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A Five-Star Kids' Menu

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Quentin Bacon

Stroll along the elegant gardens, sparkling fountains, intricate mosaics, and rare antiques at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida and you'll be transported back to 19th-century Spain. That's exactly what self-taught architect Addison Mizner intended when, to great acclaim, he opened the Cloister Inn on beachfront property 75 years ago. The opulent 100-room hotel, modeled after a Spanish castle, attracted many celebrities of the day, including Elizabeth Arden and Al Jolson.

Today, Boca still sees plenty of celebs, like John Travolta and Whitney Houston, many of whom prefer to stay in the original Cloister area of the resort, which has been expanded to 338 deluxe rooms. But for guests who like more contemporary accommodations, the 963-room hotel features four other styles of lodging, including golf villas and a beach club with two heated pools, an outdoor whirlpool, and a half-mile of private oceanfront. All guests have access to the resort's three fitness centers, a $10 million state-of-the-art tennis center with 30 clay courts, a full-service marina, and a new Tuscan restaurant on the waterfront. A 50,000-square-foot spa will open this summer.

Still, last summer, executive chef James Reaux, 38, thought the resort could use one other improvement to better accommodate its growing clientele of families with young children, which now makes up more than 30% of its business. "Our kids' menu was in the Dark Ages," he says. "It mainly consisted of pizza, macaroni and cheese, and hot dogs."

Reaux, father of Haley, 5, and Hunter, 3, began experimenting in his home and resort kitchens with the goal of making the dishes more nutritious. Two years ago, he started creating an all-natural baby food menu. Hunter and Haley happily taste-tested. "But the kids' menu turned out to be more challenging," admits Reaux, who had cooked at New York City's Plaza Hotel and the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia before he joined Boca five years ago. "Infants aren't as picky."

After several months of trial and error, Reaux realized that Haley, Hunter, and the rest of their crowd would eat healthy foods only if they were presented in an irresistibly fun way. Among his clever culinary creations: whole-wheat pancakes shaped like tennis racquets; cheesy, fish-shaped pasta with peas; and veggie burgers tucked inside tasty multicolored bread.

Reaux isn't the only chef reexamining kids' menus these days, according to Michael Sanson, editor of Restaurant Hospitality, a magazine that features a kids' menu contest every April. "Each year the competition gets tougher," says Sanson. "But few chefs have focused on nutrition as much as James Reaux."

Want to try a sample? Reaux has allowed Child to exclusively publish seven of his children's favorite recipes from the new menu, which debuted this year. Even the pickiest eaters are sure to love every last bite.

Sunshine Smoothie
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Quentin Bacon

Your little one will feel all grown up sipping this tasty tropical treat, which is teeming with antioxidants. "Some mothers think it tastes so good, they end up ordering one for themselves," says Reaux.

 

Serves:
2

Prep Time:
5 minutes

Cooking Time:
0 seconds

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

  • 1/4 cup low-fat small curd cottage cheese

  • 1/2 cup crushed ice

  • 1 cup crushed pineapple

  • 1/2 cup white grape juice

  • 2 Tbs. coconut syrup (optional)

  • pineapple wedges and pitted fresh cherries for garnish

Instructions:

Step 1:  Combine the first six ingredients in a blender and process on high about two to three minutes, until smooth. Garnish with a cherry and a pineapple wedge.

Nutritional Facts:

Each glass:168 calories, 8 g protein, 34 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 4 mg cholesterol, 169 mg calcium, 1 g iron, 190 mg sodium.

Happy-Face Oatmeal
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Quentin Bacon

Reaux got the idea for this low-fat recipe while trying to encourage his children to get involved in the kitchen. Their job: to design their own happy face, using fruit.

Serves:
2

Prep Time:
10 minutes

Cooking Time:
5 to 7 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water

  • 1/8 tsp. salt

  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking oats

  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk

  • 12 raspberries or 18 blueberries

  • 4 mini shredded wheat squares

  • 1 tsp. powdered sugar

Instructions:

Step 1:  In a medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add oats and cook, stirring frequently, until they are smooth in consistency and texture. Stir in milk and cook for an additional four minutes.

Step 2:  Spoon oatmeal into two bowls and make a happy face in each, using shredded wheat for the eyes and berries for the mouth. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Nutritional Facts:

Each serving: 175 calories, 7 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (1 g saturated), 5 g fiber, 2 mg cholesterol, 100 mg calcium, 2 g iron, 215 mg sodium.

Rainbow Magic Bread
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Quentin Bacon

What's so magical about it? "Parents can put anything inside the bread-veggie burgers, turkey lunch meat, low-fat tuna salad-and watch it disappear," Reaux promises. "The kids love the bread, so they're not picky about the filling."

Serves:
14

Prep Time:
4 hours

Cooking Time:
30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1-lb. loaf frozen bread dough

  • 1/4 cup flour

  • 5 drops each of blue, red, yellow, green, and purple food coloring

  • Canola oil spray

Instructions:

Step 1:  Thaw dough and allow to rise according to package directions. Just before dough is ready, flour a baking sheet.

Step 2:  Divide dough in five equal parts. Add one batch food coloring to each portion of dough and knead well. Let dough rest uncovered on a baking sheet for an hour.

Step 3:  Flatten each piece of dough until it's 8 to 10 inches long. Stack pieces on top of one another in any order. Fold ends of the dough into the middle.

Step 4:  Place dough in an 8-inch loaf pan sprayed with canola oil. Allow dough to rest for an hour until it rises one inch above the pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the bottom of loaf pan sounds hollow when tapped.

Step 5:  Remove bread from pan immediately. Slice into 14 pieces when cool.

Nutritional Facts:

90 calories, 3 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 8 mg calcium, 1 g iron, 180 mg sodium.

Baked Chicken O's With Lumberjack Dip
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Quentin Bacon

A more nutritious version of chicken nuggets, this entree uses breast meat rather than fattier rib meat and is baked, not fried. "But the real hit with children is dunking the Chicken O's in the sweet Lumberjack Dip," says Reaux.

 

Serves:
2

Prep Time:
10 minutes

Cooking Time:
15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil spray

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

  • 1/8 tsp. salt

  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

  • 1-2 Tbs. flour

  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten

  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumb

  • 2 Tbs. shredded coconut

  • 2 Tbs. maple syrup

  • 2 Tbs. orange marmalade

Instructions:

Step 1:  Heat oven to 350°F.

Step 2:  Coat a nonstick baking sheet with canola oil spray and set aside.

Step 3:  Slice chicken into 12 strips and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dust chicken with flour and dip in egg whites. In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs and coconut. Dip chicken strips into crumb mixture. Shape strips into circles, making sure the ends overlap a little so they will stay together during cooking. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 4:  In a small bowl, combine the syrup and marmalade. Serve as a dip with chicken.

Nutritional Facts:

Each serving: 329 calories, 21 g protein, 51 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 2 g fiber, 34 mg cholesterol, 88 mg calcium, 3 g iron, 464 mg sodium.

Under-the-Sea Shells
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Quentin Bacon

For years, Chef Reaux couldn't convince his own children to eat their peas-and he couldn't cajole the kids at the resort, either. But peas are no longer a problem since he developed this recipe using sea-theme pasta from The Pasta Shoppe (800-247-0188; www.pastashoppe.com). An unexpected benefit: A single serving of this creamy entree packs nearly 70% of the bone-building calcium that children ages 4 to 8 need for the entire day.

Serves:
4

Prep Time:
5 minutes

Cooking Time:
12 to 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. shells or sea-theme pasta

  • 1 Tbs. butter

  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk

  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, at room temperature

  • 8 slices 2% American cheese, such as Kraft

  • 1/8 tsp. salt

  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

  • 1/8 cup cheddar Goldfish crackers

Instructions:

Step 1:  Cook the shells or sea-theme pasta according to the package directions.

Step 2:  In the meantime, in a medium-size saucepan, heat butter on medium-low. Add milk and bring to a slow boil. Stir in peas and add cheese, a slice at a time, stirring until melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Step 3:  Toss cheese sauce with cooked pasta and top with Goldfish crackers.

Nutritional Facts:

Each serving: 404 calories, 18 g protein, 55 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (7 g saturated), 3 g fiber, 32 1/2 mg cholesterol, 551 mg calcium, 2 g iron, 980 mg sodium.

Dirt Cups
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Quentin Bacon

A parfait made with a trio of low-fat yogurts, sugar-free pudding, and-the special ingredient-Gummi worms, Dirt Cups will appeal to children's desire for desserts that sound adventuresome, says Reaux.

Serves:
4

Prep Time:
15 minutes

Cooking Time:
0 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Oreo cookie crumbs

  • 1 1-oz. pkg. fat-free, sugar-free instant

  • butterscotch pudding mix, such as Jell-O

  • 2 cups cold skim milk

  • 6 oz. low-fat lime or lemon yogurt

  • 6 oz. low-fat mixed-berry yogurt

  • 6 oz. low-fat strawberry yogurt

  • 16 Gummi worms

Instructions:

Step 1:  Layer the bottom of four medium-size sundae glasses with about 1/2 tablespoon of Oreo cookie crumbs. Set aside.

Step 2:  In a mixing bowl, combine pudding mix and milk. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth, about two to three minutes. Chill uncovered for one hour.

Step 3:  Gently stir lime yogurt with a spoon and divide among four glasses. Coat with 1/2 tablespoon of Oreo crumbs. Repeat with the mixed-berry yogurt, butterscotch pudding, and strawberry yogurt.

Step 4:  Top each glass with 1/2 tablespoon of Oreo crumbs. Garnish each dessert with four Gummi worms.

Nutritional Facts:

351 calories, 11 g protein, 68 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 11 mg cholesterol, 331 mg calcium, 1 g iron, 613 mg sodium.

Tennis-Pro Pancakes
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Quentin Bacon

Breakfast is served: Reaux shapes the resort's pancakes like tennis racquets and balls, preparing them with heart-healthy canola oil and high-fiber whole-wheat flour. "The kids are so distracted by the neat shapes that they don't notice the whole wheat," he says.

Serves:
2

Prep Time:
5 minutes

Cooking Time:
10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pancake mix, such as Hodgson Mill

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 Tbs. canola oil

  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk

  • Canola oil spray

  • 1/2 cup low-fat raspberry yogurt

  • 1/4 cup chocolate syrup (optional)

Instructions:

Step 1:  In a medium-size bowl, blend pancake mix, egg, oil, and milk. It's normal for the batter to be slightly lumpy.

Step 2:  Spray a nonstick griddle with canola oil and heat on medium. Ladle batter onto griddle, forming the outline of a 3-inch tennis racquet. Using a teaspoon, quickly fill in racquet with batter. Drop dots of batter on the pan to form 2-inch balls. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until bottom turns light brown; flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter, making four racquets and four balls.

Step 3:  Place two racquets and two balls on each plate. If desired, drizzle chocolate syrup on the racquets and balls, as shown on page 91. Garnish with yogurt.

Each serving: 275 calories, 8 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 17 g fat (2 g saturated), 3 g fiber, 109 mg cholesterol, 221 mg calcium, 1 g iron, 466 mg sodium.

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Copyright ? 2001. Reprinted with permission from the March 2001 issue of Child Magazine.