The weather has suddenly turned ungodly hot here and a few days back a friend bought an ice cone machine to make icees for the kids. There was much excitement and anticipation and jumping and down and fetching of ice. The machine shaves the ice into little bits which the kids caught with a paper cone. It was adorable. Then we poured disgusting, toxic, artificially flavored sugar syrup all over them and let the kids eat them, isn’t that cute?
I didn’t intend to be this kind of parent–the dietary uptight kind. When I was growing up, my parents were big-time hippies. Seriously, you have no idea. One of my dad’s favorite dinners to cook for us when I was growing up was a bowl of brown rice, topped with shredded purple cabbage, carrots, sprouts, raw walnuts and soy sauce. I don’t know what it means in the bigger picture of things that that sounds kind of weirdly good to me now. My school lunches were sandwiches on whole wheat bread, peanut butter from the health food store and an apple. Or raisins, woo-hoo! Even back then people had better lunches. I had friends that had Capri Suns and little bags of chips and got to order the crappy hot lunch. You have no idea how badly I wanted that crappy hot lunch sometimes. Anyways, we never had any junk food or soda or chips, which was fantastic in that I never developed a taste for junk food or soda or chips. However, I also never developed a taste for moderation. When I grew up and left the house and got my hands on whatever foods I wanted, I went nuts. For like a decade. Looking back, I thought that if I had had a small amount of the forbidden fruit, I would have been better prepared to incorporate it into a healthy lifestyle in a reasonable way. I thought that if I had kids, I would be a more cool, relaxed parent that did have some junk around and wasn’t too hardcore.
Then I had kids, and like with so many other things, kids quickly divested me of my sanctimonious ideals. What I have seen in the last 7 years is that crappy food is thrown at my kids from every direction on a regular basis. Even if we keep our house relatively healthy, they are offered junky food all the time from other places. At school there are birthdays, and holidays and Fridays and 100-day days and sugary rewards for reading. After soccer, where parents take turns providing snack, there are Doritos and “fruit snacks” (no fruit there) and soda. On the weekends there are birthday parties and goodie bags and swim meets with doughnuts and hot chocolate. There are summertime outings to frozen yogurt (read the ingredients there? let me just say, there are more than 5). The crap is everywhere. Even though I want to be that mellow-not-uptight parent that I imagined myself being, the reality is that all of these special occasions add up. They add up to a lifestyle.
So, the other day when the bright blue, high fructose corn syrup was being drizzled on the shaved ice, I just found myself being really annoyed. Too many “special” occasions, too many exceptions, too much junk! Pretty soon the junk becomes the norm rather than the exception. Plus, from a chef’s perspective, those syrups taste disgusting. So, I made a quick blueberry syrup using blueberries, agave syrup and water. It took about 10 minutes. The kids were rounded up for a taste test (they were happy to co-operate) and the verdict was that the blueberry syrup was “way good-er”. So, here it is, a way good-er blueberry syrup that is perfect for shaved ice, or pancakes,to drizzle over yogurt or ice cream or to mix in sparkling water for a fruity drink. Because it is made out of actual fruit, I would argue that this syrup can be eaten on only a semi-special occasion, like on your pancakes for breakfast this weekend.
I made this syrup with agave syrup. Is agave syrup healthier than sugar? I have no idea. It appears to be a fairly controversial subject. This recipe would work just as well with sugar, although I did like the slight viscosity that the agave gave the syrup. I also made an apricot syrup, equally delicious and slightly thicker–depending on your apricots you may need to thin it with a bit more water. This same basic formula could be used for any kind of summer berry.
- 2 cups blueberries, washed and picked through
- 1 cup agave syrup
- 1 cup water
- Combine ingredients in a pan.
- Bring to a boil and simmer until the berries are just soft, about 5 minutes.
- Puree the mixture in a blender.
- Strain through a medium-fine strainer.
- Use a ladle or wooden spoon to push the mixture through the strainer.