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I was born in the 1980’s and Orange Julius was a favorite indulgence at the mall in my childhood and teens. Frothy, malty, creamy, orange-y and slushy all at the same time, it was definitely a treat. I’ve tried various homemade recipes over the year and while some were really delicious, most were fairly junky options to consume. I’ve manipulated all my trial and error to come up with this option. Depending on your sugar addition, this can still be a high-calorie food, but there are sugar-free options to try as well.
This is a REALLY simple recipe and is purposefully vague because each of us has their own preference. Start with the measurements I give you and then taste it before pouring it out of the blender cup in case you wish to adjust anything.
2 navel oranges, peeled, deseeded and cubed (use more if you want it to have a strong orange flavor, 2-4 oranges works)
8-12 ice cubes, depending on the desired texture (the more ice you add the more likely you will need to serve this in a cup with a spoon which may be a good toddler option)
1-2 cups low calorie non-dairy milk (use sweetened if you like)
1 tsp vanilla extract (this is really the key to mimicking the Orange Julius taste, so don’t forget it)
2 Tbsp-1/4 cup sugar, depending on desired sweetness; or start with 2 Tbsp erythritol
Optional: 1 tsp orange zest for serving
Directions: add all ingredients to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth and frothy, about 2 minutes. Serve in chilled cups on hot days. If too thick, you can keep it as is and serve in a cup with a spoon, or add more non-dairy milk until you reach the desired consistency.
If you wish to make a healthier version of this for your toddlers, keep the sugar down and focus on picking really sweet and delicious oranges to use and blend 4 of them, leave out the sugar but use slightly sweetened non-dairy milk, and don’t forget the vanilla!
If you involve them in the preparation there are a few things to consider that I will mention because it is all too easy to forget in our exhausted parenting haze. First, remember to clear the counter space you are working on so that no dangers surround your child’s learning/helping tower as they join you at the counter (or use a table and chair set instead). Second, remove and place the blade of the blender out of their reach but within yours so that you do not have to leave them unattended to get it when you are ready to mix. Third, remember that even very young children can help you prepare food, and will enjoy doing so! When you happily model healthy eating habits your child is very likely to follow suit and they will establish a connection to what they eat that is often missing in our modern times. This is building the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.
As far as getting them involved in the food preparation of this drink, some ideas that they can do for this are listed below:
- Peel the oranges! Toddlers LOVE to help peel citrus fruits. Since citrus fruits are very hearty, this is a good fruit to let them gain these skills with. First, place a kitchen towel under their work area to make sticky cleanup easier for you after. Start the peel for them as their small fingernails are still very delicate. Make a space the size of your thumbprint and then peel it out in each direction slightly for them.
- Sometimes it is easier of you cut the orange into quarters and them start a corner for them, but this can become VERY messy and sticky. Maybe an outside task on a warm day?
- Pouring the almond milk. Pour the desired amount of almond milk into a small pitcher (I started with this pitcher because it was more resistant to being dropped, but we also use ceramic and glass ones now) for them, and assist them in pouring that smaller amount into the blender cup.
- Measure out the sugar/sweetener. This can easily be done by you placing a smaller amount of sugar but more than you need in a non-slip bowl and giving them a measuring spoon to transfer it from their bowl to the blender cup. This needs supervision as well, but they may not need assistance.
- Transferring ice cubes. Place your ice cubes in a nonslip bowl and give them a large spoon (larger than the ice cube size) to transfer the ice cubes from the bowl to the blender cup.
- Cleaning up. Keep a small dust broom or dust buster around for them to help clean up spilled dry things, and a Swiffer to or small mop to help clean up wet spills. Making mistakes and learning to clean it up (they usually require assistance) is a great learning experience for any cook. Remain patient and observe them for cues they may need assistance. As the saying goes, there is no need to cry over spilled milk!
One thing you can do is to use a tray for them to work on/in so that you can easily clean up spills. If you are concerned about the tray slipping, then use nonslip backing on it (such as gluing on some shelf liner), or simply place a nonslip placemat (or, again, use shelf liner) under the tray and check that it cannot move around on it. Also, see my comments above about the benefits of messes and cleaning up.