Posts tagged picky eaters
“Holidays” are a great excuse to introduce your kids to new foods. Yes, I’m using air quotes as I type. Cinco de Mayo–literally, the 5th of May–is an American invention (granted, there was a battle in Puebla, Mexico, in 1862 where the much smaller Mexican army defeated a large French force). But you won’t find any big celebrations in Mexico, outside of Puebla, to honor Cinco de Mayo. Nope, as a couple of writers recently put it: “Cinco is as American as apple pie. So is the U.S. Hispanic melting pot.”
Whew, with that out of the way, it’s time to move on to the good stuff–getting your would-be picky eaters to sample something new.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Swap the cheese
Queso fresco, a fresh Mexican cheese (I know, that’s pretty much a direct translation, but it’s true), tastes like a cross between feta and mozzarella with a hint of ricotta thrown in. The cheese usually comes in a solid circle that you crumble up to put on enchiladas, nachos, tacos, tostadas…you get the idea.
Picky eater tip: We call this ‘crumble cheese’ at our house for good reason–you have to crumble it before you use it. Perfect. Kid. Job. Ask your child to be the official crumbler and when she wants to sample what’s all over her fingers, say, Yes!
Bag the regular tortilla chips
My all-time favorite tortilla chips are El Milagro tortilla chips. No Tostitos. No Santitas. Not even Xochitl come close. Ahem, yes, I get a bit particular about my tortilla chips. Get this, there are all of four ingredients in El Milagro tortilla chips–stone ground corn, corn oil, sea salt, calcium hydroxide (it helps glue the corn together according to the all-knowing folks at Wikipedia). And the chips are thicker, heartier than your standard “restaurant-style” chip. Admittedly, El Milagro can be hard to find–I see them most often in Mexican grocers, but they’re starting to pop up in larger grocery chains too. Look for them!
Picky eater tip: Dip it! Give your kids some salsa for their chips and let them dip away.
Use corn tortillas
Toast them! Please. Corn tortillas are bland and caulk-like until you toast them and then something magical happens–they become entirely different in flavor, texture, aroma. It only takes a few minutes to toast up a stack of corn tortillas. Then try out your favorite taco fixins’ in the toasted corn tortillas instead of the stale, hard-shelled kind.
Picky eater tip: Break out the cookie cutters. You can make small shapes in the corn tortillas (before or after toasting). Granted, your filling may fall out of the tortillas with too many openings, so you might want to keep the cookie cutting to a few conveniently placed shapes. I use my linzer cookie cutters from King Arthur Flour.
Make your salsa
Homemade salsa is simple to make, really. You can keep it basic and just chop up tomatoes, onions, fresh jalapeno chiles, and cilantro for a pico de gallo. If you want more of a authentic salsa consistency, put all of the pico de gallo fixins’ into a blender with a little lime juice for a thinner salsa.
Picky eater tip: Have your kids help you make the salsa. When my kids have friends over, we often whip up salsa together. I let them cut up the ingredients and adjust the seasonings.
Bring on the cumin
Add something new to your standard Tex-Mex recipes–ground cumin. You can find cumin in pretty much any grocery store. Sprinkle in cumin with your taco fillings, guacamole, salsa.
Picky eater tip: Your kids aren’t likely to notice this subtle seasoning added in. But it will give your Mexican dishes and added depth and more authentic flavor.
Your turn: Are you planning a special meal for Cinco de Mayo?
This week I announced a giveaway offering a $50 bison meat sampler to one lucky MKES reader. To enter, I asked readers to share one of the most unusual things they’ve ever eaten–or would like to eat. From frog legs to chicken feet, readers have had their fill of interesting bites.
Adults are trying out new foods, but what about kids? Sure, kids are notorious for being picky eaters, but they’re also born explorers. If you can find ways to make food an adventure, well, they’ll have to give a nibble here and there–and all of a sudden you’ve got ‘em hooked on something new.
Today Mr. Squid and I ventured to Cleveland’s West Side Market with our crew. If you ever get within driving distance of the city, I can’t recommend a trip to the market enough. On Saturdays the market is packed with diehard shoppers (you’ll pick ‘em out immediately, they carry wicker baskets for their finds), tourists (hefty cameras in hand) and a diverse cross section of people all looking for something tasty.
East Side Market is one the largest indoor/outdoor markets in the U.S. and has its beginnings in the 1840s. The building feels–and looks–like New York City’s Grand Central station, housing 100 vendor booths often run by families who’ve been making their own sausages, cheeses, cookies, crepes and more for centuries. The first time I went to the market I expected the booths to be shabby, the people to be unfriendly–or worse, overly aggressive, and the food to be so-so at best. I mean, it’s a big indoor market, how cool could it be? Very.
The market reminds me of similar set-ups I’ve visited cities outside the U.S., like Mexico City and Budapest. But this time all the sellers at least were speaking a language I could understand. And unlike those markets no one was yelling and trying to get my business, but instead the booths are staffed by friendly, unobtrusive folks who pride themselves on selling quality food (I’m entirely biased because as I’m writing I’m also digesting a meal of sun-dried tomato gnocchi bathed in a lobster creme sauce–thank you, Ohio City Pasta!). Sure, you’ll be bumping elbows with people as you try to move and at some point someone with a stroller may run over your foot, but that’s all part of the experience.
We started our food fest at Frank’s. It’s a bratwurst stand that sells, well, brats–that’s it. And yet the line for Frank’s is constantly around 5 to 10 people deep. I’m no fan of brats, but Frank’s taste like a good pork chop on a bun, crisped skin holding in big chunks of steak-like meat. Mr. Squid, who usually tops his brats with sauerkraut, deli mustard, mustard, ketchup and anything else that’s offered gives Frank’s brats a particular reverence–he eats them plain to savor every bite. We grabbed a bag of brats and headed to the outdoor square across the street. On Saturdays, there’s often a band playing either inside or outside to entertain shoppers. Today a Rastafarian group played in the square as shoppers lingered to listen, some even dancing right there next to the band. My kids devoured the experience–sampling homemade brats while swaying to reggae.
With happy tummies and tingling tastebuds, my kids were begging to head back into the market to try out more. We let our kids lead the way and point out what they’d like to try–pecan rolls, Amish bacon and handmade pasta made it into our cooler but we also showed them to some of our favorites. Mr. Squid has staked out a booth that sells jerky that’s been featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. My 9 year-old pointed out to her dad that she didn’t like jerky. “But you’ve never had this kind of jerky,” he answered. With the music going, the crowds mingling and the sales lady anxiously waiting for my daughter to give it a go, my middle child took a shy nibble. Then a full bite.
“This is good,” she smiled. We kept loading up on all sorts of foods for our kids to try out.
While not everything we sampled today became an instant hit with my crew, I consider the day a complete success (and not just because my freezer is full of meals in the making for the next week). The experience reminded my kids that food is an adventure–one worth trying out.