate your vegetable pulp from your fruit pulp, preferably cleaning out your juicer in between.  Every juicer, no matter how good, can have bits of pulp stuck on the inside that can come out later.  Trust me, you don’t want bits of tomato or radish flavoring your apple pulp. It won’t taste good later.

Vegetable Pulp

Veggie pulp can be a great addition to lots of savory dishes.  Saute it with some garlic and onion in olive oil and put it over your  whole grain pasta.  Or add it as a layer in a lasagna (I’ve done this for guests and everyone loved it).  Toss it in a soup or boil and strain it to make vegetable broth.

Both of my kids especially love the lasagna, and most kids enjoy pasta. The benefit of using the juicer pulp is that, unlike big pieces of vegetables, the small juicer pulp shreds aren’t so easy to pick out – great for getting some extra veggies into kids that aren’t such big fans.

Fruit Pulp

Fruit pulp can be added to almost anything that’s sweet, provided you remove the seeds and stems first. (Getting an apple corer/slicer is worth the $2 it will cost you on eBay.)  Try adding some extra to your morning smoothie for additional fiber.  Or mix it in with your morning oatmeal or muesli for some extra flavor.  Add some for a subtle flavor when you make vanilla ice cream.

Most kids love sweet things, and most kids enjoy fruit for that reason.  My kids like it mixed into homemade yogurt (or frozen yogurt, for a treat!).  They also really like the oatmeal.

You definitely can use that pulp from juicing. And you can probably use it in recipes you’re already making, without having to do much different.  You might even find it makes life easier.  After all, there won’t be any need to chop up apples for the morning oatmeal if you’ve got some apple pulp ready and waiting to go!

Enjoy! And please let me know how these recipes work for you!

 

Juicing for Kids: Green Juice Recipes

Juicing for Kids: Green Juice Recipes

One of the benefits of juicing at home is that you can make up your own fruit and vegetable combinations to suit your kids’ particular tastes.  Your child loves pineapple but hates apple?  No problem! Juice only the fruits your kid likes.

Another major benefit is that you can use juice to get your child to consume fruits and veggies they otherwise avoid.  Your child won’t touch broccoli with a 10-foot-pole? No problem – hide it in some yummy juice and they’ll never know!

Green juice is a great way to get healthy vitamins and minerals into your kids.  Because it’s in the form of juice, the enzymes and nutrients are more readily available for absorption.  And when you juice it yourself and drink it fresh, juice contains far more vitamins and minerals than you could possibly get from commercially-produced juice.  Juice also means you can consume a greater quantity of healthy fruit and veg without it filling you up.

Remember, not all fruits and vegetables make for great combos.  Some go better together than others, especially when you’re convincing your kids to drink it! So here are a few kid-friendly recipes, with many more to come:

Carrot & Orange Juice

One of the most traditional juices out there. With no actual greens in it, your kids won’t even know they’re drinking their veggies!

Ingredients

approximately 1/2 kg or 1 lb organic carrots
4 organic oranges

Instructions

  1. Wash the carrots and oranges.
  2. Slice the carrots into pieces (if necessary for your juicer) and the oranges into quarters.
  3. Put carrots and oranges through your juicer.
  4. Drink and enjoy!

Variations

  • Replace two oranges with two apples.
  • Add a knob of ginger.

ABC Juice

ABC Juice is another one of the most traditional and most delicious juices out there.  ABC stands for – you guessed it – apple, beetroot, and carrot.  With its beautiful orange-red color, your kids won’t be frightened to try it. And with its sweet flavor, they won’t guess they’re drinking their veggies!

Ingredients

2 organic apples
1 organic beet
2 organic carrots

Instructions

  1. Wash all ingredients well.
  2. Chop into quarters.
  3. Place through juicer
  4. Enjoy!

Variations

  • Add 1/2 a lemon for more tartness.
  • Add a small knob of ginger (too much can be overwhelming).
  • Add 3-4 leaves of kale or chard to turn this into a green juice.

Berry Red Beet Juice

This one hails from Sophia at Love and Lentils.  While her family loves beets, I grew up hating them.  It’s only in recent years that I’ve fallen passionately, madly, head-over-heels in love with them.  But if I’d had beets presented to me in this way as a kid, I almost certainly would have fallen in love much, much sooner!

Ingredients

2 organic beets
8 organic strawberries
1 organic orange

Instructions

  1. Wash the beets, strawberries and orange.
  2. Cut the greens off the strawberries, and slice the beets and orange into quarters.
  3. Place all ingredients through your juicer.
  4. Serve and drink right away.

Beginner Green Juice

I understand if your kids shy away from green juice based on color alone.  However, if you can convince them to try it, they’ll find that they like it.  This is a fantastic beginner green juice because it actually has so much fruit and so little greens that your kids won’t taste them at all.  If you can get them to try it, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.  If they’re still wary, try offering them this juice while you read them Green Eggs and Ham!

Ingredients

1 handful organic dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, or swiss chard
1 organic pear
1 cup organic strawberries
1/2 organic lemon (unpeeled)
1 organic apple

Instructions

  1. Wash all ingredients well.  If you are not using organic ingredients, wash the greens especially well to remove any lingering pesticides.
  2. Cut the greens off the strawberries, cut the lemon in half, and chop the apple and pear into quarters or eighths.
  3. Put the ingredients through your juicer in the order listed above.
  4. Enjoy!

Beginner Green Juice (Stage II)

Another green juice that tastes quite sweet but still gives a good amount of green power.  This one has a bit more veggie flavor to it, so try it after your kids have admitted to loving the Beginner Green Juice listed above!

Ingredients

1 handful organic dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, or swiss chard
2 organic apples
2 stalks organic celery

Instructions

  1. Wash all ingredients well.
  2. Chop ingredients into pieces.
  3. Place through juicer.
  4. Enjoy!

Variations

  • Replace 1 apple with 1 pear.
  • Add 1/2 lemon.

Try making these delicious juices for your kids or come up with your own! Please share in the comments any juice recipes your kids love.