Monday, November 15, 2010

How on EARTH am I supposed to feed my kids??

For anyone who has ever been a parent, you've asked yourself this question...a few...hundred...times. What is a parent supposed to do when their children's diet consists entirely of ketchup and green fruit snacks? I'm going to address some of the most common kid-eating issues that I've personally dealt with (and my solutions or advice given to me by other moms). I hope that if you have ideas too, you will comment and add them in! :)

*Your child wants the SAME food...every exceptions...and it isn't a particularly healthy one.
Give in. At least, some of the time. In my experience, it's better to let them "win" the argument. I find that in this case, it's more about asking for, and getting what they want as opposed to the flavors they are actually eating. But spark a compromise if possible with them. A popular rut in our house-bologna sandwich, goldfish crackers, and applesauce. In this case, I would either let them have that exact meal once a day (they can choose when-even as weird as it is, if it is breakfast time), OR, let them have an element of it at each meal (applesauce at each meal). It also helps in this case instead of asking "what would you like for lunch?" to ask "would you rather have a bologna sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich?" They are making the choice, and often will turn away from their usual staples if THEY make the decision.

*Your child HATES vegetables (or fruits, or bread, or meat, etc...).
Usually the frustration as the parent in this case is that you want them to have some variety (for nutritional purposes). There are a lot of things that can cause a child to shy away from certain foods. You are best served to investigate what causes their refusal.
Texture: Some kids are very put-off by certain textures (think crunchy carrot, mushy baked potato, slimy squash, sticky sweet potato, or squishy peas). If they have a texture that turns them off, try preparing that food in a way that texture isn't an issue. Puree the squash and mix it with mac and cheese. Roast the potatoes so they are crispy. Cook the carrots so they are softer. If texture is the issue, try it a new way.
Taste: Another category of kids don't like the taste of the offending items (veggies, fruits, etc..). There are lots of reasons for this, but unfortunately, you can't change their tastebuds. So, you have to adapt. If you want them to eat that steamed broccoli, you might just have to put some cheese on it. You can also consider "hiding" foods (puree veggies into spaghetti sauce or soups, mix in breads, etc...) but I'm not a fan of that myself. I feel like it's being dishonest with my kids. So they know what I'm putting in, but if they like the taste, it doesn't matter. More ideas on that later.
Appearance: Many kids are weirded out by the way foods look. You hear all the trendy chefs say "you eat first with your eyes." I'm certainly not suggesting that you spend countless minutes plating and garnishing your child's dinner, but think aobut it's appearance. Is it a strange or vibrant color? Shiny? Melted? Goopy? Those are also common reasons kids say "no."
Boredom: Do you find that your kid that once LOVED mac and cheese is suddenly refusing it all together? They may just be sick of it. Try something else for a while or shake it up with some new flavors.
Control: Just like adults, kids like to have some control over their environment. From the moment your child learns that he/she doesn't HAVE to open their mouth for that spoonful of strained squash or they can take their hands and knock the spoon away, they are taking control. From that point forward, they will want a say in what they are eating. They may not have the vocabulary yet to say "no, I don't want that." Instead, they will throw it, play with it, cry at it, and just plain refuse to eat it. If you offer them something different, they are learning that you have a favorable reaction to their behavior. If you refuse them something different, they are hungry and frustrated. It's really hard to find some middle ground. In these instances, I highly recommend offering something they almost always like WITH a new food (say, chicken nuggets with spinach on the side). Also in this realm, you will often get kids who don't like to be fed or want to be fed. If they won't eat it on their own, try feeding them, and vice versa. Don't worry about the mess. Sometimes it's worth it to get them to eat a decent meal!

Mix up the Routine!
Here are some things I find helpful for mixing things up a bit.
*Novelty goes a long way with kids. Use cookie cutters for their food, fun plates and utensils, and as treats, kid-friendly prepackaged items (tube yogurt, fruit snacks, etc...)
*Just because it isn't a traditional "kid-friendly" food, doesn't mean YOUR kid won't eat it! Your child may LOVE baked salmon when they're 2. They also may only eat broccoli in soup form. You never know until you try.
*Don't be afraid of toppings and dips. Many kids will eat a lot more if they have a condiment with their food. Ketchup, ranch dressing, BBQ sauce...they love to have something interactive. If you're worried about calories, buy no sugar added, fat free, and low sodium varieties. Kid palettes aren't usually as advanced as adult ones, so they may not notice the "odd" taste of light ranch dressing.
*Be careful with snacks. If your child thinks they are not going to like dinner, they will fill up on snacks beforehand. Offer them fruits and veggies during snack time and snacks with dinner to change things up a bit. Sometimes the change of pace will be refreshing for them.
*Don't assume you have to cook an entirely separate meal for your child if they are picky. Always offer them what you have (if, of course, it is safe for them to eat). They may refuse it, but there is no harm in trying! You may just be surprised.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Freezer Food Taste Review! Part 1

Many of you have asked the important question. So what does the food taste like once it's reheated? Well, we are half-way through the month so I thought I'd take a moment to share some photos and taste reviews/suggestions. I'll post the other half at the end of the month. Happ eating!

Sausage Rigatoni: This is a recipe that I've made many times before, but never frozen. I knew that there was potential for the pasta to get mushy if overcooked as it would absorb sauce even in the freezer. I compensated by slightly undercooking the pasta and adding a little extra sauce. I still had a *slightly* musy pasta, so I think in the future, I will cook the pasta even a little less. The extra sauce was definitely a good idea-it absorbs a lot in storage! The taste was wonderful, depsite my misfire on the texture.

Bean burritos: Once these were cooked, you would never know that they weren't made fresh and cooked immediately. Super fast to re-heat and delicious! Going in the book of favorites.

Fruit cups: I actually tried this recipe because it is similar to a fruit salad recipe that Walt's grandmother and mom use. Problem is, their recipe makes a TON of fruit salad, and I hadn't really figured a good way to store it. So I swapped out their recipe with this one (it's really only slightly different). The muffin cups are an awesome idea! They only take about 5-10 minutes to defrost enough to be slushy. I did remove the muffin papers before freezing as they were coming apart from being wet during the original freezing process. Another great quickie for the kids!

Chicken Pot Pie: This is DELICIOUS! We love this recipe made fresh, but it's just as good frozen. It takes a little longer to cook, but it is so good! Absolutely perfect for the freezer.

Butterhorn dinner rolls: These rolls were pretty cumbersome to make (they take a long time, they make A LOT of rolls, etc...) but they really are wonderful. Not something I'd make all the time (I have a homemade dinner roll recipe that's easier and also good-so I'd probably use it instead-will likely do that for the next freezer adventure!), but definitely tasty.

Chocolate chip whole wheat pancakes and pupmkin pancakes: These pancakes have a great flavor, but I'm honestly not a fan of the texture. They are a little tough. I'm not sure if it has to do with the whole wheat flour, or my batter-making skills, but they were a little tough. I don't think it's freezer related, as they have a fresh taste. I'll attempt to tweak this recipe before repeating it. They are really convenient and the kids enjoy them!

Chicken stir fry: This is another one that we typically eat, but haven't ever frozen. The key is absolutely to just barely cook the veggies before freezing! If you cook them all the way through, they will be super mushy when you re-heat. The flavor was great on this. I did cook the rice to go with it fresh (haven't had much luck with frozen rice).

Italian marinated chicken: This is one we've done before, and a favorite. We chose to grill it since the weather has been very warm, but it's also good cooked in the crockpot. The key is to pull it out several hours ahead and let it thaw in the refrigerator. It will continue to marinade as it thaws.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Freezer Cooking Day-Final Tally!

All in all, I think the freezer cooking day was a success!!

I learned a few things. I had to alter a few things. But looking at my fully stocked freezer and knowing that I only have to dump ingredients in the crockpot or stick a meal in the oven from now until Thanksgiving is very satisfying.

It took about 6 hours of total cooking time to complete everything. I did take breaks on occasion to wait for items in the oven, eat lunch, and to re-load/empty the dishwasher (it took 3 dishwasher loads by the day's end). I ended up with a couple of extra items (yay!) and I altered a couple. For example, I had originally planned on pumpkin muffins, but opted for pancakes since the griddle was already dirty from the chocolate chip pancakes. Both will be great for breakfast!
Here's the final tally:
Sausage Rigatoni (x2)
Mexican Chicken casserole (not originally listed but had the ingredients on hand)
Bean burritos (one dinner-8 burritos PLUS 2 extras for a microwave lunch!)
Fruit cups (24 individual cups)
Cheeseburger meatloaf
Chicken Pot Pie
Sloppy Joes
Butterhorn dinner rolls (40 rolls)
Stuffed shells
Chocolate chip whole wheat pancakes (40 pancakes)
Pumpkin pancakes (40 pancakes)
Chicken stir fry
Butternut squash macaroni and cheese (x2)
Teriyaki marinated chicken
Lemon pepper marinated chicken
Italian marinated chicken
Garlic and Herb marinated chicken

I hope that if you tried or try your own freezer cooking day, you have as much success as I did! I will continue posting as we eat the meals on the results of the flavor. :) I'll also start planning for December's cooking day!