Is there anything better than Fresh Strawberries?

Thanks to the early warming of the weather this year, local strawberries are ready at my neighborhood food stand.  Besides the great feeling I get from “eating local”, I am lucky to have an organic CSA farm close by as well. If you’ve never tasted a local organic strawberry, there is nothing to compare. Sweet, juicy, ruby red and no sugar needed. They are great to eat out of hand, sliced in yogurt or on cereal. And just when you think they can’t taste any better, try dipping them in melted dark chocolate. If you know a better definition of heaven on earth, let me know.

There are many places that let you pick your own berries. This is a great way to get children outdoors. You save money when you pick your own, and each berry is perfect when you get to inspect as you pick.  When the picking is done, it may look like you have too many and don’t know what to do with them.  Here are some simple recipes that will make those berries disappear.

STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE: PLACE THE FOLLOWING INGREDIENTS IN A BLENDER: 1 c. plain organic yogurt, 1/4 c. orange juice, 1 banana, 1 c. fresh strawberries, stems removed. Blend until smooth. Serves 2.

You can also make Frozen Pops from the smoothie mix by pouring it into paper cups and inserting a popsicle stick in each. Freeze. Tear the paper cup away from the pop and eat.

Make an easy STRAWBERRY SAUCE for ice cream by putting 2C strawberries in a blender or food processor and pulsing until the consistency of syrup.  If you want it a bit sweeter, try a T of agave syrup or pure maple syrup. (NOT pancake syrup).

Our local organic farm is: muthfamilyfarm.com/  Check your own neighborhood for local strawberries and pick-your-own farms. Once you’ve tasted these gems, the drab, cardboard replicas sold in grocery stores will never match up.  Happy Eating!

BANANA POPS

If you’re looking for something to do with all the over-ripe bananas lying around, try this simple-to-make frozen treat: Banana Pops.

1. Cut peeled bananas in half crosswise.  Insert a Popsicle stick into one end and lay on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet.

2. Dump chocolate morsels in a large bowl and melt in the microwave for one minute. Stir.  If they are still chunky, melt for 30 second intervals until creamy. If the mixture feels thick, try adding a tsp. of vegetable oil to thin it.

3. Spread chocolate over bananas until covered. Place in the freezer until chocolate is set.  You can also sprinkle chopped nuts, rainbow sprinkles or coconut over the chocolate before you freeze the pops.

4. Once they are frozen, they can be stored in a zipper bag in the freezer. A delicious chocolate treat and a serving of fruit. What’s not to love?

Crunch Your Greens

KALE CHIPS are a fun way to get children to eat vegetables.  They’re surprisingly easy to make, store well and taste amazing. Even adults who shy away from their veggies will enjoy these low calorie treats.

1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Wash kale and pat dry.  Remove the tough stems.  Tear kale leaves into pieces.

3. Coat kale leaves with olive oil and place them one at a time onto the parchment.

4. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in a 275 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  Check after 20 minutes to see if kale is crispy to the touch.

5. Let them cool.  Munch away!  Store uneaten chips in a plastic storage container so they don’t break. These are a great chip with a sandwich or as a snack.  You can eat a pan full with no guilt.  HAPPY MUNCHING!

Outdoor Fun

Now that the weather is turning warmer, it’s a great time to get everyone outdoors for some adventure and creative play.  If you’re already planning to work in the garden, get older children involved by putting out bird feeders, and planting native flowers and shrubs that attract wildlife. Butterflies love asters, hollyhock, lupine and milkweed.  Hummingbirds love anything red. The Audubon Society has a wealth of information for encouraging wildlife: audubonathome.org/yard.

Keep little ones busy with a bucket of water and a paint brush. Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers can “paint” to their hearts content on sidewalks or driveways with a wet brush and there is no worry about clean-up afterwards.  Add a bit of food coloring to make water colors.

Make clean up fun by collecting sticks and twigs and using them to make tipi’s, houses or for writing out messages.  Make a tic tac toe board and use rocks for O’s and twigs or leaves for X’s.