Cool Treats

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If you grew up in an area that experienced warm summer weather, then you already know that enjoying tasty ice-cold treats during days when the temperature is soaring is one of the supreme delights of childhood. If your little ones are clamoring for delicious heat-relieving confections this season, you may be reluctant to provide them due to the amount of fat and sugar that many of these delectable delights contain. However, you can easily create frozen treats at home that will surpass the store-bought type in taste, as well as pack a hefty nutritional punch, while being light on the sugar and fat. All you need to get started is a freezer and some fresh produce from your garden or the local farmers market.

The most basic hot weather fruity treat is simply frozen berries. You can place them flat on a cookie sheet on wax paper. This works best for blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries and loganberries. After they are frozen, the berries can be popped into mouths that need quick respite from the heat of a sizzling summer afternoon. This method also works well with individual grapes.

Ice-cold fruity smoothies are another healthy option that can be quickly and easily made from berries and other summer fruit. Using plain yogurt, fruit juice and milk as a base, you can whip up delicious shakes in the blender using pretty much any type of fruit that you choose. Using frozen fruit reduces or eliminates the need for ice. All types of berries and bananas seem to go particularly well together, and those who want a little extra sweetness without using refined sugar can sprinkle in some cinnamon and drizzle in some honey. (Tip:  if you have too many bananas ripe at once, you can peel, slice and freeze one in a zip bag for future smoothies.)

Remember how much you loved slurping on old-fashioned popsicles back in your childhood days? Your children can enjoy the same treat without the bothersome sugar rush that used to drive your parents crazy when you and your siblings got all hopped up on empty calories. All you've got to do is put 100 percent juice in the blender, add some cubed watermelon, peaches, bananas, mangoes, apricots, plums, grapes or whole berries if they're small. Blend until well-mixed, pour into popsicle molds, and freeze. (You can use small paper cups with a stick or plastic spoon in a pinch.) In only a few short hours, you'll have a healthy and delicious hot weather snack that won't leave your children bouncing off the walls due to an overabundance of refined sugar.

Don't be afraid to get creative when making your summertime treats, and allowing your children to help out will teach them basic kitchen skills as well as spark an interest in good nutrition.


Cook Ahead for Easter Dinner

Easter spiral cut ham

Easter dinner is a great time to gather with family and a good way to celebrate the holiday. However, it can also be a stressful time. There are so many dishes to prepare, it can get very hectic. It need not be so, though. This is a great time to make use of your freezer and take the opportunity to make ahead part of your holiday meal.

What portions of the Easter dinner can easily be prepared within the days before the holiday and left in the freezer or refrigerator until the day of the meal? You can actually make many of the dishes that you will want ahead of time.

Dinner rolls are a great way to start your meal. These can easily be made ahead, frozen and reheated when they are needed.

Ham is a classic main dish at Easter dinners. This meat can easily be prepared ahead of time. Cook it a few days in advance, freeze and just reheat it on Easter day. Or you can buy a pre-cooked ham that keeps in the fridge a few days and just needs to be warmed up on Easter.

Another classic holiday food is turkey. Remember to leave adequate time to thaw in the refrigerator any turkey that you have prepared in advance. One of the more efficient approaches is to utilize a turkey breast rather than working with a whole bird. That will allow quicker preparation time as well as shorter thawing time. This works especially well if you are also serving another meat or are having numerous side dishes.

When it comes to side dishes, mashed potatoes are one side dish that often appears on the Easter menu. Fortunately, they are also a dish that can easily be prepared in advance and reheated. Slowly reheating them in a crock pot or preparing oven roasted mashed potatoes are two good paths to getting great results when you reheat them.

What would a holiday meal be without dessert? Pies, especially fruits pies, are ideal candidates for freezing. You can either bake them and then freeze, or you can prepare them and freeze them unbaked. Remember to allow enough time for thawing and baking, especially if they will be competing for your oven space.

With a little bit of cooking in advance, you can enjoy your dinner on Easter with a minimum of stress.

Happy Halloween! Slow Cooker Dessert

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Kids are back in school and our lives are busier than ever. I found making slow cooker desserts is a time-saving way to give my kids a healthy homemade snack choice during busy times. Apples and oranges are popular and healthy autumn fruit that always cook perfectly in a slow cooker. Choose autumn fruit for your slow cooker dessert recipes that you know your kids will eat. My kids love apples, so I try to create healthy slow cooker desserts that incorporate them. One of my favorites is apple raisin crumble because it is affordable, yummy and healthy.

Apple and Raisin Crumble


5-6 apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup raisins
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon


1. Lightly butter the inside of the slow cooker. You can also use cooking spray.
2. Spread out the apples evenly at the bottom of your crock pot
3. Mix together the sugar, flour, oats, raisins, cinnamon and butter
4. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the apples
5. Cook on low for approximately 3 to 5 hours

This is a dessert that can be enhanced with a multitude of toppings. Sprinkle a little cinnamon over the apple crumble, then top it with crushed walnuts. Walnuts are healthy and add a wonderful burst of flavor to the apple crumble. Put some whipped cream on top of the apple crumble, then drizzle a little caramel sauce over it for an extra heavenly flavor.

I love this dessert because the leftovers can be frozen to be eaten at a later time. I put individual servings of the apple crumble in airtight plastic containers. These individual desserts are perfect taken out of the freezer the night before a school day and used as a snack for my kids' lunch. If you have unexpected company, pop the desserts in the microwave for a few seconds to thaw, then add your favorite topping and serve.

Freeze Ahead Cookies

A great way to make the busy holiday season (or any busy season for that matter)  a bit less stressful is to make cookies a month (or even a few weeks) ahead of time and freeze them. 

There are numerous ways that this can be done and there are a variety of cookie recipes that are great for freezing.

Here are a few tips from the experts...






Peach Cinnamon Crisp


16 ounces canned peach slices in juice (drained)
1 cup fat-free granola
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Cool Whip (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-inch baking dish with nonfat cooking spray. Combine all the ingredients in the baking dish and mix lightly.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Serve hot or cold. top with fat-free Cool Whip, if desired.