Easy (and Healthy) Cooking With Kids: Dark Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Friends and family have asked me why I don’t blog about food, since we cook all the time. I always laugh, because everything we make is basic, messy, and decidedly un-foodie. I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in our family fun-time kitchen adventures. And, I don’t know how all the food bloggers take such gorgeous food photos: scrumptious, glossy closeups with those fuzzy professional edges. I’m not a food stylist, or a photographer. Also, I figured that branching off into recipes may be drifting too far off-topic.
But as the kids grow more independent, and start to make their own food choices (demands, really) I want them to make good choices. Healthy choices. At least, most of the time. And that’s very doctor-mother.
I see the consequences of poor food choices every day in my clinic. Hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, which leads to strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, amputations, et cetera…. But I’ve found that even when we catch these medical issues early on, and it’s made clear that dietary changes can slow or even reverse the pathological process, we can’t get people to change the way they eat.
So many people eat what they grew up with. They may not have developed a comfort level with fruits and vegetables. That produce aisle can be intimidating, if you’ve rarely seen anyone make a homemade fresh salad, or stir-fry, or fruit dessert, never mind tasted one. I can’t tell you how many people I encounter in clinic who eat fast food every single day, sometimes more than one meal; that’s commonplace.
Now, our kids have no idea what McDonald’s, Burger King or… any of those places are, actually, but they will. Babyboy loves pizza and hot dogs and french fries…
So, when we go to the grocery, I let the kids pick out foods from the produce aisle. I let them buy crazy things, even if I’m not sure what we’ll do with them. Multicolored carrots, three varieties of pears, kumquats. Babyboy always, always picks out eggplant. He’s kind of obsessed with eggplant. Not that he eats it, but he so loves peeling it and chopping it and watching what I do with it. Hence, we eat alot of eggplant lasagna (my simplified version). He also grabs peppers and zucchini with regularity. Has he eaten those things? No. But he gets such a kick out of cooking them. In my mind, he’s developing a comfort level with vegetables.
Babygirl loves to choose brightly colored fruits, especially berries. Like Babyboy, she enjoys helping to cut everything up. We pull two kitchen chairs up to the counter, I give them plastic knives, and they get to work on soft kiwis, cantaloupe, strawberries, ripe pineapple. We’ll make a big fruit salad, and they both eat that. (Yes, major handwashing before food preparation. Still, I wouldn’t serve their creations to guests, unless very well-cooked…)
Today was my day to pick the kids up from school. So when I went solo to the grocery, I tried to think, what can we make after school that would get them excited? Lately, as we’ve been attacking potty-training, using miniature chocolate treats as rewards, all they’ve wanted is chocolate. But how to make chocolate healthy?
Well, dark chocolate is somewhat healthy… all those antioxidants. Research has shown that people who eat dark chocolate regularly have lower risks of strokes and blood clots (but don’t ask me to pull references from the literature right now…) And, it’s almost Valentine’s day. What’s more timely than chocolate-dipped strawberries? I’ve learned that chocolate bits melt so much easier if you add a bit of oil. How about coconut oil? All the health-nut rage these days. Voila:
Dark Chocolate- Dipped Strawberries
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (We used Ghirardelli, which are 60% cacao)
1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
A package of large fresh strawberries, approximately 12
A microwave-proof glass bowl
wax or parchment paper
a baking sheet
Wash and thoroughly dry the berries. The chocolate sticks better when they’re very dry. I dumped the washed berries out onto a baking sheet, and the kids dried them with paper towels. We joked that the berries had just come out of the tub.
Do not remove the caps.
Let the kids pour the chocolate pieces into the bowl, and add the teaspoon of coconut oil (the oil is a solid until it’s heated).
Place the bowl in the microwave and heat on high for about 45 seconds. Remove and let someone stir. The only thing melted will be the oil. Microwave again for 30 seconds, and stir. Repeat maybe twice more, until pieces are all basically melted. If there’s only a few small chunks left, stir for a minute and see if they melt without any further microwaving. Chocolate burns very, very easily, and it tastes awful when it does.
Place a piece of wax or parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Let each kid gently grasp a berry by the green cap, and lower into the chocolate “bath”. You use the spoon to push chocolate up each berry until they are coated. Then each kid lifts their berry and lets excess chocolate drip off.
Have them place each berry onto the paper-covered baking sheet. Repeat for all the berries.
Place the baking sheet of berries in the fridge (or, as we did today, on the porch. It was 2 degrees today!)
Let the chocolate harden into a shell; this may take only a few minutes.
The berries can then be gently removed/peeled from the paper and stored in a tupperware for up to 2 days.
(The berry in the photo below that lost part of its chocolate shell was probably still wet.)
Enjoy your rich, decadent, beautiful, and yet virtuous dessert!