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Calling All Kid tested recipes...

My new challenge these days is cooking for a family: Grandparents (low fat - no garlic!), Husband and Wife (healthy low cal, interesting, yet no garlic) and their three small children, ages 3, 7 & 10 (very picky eaters, they freak out at the sight of tomatoes but I could go on forever).
The main concern is what will the kids like... any idea I come up with gets shot down for this reason.
So what are the best kid tested recipes that adults can enjoy as well?

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  1. Every kid is different, but in my experience, kids who are picky eaters like their food as separate as possible. What I mean is they are not likely to like casserole type dishes that have many different "mystery ingredients". At least if they are visible.

    A couple of suggestions - assemble their own type food - mini (whole wheat) pizzas, fajitas, etc. where there good be items that the kids could use that they like and there could be some more interesting choices for the adults to add.

    If the kids like cheese, they are likely to like most vegetables that are topped with melted cheese. The adults could omit some or all of the cheese if they want to be health concious.

    Also, I saw on a show recently where they made individual meat loaves in muffin tins and they were "iced" with mashed potatoes and the kids could decorate them with veggies they like to make faces etc.

    If they don't like their veggies - you can also sneak some shredded zucchini, carrots, etc. into some homebaked breads or muffins.

    1. Totally agree on the separation of foods for picky eaters--also letting them build their own.

      I have also found that picky kids who "help" with cooking dinner are much more likely to try new things. Of course that makes the whole process take at least twice as long, so plan appropriately. It doesn't seem to matter whether they've participated in a particular dish--seems to be more related to being involved--even stemming cherry tomatoes or snapping beans in half made them more likely to try (and eat) things like cedar plank salmon and California rolls. If you decide to ask the kids to help, make sure you remember your real goal is getting them to eat, not developing prep cooks--sometimes they get bored after just a few tomatoes (or whatever).

      At any rate, here are some specific kid-friendly dishes:

      mashed potatoes
      macaroni and cheese
      chicken apple sausage
      oven-baked chicken legs
      grilled cheese sandwiches
      garlic bread
      hot dogs (yuck)
      breakfast for dinner
      roasted veggies (makes them sweeter)

      PS I don't know if this would work for you, but I've established with my picky neice that visits with Aunt Louella are adventures--and she willingly tries one bite of everything because it's an adventure. I do, however, make sure there's always something she's going to *like* to fill her up.

      Good luck!

      1. I have two year old twins so I feel your pain (although they do like garlic). I only recently started having them eat whatever I eat. Until then I was cooking for them separately and they were eating things like in the previous response exclusively. Those days are over! I do not want to raise picky eaters.

        What this does mean, is that I do have to alter what I eat a bit if I want them to eat -- no really spicy dishes primarily.

        That said, some favorites include:

        Grilled marinated flank steak (especially with a sweetish marinade)

        Grilled chicken breast and pork chops

        Salmon -- they like all preparations -- especially with a sweet glaze (there's a theme here)

        Roast chicken

        Meatloaf, meatballs

        Stuffed cabbage!


        Mashed potatoes

        Beans -- baked beans are a favorite

        Broccoli, peas, corn


        Tomato soup -- but I'd try any pureed veggie soup now that the weather is chilly

        Tonight I am feeding them a dish that uses boneless thighs, cannellini beans and stewed tomatoes from epicurious. I love this dish. It's done and ready to be reheated when I get home from work. We'll see how they respond to the sight of the tomatoes (I might fish them out ahead of time...)

        Best wishes!

        1 Reply
        1. re: marieber

          I agree; kids should eat what we eat. No it doesn't prevent picky eaters, as I have learned, but saves my sanity. Amazing that my kids who ate *everything* when they were two now give me headaches when they are 10 and 13. But I try not to give in (too much!)

          My kids do particularly like

          Make your own pizza
          LOVE foccacia with rosemary
          Chicken soup/chicken pot pie
          grilled flank steak
          fish, esp. salmon with teriaki sauce (sounds just like above!), but also sole meuniere and crispy cornbreaded catfish

        2. My kids eat what I eat, but I do try to add anything spicey at the end, after I have scopped theirs out. I find they do very well building things, but I don't often cook that way. My kids love things like lentil soup. If it is in pureed soup form for some reason they will eat it. Last night I make a lentil salad (with a simple vinegrette, carrots, braising mix and leeks) and my kids (4 and 2) declared it delicious - amazing. My kids also liked the butternut squash gnocci I made this week. Also, all things roasted or grilled are a hit with my kids. Homemade falafel (lower in fat than you might think)! Because of a wheat allergy, we don't do the typical kid foods, but they survive anyway.

          A few things that have really helped hteir eating, esp. my picky and skeptical 4 year old...

          We do a CSA. We also have gone to farm events so they know how it grows. The CSA fruit and veggies are super fresh adn taste so much better. My kids won't eat broccoli unless it is fresh from the farm, when it is super sweet. The pears this week are the sweetest things I have ever tasted. And we know, sweet and kids mix well. Also, the fun of getting the boxes each week make them more excited to try new things. Others I know have had the same experiences.

          They help me cook from time to time, or look through magazines or online (at real recipes, not kid recipes) and help me pick things out. I don't cook by recipe, but I make something similar with waht I have in the house, and they will try it.

          1. I usually put the veggies on the table first, while I finish cooking the rest of the dinner. Amazingly, since they are hungry the kids eat the veggies! For dinner anything on the grill (ie. burgers, steaks, lamb chops, chicken) Kids like to dip- so I put the sauce on the side when I serve the food, bbq sauce or gravy as a dipping sauce. Oven baked chicken with bacon rolled around it is a hit with everyone. I recently made chicken dipped in Good Seasons Dressing then breadcrumbs and rolled them around asparagus- kids and adults loved it. good luck, it's hard to please everyone.

            1. I just started blogging on this, because it seems to be such an overarching theme in my life (that I enjoy blabbing about): trying to feed kids, keeping it engaging, expanding their palates, etc. I have picky eaters, one that is interested in being in the kitchen (self-proclaimed food critic) and one that would eat pizza all the time if I didn't keep pushing the envelope (i.e trying new things, experimenting while keeping it simple).

              I swear if you keep having them try a bite of something new, having it appear on their plate, after awhile they start to eat/like it a bit more (slow but worthy process). For example, I used to roast just carrots (baby carrots, tossed with olive oil and kosher salt, 400 degree oven, 15 minutes). I started throwing in a little parsnip (same size chunks as carrots, still simple in appearance). Now they eat both.

              Too, if they are doing homework in the kitchen while I am prepping, I always have them smell fresh herbs before I pop them into a dish. They don't realize they are increasingly familiar with herbs and begin to like some more than others. Then later when rosemary shows up on potatoes or sage with butter is topping ravioli, it is familiar and they are more likely to try it. Sorry so long winded! Good luck!

              Here are two broccoli recipes that my whole family enjoys (the lemon one works well for green beans as well):

              Lightly cook the broccoli either by steaming or boiling on the stovetop or steaming in the microwave (Add 2-3 T of water and cover). When the broccoli is finished, combine with other ingredients and serve.

              Lemon Broccoli
              8 oz. broccoli (I use baby broccoli sometimes, nice visual with the long stems and tender stalks)
              1 lemon, juice and zest
              2 T olive oil
              Kosher salt

              Cook broccoli, meanwhile combine zest and juice of 1 lemon with 2 T olive oil in bowl. Remove excess water from cooked broccoli and mix with lemon & oil. Serve.

              Parmesan Broccoli
              4 oz. broccoli (I admit, I usually just microwave broccoli florettes—tops only—until tender. This is when I only have 2-3 minutes and want a veggie on the table).
              1 T butter
              2 T parmesan (flakes, shreds or powder: you be the judge)

              Cook broccoli, remove excess water, stir in butter and parm. Double or triple as needed.

              1. I remember my kids being most thrilled to eat shepherds pie. Layered sauteed ground beef (or other meat), canned corn, mashed potatoes, bake until top is brown and insides are bubbling. You can get creative seasoning the meat or switching the vegetable.

                I have come to think that kids' pickiness is best understood as a power game. Not that they consciously play a game; They sincerely believe in their likes and dislikes just as you do. You must give the same respect that you expect to receive. However, you are half way to keeping it from getting out of hand when you know that at the root of it is the thrill of exerting power over critical family affairs. You don't want to be a kitchen nazi - Eat your XXX or else! - but take a firm stand: Sometimes you will accomodate them and sometimes you will cook what the grown ups want. If they don't like it, provide something else that is not an effort on your part, like letting them make PBJs, a bowl of cereal, etc.

                My son refused to eat onions for years, which took some working around, I can tell you. One day I was having a sandwich with a bowl of Campbells onion soup. He came in and asked what I was having. I gave him a spoonful and he liked it. I showed him the can and he stopped liking it. Without words, both of our points were made, and there was nothing for either of us to gain by pursuing the issue.

                Without having the table be a battlefield you must deal with kids' natural tendency to grab turf any way they can.

                  1. two of my three little daughters are very picky. One refuses to eat anything with green. (but broccoli is ok... go figure). anyhow, though my wife won't eat it, they love white-fleshed fish. Tilapia, halibut, etc. Probably because it tastes good, is neutral flavored, and white, which is for whatever reason an inoffensive color. Any recipe for pan seared halibut or gently cooked tilapia works well in my house.

                    Also, expanding on the chicken front, we always have grilled chicken of some sort. I always throw on a bunch of drumsticks for the kids. With the skin taken off, they will eat a couple each (my oldest is only 4). They love it because they can eat it with their hands.

                    Good luck!

                    1. This is the kid rave all summer long-I hope you like it!

                      Pineapple Chicken Tenders

                      1 cup pineapple juice
                      1/4 cup packed brown sugar
                      2 tablespoons light soy sauce
                      2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins or strips
                      1 pkg. wooden skewers, soaked overnight in water

                      1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix pineapple juice, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Remove from heat just before the mixture comes to a boil.
                      2. Place chicken tenders in a medium bowl. Cover with the pineapple marinade, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
                      3. Preheat grill for medium heat. Thread chicken lengthwise onto wooden skewers.
                      4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken tenders 5 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. They cook quickly, so watch them closely.