Breakfast Makeover: Smoothie Collection

Everyone loves smoothies! They’re super quick to make when you keep basics on hand, and they’re wonderfully portable for when you’re in a rush to get out the door (we’re always in rush on school mornings). Lately we’ve been making a big batch for breakfast and refrigerating the leftovers for an after school snack. I’ve also started adding smoothies to the lunch box this year (cleaned up, recycled small Odwalla containers work perfectly). As school lunch periods get shorter and shorter (don’t get me started!), this seems to be something my kids can successfully eat (along with a few other tidbits) in the teensy amount of time allotted for lunch.

If you start searching around for smoothies on the internet you’ll find tons of info– recipes, special containers, little tips and tricks. So…. to the collective oeuvre of smoothies out there I add our list of favorites with an international twist.

Mango Lassi_India Playdate

Mango lassis are by far the most requested smoothies in my house. We all love the creamy, sweet mango flavor, but that pinch of cardamom is what makes it special. For kids who insist they don’t like spices — this is a good place to start. Here’s our previous post with the recipe.

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Mango Lassis, Twirling Puppets and Bollywood Dancing {an Indian-inspired playdate}

Lassis are a popular yogurt-based drink enjoyed throughout India. In the US we are probably most familiar with the sweet mango version but there are all kinds of lassis, both sweet and savory,  flavored with everything from fruit, rosewater, honey, mint, ginger, cardamom, saffron, cumin, tumeric, salt and even butter!

We made mango lassis with our campers at our cooking around the world summer camp a few months ago and it was a mega hit. Even the pickiest kids were all smiles and the room was filled with lots of happy slurping. My kids are crazy about them too, so when we go through our periodic smoothie obsessions, this is always a favorite at our house. Since making  lassis is easy easy easy, it’s a fantastic beginning cooking project that kids can learn to do themselves from start to finish. With this project they get to practice reading a recipe, measuring, tasting/seasoning and safely operating a blender.

Combine lassi-making with an India-inspired craft, turn on some Bollywood tunes and you have all you need for a totally rockin’ playdate.

Mango Lassi
(makes 2 8oz servings)

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup mango pulp (available at Indian grocery stores) or substitute pureed fresh or frozen mango
  • pinch salt
  • pinch ground cardamom
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar or adjust to your taste (if using sweetened mango pulp, omit sugar)

[variation: substitute ground ginger for cardamom, garnish with mint or ground pistachios]

  1. Combine all ingredients except sugar in blender and pulse to mix well.
  2. Taste and add sugar a teaspoon at a time, blending with each addition until you reach your preferred sweetness.
  3. If lassi is too thick add additional milk or water to thin.

Twirling Indian Puppet Craft (adapted from Kids’ Multicultural Art Book: Art and Craft Experiences from Around the World” by Alexanra Terzian)

India is said to be the birth place of puppets. Here’s a simple twirling, paper version that will delight kids and adults alike. Older kids will be able to cut out the puppets, work with the glue dots and attach the arms and legs. Younger kids can just focus on decorating with their favorite art materials. Supplies needed for each puppet:

  • 1 piece of cardstock weight paper
  • 4 brads
  • 1 plastic drinking straw
  • hole punch
  • glue dots (you can use tape or glue, but glue dots are recommended because they are strong and don’t require drying time)
  • markers, glitter glue or paint
  1. Copy the puppet pattern onto the cardstock.
  2. Cut out the puppet body (1 piece, folded), arms (2 pieces) and legs (2 pieces). Fold at the fold line along the top of the puppet’s head. Punch holes where indicated on the pattern.
  3. Open the body piece and place 2 glue dots along the center line, place the drinking straw on top of the glue dots and fold the body piece closed again to secure the straw in place.
  4. One at a time, insert each arm and leg in between the front and back body pieces, lining up the holes and attach using a brad. The arms and legs should rotate freely.
  5. Decorate your puppet.

Bollywood Dance Party – Crank up some tunes and try some Bollywood moves.

Bollywood Dance Party Playlist:

Spooky Snacks for Halloween: Mimi’s Creepy Fingers and Wiggly Orange-Mango Tummy Ticklers

For all your Halloween festivities, it’s always nice to have a few less-sugary options up your sleeve. Here are two fun “spooky snacks” we tried out this year: Mimi’s creepy fingers and wiggly mango-orange tummy ticklers. These are so fun to bring to parties at school, to nibble on alongside a bubbling cauldron of of your favorite soup or stew before you head out for trick or treats, or even as an unexpected after school snack during the rest of the year. Both take almost no time to put together and, more importantly, are really fun to make. Do you have a favorite spooky Halloween snack? We’d love to hear about it!

Wiggly Mango-Orange Tummy Ticklers

This is a homemade, fruit finger jello recipe from the Meal Makeover Moms, from their “No Whine with Dinner” cookbook  (but I actually heard it on the Halloween episode of their “Cooking with the Moms” podcast). The two moms behind all three of these great projects are registered dieticians and offer lots of recipes and suggestions for healthy food for the whole family. Their podcast is fun, informative and worth a listen — a good one to keep loaded up on your MP3 device to listen to when you have a few spare moments in your day. For these fruity, wigglers all you need is juice, pureed fruit and 2 packets of unflavored gelatin. Since you can swap any kind of juice and fruit you like, kids can play executive chef and create their own flavor combinations. Here we used orange juice and pureed mango. Yum!

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups juice, 1 cup fruit, 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin, sweetener of your choice (as needed)

  1. Puree together 1 cup of whole fruit and 1 cup of juice, then bring to a simmer on the stove.
  2. Sprinkle 2 packets of unflavored gelatin over 1/2 cup juice and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the gelatin mixture to the simmering puree mixture. Whisk while the gelatin fully dissolves (about 5 minutes). Give it a taste and add your favorite sweetener as needed.
  4. Pour mixture into an 8×8 pan. I poured mine through a strainer, just to catch any undissolved gelatin or bits and pieces.
  5. Refrigerate at least 3-4 hours to set. Dunk the bottom of the pan in hot water to help release the jello, then cut into squares and enjoy! (The Meal Makeover moms suggest using an offset spatula to remove the jello squares from the pan.)

Mimi’s Creepy Fingers (aka Parmesan-Tomato Puff Pastry Sticks)

Our neighbor Mimi served these fun appetizers when she had us over for dinner. They were so cute I made them for snack day at Luca’s preschool. When you bring a container, marked “creepy fingers” to school, everyone wants to know what’s inside! These are simply rectangles of puff pastry with cherry tomato “fingernails” added before baking. For a sweet version, you could use roasted grape halves and replace the parmegiano with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. You can find puff pastry in the freezer section of the grocery store, I nabbed mine at Trader Joes.

Ingredients: 1 Package of Frozen Puff Pastry, a Handful of Cherry Tomatoes, 1 Beaten Egg, Parmegiano Reggiano

  1. Optional (if you have the time), roast your cherry tomatoes to release some of the water before placing them on the puff pastry. Half the tomatoes, place them in a pan cut side up. Season with sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sugar. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until they start to look a bit dry and shriveled. You can do this in advance.
  2. For the fingers, let your puff pastry thaw slightly until you can cut it easily. Cut it into rectangles approximately 3/4″ x 4″. I rounded one end using scissors so the shape would be more finger-like.
  3. Place a halved cherry tomato skin side up on the rounded end of the pastry. Brush the whole thing with beaten egg and sprinkle with grated parmegiano reggiano.
  4. Bake as directed on the box of puff pastry. Best if served right away, but you can store in an airtight container after they have cooled. I like to separate layers with sheets of waxed paper.

There’s lots you can do with leftover puff pastry:

  • Try Simran’s recipe for “Anything Puffs“, substituting the puff pastry for the crescent dough.
  • Extra puff pastry also makes a great top for a pot pie, stew or soup (may I suggest Simran’s Fish Chowder?). Cut a circle slightly larger than the rim of your oven proof, individual serving-sized bowl. Brush the rim of the bowl with beaten egg and seal the bowl with the pastry (remember to cut a few slits for the steam to escape). Place the bowl on a baking sheet and bake as directed on the puff pastry package.