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Kids' Favorite Foods

Food for Picky Eaters of All Ages

by Carol Zurer Kline and Elin Valentine

From Elin: I don’t feel very qualified to write about kids’ food . . . So far, my 15-month-old is not a picky eater. She says “mmm” for cabbage and cookies, and seems to dislike bananas more than any other food. What I remember about food as a kid is that candy was just below God (and probably reverenced even more), with Coke and white bread close behind. My mother, however, fed us otherwise—whole wheat bread, homemade yogurt, brewer’s yeast smoothies, and large pots of soybeans. I’m sorry to report all those healthy meals didn’t create as strong an impression as did the candy and Coke! With all that brown food at home, no wonder the lure of bright colors and tastes appealed to me so.

The good news is that I would now rather eat “health food” than candy, so something went right. Perhaps it is fortunate that kids are constantly reminding us of how important it is for food to look appealing.

The recipes included here are some children’s “most favorites,” and we hope you and your children enjoy them, too.

P.S. Laurie Colwin’s book More Home Cooking is a wonderful collection of essays and recipes. Her essay “Food for Tots” is delightful and inspiring (check your public library).

Spinach & Carrot “Meal in a Muffin”

This idea is inspired from the Jenifer Lang Cooks for Kids cookbook. You may want to try “frosting” with plain cream cheese.

Wet:

1/2 cup cooked, chopped fresh or frozen spinach

1/2 cup grated raw carrot

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Dry:

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup white flour

Dash salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a muffin tin or line with paper muffin cups.

2. Mix wet ingredients together separately and mix dry together separately, then combine both together until just mixed.

3. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit in pan about 5 minutes and then remove and cool on a rack.

Variation: Add 1/2 cup grated cheese to the batter. Or substitute sesame seeds for the nuts.

Shelley Gratzon’s Spinach Artichoke Tofu Quiche

This dish is in a special kid food category—company food that kids will enjoy, too! It’s visually appealing and delicious. You can simplify the process by using ready-made pie crust. You can also vary the vegetables and herbs to your taste and the season.

Crust:

1 cup unbleached flour

1/2 tsp. salt

6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small parts

2-3 Tbsp. ice water

1. Combine flour and salt. Mix briefly using hands or food processor. Add butter and mix until it resembles coarse meal.

2. Add water cautiously in small amounts and mix until the mixture forms small balls. If using food processor, use brief on and off motions.

3. Turn out onto wax paper, flatten into a disk, sprinkle with flour, wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes. While chilling prepare the filling.

Filling:

1  14 oz. can whole artichoke hearts

10 oz. frozen cut leaf spinach or large

bunch of fresh spinach

1/2 lb. firm tofu

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 Tbsp. butter

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. basil

1/8 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. turmeric or less (optional, too much and the quiche looks “green”)

1. Steam spinach, being careful not to overcook. Drain and squeeze out excess water from artichoke. Chop artichokes.

2. Melt butter in a heavy skillet. Add oregano and basil. Saute for 1 minute. Add artichokes, spinach, and pepper. Saute, stirring, for 3 minutes over medium heat.

3. Mash tofu with a fork. Add Parmesan cheese and cream. Mix until smooth. Add artichoke-spinach mixture. Mix well.

4. Roll the chilled crust out on waxed paper and turn onto a greased quiche dish or pie plate. Peel away waxed paper carefully and fit dough to the dish. Prick dough with a fork. Freeze for 15-30 minutes before baking or line crust with foil and weight with beans or weights. After 10 minutes in oven, remove foil and let crust cook another 5 minutes.

5. Fill the prepared pie crust. Pat down lightly. Bake at 375˚ for 20-25 minutes.

Tofu Meatballs or Patties

Christine Clark-Johnson sent this to us. It’s delicious and can be modified easily, using different herbs or spices, adding soy sauce, mustard, chili powder, etc. It’s great the way it is and kid tested for high yum appeal.

1 lb. tofu (firm is better)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 minced onion

1 egg (optional but makes them firmer to saute)

Dash worcestershire sauce, optional

1 Tbsp. butter or ghee

3 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Dash pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Form into 1" balls or little patties, your choice

3. Fry in oil until golden.

4. Put in baking dish and cover with tomato sauce or any sauce or gravy and let sit, covered, for 8 hours or overnight in fridge.

5. Bake at 350˚ for at least 15 minutes or until sauce is bubbling.

6. Serve over hot steamed rice or buttered noodles.

“Caramel” Pudding

Sucanat is what gives this pudding its rich caramel flavor. Using white sugar would make a plainer, light-colored pudding. Serve this topped with coconut and pistachios or with fresh or frozen fruit. It’s soothing and tastes great.

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/3-1/2 cup sucanat

1/4 cup cold milk

2-1/2 cups scalded milk

1/4 tsp. almond extract or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. sweet butter

1. Put sucanat and cornstarch in double boiler, add 1/4 cup of the milk, and whisk until smooth.

2. Place over heat and add scalded milk. Stir constantly until thickened, approximately 10 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and stir in extract and butter.

4. Put pudding into a baking pan or bowl or in individual serving dishes. Chill till firm. To prevent a “skin” from forming, press waxed paper or saran wrap directly onto the top of the pudding while warm.

Yogurt Popsicles

Based on Adelle Davis’s recipe, this is Karen Valentine’s 30-year standby for her five kids and all the neighbor kids, too.

1 small can undiluted frozen orange juice concentrate—thawed

1 pint to 1 quart plain yogurt—according to taste

1 tsp. vanilla

1. Blend until smooth and freeze in individual servings—small paper cups with a popsicle stick stuck in the middle works best.

Variations: Other juices may be used, and chopped fruit may be added.

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