In our house, many things mark the official start of summer. The opening of the cottage, the never-ending hunt for someone's favourite sandal that wasn't properly paired with its partner when packed away at the end of the previous summer, and (most notably) the daily pleading for a gelato fix at our place around the corner after every meal. (Yes, even breakfast -- oh to be a five year old.)
As parents, both of who are avid (amateur) athletes, we are happy our kids have adopted our love of sports and an active lifestyle. Perhaps not surprisingly, they have also adopted our love of sweets. While we are game for a little of summer-inspired indulgences, we try and regularly balance those out with healthy homemade options made with ingredients that are grown locally where possible.
What makes it more complicated in our household is our youngest child, who is five years old and has a number of life-threatening food allergies, turning store bought products or even stops at unknown ice cream shops into risks we're not willing or able to take.
Tasked with trying to please the tastes of both our highly allergic five-year-old and our eight-year-old daughter, a picky eater in her own right who abhors anything with chocolate, with the food preferences of their father, who won't eat anything with gluten or carbohydrates... well, let's just say the joy of cooking or baking is often lost on me.
Since getting this family to agree on anything food related is often an exercise in futility, the food challenge was a godsend. I was meal planning for weekends at the cottage, and was determined to end up with a family treat we would all eat more than just once. Was I successful? Read on!
Our task was to create a healthy dessert using the Challenge's list of ingredients. Luckily, none of them were on my son's restricted food list due to his allergies, so we could use quite a few.
I included the kids in most of the meal prep, but truth be told when it came to some of the ingredients, I snuck them in later while the kids were arguing over who had the better stirring technique, who could reach the shelf without standing on their toes (neither of them, actually), and who dropped the spoon the dog was now happily licking. Being in the kitchen really does bring a family together! In reality, it was a great exercise on a rainy afternoon and the kids loved helping and worked together well. And honestly, do they really need to know they just had Bibb lettuce and avocado in their dessert? Exactly.
My kids love crepes, but not being all that adept in the kitchen and still awaiting a crepe maker as a gift (that's a not so subtle hint to certain people reading this), I chose the easier route of creating a berry-pancake delight with organic maple syrup and yogurt topping. (A great option for breakfasts too!)
Dessert: Berry Pancake Delight
Main Ingredients used:
• Dark green leafy lettuce
• 500 mL (2 cups) of blueberries
• 500 mL (2 cups) of raspberries
• ¼ of an avocado
• 6-10 pieces of dark green leafy lettuce
• 250 mL (1 cup) or more of 1% milk or fortified soy beverage -- enough to help puree all the above ingredients into a smoothie-like pulp
• Use your favourite recipe, or try this recipe from About.com
Preparation: Using a blender or other device, puree all the fruit mixture items together so the consistency is similar to a thick smoothie.
Prepare and set aside your pancake batter -- you can use the link above.
Once the pancake batter is made, mix in your pureed fruit mixture. Mix until the batter is smooth.
Heat frying pan, skillet, add butter and make your pancakes. Depending on the size of your pancakes, this should make anywhere from 10 -- 16 pancakes.
If you are feeling extra indulgent, once they have slightly cooled, use cookie cutters to create fun shapes, or add fruit to make faces onto the pancake.
Use plain yogurt for the "hair," add maple syrup for sweetness, and watch them gobble it up.
The Verdict: This was very simple, easy, and fun to prepare. The kids loved watching their pancakes turn purple (from the pureed berries) and I loved watching them devour a couple of silver dollar sized servings knowing how much goodness was inside. The challenge was in getting the batter consistency right -- too thick and the insides didn't cook making for mushy pancakes but too little and the pancakes wouldn't form at all. So play a bit with the batter and be ready to add in more to counter how much liquid is being added through all the filling you are adding in.
Summertime is all about living the good life. It was great to see my kids biting into that, too.