Thursday, February 21st, 2013
So I’m not exactly Betty Crocker. In fact I’m probably one of the worst cooks I know.
But I always cook with a lot of love and I like to think, what I do know how to cook, I do a pretty dandy job at it. It seems as though my cooking ability grows with my children’s palettes, and as I drive myself to get better in order to provide them with tastier, more diverse dishes, chock-full of nutrients, I keep picking up little tips and tricks to make my meals far more nutritionally advanced than perhaps the recipe implies.
Over the years of pasta dishes (I have just about every shape imaginable), a gazillion different versions of eggs and a hundred versions of breakfast-style dishes (they are my forte and often make an appearance at meals other than breakfast), I have made sure my kids didn’t fall short of nutrients and new flavors even if my skill set did. Whether you are a culinary genius or, while you, like I, work on your cooking skills and encourage your wee ones to eat the foods they so stubbornly resist (ahem, fish and Brussels sprouts anyone?), I have developed a little list of things to make sure your chef learning curve doesn’t affect the amount of goodness your little ones are getting:
- Flax seeds are your friend: Grind up flax seeds rich in Omega fatty acids and throw them in anything you can. I’m talking oatmeal, yogurt, pasta, everything!
- Make fruit fun. Chop it up and make a flower, a happy face, or whatever puts a smile on your kids’ faces. Even if your wee ones won’t eat as many veggies as you’d like, don’t underestimate the goodness of a variety of fruit and being able to put a few veggies into the fruit platter, especially when it gets billed as “dessert.” Presentation is everything.
- Smoothies make me smile. You’d be amazed how much green stuff (kale, anyone?) can be disguised when mushed with fruit, ice, and yogurt. I’ve never had much success with “hiding” veggies in other recipes but in smoothies, they’re an instant hit. Freeze them in lollipop molds, and you have one happy household.
- Try and serve a rainbow of colors in food (and I’m not talking jellybeans). If you see a sea of yellow on their plate, you need to throw in some red and some green and orange.
- Make friends with your oven. If veggies aren’t your wee one’s thing and you aren’t having much success using them in recipes, raw or roasted always seem to go down easier.
- Don’t be ashamed of squeezy pouches. Try and squeeze those tasty veggie combos into whatever you are cooking. There’s no shame as long as they are eating the goodness, however you get it to them. Too many times have I tried to steam, mash, puree, and mix veggies, taking up hours of my time away from playing with the kids and, with my skills set, all that comes of it is a colossal mess and nothing but squash stuck to my ceiling.
- Encourage your kids to cook with you. The more mine are involved in the process, the more they are willing to try what’s on their plates.
- Give them a little choice and control, but not too much. For example: the shape of pasta (farfalle or penne?), but not the cheese or pasta sauce they must eat with it.
- Most of all, don’t be afraid to try and fail–and laugh about it later–with your kids. They are your greatest fans and most honest critics, and together you can make nutritious and delicious food, even if it doesn’t involve hand-rolling your own sushi!