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Toddler Recipes anyone? Help me with meatloaf!

Trying to get my very difficult nearly 3 year old to eat some meatloaf...any good recipe ideas? Was thinking to put bread crumbs, ketchup, worcestshire, egg in it, and fresh parsley, salt, pepper...--wanted to make small 1 lb meatloaves to try it out, and then if it works out, slice it up, and freeze them for servings....

my son lives on the Dr. Praeger spinach and potato pancakes....and peanut butter cracker sandwiches, and he still loves chicken noodle in the jar and won't give it up...

have tried to turn him onto many things but he rejects all of them...except he does like some Thai food from our favorite place and he will only eat it there...

I also take chicken breast and bake it with portobello mushrooms, carrots and then puree it a bit with rice, and he eats that...I use a balsamic vinager and olive oil and fresh basil when cooking it....

I tried making him an orange marmelade with portobello mushroom chicken and he rejected it, though..thought he'd like the sweetness, but he didn't..but it was delicious...

so, I'm trying to come up with recipes that I can prepare ahead and then make little packages to freeze, so anyone can just take it out and reheat it for him...

the kid hates pizza, is afraid of pasta, hates anything with cheese, macaroni and cheese is a no go---

he loves garlic rolls, pretzels, coconut ice cream, and trader joes soy meatballs, and yogurt.

he also likes grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and bananas...

Thanks for any advice!!!

so, please help with any good irrestible meatloaf recipes....

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  1. Here's my recipe http://www.chowhound.com/topics/276717 which I can modestly say everyone always loves... except for my 5 year old, but he won't eat anything. If it's any consolation, it sounds like yours is a much better eater than mine.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chris VR

      I have made Chris VR's meatloaf a bunch of times and it is good, but the last few times I made Martha Stewart's Meatloaf 101 just for a change (sorry Chris!) but I use all beef and no pork. My kids love it, but I am lucky in that my 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 year olds eat anything.


      I've also been meaning to try these "Diner Meat Loaf Muffins", but haven't done so yet.


      Also, not meat loaf but meatballs...I made these Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs recently and they were good and a little different from meatballs with tomato sauce, plus they are good to keep in small portions in the freezer.


      1. re: valerie

        We love the Cooking Light Diner Meatloaf Muffins! I've made them with beef or chicken and they turned out great and I love the fact that they cook so fast! I'm sure you could use the cooking directions and make your fave meatloaf in the muffin tins too.

        I have three kids 6, 3&1/2 and 2...and the last two are fairly picky, and meat/protein seems to be the hardest thing to get them to eat. My youngest, aside from liking fruit and the like also likes raw tomatoes, cherry/grape/whatever form..(surprised me since I never liked tomatoes as a kid).He'll also eat hummus and mild veggie chili, so he gets a fair bit of protein from beans. There are some things, like the tomatoes for instance, tha he didn't like the first 1-2 times but now just loves so don't give up on Thai takeout (vs having to eat there) But as Quine says, there are some things he just may never like... If he's not adverse to rice maybe try polenta or couscous instead of pasta, or even orzo which looks so similar to rice?

        My bunch also loves eating things they've picked out, baby cucumbers from the very personable "cucumber man" at the Farmer's Market for instance, they also love things that are bite-sized...so meatballs are in regular rotation around here. I've also found that if you appear anxious and are too focused on them liking a new food the less likely they are to eat it.... but then maybe that's just my kids :)

    2. TAKE deep breaths! RELAX! He is a 3 year old, It is his job..his existance to be picky and all that as he absorbs hat he is learning around him.

      Your anxiety about his eating and what he is eating will definately make him rebel (that is also what a 3 YO's job is, learning self)

      Just because you like it doesn't mean he *ever* has to like it. he isn't gonna starve just because he isn't eating orange marmelade with portobello mushroom chicken or meatloaf or whatever. Let him learn what good,plain, fresh food tastes like (and what his preferences are). he will like some so much that is all he wishes to eat for each and every meal for months.

      Again, relax.

      1. since he loves the dr praeger spinach cakes, try mixing some chopped spinach into the meatloaf.

        1. My daughter is four-and-a-half (price of admission to this converstation).

          Your son likes: Dr. Praeger spinach and potato pancakes, garlic rolls, pretzels, coconut ice cream, Trader Joe's soy meatballs, yogurt, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and bananas.

          Pretty good. Don't worry.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Mine is five. I agree with Sam and Quine above. Relax, let it go, and enjoy. I thought my kid ate well, but yours is impressive already.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Mine son is three - and I'm with Sam and Powella - that's not a bad list! If he eats soy meatballs why not try making meat balls instead of meat loaf? They also freeze well if you want to make it more convenient. Does he eats the noodles from the jarred chicken soup? Try serving noodle bowl with meatballs in it - my son loves that. He eats the soft vegetables, the broth, the noodles and the meat - all because we call it soup.

            2. the ingredients you listed sound like a pretty standard and tasty meatlof recipe. i usully cheat and go the lipton onion soup route when i make meatloaf.

              as far as his picky eating habits.......i have found that sometimes with my picky eaters its all about presentation. if he likes the soy meatballs, you could try reserving a little of the meat and make some small balls to bake along with your meatloaf. if it looks like something he already likes you may have more sucess. good luck!

              1. Have a 4yo. Just made the meatloaf from America's Test Kitchen Family Recipes book, which sounds similar to the ingredients you mention. Turned out great, but the 4yo said she didn't eat it because it was "too crazy". Translation: texture, color & taste just weren't to her liking. How 'bout sloppy joes instead?

                5 Replies
                1. re: pharmnerd

                  how about sweet and sour meatballs? no recipe but they are sweet and high in protein. i am sure they have healthy versions of it.

                  how about dumplings? these are easy and great to freeze and nuke. you can add meats or make them pierogi style with fruit.

                  1. re: Pappardelle

                    I'm just curious, fruit in pierogi? I've only ever had them with potato/cheese/onion/meat?

                    1. re: Pappardelle

                      maybe they have different name than pierogi but I used to volunteer at a literacy center and the polish students would always bring savory and sweet kinds of dumplings at the end of the year party. i tried blueberry and peach. my family is of lithuanian heritage, and we always had ones with lithuanian cheese or ground meat, always with a sautee of onions and bacon on top, and then the sour cream! or we had cepelinai as well. "zeppelin" style dumplings - big, fat, dumplings. i ate em all up when i was a kid, as well as potato pancakes, which my grandma said i used to ask for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - with apple sauce or sour cream. i know it isn't the healthiest food but it is much better than fast food in my opinion.

                      1. re: Pappardelle

                        They sound delicious, I'd just never heard of sweet pierogi... I had a Polish babysitter growing up and I don't remember sweet ones... but then my memory is good but it's short. Thanks for sharing. Now I'm wondering how to get ahold of recipes. :)

                        1. re: maplesugar

                          are they pazcki? they are often more donut-y but they are the sweet polish pastries filled with all kinds of fruit fillings that i know...

                  2. My 5 year old and almost 2 year olds go back and forth with being picky. They loved those spinach pancakes before they "new and improved" them. Anyway they LOVE edamame in any way shape and form and also chickpeas. My easy chicken curry (this is almost embarrassing to post here but it is a great easy FAST dinner staple) of chicken sauteed in peanut oil/butter with garlic, ginger, scallions, garam masala and pataks curry paste - then chicken broth & coconut milk and a can of chick peas are added. Truly my kids (and their friends who come over) eat tons of this with brown or basmati rice.

                    Mine like meatballs but not meatloaf much because of the texture but keep trying!

                    1. At that age my son ate hot dogs, chicken noodle soup, and chuck roast. Anything else he threw up on the plate. He had a talent for that. Your son will eat better, no child ever starved themself to death on purpose. Just put it out there, and don't worry. If he won't eat it, don't give in and fix his favorites. Don't force him to eat anything. Just offer it, and don't make anything else if he won't eat it. It will get better. In 10 years you will worry because you can't get him to stop eating.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Janet

                        thanks for the advice and good ideas...tried chickpeas, hummus (that somehow causes non stop hi pitched screams of "No, hummus, no, no, no"---maybe because I ate a ton of the stuff while I was pregnant??? The pierogi's, tried it a bunch of times, my babysitter is Polish..it was a no go. Tried it in English, and Polish, it was a no go.

                        I'm definitely over the "he's starving hysteria phase", did that, and yes, the advice to mellow out and accept that they know what they need and when they need it, is correct. I'm just now into the cooking and experimenting phase.

                        What I find interesting is that he'll eat big bites of the Dr, Praeger stuff, (also tried the fish sticks, this never worked either), and Israeli peanut butter cheese doodles, their called Bamba--all natural, really great..pretzels, cashews..things that require chewing of all kinds, and yet, he won't go near protein concoctions unless their chopped up and disguised in some way. e.g. my baked chicken mixture...at least I know what's in it, and he's getting lots of fresh veggies that way.

                        He won't go near rice on its own, yet will eat it chopped up with other stuff. I've tried a bunch of the Trader Joe's stuff, like the chicken satay rolls, etc..he doesn't like them...

                        Will try out the meatloaf recipe tonights and attempt it tommorow with him and post.. maybe I'll make a video and link it...

                        1. re: janie

                          just had another thought...i know he won't eat hummus, but since he likes the potato pancakes maybe he'd be willing to eat falafel...?

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            yea, we tried it once or twice, but yes, we definitely need to try it again, best bet would be to go to a restaurant and try it, he's much more open for some reason when we're out to try new things.

                      2. This is my favorite meatloaf recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                        I've tweaked it by incorporating a few ideas from an Emeril meatloaf recipe.

                        I mince the vegetables, not fine chop, or the meatloaf will not hold together. I add 1/3 cup heavy cream to the meat mixture. Instead of ketchup on top, I pour veal stock over top, and also use veal stock as gravy. This really is a very flavorful meatloaf which my husband and I absolutely crave several times a year.

                        Can't help you with the picky eater problem, but I guarantee you will love the meatloaf!

                        1. Maybe it's in the presentation? Does he eat mashed potatoes? My kids love when I make meatloaf "cake" but you could do it like cupcakes and frost w/ the mashed potatoes for easy to freeze, single serving portions. He could help make these. When I was little, I loved porcupine meatballs where you roll meatballs in rice and then steam. He could also help with that.

                          As good recipes go, the beauty of meatloaf is that you can improvise and put in whatever your son enjoys (and hide what he doesn't). In general, I soak bread in milk, let is sit. Add meat, onions, eggs, seasonings and mix lightly. I do the same idea with meatballs.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: chowser

                            Tried mashed potatoes a bunch ot times, won't go near them..tried them with sauteed onions, plain, etc...the cupcake idea won't work, because he knows what cupcakes are, and if we try to trick him, he gets really pissed off. It's bad enough he thinks the spinach Dr. Praeger's are "green cookies", and the potato ones are "white cookies"........my best friend called last week and asked him what he was eating and he said, "green cookie, white cookie", and then she said what else are you having? and he replied, "garbage".

                            I look at other kids wolfing down burritos and all kinds of stuff, and I seethe with envy.

                            1. re: janie

                              We have come to a strange place in our society where we have to add another worry to being a parent- being judged on what your kid will or will not eat. Truly, the precious critters change from moment to moment, they know about "control" from the womb, and they are all so so different. Yours sounds like he has a decent varied diet. I have a nephew who was one of those "white foods only" kids. He is perfectly healthy and growing like a weed.

                              My experience is that the more you push, the more they push back. I think being more open to different things in restaurants is really common. It is not mommy is offering it, and everyone else is having it, so maybe it is good. Mine ate clams out of the shell in a resto cuz it was fun (took the shells back to the hotel and used them in the bath that nite- attack of the snap snap killer clams). Today he won't look at one. Eats salmon with pesto sauce out with others but is horrified at the smell of salmon on the grill at home.

                              Enjoy the ride, go with his flow and relax. I swear they have this ESP about our expectations, and they invariably choose the route that sends us spinning...

                              1. re: janie

                                Folks, please help us keep this board focused on sharing cooking tips. If you've got recipes to tempt toddlers, this is the place to share them, but general topics on getting picky kids to eat is off topic for this board. Thanks.

                            2. Hi... while I wouldn't call them cupcakes, sometimes it is all in the presentation. Finger foods go over huge with small kids. Perhaps bake up your meatloafs in mini-muffin pans. Also, I second the meatballs - here's a recipe from Epicurious that works out great (I bake my in the oven rather than fry them and also keep out only a 1/4 of the mixture at a time and freeze the rest in small 1/4 sized containers) - makes enough meatballs for my twin boys for the week. Also works with turkey rather than meat just as well.


                              Good luck - good for you for trying different things out and seeing if any of them "stick".

                              1. I have an almost 2-year-old (my admission ticket to the discussion). Luckily she eats lots of things but I still stress when she doesn't eat so I know where you're coming from. It's frustrating to make something you think your kid might like and have them totally refuse it. I try to be nonchalant about it, but she definitely cues into the expectations! Anyway, she does eat meatloaf, but I make the simplest meatloaf around. It's my mom's recipe, and it's not my favorite, but it's very kid-friendly.

                                1 1/2 lb. ground chuck
                                9 saltines, crushed.
                                2 eggs, beaten
                                1/2 tsp. salt
                                8 oz Hunts tomato sauce
                                1 Tbsp minced onion (dried)

                                Mix it all together, form it into a loaf and bake at 350 for 75 min. My daughter loves it with ketchup (she'll eat almost anything with ketchup - they taught her that at daycare - I despise ketchup). I also always serve it with mashed potatoes, which she'll usually eat. And we always have bread on the table as a backup. I do not make alternatives, so if she doesn't want to eat what I've fixed, she eats bread.

                                Will he eat chicken nuggets? I usually find chicken nuggets kinda gross (and my daughter's not a big fan either), but we recently had the Bell and Evans chicken nuggets from the freezer section and they were really good. My daughter gobbled them up. They were actually like real chicken.

                                Meat is the hardest. Keep trying. My daughter just surprised me last night by devouring grilled salmon, so it's worthwhile to keep putting new things in front of them.

                                1. I am lucky for a kid who eats most of what I put on the plate- but have found meatloaf goes alot quicker if I use colored "goldfish" in the recipe. I puree some for the crumb texture, then add a handfull of whole ones- the cheese ones are great- but the colored ones seem to garner the best response. This is along with my normal meatloaf recipe. It helps when my daughter does the hand mixing of the meat- if they help- they tend to eat more in my house.

                                  Good Luck!

                                  1. I guess we are lucky, my 1-1/2 year old daughter eats whatever we eat, she does like some things better than others. We started feeding her off our plates as soon as she had teeth, exposing her to our favorite foods.

                                    Her favorites:

                                    Yu noodles Indonesian style with pork, and shrimp(she actually likes any pasta cooked any way)
                                    Shrimp prepared any way(fried, scampi, grilled, etc.)
                                    Crab meat(king, snow, dungeness, stone, etc)
                                    Any rice dish(pilaf, fried, plain white)
                                    Chicken prepared anyway(fried, sauteed, etc.)
                                    pork prepared anyway(grilled, smoked, etc.)
                                    Chinese food
                                    Korean food
                                    Filipino food
                                    Ham pepared anyway
                                    pizza, mostly the crust
                                    pretty much any bread
                                    beef(medium rare steaks, hamburger, etc)
                                    most vegetables(broccoli, peas, eggplant, carrots),
                                    all fruits she has tried
                                    any potato dish

                                    she dislikes prepared, or frozen foods(perhaps because her parents detest these items), and prefers dads cooking to a meal in a restaurant.

                                    1. Your meatloaf recipe is similar to mine, although now I add about 1 tbsp. each of brown sugar and terikyaki or soy sauce. That might add just enough sweetness to appeal to him. Also, my girls always liked "porcupines," meatballs mixed with raw rice which, when, cooked in broth, end up looking like porcupines because the rice pokes out of the meatball.

                                      1. you can make the meatloaf recipe of your choice then put the mixture into 1/4 cup dry measuring cup and the place it ont he baking sheet to cook, so he will his own mini meatloaf, that might be fun.

                                        1. Meatloaf does seem to be one of those things that toddlers are not too crazy about. I know a friend`s son who loved hamburgers but not meatloaf. Usually they do get to like it eventually.

                                          In general, I echo all the others, your 3 year old is way ahead of the pack in adopting new foods, so I wouldn`t worry about it.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: pengcast

                                            Okay, here's how the experiment went: this is the recipe I followed:
                                            1 lb 85% lean meat
                                            bit less than 1/2 cup of 2 % milk
                                            garlic powder
                                            salt, pepper
                                            onion flakes--generous amount
                                            1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
                                            2 squirts of ketchup -about 2 tbsp
                                            1 tbsp of worcestshire sauce
                                            1 egg slightly stirred

                                            Blend together, I used bagies on my hands, and form into loaf, put into buttered loaf pan. Bake for 350' about 50 minutes

                                            Make seperate sauce with sauteed shallots, mushrooms, and trader Joe's oh soy sauce, and TJ's barbecue sauce, and balsamic vinager, and onion powder, lastly add fresh chopped basil. Omit the barbecue sauce and just use worcestshire for less sweet sauce. Serve with white rice.

                                            First I tried chopping it up with rice, mushroo, sauce and meatloaf together, a few bites, and then he seemed sick of it. So, then I cut the meatloaf into the same size pieces I cut his Trader Joe's soy meatballs into, and told him these are Mommy meatballs, and got him to try one (a deck of cards comes in handy for getting the first piece in--he guesses all he cards and shapes and colors--a future poker or con man, for sure)---anyway, then I alternated the cut mushroom, and hid some rice between it so he wasn't so aware of it. So, it was a success, he ate it, and he actually swallowed, didn't keep it in his cheeks like a chipmunk.

                                            Thanks for the advice and encouragement. I think it also helped that I started out the meal with Mommy garlic bread, something he loves, this put him in the right mood.

                                          2. here are two favs of my picky 3 year old, both easy slow cooker recipes created by me. My hubby and I like them a lot too.... super easy week night meals:

                                            Slow Cooker Quesadillas-
                                            Place a rinced can of black beans, a can of drained corn, a can of tomatoes, and a couple chicken breasts (can be frozen) in slow cooker. Add cumin, salt and pepper, and any other mexican seasoning you like, and turn on low. Leave on all day. When ready, you can eat it as is, or spread it out on a tortilla with cheese, and broil in oven.... makes very easy very yummy quesadillas. My daugher goes nuts of the beans and corn, which she normally would never eat.

                                            Slow Cooker Morrocan Chicken-
                                            Add a can of tomatoes, some canned chick peas (if you want), and chicken to slow cooker. Add cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste. Put on low and leave on all day. During last hour, add chopped zucchinni and a couple handfulls of raisons. Serve with couscous. Because of the raisons and cinnamon, my daughter thinks it is like dessert, and gobbles it up. It smells heavenly and is very yummy.

                                            1. When my sister was little, all my mom could get her to eat for well over a month were carrots and dill pickles. She turned orange. But she survived just fine. I wouldnt worry too much :)

                                              1. Just remember it's just a stage and it will pass. As for meatloaf, maybe give him something to cut it up himself (yes, with supervision). Or let him mix the ingredients together, with the deal being, he "cooked" so now he has to taste it.

                                                1. My mom used to make us smoothies with frozen bananas, strawberries (or alternate fruit), ice, and milk or yogurt and just the smallest touch of sugar or honey (I believe honey needs to wait until after age one yr). It was a great way to turn fruits into a yummy smooth icecream-like treat... I can't imagine a child not liking it!

                                                  I agree with the advice not to stress too much or push to much, just offer and let him eat it or not.

                                                  Also, my mom would make food into fun and intesting looking designs on the plate - eg two meatballs for eyes, carrot for the nose, mashed potatoes in the shape of the mouth. And then have fun eating it bit by bit.

                                                  Would he enjoy purees of veggies? Eg, pureed cauliflower with a butter and parm cheese and garlic powder, or pureed carrots with a little cream?

                                                  If he likes garlic bread, would he like a grilled cheese sandwhich or one with deli turkey or ham and cheese, grilled and cut into nice finger-food sized triangles?