School started for us in Mississippi about four weeks ago, but I know that in other parts of the country and world, parents are just now preparing to send their kids back to school. For vegan parents, that means we start looking for good foods to put into our children’s lunch boxes. And while we want the food to be healthy, we know that it also has to be something that our kids will actually eat. That’s where these Vegan Jello Cups come in.
Most kids love “jell-o” and my daughter is no different. We’ve been happy lately to find Dole Fruit Gels in the supermarket, and the mandarine orange flavor, at least, is vegan. But they’re relatively expensive, contribute to landfill waste, and contain added sugar and artificial flavorings. So what I’ve been doing is making my own gel cups at home, using 100% fruit juice and no added sugar.
The recipe below made about 8 Fruit Gel Babies, but then my daughter and her friend got home from school and ate most of them (well, I helped a little). I used various sizes of plastic cups–I think the ones shown are 4 ounces each–and went very simple and used canned fruit salad packed in juice, but you can use freshly chopped fruit. Just be sure to dip apples and bananas in orange juice to prevent browning, and avoid using fresh pineapple because it will prevent the agar from gelling.
I’ve included a link to agar powder at Amazon, but for the best price, look for it in a local Asian market. There they should have Telephone brand in small packets for around two dollars.
Fruit Gel Babies
These took a grand total of 10 minutes to make and less than an hour to firm up. Feel free to go all creative and add food coloring and interestingly shaped fruit if you want, though I have to say that the kids in my house didn’t need any tricks to get them to eat these Babies.
- 1 28-ounce can fruit packed in juice (or 2 14-ounce cans )
- 1 1/2 cups apple juice (approximately)
- 1 teaspoon agar powder
- small bowls or containers
Drain the juice completely from the can of fruit into a 2-cup measure. Add apple juice to equal a total of 2 cups of juice. Pour it into a saucepan, and sprinkle the agar over the surface. Set it aside to soften for a few minutes.
Divide the fruit equally among the containers. (You may use 8-10 tiny containers or fewer larger ones.)
Stir the agar into the fruit juice, and begin heating it. Cook, stirring regularly, until it reaches a boil. When it’s boiling and all the agar seems to be dissolved, remove it from the heat. Spoon it equally over the fruit in the cups–you’ll want to fill them almost to the top so that the gel won’t slosh around in your child’s lunchbox. Tap the bottom of each cup gently on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
Let them cool on the counter; then put tops on the containers and place them in the fridge.
Kid-Friendly Bonus: E’s Top 5 Lunchbox Entrées
E’s lunchbox often contains the same boring things: either PB&J sandwiches or SmartDeli “bologna” and olive sandwiches. Other days we get a little more creative and get out the thermos. Here are her favorite things to see when she opens her lunchbox:
1. Hummus with crackers/pita wedges and carrots
2. Spaghetti with marinara sauce or any leftover pasta dish
3. Thai Kitchen rice noodles or ramen noodles (I add broccoli slaw while cooking the noodles to add more nutrients.)
4. Mexican Sushi or burritos with refried beans
5. Split Pea Soup, once the weather cools down
6. Ridiculously Easy Lunchbox Enchilada Casserole
Of course, this can’t compare to the variety of lunches on the vegan lunch box blog, which you should check out if you haven’t already. There are a whole lot of ideas there, for grown-ups as well as kids!