Tag Archives: Snacks

Bananas

There are always bananas on my kitchen counter. I don’t ever need to write ‘bananas’ on my grocery list – they are one of the things, like milk, that I buy every time I go to the store. We have bananas for snack several times each week because they are so convenient to store and serve.

All the children like bananas – for some they are their favourite fruit – though occasionally I’ve had a child that briefly got tired of having bananas. However, I would not put bananas on my personal list of preferred fruits – I will only eat green bananas. (note: I also choose savory over sweet, vegetable over fruit consistently).

Whenever possible I will buy green bananas. If the store only has yellow bananas I will buy just a few and make another trip to the store later in the week for more. I cannot have ripe bananas in my kitchen – once I can smell them then somebody better eat them or I’ll have to freeze the bananas or bake something.

Yes, I do bake a lot of things with bananas – but I don’t usually eat any banana flavoured things. Luckily, the children do like most baked banana snack foods too.

I bought a bunch of bright green bananas on one of my shopping trips last month – and they would not ripen. This picture was taken almost two weeks after I bought these bananas.

Not only were these bananas still green, they were too green even for me – they were very hard and impossible to peel. I had to buy more yellow bananas to use for snacks. I am stubborn though and was determined to get these bananas to ripen or find another use for them.

I searched for uses for green bananas. One site suggested boiling and mashing them like potatoes – that just sounds gross. Another suggestion was to slice them and pan fry – I tried that at nap time one day in hope we would be able to have bananas for afternoon snack.

I still couldn’t peel these bananas so I sliced them and then cut the peel off. I fried them in butter and added brown sugar to make a sweet glaze. Even with the sugar they tasted just like fried potatoes! I absolutely LOVED them – the children definitely did not. None of the children finished their afternoon snack.

I placed the remaining green bananas in a paper bag with all the green tomatoes that I had picked from my garden before it got too cold. Over the next week, all the tomatoes ripened and we ate them but the bananas were still green. I thought maybe my house was too cool (I keep my thermostat set at 18C) so I tried placing the remaining bunch of green bananas in my oven set on ‘warm’ for half a day – didn’t help. Maybe these bananas were even more stubborn than me.

I checked the bananas again on Friday – almost four weeks since I bought them – still green, though may be not quite as hard as they had been. I placed them back in the bag and decided I would fry them all on the weekend – it would make a wonderful snack for my son and I but I wouldn’t expect the children to eat them.

I was busy outside all day Saturday – taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather – and didn’t check the bananas. On Sunday morning I prepared to fry the green bananas but when I opened the bag….ewww !

The bananas were suddenly not only all yellow but are they were even starting to turn brown. There is no way I will fry or even eat these bananas – too over ripe for me…but I know what the children will love for snack on Monday 🙂

What’s for Lunch?

I include a printed copy of our four week revolving lunch and snack menu in the handbook that I give to parents when they enroll their child. I always point out that the menu will change over time – possibly even before their child’s first day of care.

I have a current version of the full menu posted in my front entrance (licensing requirement) and the lunch menu is posted on my website because some of the parents like to check it periodically outside drop off/pick up times. I also have a printed copy on my fridge to reference when I am prepping meals and making my shopping list.

Over the years I’ve had some children, or groups of children that frequently ask “What’s for Lunch?” throughout the day. For this reason I have posted additional copies in both the main playroom and the art area. I encourage readers to check the printed menu instead of automatically expecting me to answer the question for them.

I don’t usually mind answering the question – often it is the beginning of a wonderful conversation. Occasionally it is more of a game where each of the preschoolers ask the same question over and over again leaving me to sometimes say “Same answer as I last time that question asked.” Still, this repetitive activity is wonderful for turn taking and communication skills.

I am a little more reluctant to answer the older children because I feel it is important to encourage them to seek answers instead of relying on me to provide information. Instead, I may just remind them of where the menu is posted and suggest they go check for themselves.

There are also options available for them to independently discover which menu week we are on and what day of the week it is so there is not really a need to ask these questions either. I won’t entirely refuse to answer when asked but I’m more inclined to just provide clues.

Many years ago there was a child for whom I was reluctant to answer the “What’s for lunch?” question. This child was, at home, extremely picky about what they would eat and adamantly refused to try anything new. If they knew in advance what we were having for lunch, they would obsess about it all morning, worried they may not like it, unable to focus on anything else or participate in play activities. By lunch they could have themselves so worked up that they would not be able to eat anything IF they even tried.

So, when they asked what we were having for lunch, I would reply “Protein, vitamins, fibre, sugar, fat and some dairy”. Then we would have a discussion about what their favourite foods were and we would classify those foods. At lunch time I would first Identify each menu item by its food group followed by “like your favourite food _____”.

With this approach, a group of peers who thoroughly enjoyed all foods, no pressure to clean their plate, AND no options for alternative foods, they were willing to at least nibble at what was on the menu. Over time they became far less stressed and picky about food. Sometimes they did not only clean their plate but ask for seconds too.

I still occasionally answer the “What’s for lunch?” question with “Protein, vitamins, fibre, sugar, fat and some dairy” – particularly when my preschool group has already asked that question multiple times that day. Most of my current group of children are definitely NOT picky about food at all.

When I tell them we are having “Protein, vitamins, fibre, sugar, fat and some dairy” they respond emphatically with “WE LOVE THAT!”

And it is true, they do 🙂

Bread

I’ll admit I have a bit of an addiction to bread. I always try to eat a balanced diet but bread is the one thing that I could eat way too much of. I have ‘comfort foods’ in all food groups and there are only a few foods – like seafood and olives – that I absolutely refuse to eat. Other foods in the ‘grains’ food group don’t entice me like a good piece of bread. I like pasta or rice but I could turn them down if I wasn’t hungry. A good piece of bread however I will never say no to.

I should clarify though that I don’t consider ‘white’ bread to be ‘real’ bread. White bread is like marshmallow fluff and doesn’t belong alongside good bread. Good bread has texture, weight and flavour. I haven’t bought white bread or buns for more than twenty years. I don’t even buy all purpose flour for anything other than Christmas Shortbread cookies. I modify all my recipes – sweet or savory – to use only 100% whole wheat flour, oatmeal and seeds.

I buy packaged whole wheat and seed bread for our everyday sandwiches and toast but many of our fancy snack and specialty breads are made from scratch. I have, long ago, done the whole mix, knead, let rise, repeat, bread making by hand thing but that was before I got my first bread maker. I can’t even remember how long ago that was but I do know I just killed my third bread maker.

As usual, in the morning before the children arrived, I had measured and added the ingredients to the bread pan, started the program and walked away. About an hour later there was an awful noise in the kitchen and the bread maker was dead. I had a brief moment of panic about the unmixed raisin bread we were supposed to be having for afternoon snack – then I decided I could finish it myself.

I scraped what I could get from the bread maker pan into a bowl, mixed it and hoped it was enough of the important ingredients. For the next few hours whenever I had a chance in between activities with the children I’d knead the dough a little and cover it again. I didn’t time anything – I wasn’t even sure how long or how often each knead/rest cycle should be – the bread maker always took care of that.

At lunch time I climbed up on a step stool to find an old loaf pan from the top shelf of my cupboard. The five-year-old commented “Geez Cheryl, why are you so short?” My “I am taller than you” reply may or may not have been out loud. I put the dough in the loaf pan to rise a bit more during lunch and planned to bake it at nap time. If I had been using the bread maker it would have been done already. *sigh*

While the children napped and the bread baked I read reviews and researched bread makers online. There were some really fancy ones but I wasn’t sure they would be worth the higher cost. My research was cut short as two of the children woke earlier than expected. Apparently baking bread works like a toddler alarm clock – I can relate.

The raisin bread was beautiful. The loaf pan makes a much nicer shaped loaf than any of the bread makers that I have owned. There were no holes in the loaf from the mixing paddles. The crust was so much nicer too – even on the ‘light’ cycle I find the bread makers create a very thick, tough crust.

I was beginning to wonder if I really needed to buy another bread maker. Could I make all my bread maker recipes by hand? Do I really have time for that? What if instead of buying a bread maker I bought some better loaf pans – maybe even some cute mini loaf pans? What if that just made me want to add more bread to the menu? How much more time would that require? I don’t have much spare time as it is.

I think for now I’m just going to leave the menu as is and see if I can make all the current breads without a bread maker. Then I’ll decide if I need to add/remove bread recipes or buy a bread maker or pans. The experiment begins…

Bananas

While shopping in the produce department of my local grocery store I spotted something I had never seen before – red bananas.  I was curious so I bought a few.

DSCN0196

Now, I’m always a little cautious with food related activities because I don’t want to encourage playing with food instead of eating it and sometimes negative food experiences can influence the children’s willingness to try new food items.

My plan was to compare the new red bananas with familiar yellow bananas so as I prepared morning snack I sliced the bananas like this;

DSCN0197

I tried a piece of red banana – advance preparation while the children were all still playing.  The experience was not what I expected.  For what seemed like an eternity I debated about trying to swallow the partially chewed banana slice or spitting it out.

I finally managed to swallow it.  It wasn’t the flavour that bothered me – actually, I wasn’t even certain that it had any noticeable flavour.  I was focused on the texture – it was horrible – grainy, dry…not like anything I have eaten before.

There was no way I could serve these red bananas to the children. Most of the children love bananas – these red bananas might change their opinion of bananas forever!  The children happily ate their YELLOW bananas with homemade biscuits and milk for morning snack.

The red bananas were left sitting on the counter while I did some research and debated about what to do with them now.  I wondered if they were maybe just not ripe?  I love under ripe yellow/green bananas because of the texture.  If the red ones were just under ripe would that account for the horrible texture?

I checked the red bananas daily – after a full week they finally seemed to soften a little.  Tentatively I tried another small piece.  It was fabulous! Wonderfully sweet, mild banana flavour and perfect texture.  Today we would have yellow and red bananas for afternoon snack.

I showed the children the whole red banana and asked them to identify it.  “Banana!” was the unanimous response so I asked if they noticed anything unusual about the banana.  The responses included;

  • “They are tiny.”
  • “They are straight, not curved.”
  • “They are made of meat – ham.”

OK, this is not at all what I expected.  I asked if they noticed anything about the colour.  They replied that the bananas were red – a fact they seemed to think was so obvious that it wasn’t even worth mentioning. Now, enough talking, let’s eat.

Everyone loved the red bananas as much or maybe more than the yellow bananas.  The only exception was the one child who doesn’t like yellow bananas – she wouldn’t even try the red ones.

I doubt the response would have been the same if I had given them the bananas last week.  I guess that they are ripe now but the colour hasn’t changed, just the flavour – and the texture.

Sprouts

We’ve been trapped indoors all week because it is too cold to play outside.  If I had magic powers winter would be gone and we’d be out in the garden.  Instead, I brought the garden in to us.

We haven’t had much success with our indoor gardening in the past.  Indoor ornamental plants do OK but our attempts to grow edible plants indoors have usually failed.  I decided that this time we would try growing sprouts.

First the toddlers checked out the sprouting supplies that I purchased from Sage Garden Herbs;

sprouts01

We had two different types of seeds, an Ancient Eastern Blend, and a Crunchy Bean Mix. We put one type in each of the two sections of our sprouter;

sprouts02

Then we rinsed them with water.  We used the little toddler sink so everyone could stand and watch the seeds and water mix;

sprouts03

Then, we put on the cover and placed it on the counter until the next day.  At morning snack time we checked the sprouter.  Starting to grow already!

Sprouts - Day One
Sprouts – Day One

We rinsed them again and by Wednesday there were even more sprouts;

sprouts-day2
Sprouts – Day Two

More water and Thursday – Wow!

Sprouts - Day three
Sprouts – Day Three

Time to taste them.  Baby one just wanted to play with them;

sprouts04

Baby two was unimpressed;

sprouts05

Both the two-year-olds ate theirs.  One claimed they were ‘delicious’ but shuddered after every bite.  The other ate them by the handful and wanted more.

sprouts06

I absolutely loved this gardening project which we could see from seed to harvest in under a week.

Replacing Crackers

I was at a meeting with other childcare providers and the subject of crackers came up.  Conversation centered around the use of crackers as the ‘grain’ portion of meals and snacks.  There was a brief moment of silence after I commented that I didn’t think the children liked crackers all that much so we rarely have them here.

Then I had to clarify my statement;  The children don’t like the crackers that I am willing to buy.  I have searched through the cracker aisle in the grocery store and read every label.  My husband has been near meltdown stage begging me to just pick a box and move on. I sigh and choose a variety that is somewhat (barely) acceptable.  I won’t advertise the brand but this is the nutrition label;

crackers01

The sodium level is still too high but it is less than some of the other types and at least it has some fibre.  Most crackers have none – even many of the ones that claim to be multigrain or wholegrain.  The only ‘benefit’ to this purchase is that this 200g box will be in my pantry for at least two months.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Even with eight children in care it will take about that long to finish a single box of crackers.  There are some types of crackers that the children really do like and will consume more of but the nutrition labels for them are nearly identical to that of a bag of chips.

Our four week menu has two snacks per day, five days per week for a total of 40 snacks.  Each snack has a serving of each of these food groups – fruit, dairy and grain.  Currently I only use packaged crackers for two of those 40 snacks.  So what are the other 38 you ask?

  • Oatmeal – the steel cut kind – I refuse to buy/make the overly processed varieties.
  • Store bought breads & bagels – always whole wheat or multigrain – the heavier the better.  We haven’t had any type of white bread here in the last 10 years.
  • Homemade breads etc – apple bread, raisin bread, pumpkin loaf, biscuits, and more.  I use only whole wheat flour even when the recipe calls for all purpose.
  • Breakfast cereals – high fibre with limited sugar – a processed item that I think is acceptable when only offered once per week.
  • Quinoa Pudding
  • Quesadillas made with multigrain tortillas
  • Homemade cookies and bars – all contain wholegrain flour and old fashioned oats

There are also a few snack items that I am considering eliminating.  Things like rice crispy squares and store bought waffles, and graham wafers. A total of six items in the four week menu that I’d like to replace – eight items if I replace those crackers too.

These items might be considered ‘treats’ but are certainly not necessities.  I’d even question the use of the term ‘convenience’ in reference to these items.  Healthier options are not a lot more work.  A big batch of biscuits or scones takes less than an hour to prepare, bake and clean up after.  They freeze well so they can be prepared in advance and used a required.

What about the cost of homemade snacks verses the cost of store bought items? Financially I think it varies but most of the homemade items are less expensive.  Time wise homemade items may cost more unless you are like me and spend hours in the store reading labels before you buy.  Nutritionally there is no contest – homemade always beats processed.

So, I’m off to find some new recipes.  I’ve got a long weekend ahead and a half empty freezer.  First up I think I’ll try something I’ve never made before – biscotti.  Maybe I’ll find a way to use all that pumpkin puree I have left from last fall…