Back To School Smoothies
I'm not sure where the summer went, but kids are already going back to school and it's not even September yet! In the old days, going back to school meant it was time to put on a cozy sweater to wear at the bus stop, but when school starts in August, it's definitely not sweater weather yet. Recently, I had a chance to go to the U.S. National Arboretum — a beautiful place to visit if you're ever in Washington, DC — for a Let's Read! Let's Move! event with John King, the Secretary of Education, and Debra Eschmeyer, executive director of the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative, along with a lot of other really great people doing wonderful work with children.
Some amazing kids joined us to read a very funny book called Diary of a Worm (I had way too much fun with that book), and then Chef Peter Smith of Marriott Corporate Headquarters and I made some delicious smoothies with fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden — using a blender that was powered by, yes, a bicycle!
This whole experience inspired me to think about fast and nutritious breakfasts when it's still too warm outside to really enjoy a bowl of steaming oatmeal or a big ole pile of buttermilk pancakes. The beauty of a smoothie is that you can put anything in it that you like, and it's also a really great way to sneak in a few veggies that your little ones might not always think look appetizing — plus it's the kind of thing that kids can make for themselves, which is a great way to give them some independence. Last but not least, a smoothie is a portable meal, perfect for sipping while waiting for the school bus. Be creative and have fun with it!
Here's what was in my smoothie:
1/2 cup blueberries
1 ripe banana, cut into chunks
2 Swiss chard leaves, stems removed, torn into pieces
1/2 cup of orange juice
Throw all the ingredients into a blender and blend it until it's smooth; add more juice if it's too thick, then drink up.
I know, you're saying, "Carla, did you really put Swiss chard in that smoothie?" and I can only say "Yes, I did, and it tasted great!" Some of the other things that we had on hand to put into those smoothies included kale, cucumbers, watermelon, strawberries, peaches, and fresh herbs — there really is no limit to what you can put into a smoothie, and there was no need to add any sugar, honey or any other sweetener.
• If you want to add a punch of protein to your smoothie, include some plain Greek yogurt or almond or soy milk.
• Got some overripe bananas sitting on your kitchen counter? Cut them into 1-inch chunks, toss them into a zip-top freezer bag, and put them in the freezer. Anytime you want to make a smoothie, just pull out a few chunks of banana and throw them into the blender.
• Busy morning ahead of you? Make those smoothies the night before and put them into the refrigerator in reusable water bottles, so they'll be ready to go when you are. Just shake the bottle a little to mix all the ingredients back together.