Tag Archives: Fruit

Hot Weather Desserts

School has started, the weather is still warm, and kids are coming home hot and hungry. It is nice to have delicious, “cool” (as in refreshing AND neat) hot weather desserts for dinner that will satisfy kids of all ages.

These recipes are sure to become family favorites that will be requested time and time again. The best part is that you will love them, as well, because they are fairly easy to make.

Fresh Fruit Pizza

This dish will please everyone in your household, plus friends – and, it is an good way to get the kids (and dad) to eat more fruit. It is great for dessert or a snack.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package refrigerated sugar cookie dough mix
  • 1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 cups assorted fruits, sliced (strawberries, bananas, oranges, blueberries, etc.)

DIRECTIONS

Prepare the Crust

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees Celsius).
  2. Roll cookie dough into a ball and place in the center of a round pizza pan.
  3. Spread dough evenly over the pan, into a 12 inch circle.
  4. Bake ~ 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool

Prepare the Topping and Assemble

  1. Wash, dry and slice the fruit.
  2. Gently blend together in a bowl (do not stir, will make it too juicy) – set aside.
  3. Whip the softened cream cheese and sugar together with a hand-held mixer until smooth.
  4. Spread cream cheese over the cooled cookie crust
  5. Mix the sugar and cream cheese together and spread over the cooled cookie crust.
  6. Top with the fruit and then sprinkle the lemon juice over the fruit (to keep it from turning brown). Cover lightly with Saran Wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  7. Slice into 12 pizza wedges and serve.
  8. Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTE: This snack does contain sugar in the cookie crust and a little in the cream cheese, but overall, it is fairly healthy and a whole lot better than straight cookies. If you are so inclined, I would recommend you make your own *sugar cookie dough (see below) so you know exactly what is in it – and there will be no unhealthy additives.

This is a tasty treat to serve at a birthday party. Kids and adults love it!

*Sugar Cookies

This is my adaptation from a standard Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie recipe that I found when my children were very young (years ago).

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 dash salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Beat softened butter and shortening with a hand-held electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds.
  3. Add ½ the flour, the egg, sugar, milk, baking powder and soda, vanilla, and salt.
  4. Beat until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add remaining flour and continue stirring until completely mixed.
  6. Cover and chill for at least three hours.
  7. Roll out one-half the dough into a 12” round approximately 1/8” thick and place on the pizza pan. (You can either make two pizza rounds, or use the remaining dough to make regular sugar cookies – see note below.)
  8. Bake pizza round 7 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned and well set.
  9. Leave on the pizza pan and cool on a wire rack.

To make cookies of remaining dough, roll dough into one-inch balls, roll in sugar. Place on greased baking sheet; flatten with a glass and bake 10-12 minutes or until set at 350° F. Remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack to cool completely.

Hot Weather Berry Dessert

This is easy to make and yummy to eat. Your family, friends, and guest will be wowed with this delicious, summery treat.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries
  • (OR) 3 cups blackberries, blueberries or raspberries (or a mix)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1½ cups heavy whipping cream

DIRECTIONS

  • Hull and rinse strawberries (or berries of your choice).
  • Set aside a few berries for garnish, if desired.
  • Place berries in medium-sized bowl.
  • Sprinkle with lemon juice; then, gently toss with sugar.
  • Let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Put berry mixture in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth – set aside.
  • (For a chunkier blend, use a large fork to mash them a bit.)
  • Beat the cream until soft peaks form.
  • Gently fold in berry mixture into cream until evenly distributed.
  • Spoon into serving dishes.
  • Top with reserved berries for garnish.
  • Serve immediately or keep chilled up to 1 hour.

Cool, fruity and delicious; a perfect treat all summer long.

Berry Shake

Image by MSPhotographic
Image by MSPhotographic

A hot weather treat everyone will enjoy. It is quick and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups ice
  • 1 cup milk (more as needed to reach desired thickness)
  • 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • 3-4 tablespoons local honey
  • 2 cups of your favorite berries (blueberries, strawberries, etc.- or a mix)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Fill the blender ¾ full of ice cubes, crush slightly
  2. Add additional ingredients.
  3. Blend until smooth.

Use your imagination when thinking of cool, hot-weather desserts and treats to help your family stay cool. Enjoy the wonderful yumminess of summer fruit and veggies. Nothing is better for you or tastier than nature’s own goodness!


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“Cool” Healthy Foods – Watermelon

This past weekend was a disaster. My daughter and her children came from California to visit me in Arizona. The frig was out when they arrived. A repairman FINALLY came and fixed that problem and one day later, my air conditioner went out – big problem in Arizona in August when the temperatures are 110+. It was miserable! My family had to stay with other family members – all very frustrating and disappointing.

The good news is there was a silver lining. I realized that recipes for “cool” healthy foods that can be served when it is really hot would be a fun thing to share with all of you.

Eating healthy should be the goal regardless of the weather.

As summer draws to a close, outside temperatures are still high, and you are overwhelmed with everything that must be done to get the kids back in school, the temptation to eat out or order in can be overwhelming. BUT . . . there are healthy options that require no cooking at all.

The next few posts will offer some nice suggestions to help you through the end of summer heat.

Watermelon – Nature’s Healthy, Sweet Treat

Summer is the time to enjoy some of nature’s most delicious foods – and watermelon is on the top of the list. When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, eating watermelon was part of summer fun – and I  love it just as much today as I did then. It is so sweet, juicy and refreshing.

Just the thought of a cold, juicy slice makes my mouth water, especially on a hot summer day. It is not only delicious, this colorful fruit brightens up any plate or table; and is very good for you.

The water content fills you up and acts as a natural cleanser for your body. I know the seeds can be a little annoying, but to me, it is worth the work of picking them out (or spitting them out…politely of course) for all the benefits you get from watermelon . . . and today, there are seedless watermelons.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to incorporating watermelon into your meals or using it as a healthy snack.

Let’s look at a few of my favorites

  1. Watermelon triangle snacks – a long time easy favorite. As soon as you get the watermelon home, slice some of it up into triangular pieces that are easy for little hands. Place the triangles into covered storage containers and keep them in the fridge for easy access. When healthy snacks are visible and accessible, family members will eat them up.  On the other hand, snacks that are out of sight or take a lot of work are generally ignored. Be sure to de-seed if you have smaller children who will be eating the snack.

    Image by Yvonne Brettnich
    Image by Yvonne Brettnich

  1. Watermelon makes a beautiful side dish on any table. Try this . . . lay the watermelon on its side and using zig-zag cuts, cut one-quarter of the melon off the top. This makes a decorative oblong or round “bowl” for serving. Then, cut one-quarter of the melon off the bottom to make a stable base. Set the “bowl” on a serving plate.

With a melon-baller, scoop out the fruit from all three pieces of the watermelon, removing the seeds as you go. Place the melon balls in a bowl as you scoop. When finished, scrape out any residual melon until the “bowl” is fairly clean and smooth. Return the melon balls to the watermelon bowl.

It is fun to add other melon balls from cantaloupe and honey dew for extra color and flavor. Cover with Saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The top part of the watermelon can be used as a lid if transporting.

If you are feeling creative, you can cut shapes out of the watermelon like fish and cars. A great site to learn how to make shapes out of watermelon is the National Watermelon Promotion Board. (http://www.watermelon.org/Carvings)

  1. Watermelon is a wonderful breakfast food. Serve it cut up – alone or layered with banana slices, apples, oranges or other fruits of choice. Top with plain Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and granola for a tasty and healthy morning starter.
  1. Watermelon checkers are a fun appetizer. Cut an equal number of 1” squares of watermelon and your favorite cheese and build a checkerboard, alternating watermelon and cheese. Then, cut small circles of the watermelon and cheese to use as checkers. This is a fun creative appetizer to serve at a summer outing or family barbecue. The little ones will have fun helping you build the checkerboard.
  1. Watermelon “ice cream” cones – a fun and healthy summertime treat. Start with small cake cones; fill the bottom of each cone with a tablespoon of Philadelphia pineapple cream cheese (original cream cheese also works). Add a spoonful of dried Craisins over the cream cheese. Using an ice cream scoop, place a scoop of cold seedless watermelon over the Craisins, and top with sprinkles. You will have a healthy, delicious and adorable treat kids ask for again and again. Great for birthday parties, 4th of July or any hot summer night.
  1. Frosted watermelon – another fun treat for both kids and adults. With your favorite cookie cutters create cookie-like shapes from the watermelon. Frost with plain Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and sprinkled with granola. You can also use classic watermelon wedges instead of cookie shapes if you like things easy (as I do).

These ideas not only brighten any table, they also offer the added benefits of serving a delicious and healthy food. Watermelon is nature’s healthy, sweet treat. Serve it often.

Photo Credit: IMG_2639 via photopin (license)

Breakfast Smoothies

Various fruit smoothies isolated on white background
Image by elenaphoto

The breakfast smoothies listed below are all fruit-based and are excellent for breakfast when there is little time to prepare full meals. Some are made with Greek yoghurt, which can be done with most of them if you want to add a little protein.

If you avoid using refined sugar and juices with additives, these can be a healthy, nutritious way to start your day.

Use the recipes below as starting points – adding or substituting ingredients to fit your personal preferences. It is almost impossible to make a bad smoothie when you stick with the basics.

Place all ingredients for each smoothie in a blender and blend until smooth. Add additional ice for thicker consistency and additional liquid for thinner consistency.

Local honey and real maple syrup are the best natural sweeteners available. I do not recommend any other sweeteners.

Almond milk, coconut water, freshly squeezed juices, and water are the best liquids. When in a crunch, milk can be used, as well. A couple of the recipes call for pineapple juice, which is difficult to find in its natural state unless you make your own. Since I tend to be a purist (no additives), I often substitute pineapple juice with OJ that I make myself; but, it can be less sweet than pineapple juice, so adjust the amount of sweetener – to your personal taste.

I do not recommend that you drink a breakfast smoothie every morning (although it is better than not eating at all – or than gulping down a cup of strong coffee and a doughnut); but once or twice a week on extremely busy days, smoothies are a good option.

Banana Cream Pie Smoothie

  • 1 medium banana (sliced and frozen)
  • 1 (5.3 oz. carton) Oikos Greek Yoghurt – Plain
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup almond milk (regular milk will also work)
  • 2 – 4 vanilla wafers
  • 1 T. local honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup ice (more if needed)

Apple Banana Crunch Smoothie

• 1 medium banana (frozen)
• 1 fresh apple (peeled and cored)
• Substitute apple with 1 cup frozen strawberries
• 5 raw almonds
• 1 (5.3 oz. carton) Oikos Greek Yoghurt – Plain
• ¼ teaspoon vanilla
• ¾ cup almond milk
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ tsp fresh grated ginger
• 2 teaspoons local honey
• ½ cup ice (adjust amount to reach desired consistency)

Banana Mango Apple Smoothie

• 1 cup fresh mango (sliced)
• 1 banana
• 1 apple (peeled and cored)
• ½ cup pineapple or fresh orange juice
• ½ cup cold water
• Enough ice to create desired consistency
• Add a little local honey if it is too tart

Berry Banana Apple Smoothie

• 1 medium banana (frozen)
• 1 crisp apple (peeled and cored)
• 4 ounces pineapple juice
• 1 cup raspberries, strawberries or blueberries (fresh or frozen)
• 2 tablespoons cranberry juice
• Dash of nutmeg
• 1 cup ice (If using frozen fruit, you can use less ice)
• Enough cold water to blend well

Strawberry Apricot Smoothie

• 1 cup fresh strawberries (washed and hulled)
• 1 large medium-ripe apricot
• 1 banana (frozen)
• 1/3 cup almond milk
• ½ cup ice
• 1 scant T. honey

Banana Peach Strawberry Avocado Smoothie

• 1 banana (fresh or frozen)
• 1 medium-ripe peach (peeled and pitted)
• 1 cup strawberries (washed and hulled)
• 1 medium ripe avocado
• ½ cup pineapple juice
• ½ cup cold water (add more if needed)
• Small amount of ice

Cherry Strawberry Smoothie

• 1½ cup pitted sweet red cherries (fresh or frozen, unsweetened)
• 1 banana (frozen)
• 1 – 1½ cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
• 2 teaspoons local honey
• 1 T. Chia seeds
• Juice of one orange, plus enough cold water to make 1 cup liquid.
• Add ice as needed for thickness

I ran across this wonderful tool you may want to check out: http://www.healthsomeness.com/smoothies/.  It will help you find more smoothie recipes that are just right for you. Have fun! 

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To Eat or Not to Eat Breakfast, of Course

Image by "with wind"
Image by “with wind”

When you live a very busy life, it is easy to over-look breakfast – a common practice in America today. Far too many people start their morning with a large cup of coffee, sometimes black and sometimes filled with cream and sugar – or a sweet, caffeinated soda and nothing else. Bad habit!

Breakfast means “break your fast.”  Your body has been resting and has received no nourishment for eight hours and needs fuel replenishment to start the day. When coffee or sugary drinks are all it is given, it cannot possible function effectively. I know you know this – most people do – and yet they do not eat breakfast. Why?

When asked, the answers usually fall into a couple of categories: 1) “I have too much to do in the morning, and not enough time.” Or – “I don’t really need breakfast. Coffee gives me the jump-start I need.” When you see those excuses in writing, they sound quite lame and yet people say such things (or think them) all the time.

Yes, it can be difficult to balance work and family responsibilities and the temptation to save time by not eating breakfast can be easily rationalized. In fact, people shudder at the thought of preparing a healthy breakfast even for themselves, let alone trying to prepare breakfast for an entire family.

My goal today is twofold:

  1. To re-emphasize that breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day. (Better to skip dinner than breakfast.)
  2. To assure you that it can also be one of the easiest meals of the day to prepare.

Let’s start with the first point.

Most Important Meal of the Day

Many studies show that people who eat breakfast regularly are healthier. Any breakfast at all – a piece of fruit, a bowl of cereal, a banana, a piece of toast, etc., is better than no breakfast.

On the other hand, people who skip breakfast, often to cut calories, tend to weigh more than people who eat breakfast every day. Their strategy backfires on them. Skipping breakfast starves your body. Then, in the late morning it starts screaming, “Feed me.” Since you are most likely at work or school, you will probably look for something (anything) to munch on to quell the hunger pangs. As a rule, those quick grab snacks are empty calories filled with fat, salt and sugar and loaded with calories (which you tried to avoid by not eating breakfast).

This sets up a vicious, unhealthy cycle of starving and eating unhealthy foods that is extremely harmful to your body, especially for those prone to blood sugar issues like diabetes. Eating breakfast not only helps maintain a healthy weight, it helps your body maintain a stable blood-sugar level. Eating breakfast also helps with memory, concentration and productivity.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health completed several studies on the relationship between children who eat breakfast and children who do well in school. The studies show amazing correlations between a nutritious breakfast and the ability to succeed in difficult cognitive tasks. They also show how easily hunger affects mood and concentration.

Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital completed another study that showed students who ate breakfast actually had higher grades and less disciplinary issues than children who did not eat breakfast.

Other studies show the same type of correlation between adults who do not eat breakfast and those who complain of mood swings, fatigue and irritability, especially during the late morning and early afternoon hours of a workday.

Your Body Needs Fuel

It is impossible to drive a car without fuel in the tank. Why do people expect their bodies to run without fuel? Trying to get through the day without refueling your body in the morning is harmful and foolish.

Breakfast replenishes the body with nutrients that provide fuel to support your activities throughout the day. When you skip breakfast you create a nutritional hole in the day, which means that you cannot regain the vitamins and minerals you lose when you choose to NOT eat breakfast. It affects you in multiple ways – diminished energy, weakened ability to concentrate, and lower productivity; plus it can affect your mood, behavior, and outlook for the entire day.

Breakfast sets up your entire day. It is a small meal that provides huge benefits!

Eat Fruit

Fresh FruitBreakfast is the perfect time to eat fruit, which can be eaten in many forms: whole fruit, fruit salad, fruit smoothie, freshly-squeezed fruit juice, or waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, or yogurt topped with fruit – all of those can be the perfect start to a busy day.

If you have trouble eating enough fruit during the day, breakfast is a good time to make it happen. The nutrients in a fresh orange, apple or banana will stay with you over the course of the day.

Strange as it may seem, eating breakfast can be a money-saver. When you eat breakfast, it is much easier to control eating throughout the day. You don’t struggle with those terrible bouts of hunger that hit mid-morning and you satisfy with snacks from the company vending machine or the corner fast-food establishment. As a result, if you eat breakfast, you spend much less money on unhealthy snack foods during an average work day. Breakfast helps your body and your pocketbook.

Eating breakfast is important for every member of the family from the oldest to the youngest, but it is particularly important and beneficial for children. They will do better in school; they will be less likely to spend money on candy or soda during the school day; and they will be more active and more normal weight than children who do not eat breakfast.

Preparing Breakfast Is Easy

There are so many simple, yummy options for breakfast it is difficult to understand why people avoid it.  Breakfast is my favorite meal because there are so many delicious and nutritious foods and combinations of foods to eat.

Many breakfast foods fall into the category of “comfort foods” and/or favorite foods – everything from waffles to pancakes to omelets, so why not start your day with a favorite food?

Pancakes filled with blueberries, topped with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar or real maple syrup can be a wholesome start to the work week. French toast with raspberries or strawberries, or an omelet filled with onions and peppers topped with fresh salsa can be excellent options for the busy lifestyle. Add a piece or two of bacon or sausage for extra flavor. However, both are high in fat and should be eaten in moderation.

It is easy to pack breakfast with nutrients and ensure that you are getting enough of the important food groups. An omelet with vegetables, 2 slices of bacon, half a cantaloupe, and a piece of whole wheat toast covers all the basics. Such a meal is easy to prepare, fuels your body, and tastes great.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of why breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and how it can make a huge difference in your life.

To sum up – eating breakfast can lighten your mood, increase your concentration, and help you lose weight (and save you money). Breakfast is an enjoyable way to start each morning if you plan ahead, have the proper ingredients on hand, and set aside a little extra time to prepare this amazing meal.

Please join us on Monday; I will be sharing some ideas for healthy breakfasts to get you started. 

Photo Credit (Breakfast): IMG_1655 via photopin (license)