Thursday, April 3

Squash balls and other secrets

Don't tell my kids: The squash you see mashed into a ball is the same squash that sometimes comes to you mashed in a mound.
Not that this trick will work every time, but it's amazing what a new presentation of an old food will do for little eyes and mouths. Of course, these were also sprinkled with cinnamon after they found out it was, indeed, squash, but often cinnamon alone doesn't cut it.
I'm not necessarily in a position to give tips on getting your kids to eat, but I thought I'd share some of my well-received secrets (which are probably not-so-secret) and you can take them or leave them.

So, number one...squash balls. Just change the shape of their food into something different or unusual. I have never gone the distance of making faces with their sandwich toppings or anything, but I can squish something up, cut out shapes, cut into skinny strips, etc. It may not work every time, but I count once a success.

Two...I make a batch of pizza sauce and freeze it in small containers so it's easy to pull out later. I buy wheat pitas and keep shredded cheese on hand. What does that make? Pizzas. Good ones, too. You can certainly add some veggie puree to the sauce, but I often spread very finely chopped, cooked broccoli over the sauce before topping with cheese (maybe seasoned ground turkey, mushrooms, pineapple, or something else if I think the kids are really hungry and not in a really discriminating mood). Then I slice the pitas up like a regular pizza and you get cute little slices. Alternately, just get the kids to assemble them and that usually makes a more eager eater.

Three...Steamed and finely chopped spinach makes a great addition to tuna salad and deviled eggs. If you don't have the kids who pick out every bit of green they see.

Four...Canned pumpkin mixed into refried beans is virtually undetectable. We use this as a dish by itself, with cheese or on nachos.

Five...It's okay to serve "dinner" food for breakfast and vice versa. For example, when my oldest daughter was a baby, I'd mix butternut squash into her oatmeal. This gets a veggie out of the way before you've even started your day. We have since gotten out of that habit, but do occasionally mix yogurt or unsweetened applesauce into oatmeal to help cool it off in a hurry (my kids tend to wake up extremely eager for breakfast). My youngest is about to start solids so we may be revisiting the squash mix soon.

Six...Grandma's Wholesome Candy. I don't know what book this came from (probably many), but it's exactly what it sounds like. In addition to being a healthy "candy," though, it's also an activity.
1/2 c peanut butter
1/2 c powdered milk
1/4 c honey
Mix all together.
We let this firm up in the fridge, then set it out alongside dishes of wheat germ, raisins, rice krispies, etc. The kids roll the candy into shapes and add edible accents or roll the candy through the add-ins.

I may have other tips, but am too tired to think of them. Pardon me if these are so obvious, but you never know what other people are doing. When talking with friends, it usually seems like my boring ideas are new to someone else and their boring ideas are new to me. So, I figured it may be worth it. Of course, for "professional" tips on getting picky kids to eat, check out The Sneaky Chef, Deceptively Delicious, Feed Me I'm Yours!, and the many other baby/kid cookbooks out there.

(This post also serves as my atypical entry for Randi's Recipe Box swap today).


Anonymous said...

We just recently discovered that pitas make great pizza crusts and I love the idea of adding veggie puree to the sauce. Most of my kids are OK with veggies, but my 11 year old has to be talked into eating them every time. I haven't tried sneaking it into his food, but these ideas are motivating me to!

Anonymous said...

"Grandma's Wholesome Candy" is from Healthy Snacks for Kids by Penny Warner. I've had the little book since about 1983. An updated edition, New Healthy Snacks for Kids, was published last year.

Mrs. Darling said...

Love these ideas. My daughter is a terrible picky eater. I'll have to try these.

Grandma G said...

Aren't you the sneaky mom, though! :-) These ideas are terrific!!

vicvic said...

I just have to laugh! My son doesn't like squash, or any sweet orange veggie except carrots. We even had sweet potato french fries last night and he was stuck at the table for an hour trying to finish them.

However, he's terrific about other veggies, loves broccoli, artichoke, salad, likes cabbage in all it's forms (he's a recent coleslaw convert), asparagus, and will even eat roasted radishes and split pea soup. But orange stuff? Oh, and corn kernels. Never mind that he likes corn-on-the-cob, but put corn kernels in his food and watch out, lol!

Anonymous said...

Great ideas! When I make ratatouille I just puree it and use it for pasta or pizza sauce.

Both my girls looove nutritional yeast and will just eat it plain.

Parsley, mixed into something, will usually get eaten.

Oatmeal's a great place for stuff, as you've found out. I hadn't thought of a pureed veggie, though.

Oh and I love the refried beans thing. Too bad I can't get refried bean here, 'cause I'd be all over that idea!