Finicky eater? Teach them to cook!
Before taking the Pinellas County Extension office's Family Cooking Class, I would have bet a week's pay that my finicky eaters wouldn't even touch Brown Rice Vegetable Stir Fry (recipe follows). I was wrong. They came back for seconds! And the next week they gobbled up Zucchini and Carrot Pancakes (I got that one for you, too, keep reading).
Turns out, one of the keys to getting a kid to expand his palate is pride of ownership. If he shreds the carrots himself or she helps stir ingredients into the soup, the chances of trying it and liking it increase exponentially. Now, I'm not saying it's a perfect cure. We've had our afternoons of chopping and whisking and making a giant mess only to find out after one bite that they hated it. But they were at least eager to try it.
Keep an eye on the Extension office's calendar for an array of free classes on family health and nutrition. Heck, even their gardening classes look good. Most classes are free or very low in cost.
There's a family cooking class starting Monday (Sept. 22) at the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center, 1344 22nd St. S in St. Petersburg. It's every Monday for five weeks from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and best of all it's free. There were still a few spots left when I checked on Tuesday. There are also plenty of spots left for the class starting Oct. 2 at the new Child's Park YMCA, 691 43rd St. S in St. Petersburg.
The five-week series at All Children's Hospital Education Center, 701 Fourth St. S starts Oct. 16, but it costs $25 for one adult and child and $5 for each additional person (adult or child), which is still a deal for five weeks of classes.
The number to call for all these classes is the Pinellas County Extension office at (727) 582-2122.
If you can't get to a class, get to the library and check out some kid-friendly cookbooks. The problem is a lot of kids cookbooks are heavy on desserts, light on real nutrition or teaching. I can recommend the Williams-Sonoma Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food and the Kids' Fun and Healthy Cookbook as a place to start. Here's a list of kids cookbooks broken down by age groups.
Now on to the recipes. Keep in mind the key ingredient is to let the kids do as much of this work as possible. Yes it's messy and slow and you will have a huge cleanup afterward, but when are they gonna learn?
Vegetable Fried Rice
source: Pinellas County Extension
1 cup instant brown rice
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
3 scallions (green onions), chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
half a can water chesnuts, drained and chopped
1 tbsp. oil
1 cup water with 3 tbsp soy sauce mixed in
Chop broccoli and bell pepper into small pieces, shred carrot, slice scallions and set aside. Lightly beat egg in a small bowl. Heat skillet on medium heat, add egg and cook, stirring every now and then until set. Remove from skillet. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and add chopped broccoli, bell pepper, carrot and onion. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. Add rice and water chestnuts and stir to mix. Mix soy sauce and water together into a measuring cup and pour over rice mixture, stirring to combine. Cover skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Chop egg and stir into rice mixture
Carrot & Zucchini Pancakes
source: Pinellas County Extension
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)
1/2 cup pancake mix (Bisquick or store brand)
1/4 cup low-fat milk
Shred zucchini, carrot and cheese and set aside. Crack egg into medium bowl and lightly beat with a whisk. Add milk and pancake mix to egg and stir until just mixed. Add zucchini, carrot and cheese to batter and stir until mixed. (You might need to add a tablespoon of mix or milk to this to get it to a nice thick, but pourable, consistency). Heat skillet to medium high (350-degree) heat. Using a tablespoon, drop pancake batter onto hot skillet and cook pancakes until little bubbles form on top and the edges start to look dry (about 2-3 minutes). Flip pancake over and cook about 1-2 minutes until done.
NOTE: This makes a savory side dish and adults might like to add canned green chilis or hot sauce. The kids also liked these with syrup.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne