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Kid-Friendly Cooking

How to Make Food Even Your Toddler Will Love

Kid-Friendly Cooking

In so many ways, our kids are our toughest critics - and absolutely when it comes to our cooking. I'll admit to feeling near-despair after taking the time to make to prepare a fresh, healthy meal only to have my child refuse to eat it - or even taste it. At the same time (more so when he eats it), preparing good, homecooked food for my son is also a joy - and definitely part of what lets me know I'm doing a good job as a parent. For all our of our own trials and successes with cooking for kids, we've come up with a few recipe 'hits' that have helped us out, so we're here to share the love!

A Bit of Context on Picky Eaters

Kids are picky eaters for lots of reasons, but there's one major reason this sets in during early toddlerhood. (This is the stage our littlest member of Easy Food & Wine is in right now). When young babies start to become more mobile, they're able to go a bit farther from their parents and nature has evolved this trait of picky-eating to help protect them in this stage from eating something that could be toxic. Once they mature a little more, and Mom and Dad have had a bit more time to teach their kid what to eat and not to eat, the pickiness starts to improve.

What does this mean? Don't feel like it's your fault, or something your child can help - but the best thing you can do is to keep trying new foods but don't expect to win with everything. On the contrary, making efforts to introduce a lot of foods early in your child's life will pay big dividends when they're a little older and before the pickiness becomes a tougher habit. Many experts say it can take trying a food more than 10 times before your kid even really knows if they like it or not. So don't be pushy, but be consistent. We also find 'modeling' by eating the same foods you want your kids to eat also helps a lot. The grass is always greener, right :) ? Whatever's on Mom or Dad's plate is automatically fascinating.

Recipes that Work with Kids

#1 - Baked Meatballs

Baked Meatballs for Kids Recipe We love to make this in a big batch then freeze the meatballs in small plastic bags. Pop a couple in the microwave for 30 seconds and you're ready to go! You can use this mixture of ground pork and beef, or ground turkey works as well as an alternate.

3 lbs ground pork + 1 lb ground beef
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, minced
4 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup parmesan
1 small bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Spray baking sheets with non-stick spray. Scoop evenly sized portions of mixture, roll into balls, then place on a baking sheet. Bake meatballs for 20 minutes or until browned on exterior. Check interior of a sample meatball to make sure meat is fully cooked through - than serve, or cool then freeze!

#2 - Risotto with Carrots

Risotto Recipe for Kids Risotto is a great food for young kids because it's much easier for them to eat, since the rice sticks together in pieces that are easy to pick up. It also makes a good neutral canvas to add extra ingredients like veggies. In this version, we add carrots but you can get creative.

1 cup arborio rice
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, heat stock to a low simmer and add carrots. In a skillet, add 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add rice and toast for 2-3 minutes. Add a ladleful of stock to rice and stir with a wooden spoon. Monitor heat on the pan so that stock stays at a low simmer as it cooks into the rice. As liqiud is absorbed into rice, add another ladleful and stir regularly (this stirring releases extra starch from the rice which gives the risotto its creamy texture).

Keep going adding and stirring in stock for 20-25 minutes, until rice kernels are just slightly 'al dente' or almost cooked through. Take half of carrots and a 1/4 cup of stock and blend into a puree, then add into the risotto with parmesan and stir into risotto. Finish cooking risotto until most of the liquid has been absorbed - then cool and serve!

#3 - Turkey Meatloaf with Chunky Vegetables

Turkey Meatloaf Recipe for Kids

This is a recipe we used to enjoy for an easy weeknight fix even in the BC-era ('Before Children'). It's also a great recipe for kids, because the chunky vegetables that are mixed into the meat both keep it moist and make sure they get those extra veggies.

>Get the Recipe

#4 - Homemade Pizza with Whole-Wheat Dough

Chourice Sausage Pizza

Instead of serving a frozen or takeout pizza that might be processed or greasy, try making your own dough (it's super-tasty with whole-wheat!), and choose healthier toppings. This recipe from our site uses sausage, but you could use all veggies or lighter ingredients like turkey pepperoni.

>Get the Recipe

Other Resources:

This book was given to us by family, and it's been a great resource to us. It starts with recipes for making fresh, homemade purees for babies, but the back of the book also features recipes for older kids (and a few special things just for mom and dad!). We especially love the recipes for chicken and vegetable soup and zucchini muffins with whole wheat and flax seed.

Check out the book at Amazon.com:

Baby Love: Healthy, Easy, Delicious Meals for Your Baby and Toddler

Written by Chef Geoff Tracy, of Chef Geoff's in Washington DC, together with his wife Nora.

What recipes do your kids love to eat? Share with us at amyandmike@easyfoodandwine.com.

Next Article: Valentine's Day Menu Ideas

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