Yogurt & Fruit Pops

Ice Cream

Kids love having a popsicle as a treat, especially during the summer. A store bought pop made of Kool-aide is sugary, has artificial flavors, and provides no health benefits. Why not turn their love for a popsicle into a way to sneak fruit into your child's diet? Fruit is absolutely necessary for optimal health. Low in calories and high in fiber, fruit is a key ingredient in helping to combat childhood obesity, a big concern these days.

Fruit helps protect children from certain illnesses and diseases. Fiber-rich foods keep your child's digestive system working properly and helps prevent heart disease and Type 2 diabetes later on in life. Fruit supplies important vitamins and minerals that can help kids avoid cancer and other diseases. Children around elementary school age need at least one cup of fruit each day, and teenagers should have about two cups.

The best way to make sure children have adequate fruit in the diet is using it to replace sugary treats. A cool popsicle is a real treat for children, especially in hot weather. The trick is to replace choices like Kool-aide with a healthy popsicle. Don't just simply freeze fruit juice to make popsicles. Use whole fruit with ingredients like yogurt and honey to make a delicious popsicle that will be more attractive to kids, as well.

For your popsicles, use about three cups of fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or peaches. Puree the fruit in a blender. If you use strawberries, you can remove the seeds by pouring the pureed fruit through a strainer. Mix the fruit with about 1/3 cup of water, 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of honey. If you have time, mix the yogurt in only half of the fruit mixture, then layer for fun striped pops.

Blackberries, kiwi, citrus and some peaches are naturally tart. In addition to honey, adding about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of sugar will make the pops more palatable. Always taste first so you don't add more than needed. Even with added sugar, these pops will be far less caloric than other sugary treats.

Mix all ingredients well in a blender. Funnel the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for about 4-5 hours, or overnight. Now you will have a cold, healthy pop the kids will love anytime, especially in hot weather.

 

Real Fruit Popsicles

Fruit ice cream isolated on white

Homemade Treats

Instead of serving store-bought Popsicles to your family, make homemade ice pops from nutritious juices and fruit. Summer is a great time to make freezer pops at home because it is easy and inexpensive to find many varieties of fruit at roadside stands, farmers markets and grocery stores. Throughout the summer months, moms can prepare different recipes of ice pops to freeze for use in the autumn. Once you know the basic recipes for the bases of ice pops, it is easy to puree or chop fresh fruit and make a large batch for future use.

Food Processors

Toddlers often prefer eating smoother textures of foods due to having fewer teeth, leading to using pureed fruit to make homemade ice pops. Pureeing blueberries, nectarines and bananas is simple with the right equipment such as a food processor or blender. You can even make natural fruit juices by using a juicing machine. One of the main purposes of making ice pops at home is using organic produce grown without pesticides. Because popsicles bought at a store contain high levels of corn syrup and artificial flavors, moms can control the ingredients in the homemade versions while still providing a delicious treat for their families.

Avoid Sugar

Several cups of fresh fruit such as strawberries or watermelon will reduce in amount as it is pureed and strained. Straining is vital to remove seeks and fibers that many children do not like. Most ripe fruit is naturally sweet, allowing you to avoid adding sugar. Taste the fruit first for tartness to determine if a small amount of sugar is necessary. You can always use alternates such as coconut sugar or honey. Oranges, limes and lemons make delicious ice pops but usually require a sweetener to make the snacks more enjoyable. Older children may want to have more texture in their ice pops, so you can add small chunks of fruit to the ice pops.

Flavor Combinations

To freeze homemade ice pops, you need containers that are easy to fill with juice and fruit. Special containers are available at stores, or you can improvise with small cups (paper Dixie cups are best) and wooden sticks (or even small plastic spoons). You can use one or more types of pureed fruit and juice to make this delicious treat. Great combinations include orange juice mixed with banana chunks or pureed raspberries mixed with lemon juice. If you have a child who is reluctant to try a new fruit, then add it to their favorite flavor of ice pop. Also, try blending in some plain or vanilla yogurt for a more creamy pop without using ice cream.

 

Quick Snacks

Homemade Popsicles

Quick Snacks for on the Go Families

It can be challenging to eat healthy when on the go. As a busy family, you're probably consumed with running around for sports and dance practices, school, work and entertainment with hardly any time to prepare a healthy meal. Forget the drive-thrus and prepare an easy frozen snack that you can make ahead of time. If you have a couple of go-to recipes you can fall back on when preparing frozen snacks ahead of time, you're all set. All you have to do as you head out the door is microwave these treats or just eat them as is. If you plan ahead, you can leave them out on the counter for a bit to thaw.

Veggie Muffins

OK, you may want to change the name so your kids will actually eat them, but these to-die-for baked goods are perfect for grabbing on the way to school. They're single serve, too, so take one, or take a bunch. Kids can toss a frozen one into their lunch bags and it's thawed by morning snack. These muffins are packed with vegetables as well as applesauce and orange juice for a kick of sweetness.

You'll need an egg, 3/4 cups OJ, 1/2 cup applesauce, just a 1/4 cup sugar (sweet!), one cup each of white flour and whole wheat flour, one tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt to taste, one tsp. cinnamon, one cup each of shredded carrot and zucchini, and 1/2 cup raisins. Simply beat the egg in a bowl, add the juice, applesauce and sugar, followed by the blended dry ingredients and the fruit. Mix until moist, then fill cupcake pans 2/3 full. Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Freeze individually, and thaw as needed.

Peanut Butter Pizzazz

For a healthy frozen snack you can make ahead, go for peanut butter for a punch of protein and fiber. Mix peanut butter with your kid's favorite yogurt, add some raspberries and place in pop-shaped plastic containers to store in the freezer. Need a quick snack? Grab a pop and go. Protein, calcium and fruit all in one!

When incorporating frozen snacks into your daily routine, keep in mind that organizing and labeling is key. Mark the date on the frozen treats you make to ensure their utmost freshness. Stack neatly in the freezer or throw them in the ice bin, depending on the size and space. You won't mind when your kids help themselves to these snacks!

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

Chicken Rice Casserole

Nothing is more satisfying than putting a hot, healthy, homemade meal on the table for your family. Make ahead meals are a great solution for busy moms. Cook once and have dinner twice!

Plan your shopping to include items for meal preparation for two weeks or more at a time. One morning spent preparing and freezing nourishing meals for the family will give you more quality time through the busy weekday evenings, and will lower your stress level.

What foods freeze easily and will reheat quickly? Consider one-dish meals or fillings for hot, savory sandwiches that can be served with a cold side dish. Here is a chicken broccoli rice casserole that is easy, delicious and freezes well! Notice that frozen or fresh broccoli can be used. And try some changes now and then:  use different vegetables (or a combo) and try using 2-3 cups of cooked pearl barley in place of the same amount of rice.

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

•5 cups cooked rice, either white or brown
•2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
•2 cups chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen, lightly cooked
•1 can cream of chicken soup
•1 can cream of mushroom soup
•2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
•salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, and divide in half for two freezer meals.

The easiest storage is to use zip-lock bags and freeze flat, making sure all the air is out of the bag. To serve, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave. Prepare a greased 8x8 casserole dish. Have some extra cheese on hand to sprinkle on top before baking.

Serve with crusty bread and fresh fruit for a well balanced meal.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until heated through.

This recipe makes around 10 servings, and each freezer bag serves 4-5 people.

The chicken broccoli rice casserole is budget-friendly, filling and easy to freeze. A good tip for your make ahead meals is to flatten your freezer bags so they will stack easily and save room in your freezer. Place bags on a baking sheet until frozen to help freeze them flat. Don't forget to label with the dish and date!

Don’t let busy schedules prevent your family from enjoying special times around the dinner table. A homemade dinner can be a memory maker, so take time to prepare great, nutritious meals ahead, and serve them to the most important people in your world – your family!

 

Easy Freezer Jam

Portion Of Peach Jam

For busy moms, people new to making jam, and others hoping to try something new, freezer jam is a great place to start. Homemade jam has a fresh flavor that can not be duplicated in store bought versions. Freezer jam is fairly simple and very quick to make. Once made, it can be stored in the refrigerator for a week, or in appropriate containers in the freezer for up to a year. There are a few points to ponder before beginning to produce your own.

Be sure to pick fruit that has ripened to perfection and is in season :

Freezer jam is akin to fresh fruit. To get that freshness of biting into ripe fruit into your creation, you need to pick only ripened, in season fruit. (Strawberry and raspberry are popular choices.) If you choose underripe fruit, your jam will most likely taste sour. It will also not jell enough. If you choose overripe fruit, it will produce a foul tasting concoction that may jell too much.

Pectin allows your jam to jell:

There are two types of pectin:  powdered and liquid. These pectins are not interchangeable. Be sure to follow the recipe you are using to ensure yours will come out correctly.

Using the appropriate containers:

Plastic, freezer proof containers can be used for recipes. You may also use freezer proof glass, wide mouthed jars. Be sure to use small containers.

GINGERED PEACH AND APRICOT JAM:
-3 cups crushed peaches (about 12 small peaches)
-1 cup apricots (about 3 small apricots)
-2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
-1 1/4 cups sugar
-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
-1 packet of powdered pectin (1 envelope)

Mix crushed peaches, apricots, grated ginger and lime juice. Using instant powdered pectin, mix together pectin and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Stir pectin into prepared mixture of mashed fruit for three minutes.

Put jam into appropriate, small, freezer proof containers. Allow jam to set in refrigerator. For extended storage, place containers in freezer, but only after jam has fully set.

Choosing other fruit for your jams:

Using the same basic gingered peach/apricot recipe, you can substitute strawberries or raspberries in place of the apricots for a delicious taste sensation . Be sure to add the same amount of crushed raspberries or strawberries, in place of the same amount of apricots that are called for.

Strawberry and raspberry flavors add a very distinct, fresh taste. As long as you don't double the recipe, as it alters how the finished product jells, you can interchange fruit in the same quantities. Experiment with unusual fruit combinations. And welcome to the tasty world of jam making!