A Kale Smoothie Kind of Easter

Wow.  We’ve had a whirlwind for the last couple of days what with visiting family, trying new recipes, and preparing for Easter.  We’ve had a wonderful time (as we always do when Big Sis is in town) and once again, we’ve learned a few things…

LESSON ONE: BLUEBERRIES WORK
Blueberry EggsBig Sis and I (and our respective spouses and offspring) descended on our parents yesterday, having previously hatched up (har, har) a plan to dye Easter eggs as a group. Having discovered that Paas (and everybody else) includes food colorings that we find objectionable for contact with food, we decided to try some natural dyes. We also decided(some wisdom here) to bring crayons and stickers in the event that things didn’t go according to plan… We tried several recommended options, including beets, turmeric, paprika, spinach, green tea, something else I can’t remember (“brown”), and blueberry. Remember how I said I don’t always follow ALL of the directions? Well, apparently if I’d read ALL of them (or more than one post about them), I’d have discovered that MOST natural dyes perform best when you boil the eggs WITH the food. Oh… Blueberry, apparently, is an exception to this rule. So we had a wonderful time coloring, stickering, and dying fabulously purple eggs.

LESSON TWO: A SOLID FOUNDATION RULES THE DAY

I’ve been dreading this day a bit, because of the whole sugar extravaganza.  We had a lovely dinner with my parents last night that included delicious deserts that all four of us consumed with great vigor.  It’s possible that I overdid it…  And so when I woke up this morning, the last thing I wanted was to eat candy, to see candy, to provide my children with candy, or to argue about candy.  I did give them a little in their Easter baskets, but none of the consequences that I feared came to pass.  It was absolutely no surprise to them that they would have to wait until after breakfast to have any.  It was no surprise after breakfast that they would be limited to one small item.  They have asked a couple of more times and we’ve let them work through a few Jordan almonds, but there has been no drama, no whining or complaining, and the sugar amounts have been small enough that there’s not even been an obvious sugar freakout.  I am so delighted that I can provide them with a “treat” and have it incorporated into our family’s rules about food so seamlessly.  I guess all of the earlier conversations are paying off.  Hallelujah indeed.

LESSON THREE: A KALE SMOOTHIE HELPS JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING

So I mentioned that I overindulged a bit yesterday and as happens during holiday weekends, I felt a bit done with the food celebration before we got to the actual event.  So this morning after the children found all of their bits, I went out to the kale patch and harvested the last of what last season’s still living plants had to offer.  Stuffed it into a blender with a whole bunch of other bits and served it with the hard boiled eggs that tradition commanded and some toast.  I had a small amount of the egg salad (because my husband makes KILLER egg salad), but drank down a huge glass of that kale smoothie, and my oh my but I felt better after that. The “recipe” below is fairly approximate as in my haste to complete the task before the wheels came off the children’s respective carts, I got a little loosy-goosey with the measuring.  Adjust to your and your own crew’s preferences.

FOOD HANGOVER KALE SMOOTHIE

  • 2 Tbs chia seeds*
  • 1.5c water
  • 2-3c fresh kale
  • 2 frozen and 1 fresh banana
  • most of a can of pineapple and some of the juice
  • handful of frozen cherries
  • 2 handfuls of fresh blueberries
  • 1c cold water
  • handful of ice cubes

Place the chia seeds in a bowl or glass with 1.5c water and set aside.  Place all other indredients in blender.  You may have more luck adding the items as you blend, depending on your blender.  When you’ve finished assembling other ingredients, check chia seeds.  They should seem a little jelly-like; if it’s not, give it a few more minutes.  Blend like mad and adjust ingredients to your preferences.  My crew LOVED this one.  I’m pretty sure we were close to the 3 cups of kale and the cherries added enough sweet and color to keep that reality from my children altogether.  This made EXTREMELY generous portions for four very willing consumers.  Delish.

There you have it folks, Easter traditions done (our way), important lessons learned, and glorious weather enjoyed with family members who are also great friends.  Perfect.

* A Note About Chia Seeds.  Yes, these are THE chia seeds.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about you may well have been born sometime after the 1980’s; the rest of us are busy hearing a jingle in our heads.  “Ch,ch,ch chia pet.”  Yes.  Same chia.  The seeds are highly nutritious and can add body to other foods if mixed with liquid and allowed to sit.  I’ve used them here to increase the nutritional punch and to give the smoothie more, well, smoothie feeling, thickness, without resorting to either adding protein powder or using so much frozen fruit that my Vitamix gets ticked off at me.  I get mine in bulk at my local food co-op and I have also seen them in my local Wegman’s.

The Habit-Driven Holiday

So I attended the twins’ pre-K Easter party today.  Mercy.  I actually really enjoy rooms full of pre-schoolers because I’m weird like that.  I do have to admit, however, that my enjoyment becomes somewhat strained when we give them all a plate full of “treats” to eat and then set them loose on the world.  The volume increase alone can be staggering.  In my attempts to reinforce my kids’ good eating habits I usually feel like a Scrooge at all holiday affairs.  Don’t get me wrong, I let them partake, but do a fair amount of talking beforehand and whatever meal they have before an event like this is exceptionally nutritious and my expectations for their participation in consuming that meal are very high.  While the table of offerings at their parties have, thankfully, decreased a bit since the parties at the beginning of the year, it is still chock full of nibbles that my kids don’t usually get (including candy) and each of these parties includes some kind of take-away that also includes candy. …  See, you’re even thinking I sound a little mean.  And maybe I am, but I just don’t think a 5 year old needs to consume the sugary equivalent of a King Sized Snickers bar (and even I can appreciate the wonder of a King Sized Snickers bar) as an afternoon snack to celebrate Easter.

So in my concern about these dietary issues, I’ve assumed that I am alone, that the other parents think this is fine and dandy, and that I am the only one who thinks this whole equation doesn’t add up.  But today I listened.  Each of the parents that came to help was coaching children to take some of the healthy choices, pushing grapes and carrots and popcorn, eagerly offering water over juice boxes, placing limits on the time and amount of take away candy consumption that would occur.  Sighing and shaking their heads as they watched the escalation begin.  So I left wondering why, if we all think this is a bit much (as we seem to), we continue to do it this way?  These kids are 4 and 5 year olds; wouldn’t now be the easiest time to train them NOT to expect all of the junk?  Wouldn’t now be the time to develop family and community traditions that don’t require us to walk around harping after our children and thinking we didn’t pull it off anyway at the end of the day?  Let me be clear; I am not suggesting that we stop having parties.  And you should know from my earlier posts that I am also not suggesting that we ban chocolate.  I just want to explore the scale.  So many of our daily dietary choices are based on habits, and often on habits that are not particularly healthful.  Do we continue to binge and to teach our children to do the same out of habit?  And do we then grimace at the amount of noise and the tears that follow 40 minutes later when they crash?

Lest you all think that you should send my children Easter treats in the mail, I should tell you that next weekend, they will get Easter baskets and that those baskets will have some candy.  A chocolate bunny, some mini chocolate bars, and some lovely white Jordan almonds.  No high fructose corn syrup (which wasn’t THAT hard to do) and none of the food colorings that are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “Food Additives to Avoid” list (this was harder).  Their baskets will also have a small toy (thank you Legos).  As for eggs we will, at some point, be dying eggs…  I have yet to decide HOW we will be dying them as all of the “kits” also include “Avoid” colors.  I am sure, however, that I will be able to convince my children that any method we choose for coloring eggs is fun.  What 5 year old doesn’t want to do a messy art project as a family?

Should you do what I do?  That’s not what I’m saying.  Is all candy bad?  I have NO idea (except about chocolate, which is good, plain and simple).  I do know that for ME responsible parenting means trying to bring as many days as possible into some kind of alignment with my fundamental beliefs.  I fundamentally believe that the additives in much of our food are cumulatively harmful; I actively stress the importance of teaching our children to eat better than we do.  Celebrating a holiday does not mean giving up who I am, and who I want us to be.  Separating our harmful habits from our cherished traditions may well help us to enjoy our holidays and celebrations even more, as ourselves, and as who we want to be.

So that’s my plan for the upcoming holiday. What’s yours? Is it what you want it to be? Are you celebrating by habit or by design? And, more selfishly, if you do something cool and food safe with eggs, do tell. Yes, there are millions of things out there on the web… Which are your favorites?