Cooking and Eating with KidsRecipes | Laura Seery | May 10, 2010 at 9:17 am
So I don’t have any children of my own (yet!) but I have had the opportunity to cook for kids and observe kids’ behavior when you set a plate of food in front of them. They are not an easy group to please! As Dr. Nishant Rao explored here, if a meal deviates too far from what they are familiar with, if it has too much “green stuff,” or if it doesn’t contain an appalling amount of sugar, salt, fat or other additives, convincing kids to eat it will likely be a losing battle. To combat these challenges, I’ve compiled a series of techniques and recipes for kid-friendly cuisine.
Idea #1: Get kids involved! When kids learn about what they are eating and have a hand in preparing it, they are more apt to enjoy it. A favorite of mine is an interactive build-your-own pizza meal. Ready-made whole wheat dough is available at many supermarkets (or can be prepared at home ).
- Spread dough thinly on a baking sheet or pizza stone according to directions, or let an older child assist with this part.
- Set out pizza toppings and let your little artists create a masterpiece on their blank canvases!
- Opt for healthier alternatives to traditional ingredients, like grated skim milk mozzarella, Italian turkey sausage or pepperoni, and sauce made from simmered canned diced tomatoes, (adding fresh spinach to the sauce can sneak in a range of vital nutrients).
- Are your kids a little more adventurous? Try diced pineapple, olives or mushrooms. You never know how much you can get away with! Make it fun and suggest making a smiley face, flower or animal with their toppings.
- Bake and enjoy this fun way to get the family together for dinner!
Idea #2: Lie to them! White lies, of course–In this case, what they don’t know won’t hurt them. A long-time family recipe that Chrissy Dionese Lac and her cousin Shannon shared with me is the Disappearing Vegetable Chicken Soup. It is an uber-comforting dish that works for adults and kids alike, mainly because the kids don’t know that they are eating vegetables at all.
- In a large pot, cover a whole chicken with water or broth and boil for 1 hour along with coarsely chopped carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, broccoli (or pretty much any other vegetable that you have lying around or that is in season).
- Carefully remove chicken and place in a separate container to cool. Skim off any excess fat from the surface of the remaining stock/veggie mixture.
- Using a hand blender, puree the softened vegetables (as finely or as course as you need it to be in order to pull the wool over their eyes!).
- Shred chicken and discard skin and bones. Add chicken back to pureed veggie mixture.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and allow soup to cook for another ~30 minutes to allow soup to thicken.
- Optional add-in: towards the end of cooking, add mini cheese tortellini, mini star pasta or elbow macaroni to the dish. Be sure to follow the pasta’s cooking instructions as to not overcook.
Idea #3: Rework one of their old favorites. If your kids can’t be convinced to move away from the same old familiar dishes, then try putting a new, healthier & homemade spin on one of the classics.
Whatever name you call them–Fingers, Nuggets, or Tenders, when you take a tasty, protein rich food like chicken, bread it and deep fry it, you are definitely knocking it down a few rungs! Try the following recipe for Crispy Chicken Nuggets with Hidden Vegetable Puree to put a positive spin on the snack.
- 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
- ½ cup flax seed meal
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
- ½ teaspoon each of paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder
- 1 cup Vegetable Puree (try broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, beet, pumpkin, or a blend)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into “nugget”-sized pieces
- Salt, nonstick cooking spray, and 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Blend together breadcrumbs, flax seed meal, parmesan, and spices.
- In a separate bowl, blend vegetable puree and egg with a fork.
- Lightly sprinkle chicken with salt, dip into the egg/veggie mixture and toss in the breadcrumbs until completely coated.
- Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray heat on medium high. When hot, add the oil. Place the chicken in the skillet in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd, and cook ~3-4 minutes or until crisp and golden.
- Turn and cook other side until chicken is fully cooked, golden brown, and crisp all over, ~4-5 minutes longer.
- Serve warm with ketchup or barbecue sauce and roasted potato wedges.
Idea #4: Indulge with them (every once in a while). If you can’t beat em, join em! There’s a reason restaurants add the “ages 12 and under” disclaimer to their kid’s menus—adults crave kid friendly foods too! Try this fun dessert that takes all the sweetest parts about being a kid and rolls them into one: A Waffle-Nutella-Banana-Brulee!
- Preheat your oven to broil.
- Toast a multigrain waffle until golden brown (I like the ones by Van’s—they also come in Flax, Gluten Free, and mini sizes).
- Spread with a thin layer of Nutella (a rich chocolate-hazelnut spread, available at most larger grocery stores) and top with a layer of sliced bananas.
- Place a small handful of mini marshmallows on top and quickly broil to toast marshmallows.
- Drizzle with caramel sauce, and…yummm! Perhaps follow this up with a lesson on dental care for the kiddos?
Laura Seery creates memorable events for San Diego's most discerning eaters at Culinary Concepts Catering. A graduate of University of California, San Diego and a self-taught chef, Laura enjoys writing for her blog about all things delicious, nutritious and green.