An Easy Way to Cheat on a Weeknight

So I may have mentioned once or twice that I lie to my kids. What you may not know, is that I don’t just reserve my lies for lunches.

Weeknight lies are the unicorns of food lies – by nature, practical, easy, achievable in under 20 minutes (in this case, 19 minutes, only 2 of them active work!), and they by their very nature pack a nutritional punch that is meant to balance out all the slips and omissions we may have possibly probably sure-as-shit had during the day.

I give you, the frozen fruit.

Not the choking-hazard kind (I swear, if my husband let me slice his grapes in four, I would). Because, you know, that whole “first do no harm” oath.

But the kind that goes from tired piece of fruit (or veggie, if you like!), sitting on your counter, possibly requiring a good deal of coaxing (or else a very small serving) to have your child consume enough to make up for however many servings they may not have received throughout the day. And suddenly, BAM! It’s dessert. Or snack. Or snack/dessert.

It’s like my smoothie pops, but on steroids.

Because, guys! I’ve been using the Fruit Scoop from Cuisinart, and this thing can turn your fruit into sorbet/ice cream in under 20 minutes, from the moment you pick up the banana and peel it, to the moment you scoop it into your cuddle bug’s awaiting dessert bowl. Minimal prep-work. No simple-syrup-making, sugar-adding, blending, or pre-cooking needed. I mean … you can, if you really want to … the thing also works as a regular ice-cream maker, and there are plenty of recipes you can translate into this. But, just sayin’ – those recipes wouldn’t be ready within the time it takes to open a bottle of wine so you can stare at the contents of your fridge and contemplate Monday dinner unwrap and grill a few chicken breasts. You can go from whole fruit to sorbet in just that time.

 

cuisinart-fruit-scoop-sorbet-ingredients

 

It’s the Instant Pot of frozen desserts, pure and simple (and if you don’t own and love and Instant Pot yet, sit tight, we’ll get there in one of these posts, and use it plenty for lunches as well!). 

How, you ask? Unlike my other two ice-cream makers (why you gotta judge?), the mixer for the Fruit Scoop has a multiple blades. The instructions say to throw your soft fruit in as is (bananas, strawberries, other berries, mango, kiwi, peaches, plums, pumpkin puree, anything soft) and push the big button.

 

cuisinart-fruit-scoop-on-off

 

Highly technical, I know.

Instructions say 15-20 minutes – mine took 17 minutes for this recipe below. At 17 minutes, it was completely formed and ready to serve.

“But, Emi,” you ask, “how can that be? Surely there must be some draw back to all of this!”

There is one, but it’s a drawback that most basic ice-cream makers share. The bucket must be pre-frozen prior to using it. Not really a big deal – we always keep one or two of these buckets in our freezer so we can make ice cream or sorbet on a whim (because I may not have combed my hair in four days, but dammit, I will make post-call ice cream on a whim if I want to!). Any of the other ice cream makers take a good deal longer to make the frozen desserts, even with the pre-freezing (recipes often require 1-2 hours of ice-cream maker freezing, plus a few hours in the actual freezer), and this one IS READY IN 17 MINUTES!

 

cuisinart-fruit-scoop-making-sorbet

 

(By the way, if you would really love an ice-cream maker where you DON’T have to pre-freeze, and you don’t mind having to cook your ingredients or make simple syrup, or taking other steps to make more of a traditional dessert, then check out this ice-cream maker – I’ve had it for a couple of years, and I could not love it more. Check that – I COULD love it more, if there were some way for the damn thing to make my dessert in 17 FREAKING MINUTES!)

So now, cereal for dinner may actually look less evil, if you serve it with a heaping portion of “banana chip ice cream” or “fruit sorbet”. Major score.

And you know that craving you get your neighbor gets at 10 PM for ice cream, but it would take 20 minutes (and possibly the re-donning of undergarments) to go out and purchase it? Nope. You can put it together yourself, and have it ready to go, in less than the time it takes your toddler to ask for her third glass of water. GO!

Strawberry Mango Sorbet

(makes about 3 cups)
(Per the instructions on this thing, keep the bananas in the recipe for the creamy texture – they contribute little flavor if combined with other fruits – but play around with the other fruits)

  • 2 medium bananas
  • 1 ripe mango, chopped up into 1-inch pieces (try a large peach, if you prefer, since it’s in season now – hell, you can try canned fruit packed in juice, if you like!)
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled and halved
  • Now comes the hard part: hit that big “ON” button, and chuck your into the frozen bucket through the opening at the top of the lid.

Damn, you’re good.

 

A WORD ON FREEZER SPACE

I admit, I have a lot of freezer space. I live with four adult-sized appetites, and one healthy child-sized one, and I tend to freeze and pack 20 weeks’ worth of food for all the kids at a time. Plus, once upon a time, I used to do this regularly for dinners as well as lunches.

So, I have a freezer upstairs for regularly-used items, then a downstairs freezer for frozen lunches, and a separate chest freezer for when I’m feeling particularly go-getter-y (or for when I make Thanksgiving meals ahead of time because I have the stupid schedule). I call the chest freezer my Sexy Beast, and I make my hubby apologize to it if he doesn’t treat it with an appropriate level of tenderness.

The FDA does specifically say that a closed, full freezer will maintain its temperature for 48 hrs without power (a half-full one will maintain it for 24 hrs), so food does not need to be thawed or refrigerate or transferred anywhere, as long as you kee the doors closed. So even if your power goes out Saturday, your lovingly-prepared lunches should be safe till Monday when the repair guy comes! Just sayin’ …

Now, you certainly don’t have to have this. We’re going to work on how to maximize your packing strategies in order to best use your space, and we’re going to use flash freezing and labeling techniques that make my heart skip more than Ryan Gosling (who, for the record, has NOTHING on vacuum sealing). But you should plan on being able to fit two jelly roll pans or large cookie sheets into your freezer at once at any given time during your prepping. If you can’t do that, it may be worth it for you to take a look at getting yourself a separate freezer – not necessarily your own Sexy Beast, but maybe something a bit smaller and inconspicuous, that can still guard your hard work (and only cost you an extra $0.75 or so per lunch if you hold 4 months’ worth of meals for one person in it, right?).

ADDITIONAL

STILL NEED HELP PACKING LUNCHES?
Check out my feedback on how to pack the lunches, with reviews and discussion on cold foods, hot foods, beverages and lunchboxes! But if you don’t think you can take another second of wading through my never-ending drivel, and just want to cut to the chase to know what my absolute preferences are, here’s the short list:

  1. For hot foods, Funtainer Food Jar or Stanley Food Jar (sorry, you do need to make this decision yourself based on the details).
  2. For the rest of your lunch, and cold entrees, EasyLunchboxes system: containers, lunchbox, and mini dippers. Close second: PlanetBox.
  3. Funtainer water bottles (Doc McStuffin, Wonder Woman).

EMAILS:
Sometimes, I come across good deals and want to share them, but I don’t want to send you unwanted emails. If you’d like me to email you when I find something really good (like the Instant Pot that went on sale last week for $69.99) you can sign up for those emails here. These would probably be once or twice a month.

I’M ON INSTAGRAM & TWITTER:
You can follow me on Instagram @emiponcedesouza. You can also follow me on Twitter @poncedesouza. If you share your photos, use the hashtag #EmisLunches, and please tag me!

Posted on September 12, 2016 in Lunches

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