J.M. Hirsch

Give your kid ice cream for breakfast? Yes!

Last week, I told you mini chocolate chips were a healthy choice for kids. This week, I’m urging you to give them ice cream for breakfast.

It’s really not as crazy as it sounds. Especially the way I make ice cream.

When I suggested chocolate chips, it was as an enticement. Sprinkle a tiny amount of chocolate over otherwise good-for-you foods, and you’ll usually get a lot more buy-in from the kids. Yogurt is a prime suspect for this.

The beauty of this week’s suggestion is that it needs no such enticement. It’s ice cream!

Well, sort of.

Here’s the deal. I make ice cream out of frozen fruit. And it’s so much better than it sounds.

You might have heard about this, as it was kind of trendy a few years ago. Some company even sold a special machine that churned frozen fruit into soft serve.

But you don’t need a fancy machine. And who cares if it’s no longer trendy. It’s a delicious, healthy and – in this summer heat – wonderfully cool and refreshing treat you can feel good about giving your kids any time of day.

Here’s how it works. Grab some frozen fruit (I use about half a 12-ounce bag per serving). Pop it in a food processor with a tiny pinch of salt (it heightens the flavors) and a splash (no more than 1/4 cup) of juice or water (just enough to keep things moist at the start). Puree until it reaches soft serve consistency, usually about 2 minutes. Scoop it and enjoy.

So those are the basics. And really any frozen fruit works. You can freeze your own, of course. And that certainly is the most economical. But truth is, I usually keep purchased bags of my son’s favorite fruits in the freezer for whenever the ice cream mood strikes.

Here are some simple guidelines that will help you crank out truly amazing fruit ice creams.

  • Size matters. Unless you have a seriously strong food processor, the frozen fruit should be in small chunks. Strawberries, for example, should be halved before being frozen.
  • Start and stop. You may need to open the processor a few times and stir to make sure all the fruit chunks are getting pulverized.
  • Go bananas. All fruit makes good ice cream, but bananas make the best. The flavor is amazing, and the texture is velvety smooth and rich. I buy bunches of bananas when they are a little brown and a lot cheap, then peel them, break them into chunks and freeze them in a big bag. You also can add a few chunks of banana to other fruits for an ice cream blend. Blueberries, for example, can have an icy texture on their own, but are crazy good with a little banana added.
  • Avoid too many seeds. Raspberries and blackberries make delicious ice cream, but their seeds add up fast. So consider using these fruits as part of a blend.
  • Season, don’t sweeten. Resist the urge to add sugar, honey or another sweetener. You really don’t need it. Instead, try a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg, or a splash of vanilla extract. And switch around the juice you use to play with flavors. Orange, lemon, lime, pomegranate, cherry, even grape (with blueberries).
  • Cone it and sprinkle it. Since this ice cream is pure, unsweetened fruit, I don’t hesitate to serve it to my son for breakfast or snack. I also don’t hesitate to indulge and let him put it in a cone or add a few sprinkles to the top. After all, the kid is eating nearly a half pound of fruit.
  • My top fruits? Banana is the best, but mango is a close second. Peaches are great, as is a blend of blueberry and banana. Pineapple is terrific with banana, too.
What about lunch? Believe it or not, I’ve packed mango ice cream for my son’s lunch. And it worked. Here’s how. I started by setting his thermos in the freezer for 30 minutes. Just before I was ready to pack his lunch, I made the ice cream. Then I scooped it into the chilled thermos and screwed on the top. For extra insurance, I set an ice pack directly up against the thermos. My son LOVED it. Ice cream. In his lunch. It really gets no better than that. And I could feel good about it.
J.M. Hirsch is the national food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs about the trials and tribulations of his son’s lunches at LunchBoxBlues.com. His upcoming cookbook, Beating the Lunch Box Blues, will be the first to be released by Rachael’s new publishing venture, Rachael Ray Books. Hirsch’s previous books include High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking and Venturesome Vegan Cooking. He lives in New Hampshire with his son, wife, and too many cats.

5 Responses to “Give your kid ice cream for breakfast? Yes!”

  1. [...] Give your kid ice cream for breakfast? Yes! [...]

  2. NYC Mom says:

    omg…can’t wait to make this for breakfast tomorrow!

  3. Susan says:

    Regarding the bananas: I just take the brownish ones and freeze them in the skin. The plop them in a plastic bag for double freezer protection. These can be used in the ice-cream, banana bread, whatever. Saves time and plastic use.

  4. J.M. Hirsch says:

    Hope it’s a hit. It is so good. My son ate the ice cream in this photo as soon as I was done taking it.

  5. Dee says:

    Great idea. Thanks!!!

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