Friday, November 5, 2010

Dinner Table Harmony, Recipe Included

Also known as: How to appease the picky eater in your family without eating the same three meals all month.
Heres a few of my tactics:

First off, let them help! when kids get to help make the meal, they have a sense of pride in what they made and may be more inclined to try it. Even the smallest of munchkins can "help".

For helpers under 2 years old, let them:
  • Help by banging on a pot with a wooden spoon nearby, but out of the way of harmful areas such as the oven. They really think they're helping and it keeps them busy while you cook, so long as it doesn't drive you up a wall! For me, it was music to my ears, my dinnertime serenade! 
For older helpers, let them:
  •  Help measure and pour
  • Set the table (plastic if necessary)
  • Pick the beverages of the night
  • Decide what utensils and flatware will be necessary (you may need to subtly suggest that forks may not be the first choice to go with the soup, but that they would work really well for for the lasagna)
  • Make name tags and decide who will sit where
Never let your children help with tasks that could be dangerous, such as using the stove, oven, knives or other sharp or dangerous kitchen props, theres so many other jobs they can do, theres really no reason to take risk.

So, tonight we had Mexican food, my picky eater loves "burritos": refried beans, ground beef and cheese, sometimes I can sneak in some taco seasoning when he's not looking, thats it, no frills, no sour cream, no lettuce, no nothing.
Now, I'm sure for some it seems outlandish to make two seperate dinners, hear me out. If the dinners are of the same genre with mostly the same ingredients, it's actually really simple, why not appease the picky every once in a while? They really appreciate it and you can enjoy a peaceful dinner experience.

 My half and half ground beef Empinada*/Burritos
  • 1 lb lean ground beef, browned
  • 1 can refried beans**
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-1 green onion chopped very small (depending on how picky your eaters are)
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ground cumin (personally I like less)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (or more if you really like it!)
  • 3 Tbsp Salsa
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • shredded cheese
  • tortillas
Oven 425 F

Brown your ground beef with the garlic and green onion. This should be mild enough to please most picky eaters. I like to strain my ground beef or take a paper towel and dab off any excess fat/oil, not necessary, just a little added tip for a healthier way to eat beef. Take half of the beef out of the pan and put it into a medium sized bowl (approximate is fine, its not rocket science)
Add your beans to the half of the beef you left in the pan and let it simmer on low with a lid on (maybe add a half cup or so of water to keep it nice and moist).
Take the other half of your ground beef and add the cream cheese, cumin, cilantro and salsa. mix mix mix.
Unroll your piecrust, pour your bowl of groundbeef mix onto one half of the piecrust, making sure to keep it off the edges by about a half inch and only on one half of the circle. Spread it out nice and even. Fold the other half of the piecrust over on top of the mixture, kinda like making a quesadilla, only with a piecrust instead of tortilla.
Remember those edges you left plain? Take a basting brush or a spoon or whatever you got and get them damp with water, between the top and bottom, thats gonna help it seal together, kinda like licking an envelope, only not so gross... Squish your edges lightly together, you can add a decorative edge with a fork if you're feeling fancy (I usually don't).
Baste the top of your pastry with the egg, just lightly, this helps it brown nicely. (before I had a basting brush I just used a fork to spread it around, it doesnt need to be fancy)
Cut a couple venty holes in the top, (so it doesn't explode) and pop it in the oven (425 F) for 15-18 minutes.
Make sure to check on your beans and beef cooking on the stove, those are to wrap in tortillas for your picky eaters. Add a little more water if necessary to keep it a texture your little ones will find palatable.
(Slice the empinada just like you would a pizza, or a half or a pizza in this case)

*Better yet cook up your own beans, take a can of your favorite beans and fry them up with a touch of olive oil and some water, onion, garlic, taco seasoning... (pick your poison)
 **Try the word "Meatpie" if empinada seems to exotic or daunting for your little one.

I like to add a salad as a side, both my eaters love salad and I've learned I can sneak in fresh spinach and neither of them ever notice the difference! (or my husband for that matter!)

So heres the choice: eat the burritos, you know you love them or try the empinada, doesn't it smell great?
Don't want to try it? no sweat, they're getting very similar nutrition either way.
Kids love being able to make choices in their lives, no matter how small. Praise your picky eater if they do decide to try the new dish, whether or not they like it. At my house? My picky eater opted to stick with the comfort food, but thats okay, he did enjoy the smell of the empinadas, and thats a start!

So long as I can keep them eating moderately well, I try not to stress over dinner time. Dinner should be about family and spending time together, not bickering over whats on the menu.

I hope this makes for a harmonious evening for you and your family as it did for mine!

(pic incomming!)

Anyone else have ideas for easing picky eaters into new foods?

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