From Picky Eater to Squid Eater

Fun kid-friendly brunch ideas

This Easter my kids are going to be taking care of breakfast. And yours can too with these easy ideas and recipes:

 

Child mixing up eggsYeasted waffles: Let your kiddos mix up the batter and use the waffle iron.

 

Mini quiches: Encourage your kids to make their own mixins’ like broccoli, cheese, tomatoes, and more.

Mini quiches

Mini bread: Yeah, I’m on a mini-streak, but kids love to make things that are their size.

 

Break out the cookie cutters: Deck out your brunch with cheese, thinly sliced veggies, bread, and other little goodies your kids create.

Appoint a fruit salad crew: My youngest loves to make fruit salads. It doesn’t need to be exotic fruits–apples, bananas, and oranges do just fine.

Child making fruit salad

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Kid’s book review: Molly Moon + ketchup pinwheels

Molly MoonI’m excited about a new project going on at MKES: Kids’ book reviews. I’ve asked my kiddos to weigh in on their favorite books–with this twist–we’re making recipes inspired by the characters.

 

One of our favorite series is about a clever girl who discovers she has a hidden talent or two (no wonder my daughter is eager to read each new installment!). But I’ll let my 4th grader explain the rest.

 

Book Review: Molly Moon

Hi I’m the youngest in our family and I finished the book Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism. It is about an orphan named Molly Moon who has a tough time fitting in. She is picked on by the other kids at the orphanage and the staff there. But all of that changes when she finds a book about real Hypnotism! She then learns how to hypnotize people by studying and studying. Her friend Rockie helps too. Along the way she picks up a loyal companion, a cute dog called Petulia! An a interesting little detail about her is her absolutely favorite food is the weirdest food of all, ketchup sandwiches. She loves them so much she hypnotizes people to give them to her! This book is an amazing book. If you are a person who likes realistic fiction/action/comity/thrilling books this is the book for you. I had a lot of fun reading this book. I would recommend this book to children of all ages. So if you haven’t read this book or any of the thrilling sequels I’d go and get them. If you have read it I’d suggest reading the other books in the series or write back and tell me how it was. I hope you read this amazing book!

Sincerely,

The youngest squid eater

 

Recipe: Ketchup pinwheel sandwiches

 *I should mention this was more of an experiment than a culinary delight.

Prep time: 5 minutes (or less)

Servings: As many as you can eat

 

Ingredients:

1 slice bread

1 tbsp. ketchup

 

Child eating ketchup pinwheels

  1. Let your child thwap a piece of bread until it becomes paper thin.
  2. Slather ketchup onto the bread.
  3. Starting on one end, roll up the bread (yes, you’ll get ketchup on your fingers).
  4. Cut the ketchup roll into circles.
  5. Take a deep breath and try a ketchup roll.

 

Our verdict on Molly Moon’s favorite food: We decided after sampling ketchup sandwiches (even “fancified” ones as my daughter put it) you’d have to be hypnotized to really enjoy these. Sure, Molly likes the ketchup/bread combo and my daughter said she was glad she gave it a try. But as for becoming a ketchup sandwich fan like Molly, she says she’d rather read about it!

Ketchup pinwheels

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5 Ways to get your kids to go green

Beautiful broccoliMy tween went on a hunt today to find something green to wear tomorrow so that she won’t get pinched on St. Patrick’s Day. Her quest got me thinking that this holiday might just be the perfect excuse inspiration to encourage kids not just to wear green, but to eat more green.

 

Here are a few ideas that seem to be working around my house:

 

Keep it smooth

My teen and youngest are now hooked on my magic smoothies, which include spinach and go from green to red once you add in berries.

Add it in!

Whenever I make pasta I try to throw in some spinach or other greens too. I figure the more my kids see it on their plate, the more likely they are to eat it.

 

Make it easyTween eating lime

I make little baggies of cut up veggies and put them in the fridge so my kids can grab them as a quick snack.

 

Use the power of TV

While there are plenty of TV shows and ads that might have your child reaching for junk food–there might just be a few that could encourage them eat their veggies. For example, my youngest is a huge fan of the BBC Merlin series. She’s entranced with all things English. So when I mentioned that there were “English” cucumbers she decided they’re now her favorite.

 

Be an example

If you like greens, chances are your kids will too.

 

 

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Quick kitchen tip: teaching kids to cut

Learning to cutPart of encouraging kids to try new foods is to get them involved in preparing them. To help my kiddos get comfortable using knives–and to teach them to use them safely–I have them start out with a kitchen knife.

 

Bananas, strawberries, and English cucumbers are easy enough for kids to cut with a kitchen knife.

 

For harder fruits and vegetables, I start by cutting the apples, pears, or peppers into large pieces. Then I have my grade schooler cut them into smaller pieces using a serrated knife.

 

Here’s a few meals that are perfect for your sous-chef-in-training:

Fried rice

Salsa

Pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spinach pistachio pesto

Pesto on breadMaybe it’s from watching one too many episodes of Popeye growing up, but I love spinach. I try to eat at least a little spinach every day, whether it’s a simple salad, sauteed with pasta, or in smoothies.

 

So the other day when I was hankering for some summertime flavors, I decided to use some baby spinach as a stand in for part of the basil in a pesto recipe I ran across in Lidia’s Italy in America cookbook. Sure, I mixed in some basil, but the spinach gave the pesto just the right consistency and bright shade of green. As Lidia suggested, I mixed the pesto in with my pasta. We used the extra as a dip for the bread. Next time, I’d skip the pasta and just serve the pesto with the bread. I was literally scrapping the bowl of the food processor with bread to get every last drop–it was that good.

 

 Getting kids to try it tips:

  • My youngest will eat just about anything if it’s dippable. She gave the pesto rave reviews.
  • My tween isn’t a spinach fan. So I thought I might tempt her to give it a try if I mixed it with something she does like–pistachios. She tried the pesto, said it was, “Okay,” and left the rest untouched on her plate (uh, I ate it later;). She didn’t like it this time, but she was at least willing to give it a try, especially when she knew something she liked was in the mix.

 

pesto in blender

Pesto is so easy to make–everything just goes into the blender!

Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: About 1 cup

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup packed baby spinach leaves

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves (opt.)

1/4 cup pistachios

1-2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (opt.)

2/3 cups olive oil

1 tsp. white vinegar (or fresh lemon juice or my preference, white balsamic vinegar)

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

 

Directions

  1. In a food processor, pulse together the spinach, parsley, basil, garlic, and pistachios.
  2. Slowly pour in the olive oil. (In my Cuisinart, you can pour the liquid into the feed tube and it works perfectly.)
  3. Process the ingredients until smooth.
  4. Add in the pepper, if using, cheese, vinegar, and adjust the seasoning.

 

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Cook your quinoa!

These might look pretty but be careful, these can crack a tooth!

My teen has been going through a quinoa kick lately. After several successful meals with quinoa as a side, usually tabbouleh style–with a vinaigrette dressing, lots of fresh veggies, and a dash of feta–we decided to branch out. She found a recipe for multigrain breakfast bars where you toast uncooked quinoa in the oven along with oats and nuts to make the base of the bars.

I knew the recipe was going downhill when I tried to process the quinoa batter in my food processor. The batter was supposed to start to come together. It stuck. You could hear the little quinoa seeds popping as the blades turned. And turned. Undeterred, we figured that’s just how the batter was supposed to be–thick and unspreadable. Spatula in hand I forced the batter out into a parchment-lined 9 x 13″ baking dish and popped it into the refrigerator, just like the recipe said. Thirty minutes later I tried to cut the quinoa bars into squares. The knife wouldn’t even go in. At all. It was quinoa concrete.

We broke the 9 x 13″ bark apart instead and hopped for the best as my teen and I took bites. I should say nibbles really because that’s all that you could get from these quinoa multrigrain bars. My teen claimed they were okay, but today I tossed out the full bowl of our quinoa multigrain bars. No one had seconds (or really made it through firsts).

I haven’t given up on multigrain bars, just the idea of leaving quinoa uncooked before putting it into a batter. My teen hasn’t asked to try any quinoa recipes since. But I’m set on trying more. That’s part of being an adventurous eater, so you don’t like something uncooked like quinoa, or spinach or tomatoes… Next time try it a new way and maybe you will enjoy it.

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Kid-pleasing zucchini chocolate chip muffins

Do you have a favorite zucchini bread recipe? I had some extra zucchini on hand this week that needed a home so I used a quick bread recipe from Eating Well. But instead of bread–which takes around an hour to bake–I made muffins instead shaving a good 40 minutes off the cook time.

My kids ate these muffins as dessert after dinner, as treats for school, and after school snacks… Yeah, they really liked these. My youngest even told me these were “the best kiwi muffins, ever.”

Recipe

Courtesy of Eating Well

Prep time: 15 minutes + 15 cooking

Servings: 18 muffins

Ingredients:

3/4 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small zucchini; I used my Cuisinart)
2 cups white whole-wheat flour (I used half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

My additions (opt.):

1 tablespoon ground flax

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla, and sugar.
  3. Stir the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in another bowl.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just moistened.
  5. Stir the chocolate chips and zucchini into the batter. (You can also stir in the optional additions here too.)
  6. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter.
  7. Bake for around 15 minutes or until just browned (insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin to test for doneness, if the toothpick comes out clean, your muffins are done!).
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Albonetti Seafood Trattoria in Monterey, California

Photo credit: MontereyWharf.com

There’s no better place to inspire your kids to try seafood that right where it’s caught. Sure, the Costco jumbo bags of shrimp are fine, but when you really want fresh fish, you’ve got to have an ocean nearby. So last week while visiting Northern California, I encouraged my kids to eat plenty of fish.

After spending the day at the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium we walked down to the Wharf for dinner. Seafood restaurants line both sides of the Wharf. They also compete for guests by claiming to have the best clam chowder. Each restaurant has a person posted outside during busy times to lure customers inside by giving them chowder samples. We must have sampled around five or six different chowders before settling on Albonetti’s.

While the creamy clam chowder at Albonetti’s quickly became my middle daughter’s favorite (seriously that’s all she had for dinner. The child who hates peanut butter loves clam chowder), their real specialty is squid. Albonetti’s uses squid caught in the Bay and then cleans them fresh daily. Albonetti’s is one of the few restaurants that cleans their own squid–some 1,000 pounds each week. Interestingly, much of the squid caught locally in Monterey Bay is sent overseas for cleaning and packaging before making their way back to area restaurants.

Marty's Special (Sorry for the dark shot, I didn't have on the flash.)

At Albonetti’s fresh squid is a passion (I didn’t realize until the waiter enlightened me that for many Italians, squid is comfort food). They have an entire section of the menu just for different varieties of calamari, from traditional to their own take on Buffalo-style squid.

But the best thing on the menu, and that we sampled during our week in No Cal, was Albonetti’s Marty’s Special. It’s been on the menu since the family-owned restaurant opened over 60 years ago. The waiter literally did a jump of excitement when my oldest daughter ordered it. The squid is prepared like veal Parmesan, breaded and fried and served along with eggplant in a rich marinara that simmers for 10 hours before topping this dish. The tender texture of the squid melds perfectly with the robust flavor of the red sauce and the smattering of melted mozzarella cheese. This is one dish I can’t even attempt to make at home. I did find one recipe for Albonetti’s Marty’s Special online.

Your turn–have you ever found a food that your kids were more willing to eat when you were on vacation? How do you find good places to eat while traveling?

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Tips for tackling summer snack attacks

Anyone else suffer from the summer snack attacks? You know where potato chips, boxed mac ‘n cheese, and other usual no-nos or occasional treats become regulars in your kitchen cabinets? During the school year I’m pretty good at planning out dinners beforehand and having relatively healthy snacks on hand for my kids after school. While I thought summertime would make it even easier for my kids to eat good-for-them foods, what with berries, peaches, melons and all sorts of goodies available, it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

I’ve discovered a few tips for the summer snack attacks that we’re trying around our house, maybe they might work for you too.

Keep it whole. It takes minutes (seconds, really) to down a cup of applesauce. But eating an entire apple? That involves more time and attention. I’ve found my kids feel fuller and are more satisfied when they eat whole fruits and veggies instead of juices or sauces.
Keep it cold. On a hot summer day my kids (okay, so do I) crave ice cream and other icy sweets to cool off. My teen started a trend that’s become a tradition around our house–eating berries right out of the freezer. While you can pick and freeze your own, I also like Costco’s mixed bag of blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Keep it fun. So your kids like some unconventional snacks, hey as long as they’re good-for-them, I say go for it. My middle child loves to eat whole limes–she’ll take her time sucking out the juice then eating the inside. She’ll happily spend her entire 10 minute swim break at the pool taking apart her lime, piece by piece. I can’t think of a better snack, although I’ve seen a few people give her a doubletake as they pass by. My youngest likes banana chips dipped in peanut butter.

Keep it handy. Stash the once-in-awhile snacks where your kiddos won’t seem them all the time and make sure healthier snacks are always within reach. I like to keep bowls of fruit in the middle of my kitchen table so it’s easy for my kids to grab a healthy treat. In the fridge I put mini carrots, cut up cantaloupe and baby cucumbers in various clear containers so my kids know right where to find them.

Your turn–what do you do to help your kids eat healthy snacks in the summertime?

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Can a good workout cure a picky eater?

Coconut shrimp

My kid eats…shrimp! Finally. Do your kids ever fall in and out of love with certain foods? That’s how it’s been with my youngest. She used to be a shrimp fiend. Then, notta. Wouldn’t even take a bite, and that’s a no-no around our house. I’m not sure when she stopped liking shrimp but I wasn’t about to let her give up on this fast-cooking seafood marvel that I serve about once a week.

Among picky eater experts there’s a saying that it can take over 10 tries to introduce your child to a new food. But there’s nothing about how many tries it takes to re-introduce a food to a child who has decided she doesn’t like it.

And that’s where I got creative: yes, I’ve continued to make shrimp. Here’s some of our favorites:

But just having shrimp on the table didn’t guarantee that my normally not-to-finicky eater would take a bite. Enter basketball camp. Five hours of it. My youngest came home exhausted, and hungry. I made a dish I didn’t figure she would like, but it’s one I’ve been craving, shrimp etouffe (I would pass along my recipe but it’s different every time). It’s spicy, packed with peppers and onions and I thought my kiddo would fill up on the wild rice and corn. Nope. She polished off her shrimp then asked for seconds, and thirds (I’d only given her three to start). By the end of the meal, my hungry kiddo was a shrimp eater. It might not work all the time, but if you have a once-adventurous eater that’s nudging toward pickiness you might take her outside for a nice long workout then inside for a good meal.

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