School’s Out for Summer – Smoothies all round then…

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Our best summer smoothie

So, another school year over and our kids are home for the summer. I look forward to summery days ahead, loads of reading, the odd spot of writing and sitting on grass, on sand, in the garden or hammock, sharing good food and conversation. A couple of weeks ago I made smoothies with a group of 60 or so young enthusiastic cooks in year 3. We had a tasting competition and worked with lots of different ingredients to make smoothies. Occasionally they went a tad wrong: too thick, too thin, too many blueberry skins, too sweet, too sour. But some shone with great taste and lusciousness. Because that is what cooking is like. A sort of constant magical blending experience in which learning is the key. Our favourite smoothie is a combo of frozen fruit and fresh. We use freshly squeezed orange juice ( 3 – 4 oranges) 2 handfuls of frozen raspberries and if they are a bit sour a dollop of light honey. Blend and devour. It really has the taste of summer even if the sun isn’t out. Don’t forget to add water to get a pouring consistency. Jack added rice milk to the one above, but water is just fine. But do, above all, experiment.

I am not going to write a long blog today but I am going to leave you with a few of my favourite things from my local shops. I have been testing cereals and have decided the best are to be found at EkoPlaza – The Hari Crunch company’s Open Up I can breathe is absolutely full of crunch and deliciousness. It consists of 30 % rolled oats, 26 % corn flakes with beet sugar (alas) coconut, pumpin seeds, pineapple, cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger, cloves and in an strange but interesting twist, tumeric and black pepper!  Everyone in our family loves it with lashings of homemade maple and raspberry sauce and some greek yogurt.

We think all of their blends are winners and we have to keep them under lock and key. Yes, they are expensive but not as much as the less yummy types we tried from both Marqt, and Eko Plaza. We weren’t so keen on the Rude Health cereal or the house blend from Marqt. Overly sweet we felt with some having more than 3 types of sugars in their ingredient list. Check out the ingredient lists on every cereal package, and you will be amazed how much sugar they are all putting in. It really is quite the scandal.

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Our other great discovery is the Raw Food Raw Bite bars available at Eko Plaza. I adore the lime bar and the coconut bar is pretty brilliant as well. We tried them cold from the fridge and although the kids were rather begrudging in their praise, I noticed they ate them up without too many complaints. I continue testing various recipes out on both my family and their friends. I am really interested to see if they are open to new foods, how they try them (with gusto or not) and how many foods are rejected hand out of mind simply because they look different. My advice keep trying and don’t make anything special for the fussier members of the family. They will come round in the end or else become very hungry.

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The Food Forum had a stand at the BSN summer fair this year giving out recipes, making smoothies and selling slices of cold watermelon and fruits. We had stiff competition from the cotton candy (candy floss), the lolli-pop and the sweet fizzy drinks – but in the end we sold out of all our ‘sweets’ of the vines and the trees. It really would be a great thing to see schools adopt a non-processed food policy at school events but alas it will be a long time coming as making a large profit seems to win out time and time again. Fingers crossed though for a fizzy drink free fair some time in the near future. If you should get a chance watch the BBC’s documentary about The Men Who Made Us Fat http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jxzv8

It amazed me so many reports had been shelved by the government in the United Kingdom which pointed to the real culprit in terms of obesity/diabetes being white sugar and the effects of super clever marketing to get us all to buy more fizzy stuff, more energy drinks, more sweets and biccies. Sad stuff and so greedy really! Sad too that the main Olympic sponsors reek of over-processed food and sugar.

Still onwards and upwards. Let’s think of great alternatives for our summer larders – have loads of veggies, fruits, whole wheat crackers, good honest cheese, nuts and dried fruit to hand. We almost always have a watermelon handy, cooling in the fridge. Do try making salads with watermelon, adding feta, lime juice and mint. Do go to the Haags Market and buy loads of apricots, peaches and fresh herbs. Take the kids and teach them how to pick the best fruits and veggies.  We will be making lots of salads, the odd souffle for Jack (he loves them), Spanish style tortilla’s, checking out the produce at Marqt (Mike loves their smoked Mackeral) and trying to stay away from processed foods as much as possible. I am the new Food Correspondent for Dutch Buzz (check out their weekly podcast on http://www.dutchbuzz.nl) and I am doing Happy, Bright cookery course in my home kitchen (next one is Wednesday 18th July in The Hague, The Netherlands. Mail me via this blog if you are interested). Above all I wish you a happy, relaxing, unwired holiday with fine food and loved ones. Enjoy!

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