Friday, December 21, 2007

Kids are Full of Surprises

I'm a member of my town's chapter of the MOMS Club and we just had our kiddie Christmas (oops, I mean "holiday") party. I brought finger sandwiches to munch on, mainly because I didn't want to have to feed Jack a big lunch when we came home; I wanted him to eat at the party.

I made two plates of sandwiches. I figured I couldn't go wrong with PBJ, but I also wanted to have an adult-friendly choice. So I made turkey salad sandwiches, using a chicken salad recipe I learned about 17 years ago from a really cool jeweler in Jamaica Plain, a Boston neighborhood. Since the recipe incorporates ginger and scallions I figured the little ankle-biters would avoid them like the plague.

Guess what? Everybody gobbled up the turkey sandwiches (geddit?) and I had half a platter of PBJs to take home. So my advice to anybody preparing a meal for a kid—make what you'd like to eat. If you set the bar high then people will strive to meet it.

At least that's how it worked out this time.

JP Chicken (or Turkey) Salad
2 c. cooked chicken or turkey, diced
2 scallions, chopped
1" piece of fresh ginger*, peeled and grated
3/4 c. mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Ta-da!

*The fresh ginger adds an indefinable *yum* to this dish; don't substitute powdered ginger.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It Was a Passing Fancy...

On Thursday and Friday Henry, my five-year-old, had big bowls of homemade granola. This morning, after I had gotten up super-early to make some more granola, he ate a couple of bites before confessing that he didn't like granola because of the nuts.

Last night he informed me that he didn't like asparagus anymore. Later, he asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, after telling me on numerous occasions that he didn't like those anymore, either.

And today I gave Jack, my two-year-old, some steamed carrot sticks and chicken bits for lunch. After consuming all of the chicken, he shoved the plate across the table, leaving the carrots untouched. He used to love carrots!

What is it about the immature palate that causes these sea changes? I wish I knew before I made my shopping list, because it would make mealtime a heck of a lot less frustrating. I liked it much better when they were both learning how to eat. I could lay a steaming bowl of tripe before them and they would have chowed down gratefully. Well...maybe not tripe. But they were willing to try a bigger variety of foods.

Oh well. I guess I'll just keep on trying. Who knows? Maybe one day they'll surprise me by asking for zucchini fritters or moussaka.

Yeah, right.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bringing My Marketing Experience to Bear on Dinner

Following a series of disappointing setbacks at the dinner table, I decided to approach the dinner-rejection problem from a different tack. I realized that there wasn't any excitement, any sizzle at the dinnertime. "Lunchables" aren't called "Highly Processed Food Conveniently Packaged in a Single Serving" for a very good reason: "Lunchables" is catchier--it's cool, it's hip, it's, as Henry puts it, sick. What I needed to do was to disguise the nutritious meals I've been flogging as a fun mealtime experience. Taking a cue from marketing, I transformed "blah" into "Bravo!" in a single stroke.

Everyone knows what chicken pot pie is. But do you know what "Volcano Chicken" is? It's chicken pot pie served in a puff pastry shell. And it was a shovel-it-in unqualified hit at my house the other night. Why Volcano Chicken? Because when it spills out over the sides of the puff pastry shell it resembles an erupting volcano. Well, not really, but the kiddos bought it hook, line, and sinker.

The following recipe is highly adaptable depending on your kids' tastes. Frozen vegetables are perfect for this recipe, since they thaw/cook at the same time. Badda-bing!

Volcano Chicken (or Turkey)
1 package of puff pastry shells
3 T unsalted butter
2 T flour
4 c. chicken or turkey broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 T soy sauce
2 c. chopped cooked chicken or turkey
1 c. frozen peas

Optional Add-ins:
Mushrooms, sliced and sautéed until all liquid has been released
Diced carrots, steamed
Diced potatoes, boiled (or frozen hash browns)
Chopped onion, sautéed until golden
Chopped parsley

Cook the puff pastry shells according to package directions. While they're in the oven, prepare the "lava."

Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan, then adding the flour. Cook the roux for a couple of minutes to eliminate the taste of raw flour, then add the broth (slowly at first so you don't end up with lumps). When the gravy thickens, season it with salt, pepper, and soy sauce (go easy on the soy sauce--you're going for umami, a savory flavor, not salty).

Add the chicken or turkey, frozen peas, and any other add-ins you think your kids will eat. After the meat and vegetables are heated through, spoon it into the puff pastry shells.

This meal is good with rice and a steamed vegetable. Chow down!