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Flavoring a dish with fresh herbs without the problematic-to-a-three-year-old telltale green specks

Anyone have suggestions? My kids aren't particularly picky and assuming there are no obvious green bits of fresh herbs enjoy the flavors involved. Any tricks to hide the parsley/basil/whathaveyou in a meal?

"Spinach cake muffins" which do have tiny flecks turned out to be fine. Pureed soups have been fine. Big blobs of basil or parsley flecks provoke horror. Long, loud horror.

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  1. Bouquet garni. For saucy dishes, tie sprigs of herbs with string or wrap in cheesecloth, simmer until flavored, remove before serving.

    2 Replies
    1. re: babette feasts

      Yep yep yep!
      Thick white cotton string and CHEESECLOTH is my friend.
      I had to start this for medical reasons (no leaves. stems or seeds) but now just love love love this technique. No more fishing stupid bay leaves or cardamom pods or rosemary stems out of the broth.

      1. re: babette feasts

        Ditto! Or just put the fresh herbs in whole on their stems instead of chopping them. You'll still get the flavour and there won't be any (or many) little 'flecks' to offend them.

      2. Are you willing to use food dye on the herbs, so they'll blend in or look like tomato, etc?

        Edited to add -- Have they read/heard the book "Green Eggs and Ham"?

        1 Reply
        1. re: MidwesternerTT

          Instead of food coloring - blending fresh herbs with tomato paste often takes the green out. Also adds a bit of of sweetness associated with the tomato.

        2. Would they eat them if you chopped them finer? My son also complains about the green flecks but I have told him, for example, that's just parsley, you like it, it makes the food taste better. And he usually eats it because he does like the flavor. I have noticed though that I get less of a reaction if I chop them very finely.

          1. Flavor the oil used with the fresh herbs first, then remove, cool and use.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

              this was going to be my suggestion - you can also put the herbs with oil in the food processor/blender puree to within an inch of its life and strain instead of heating the oil/herbs, which keeps a little more fresh flavor (and no cooling involved).

            2. My trick takes a little kid training. First, find something they *do* like that contains green specks and feed often. For my kids, it was salsa. Once they're cool with those green flecks. just remind them of the salsa - "yes, dear, there are green flecks in your egg salad, just like that delicious XXX in salsa." Call it salsa egg salad if that helps.

              Gradually expand the list of acceptable foods. Mine went from salsa to pesto to green herbs in pho pretty quickly as toddlers.

              10 Replies
              1. re: tcamp

                Kids take most of their food cues from the people around them. By age 10 their ways are set until and sometimes through adulthood. A University of Pennsylvania researcher studied the percentages of 16-29 month old babies who would eat/taste unusual foods: fish eggs 60%, dish soap 79%, ketchup-topped cookies 94%, sterilized dead grasshopper 30%, coil of peanut butter scented with Limburger cheese and presented as dog poop 55%. The takeaway is to expose kids to a variety of flavors and not make a big deal about it.

                1. re: greygarious

                  My kids happily eat everything from caviar to grilled artichokes to brussel sprouts. My three year old just doesn't like flecks of stuff in her food. She doesn't like the way they stick on her tongue; it isn't a flavor thing and it isn't because she isn't served a wide range of foods and experiences. And we already regularly shop at the farmer's market, cook together, and plan our meals together.

                  It is okay to listen to what your kids say about foods and respect their preferences.

                  Bouquet garni and flavored oils are both great ideas.

                  1. re: JudiAU

                    And, it is entirely possible to be a wide-ranging eater who raises multiple kids with entirely different food preferences. I have a picky eater with sensory and OCD-like issues and an omnivore who loves to cook and eat almost everything.

                    Human beings - they are confounding creatures sometimes.

                    1. re: tcamp

                      concure with you icamp:

                      i have a girlfriend who came from a very large family, and therefore, by the time she was 20 had done an amazing amount of babysitting for wide variety of young kids.

                      her statement to me was:
                      "when i first got married, i believed that i knew a LOT about raising kids. now, after raising 7 kids, i realize that throughout the entire process, i never really knew very much."

                      just because you may have figured out how to control/manipulate/instruct/entice/educate/motivate any given kid or two, doesn't means squat about how effective you will be with the next one. . . . . .

                    2. re: JudiAU

                      So, let me get this straight....... Your kid (s) is/are three and up....they eat everything ( yea, mine did too at that age, just wait....) from caviar to Brussels sprouts (two things MANY adults won't even go near) and you're concerned they don't like fresh herbs in their food??

                      Take it from another Mom : don't sweat the small stuff, give the herbs & your kid(s) a break......

                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        They ate everything when they were one, now they won't eat spicy or curry. So their palates have contracted but yes, they do like a lot of good food. But I like to cook with herbs and I don't want them to become to accustomed to bland flavors.

                        1. re: JudiAU

                          Oh for g'sakes I think they'll be okay and not adverse to the subtle flavor of basil or parsley.... Relax!

                          1. re: JudiAU

                            my experience:
                            their perception of flavors will change as they get older.
                            stuff they hate now, they will love later.
                            stuff they love now they will distain later.

                            the world won't end if they don't develop a taste for tarragon or for coriander, or for stinky cheese.

                      2. re: greygarious

                        That's hilarious...and true! I just forwarded your link to our daughters who are the mothers of 18 and 19 months olds. Thanks, g.

                    3. Bruise the crap out of the basil so it turns black. Tell 'em it's pepper.

                      1. You can also infuse milk or cream with whole herbs, remove, then use the scented cream in your dish.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nemo

                          Another good one. I actually do this with macaroni and cheese and have never thought to do it with other dishes.

                        2. Since fresh herbs are usually added at the end of cooking, how about chopping up the herbs separately and having them in a small dish at the table for people to add separately? Maybe if you make a big deal about how pretty the herbs look and how much fun it is to sprinkle them on from a height with your fingers and then mix them through your dish, your kids might be intrigued and decide to join in.

                          Studies show that with kids (and dogs too) who are reluctant to eat certain foods, if you present and offer the new food item to them 7-10 days IN A ROW they are more likely to actually try it.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Billy33

                            I second Billy33's suggestion. My 7yo who eats everything, decided two months ago that basil is evil and must be avoided at all costs. He said he didn't like the way it sticks in his teeth. I used the communal dish, serve yourself herbs method and guess who started eating basil again?

                            I heard the same about presenting a new food multiple times (without fanfare) but it was more like 30+ times.

                            1. re: cleobeach

                              I get it about the teeth! I'm 66 and in braces and there are things that I normally love that I don't right now. This too shall pass.

                            2. re: Billy33

                              Hum. Very good suggestion for the little fancy girl. Herbs as beauty.