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Simple Sides: Tropical Fruit Quencher

Image of Tropical Fruit Spears with Berry-Orange Sauce
Children in this country consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where can adult attention might be especially needed.
Image of recurring kids
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience and confidence in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a” week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.

It’s summertime, so the cookin’ should be easy! Like hardly any cooking at all, though the whole family can help prep this tropical fruit delight that could be a refreshing afternoon snack on a hot summer day or a healthy dessert paired with something sizzling on the barbie! Either way, who can pass on spears of mango, papaya, pineapple and watermelon slathered in a fresh strawberry-raspberry-orange sauce!?

While the best way to stay hydrated is with thirst-quenching chilled whole fruit, especially compared to sugary drinks or fruit juice that has been squeezed of beneficial fiber. However, a family effort is called for this recipe as a few of the components are a little difficult to handle. Namely, pitting a mango with the goal of getting the most amount of useable fruit ranks high in degree of culinary difficulty for your kitchen helpers; as well as coring a pineapple, which comes in a close second. Both are best left to the adult in the room. Once the fruit has been readied for final preparation, your kitchen helpers can take over by slicing the bulk fruit into handy “spears” that can be enjoyed out of hand or with a fork. The papaya and watermelon are more kid-friendly to handle with one caveat. Slicing tip: Avoid cutting the fruit into strips that are too thin to be picked up at one end without breaking in half; besides, a wider flatter “spear” will hold more of the scrumptious sauce!

Ah! The luscious strawberry-raspberry sauce is what really makes this dish! Elevating each serving from just a plateful of tropical fruit slices to a decadent delight that has no age limit to enjoy. This is the only cooking part of the prep and is very well worth the effort, not to mention the culinary education. So, pull up a chair to the stovetop, if need be, so your helpers can learn how to make this versatile sauce that could be served to complement many other dishes. Plus, the preparation requires mastering the key to all good cooking: culinary patience. In a world where ordering at one window, then picking up at the next, almost immediately creates shortages in the culinary patience department. For this sauce, they will just have to slow down and stir for about 20 minutes until thick! Serve hot or cold to top ice cream, cake, pancakes, crepes and muffins, just to name a few. The sauce probably stores very well in the fridge for several days, though it only lasted overnight in mine since demand exceeded supply at the next morning’s breakfast table!

Serving note: A few weeks after preparing the dish for this blog, I tried first grilling the spears, sprinkling each with Melissa’s Hatch Chile Powder and THEN applying the same luscious sauce. It was a real keeper as the moderately pleasant heat was offset in perfect balance with the sweet berries. Try it!

Tropical Fruit Spears with Berry-Orange Sauce
Serves 6
Image of ingredients
1 mango, peeled, pit removed
1 papaya, peeled, seeds removed
½ pineapple, peeled, cored
½ mini watermelon

For the sauce
1 ½ cups fresh raspberries
1 ½ cups strawberry
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup orange juice

What the supervising adult should do:
Peel and pit the mango. Slice off top and bottom, then core and skin the pineapple half.

What the kids can do:
Image of sliced fruit
Slice the mango and papaya fruit into long spears.
Image of sliced pineapple
Slice the pineapple into long spears.
Image of sliced watermelon
Slice watermelon in half, then cut each half into 1-inch-wide slabs horizontally and then vertically to create spears.
Image of sauce
For the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small pan, crush the berries with a wooden spoon over high heat, stirring the mixture until it starts to boil, then turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Stir every so often so the berries don’t stick to the pan. When the consistency is thick like oatmeal, pour the sauce into a separate container to cool. The sauce will thicken significantly as it cools.
Image of sliced fruit arranged on plate
Arrange the fruits on a large serving plate. Cover and chill.
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