Kids in the Kitchen
Teaching kids to eat healthier foods is as easy as inviting them into the kitchen while you are putting together a snack, lunch or meal. Exposing them to the process of buying, preparing and eating a variety of whole foods will spike their curiosity, increase their awareness and broaden their palate. When they are familiar with whole potatoes, not just French fries, and ripe tomatoes, not just pasta sauce, kids will know there are other delicious and healthier options than the processed foods they are exposed to so frequently.
When I was a kid, it was the sugary fruit snacks and candies that constantly begged my desire, so my mother came up with a homemade fruit roll recipe that we could make together in the kitchen. Not only did I learn about the whole fruits that went into the healthier form of this snack, I also had the opportunity to develop some talent in the kitchen that spurred a growing interest in making and eating other foods.
Homemade fruit rolls are a great starter project to get kids into the kitchen. They are also great to have on hand to offer as a low sugar snack option when they are craving processed treats.
Your Own Fruit Rolls
- Fresh fruit of your choice, depending on the season
- Lemon Juice
- Sugar (only if you decide to add)
The ratio of each depends on which fruit you use and how sweet you want your fruit rolls to be. The rule of thumb I use is 4 cups of fruit, ½ cup water, 2 tsp lemon juice and sugar to taste.
Some good fruits to try: strawberries, apples, pears, apricots, peaches, plums and rhubarb. I made my first batch of fruit rolls of the season with the beautiful vibrant pink rhubarb that is abundant and in season right now.
- Rinse, chop and remove any seeds/pits from your fruit
- Add fruit and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Let simmer for 8-12 minutes or until your fruit is soft and starting to break down.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Puree fruit mixture with an immersion blender or in a counter-top blender or Cuisinart. When mixture is very smooth return to the saucepan.
- Add lemon juice and sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved. Return to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the fruit mixture starts to thicken.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or, if using a food dehydrator, lightly grease your solid dry rack sheets.
- Pour thickened fruit puree on to your prepared surface, making sure it is never thicker than 1/4th of an inch.
- If using a baking sheet, place in a very low heat (about 140 degrees) oven for at least 10 hours.
- If using a food dehydrator set at a low temperature setting for at least ten hours.
- When ready the fruit puree will no longer be sticky and will be in a solid but flexible sheet.
- Remove from oven or dehydrator, let cool and peel away from the surface carefully.
- Enjoy immediately or save for several weeks wrapped tightly in plastic or in an airtight container (fruit rolls can be frozen for several months so if you want to make a big batch to have on hand this makes for an easy storage method).
Other kid friendly projects and healthy meal ideas include:
- “Green eggs and Ham” – Fresh eggs with herbed pesto
- Fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits
- Homemade granola bars
- Tortilla roll-ups with cream cheese and roasted or fresh vegetables
- Celery and carrots with a spinach and cottage cheese dip
- Homemade hummus
- Kale, beet, carrot or turnip chips
- Homemade nut butters
- Fruit and vegetable smoothies
- Lettuce wraps filled with protein or grain of choice
- Fruit and vegetable based whole wheat quick breads and muffins