Last year I had a lot of trouble getting my daughter to eat at school. Between limited time – mostly time hanging out with friends – and limited choices, she just wasn't eating.
This year, I decided to make her lunches instead. The idea at first went over like a lead balloon. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I needed to rephrase the language when I introduced it as healthy and good for her.
After a several arguably tense discussions and quite a few rolling eyes, lunchtime meals are now decidedly healthy, but still fun and delicious.
One of the main requests was for Fruit Roll-Ups. This quintessential kid staple is normally chock full of added sugars, dyes and preservatives. LINK
However, you can make your own roll-up fruit leather without adding anything unhealthy. It's so simple; should be kicking myself for not figuring it out sooner.
This is pretty much a no-fail experiment. Let your kids pick out two or three of their favorite fruits – strawberries, blueberries, peaches, etc. You won't need any extra sugar, but you can use it if you want. Honey, stevia and agave work well, if you are looking for a natural sweetener. I don't add any sugar and just let the natural sugars do their part instead.
You can add vanilla flavoring or lemon juice or zest for a little extra zing, as well.
This is also a perfect way you can take advantage of what local growers and local farmers markets have to offer.
Twinkle's Tasty DIY Fruit Leather:
- 4-5 lbs. of fruit (berries, peaches, plums, apples)
- 2-3 tbs. lime or lemon juice
- 2-3 tbs. zest
- 1 tbs. pure vanilla extract
- Food processor
- 2-3 medium sheet pans
- Plastic wrap
- Parchment paper
Heat your oven to the lowest temp, usually 140 degrees, but anywhere between 140-170 degrees works. Mine doesn't go any lower than 170, but some go quite a bit lower.
Line your pans with plastic wrap. Smooth away any creases and press out any air bubbles. I know you may be thinking: "Wait, plastic wrap in the oven?" And the answer is yes. You'll never get the oven hot enough for it to melt.
You can also use non-stick silicone baking mats. Parchment works, but you'll have to spray it with a non-stick coating prior to baking because the fruit tends to stick, making it unable to peel off the paper.
Wash fruit and chop roughly. Process in a food processor until smooth.
You can just use one type of fruit, or you can mix up a few – mixed berry, peach-blueberry or apple-banana for example.
Mix in your vanilla, lemon or lime juice and zest. One of my kids' favorite flavors is cinnamon-apple. I mix in a little vanilla, a tsp. of cinnamon and lemon juice into the pureed fruit.
Spread your fruit into your lined pans, about 1/8 in. thick, and wiggle the pans to try and get everything even.
Place the pans into the oven for 6-8 hours for drying. I usually do this at night while I'm sleeping, that way the oven is free for cooking dinner and other meals during the afternoon. And you shouldn't have to worry; you are mainly just heating the air so the fruit will dry faster.
You'll know your leather is done by using what I call the "squish" method. All you need to do is press down on the fruit. If your finger doesn't create a dent in the dried fruit, then it is done. If the edges look crispy, or overly dry, you can cut them off.
When your fruit is completely dried, peel off the plastic wrap or baking mat and lay your new fruit sheet onto a piece of parchment paper. Cut the paper the size of the fruit.
You can now cut strips with a pizza cutter, scissors or knife. Roll up with parchment paper to keep the fruit from sticking to itself and it's ready to go into your kid's lunch box!
For a little fun, you can cut out shapes with cookie cutters or chop in smaller pieces for a bag of mixed bits of fruit leather.
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and appeared on "The Best Of..." in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.
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