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Cooking with Kids

Drink Your Fruits
By Chef Mary Sue Milliken

Sometimes a mother has to use her wiles (or a cheese coating) in order to coax kids into eating what's good for them. I call those cauliflower times. Fortunately when it comes to fruits, especially in summer, a mom can relax. All you have to do is keep plenty of good fruits on hand and offer them up to hungry kids. Who could refuse a perfectly sweet-tart berry or a cold slice of watermelon on a hot summer day?

My problem tends to be an excess of fruit in the house in summer. When I visit my local farmer's market everything looks so luscious—I lose all restraint and just buy, buy, buy. Dainty, fragrant melons, glossy red strawberries, tender peaches—I want them all! After a few days at home though, these very ripe fruits start their downward spiral towards becoming overripe.

Blend Me a Cool One

That's the perfect moment for liquados. Mexico has a whole repertoire of fruit-based drinks called liquados or aqua frescas. They're sold at stands, where colorful mangoes, papayas, bananas and limes are piled high and all a thirsty tourist has to do is point at the right fruit. The counter person then briskly chops and slices, whirs the blender with a few key ingredients like water, milk and ice and hands you a fantastic, healthy drink. They're like low-priced smoothie stands.

If you want to get your kids into the habit of making liquados at home, rather than grabbing a soft drink or an overly sweet fruit drink, all you have to do is make it easy. I leave the blender out on the counter, heap fruits in baskets, perishable berries in the fridge and chunks of everything in the freezer. (When fruits are overripe or I've bought too much, I wash, cut and freeze them for future liquado-making.) I also stock milk, plain yogurt and honey in easy to reach places.

One, Two, Three, Whir!

A favorite summer drink of mine is the simple watermelon juice we make at the restaurant, called sandia in Mexico. It's so light and refreshing, plus it has the instant appeal of being ice cold and pink. Older kids can peel and cut the fruit and measure and add the ingredients, while littler ones get the thrill of pressing the blender button. Extra liquado can be stored in a pitcher in the fridge.

All of these drinks are so easy to make that you hardly need a recipe. You and your kids can experiment with whatever fruits you like and adjust for sweetness with honey or sugar and tartness with lemon or lime. Using milk or a banana adds richness, plain yogurt adds a nice tang and more than one fruit adds complexity. When the water and ice get buzzed up in the blender, it makes for a nice and frothy liquado. With the money you're saving at that upscale smoothie stand, just think of all the fresh fruit you can buy!

Get fresh with these fruity drinks:

Watermelon Juice
Mango Liquado
Fresh Fruit Liquados

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