Looking for kid-friendly fish, tofu and vegetarian recipes
We are trying to get our act together to eat more healthfully in our house. The challenge is thus:
-one five year old boy, who distrusts anything that is not pizza, tacos, steak or ribs
-one three year old girl who is much more willing to try new things, but often gets on her brother's bandwagon
-one husband, who is a meat and potatoes kind of guy but very willing to try new things
-and me, one veggie-loving mother who has to make dinner within about half an hour of arriving home with both kids.
I'm particularly interested in finding a couple of go-to recipes for fish and tofu that the kids will enjoy (I've made the caramelized tofu from 101 Cookbooks and I thought for sure it would be a winner, but the kids didn't like it. I'm trying the white wine and lemon tofu recipe I've read on this board tonight).
For my 2.5 year old, who won't eat most fish, meat or poultry, I stumbled upon a winner. I take firm haddock and cut it into cubes which I then dip in flour, egg, then flour again. Whole wheat flour is great for this. I then fry them up with as little oil as I can get away with and serve it with a simple tartar sauce.
Very important: I call them "nuggets" and do not use the word "fish". We both like them.
I'm not a huge tofu fan but I tossed this idea somewhere else here - tofu tots. diced, dredged in cornstarch and pan or oven-fried. crispy outside, soft inside, accepts any condiment. although I prefer spicy fishy peanut sauce.
I dare Ore-Ida to do better. you can grill 'em too.
I do second a previous poster's idea (WC?) that it should not be presented as anything than what it is.
We broke our kids in on fish with commercial breaded fish sticks. After a few meals of that, we made homemade fish sticks by dipping fish fillets in egg, then bread or cracker crumbs and drizzled with butter before baking. Gradually, we have cut back on the amount of bread crumbs and increased the variety of seasonings. Having them help with the making of the fish sticks helped, too.
They both like panfried tofu with dipping sauce. One likes ketchup, one likes thai peanut sauce.
I don’t have kids, but I do have a live-in boyfriend raised in a household without a lot of real cooking or things I’d consider real food. Here’s a few things I can think of that might be tricky enough to get passed the “yucky” sensor, but not hidden enough that the kids and dad won’t learn to like it:
-BBQ tofu: For this one, you can take out tofu, slice up a block or two into ½ thick slabs, and put them on a plate sandwiched between paper towels with a heavy pot on top. this will get out extra water so you can make it more meaty. Meanwhile heat up the oven to 375. After 15 minutes of pressing time, you can remove the pot from the plate of tofu. Cut shallow diagonal slits into the tofu for extra sauce absorption. Grab a 9 x 13 pan and a bottle (or pre-homemade) of your favorite healthier bbq sauce. Pour some sauce into the pan and dredge your tofu slabs through it until all sides have a thin layer of sauce on them. Cover pan filled with tofu with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Sides we enjoy: Twice-baked potatoes (can be made ¾ of the way the night before), steamed carrots with dill, sweet corn, peas. If the grown-ups want something extra, sautee some diced mushrooms to put on top of the tofu.
-Anything called pizza. If Domino’s accidentally got swapped for individual whole wheat pitas or pre-made whole wheat crust with a little sauce, lower fat cheeses and very tiny diced vegetables, they would probably still love it.
-Chickpea or black bean “burgers.” You can use canned or pre-boiled dried, of either or both. You can mash by hand or use a food processor if you don’t live in a tiny Manhattan apartment. There are a lot of exact recipes out there, but essentially it a matter of throwing together mashed ingredients with veggies and spices, possibly some kind of citrus juice and maybe some breadcrumbs or flour. If you really want to wow them, slice up a sweet potato, toss in a tablespoon or two of oil and bake for oven fries. You can serve them like regular hamburgers and fries and the kids will think they won the jackpot with fast food. Mini burgers for the kids, big ones for the adults.
-Easy, plated “bento boxes.” You could cook/broil your choice of a basic white fish in basics like lemon and margarine. Meanwhile, make a pot of rice. Slice up small (or use the food processor) carrots, cucumbers, green peppers, whatever else you might like. Organize everything on the plates into sections (ala bento boxes) and let the kids build their own little meals. The grown-ups can add ginger or wasabi or soy sauce.
Both Deborah Madison and Peter Berely have marvelous cookbooks for those who love vegetables and those who like various forms of proteins. The books of both have been Cookbooks of the Month on the Home Cooking board:
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison is vegetarian but she has recommendations for pairing protein & veggies for a meal.
Flexitarian Table by Peter Berely has seasonal menus and both vegetable and protein recipes for each meal.
The above links will bring you to discussions of the meals we made during those
months and perhaps give you some inspiration for your own family. I'm sure you can get these books ar your friendly neighborhood Library.
I'm not vegetarian and do not care for tofu although when my kid was a toddler, it was a staple for her. You cut it in cubes and throw it on the high chair tray and if they're teething the cold feels good on their gums.
I have also 'scrambled' it like eggs, which is good for kids and certainly fast. You can use seasoning or herbs and sauté some veggies with it.
But I digress. I do now and alway have made lots of fish. Tilapia, catfish, etc. I season and sauté in a little olive oil and salmon, swordfish, etc I brush with a little olive oil or butter, season and stick in the oven. Very simple, very fast, but yummy. I think kids are probably more receptive to milder, lighter fish. For your taco eater, make some fish tacos.
i think one of the easiest ways to introduce tofu is not so much to feature it as a substitute for meat. Instead, I would use a soft tofu in a flavorful soup so that it kind of melts into custardy curds into a familiar flavor. The idea of tofu becomes less threatening to the less adventurous palate.
Thanks for all these great ideas! I love the idea of fish tacos - I think everyone would really love those, and I didn't know about freezing and defrosting tofu.
We do beans and whole wheat pasta, Nemo - but sometimes I think the kids need a real protein punch (and my husband thinks that beans/pasta/soup is in itself not a meal) so I was looking for a few other go-tos. Thanks, everyone!
Your son sounds the pickiest, so if he likes steak, you may want to give tuna steaks a try. They'll still be familiar - just a lot healthier. They're best served rare or close to it, and there's very little prep work involved. Altogether, it might take you 15 minutes TOPS to prep and grill a couple tuna steaks (perfect for squeezing into your busy schedule). Just rub each one with a bit of olive oil, salt, and coarse ground pepper to prep. Grill them for about two to three minutes on each side, and you're good to go. My mom is the one who introduced them to me, and she said she was told to use indirect heat but has gotten much better results from just putting them directly on the grill.
Are you focusing on fish and tofu for the protein? if so, don't forget bean and grain combinations that give you a decent protein package. Like black bean chili and corn bread, whole wheat pasta and white bean soup, bean burgers and corn salsa, or falafel in a whole wheat pita.
I have a recipe for tofu meatballs that my brother and I collaborated on. They're pretty tasty but they use Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, so I'll only post if you're okay with using the mix.
jfood posted his salmon patty recipe a day or so ago on this board. I grew up with a similar thing called salmon loaf, served hot with tomato sauce.
Well, like Sam, I also grew up with fish, tofu and vegetables in an Asian household. But I'm assuming that you are not Asian, and a lot of the dishes I ate probably wouldn't fly with your kids -- eg. Korean seasoned spinach, roasted whole fish, Maryland crab casserole with spicy fermented bean paste, etc.
Caroline1 nearly had a heart attack when I mentioned this. I used to eat my tofu pan-fried dipped in ketchup. I thought it was really good. Then again, I really loved ketchup as a kid, and used it as salad dressing instead of a vinaigrette.
If your kids are picky, I like the idea of gradually introducing these items in your kids' diets in a way that may be more palatable for them. When you freeze and defrost tofu, it takes on the texture of ground meat. Use them as toppings for pizza, or in tacos, etc. Dip filets of fish in panko bread crumbs and pan fry them and serve them in soft tortilla shells as fish tacos. If they start eating these items in ways that are more familiar to them, perhaps they'll move onto eating some nice steamed fish with ginger and scallions with sauteed watercress in the future.
I grew up eating tofu and fish and vegetables in the 50s. Home cooked peasant foods - o-kazu - combined veggies (onions, green onions, young green beans sliced on the bias, asparagus from the garden, sliced zucchini, spinach, and so on), fish, tofu, and small amounts of meat in endless combinations. Most were cooked with little to no oil, often in a sort of light teriyaki. Quick sautes of vegetable(s) and tofu with a bit of shoyu (soy sauce), touch of sugar, plus garlic and/or ginger of vegetable(s) were common; as were a light teriyaki type fish.
Tonight I'm steaming some white fish fillets marinaded in home-made teriyaki with quite a bit of ginger plus chile and cilantro. Steamed rice and a simple cold blanched spinach salad with a light miso & lemon dressing will complete the meal.
I use extra firm for these. The general theme is fajitas made with tofu instead of meat. adjust accordingly to your tastes.
Drain and slice tofu into sizes of strips that make sense to you.
I pan fry them pretty hard (brown them) and then remove them from pan.
Get pan back up to temp, and then add the veggies you'd like for your fajitas. Bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, similarly cut zucchini, I'll sear up some mushrooms as well.
If you need to do the veggies in batches, then so be it. When the veggies are done, I'll add the tofu back in the pan along with garlic, and a touch of cumin, and maybe any dried chile you'd like to add. Once the garlic heats through, and releases it's aroma, I'll throw in a little bit of whatever salsa you're gonna use - not to make it soggy, just to add some juicyness to everything - along with a healthy squeeze of lime juice, and S&P. Add all veggies back in, and toss until warmed through. Top with cilantro, and serve em up in warmed tortillas with:
Rice and beans on the side.
I haven't made this in a few months. Thanks for the dinner idea later this week.
I use basically the same recipe as above, but I usually serve it in hard taco shells.
I've also had pizza that had pesto, defrosted shredded tofu, tomatoes, spinach, and roasted garlic as topping. The restaurant that serves it has it with plain crust, but when I made it at home I used a whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's. The trick is to pat the tofu and spinach dry with paper towels so it doesn't make the whole pizza soggy.
What about seitan? You can buy it or make it. I've seen recipes where it's made from scratch and baked with bbq sauce to taste like ribs. I usually stir fry it with vegetables, hoisin, and soy sauce and serve it over brown rice.
If your kids like eggplant parm, try making it with grilled portobellos or zucchini. You can also make individual servings in small ramekins... your kids might find it 'cuter' this way.
Pureed tofu mixed with spinach and other veggies makes a great lasagna. The recipe I use is at blog.fatfreevegan.com.
Lastly, scarmbled tofu. It's a great clean-out-the-fridge dish. Basically, you want to saute any veggies, add drained crumbled tofu, and keep sauteing until the tofu firms up and water evaporates. You can make it tex-mex with canned tomatoes and chilis, or Italian style with dried basil, zucchini, garlic, fresh tomatoes and chopped artichokes. My husband likes the Asian inspired version the best- water chesnuts, bamboo shoots, broccoli, Japanese eggplant, hot chili sauce, and soy sauce.