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I am tired of making dinner. Calgon, take me away!

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Ok, perhaps this is the wrong crowd to ask, but....

What are your favorite meals/dinners to prepare for young children and picky eaters? Fast things, every day dinners.

I have a toddler and a very picky obstinate preschooler and I am out of dinner ideas. Parenting boards tend to have two kinds of answers: (1) it is all my fault that my child is picky, etc, or (2) cheesy this n that casserole. Neither of those work for us, you know what I mean?

Favorite cookbooks for this kind of situation would be helpful too. Many thanks!

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    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Thanks everyone! The replies (here and below) are all helpful -- I will definitely scan through those links and the one below!
      *sigh* We have read Ellyn Satter's books, and use Annabel Karmel too. Tonight my 4 year old helped me make sweet broccoli slaw and tuna burgers, helpfully stirred, then refused to eat a bite. Not.One.Bite. Oh well.
      I think that cooking for a 2 and a 4 year old is difficult generally -- they eat such a small amount, or refuse it completely, that making dinner often feels like a complete waste of time (husband works late and eats later), as well as somewhat depressing for me (former excellent cook). Thank you all for for your help!

      1. re: AkL

        I remember this age and phase so well! My husband and I love food of all kinds and are adventurous eaters - and I love nothing more than pottering in the kitchen, so picky eaters came as a nasty shock. When the children refused day after day to eat meals, whatever they were - different every day and they still wouldn't eat it - it got to a stage where i would be weeping and it would feel like a battlefield. So something had to give and I decided just to ask them what they wanted every day, and then I'd cook it (had to be roughly balanced, not junk). It really went against the grain to let them rule the roost and dictate what was happening but IT WORKED! And peace was restored; they'd chosen it, they ate it. And even better, they're now 11 and 13 and will eat just about anything - and no, they don't still get to choose every day. So take heart, it'll get less stressful in the end, and in the meantime free choice and a feeling of control is a wonderful thing for toddlers!

    2. Have you read Ellyn Satter's How to Feed Your Children But Not Too Much? It's a great book about feeding kids and basically, how not to cater to them but still make sure they get fed. It's your job to make sure there's food they can eat, it's their job to eat it.

      I just tried this recipe TorontoJo recommended--it's great for adults and "kid-friendly". It's like a risotto w/ chicken.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/782368

      1. Times like that, I fall back on the "food bar" concept. Whole grain noodles with do-it yourself toppings (browned pork w/ asian flavors, chopped tomatoes & onions, shredded carrots, etc.). Young kids tend to enjoy participatory meals. You can do the same thing with tortillas (fill with rice, beans, various chopped veggies, etc.) and salad (sort of bastardized nicoise with canned tuna, boiled potatoes, green beans, HB eggs, etc.). Note that many of these toppings can be prepped in advance so when you arrive home from work with cranky kids in tow, dinner can be made in less than 30 minutes. A crusty loaf of bread, cheese, and fruit isn't a bad light supper either.

        I have two kids, teen and pre-teen, who have managed to survive on such fare lo these many years. One is terribly picky, the other terribly opinionated on food choices.

        1. don't know about the particulars of your picky eater but make your own pizza bar has worked for us. You can buy crusts ( or make and freeze ahead, and then have toppings to choose. does not need to involve tomato sauce or cheese.