I’ve always heard and read that it’s a good idea to involve children in meal-preparation efforts, because they’re more likely to eat dishes that they helped cook. That makes sense.
When I was about five years old, I got it in my head that we had green beans growing in our backyard. We didn’t. They were actually yucca plants, which look nothing like green beans. However, I decided — for reasons known only to me at that time — to pull the leaves off the plants, call them green beans and give them to my mom to cook for dinner.
She’d obligingly accept the shredded leaves, discard them when I wasn’t looking, crack open a couple Green Giant cans and voilà — green beans for dinner. I honestly believed my mom was cooking the “beans” I’d given her.
Years later, I asked her about my vegetable-harvesting expeditions, which cropped up intermittently for at least two years. Mom confessed to stockpiling canned green beans during this phase in an effort to be prepared whenever I got the notion to pick “beans” and demand that she cook them for supper. She was quick to add that she never really minded these episodes because they carried with them a 100 percent guarantee that I’d eat plenty of vegetables at our evening meal.
That’s what I’m going for with my 2-year-old daughter, but I’m hoping for good results regarding the vegetable-consumption part of this equation without having to “cook” any roughage she might forage for in our backyard.
To get Reese interested in eating plenty of healthy, fresh food now, I involve her as much as I can in any and everything to do with fruits and vegetables. I’ve signed up for a weekly delivery of a five-pound box of organic produce from a locally owned store near our house. It’s a great deal, but the caveat is that customers don’t get to specify exactly what they want in their weekly boxes. I don’t mind that, because it forces us to find recipes for and eat items I wouldn’t normally pick up at the store.
Every Thursday evening, after the box arrives, Reese and I eagerly tear it open and inspect the contents. I hold up each fruit and vegetable, identify them and let Reese hold them. We talk about what we can make with the veggies and decide which fruits we’ll pack in our lunches. She helps me wash, peel, dice and portion everything into storage bowls.
After one particularly large shipment of ripe bananas, we decided to sample a few smoothie recipes. Now, Reese cannot get enough of the fruity, frozen, blended concoctions. We’ve tried four or five varieties, but our favorite is one I call “sunrise surprise smoothie.” We drink them for breakfast frequently or for dessert following a light summer meal, such as Caesar salad with grilled chicken.
It’s inexpensive and easy to make. I’ll share it with you now, so you can give it a try with your little ones:
Sunrise surprise smoothies
• 1 ripe banana
• 1 cup of frozen pineapple
• 1 container of vanilla Greek yogurt
• 1/2 cup Simply Orange with Banana Juice
• 3 or 4 ice cubes
Combine everything in a blender and blend it until the mixture is smooth but still thick. Pour it into two cups use wide straws to slurp up all that fruity goodness.