I never thought it would happen this way. Maybe it’s a cruel trick. My son is really, really picky. Like ‘chicken fingers are a coup because at least they’re not candy’ picky. How embarrassing for a mom food blogger! But if there is a silver lining, it has allowed me to appreciate just how frustrating picky eating can be. A wise mom friend once told me that there are three things you really can’t make your child do: eat, sleep and s*$t. So true. And yet sometimes it seems those are precisely the things you spend your day trying to get them to do.
For a while I was feeling very exasperated and pretty much stopped trying to cook meals for him or accommodate him in any way when I cooked for myself and my husband. At least if I had to throw the hot dog away, I didn’t feel as much resentment as if it were a meal I cooked myself. But recently I have taken up the challenge once again of trying to find recipes that will appeal to him, and I’ve had some measured success.
One recommendation I have for parents who like more sophisticated food for themselves but have a picky child, is to remove some ingredients before adding sauces and spices, and leave them separate and plain. For example, if I am planning on making a stir fry, I will remove some plain cooked rice and cooked chicken before I mix them and add the sauce. The chances that he will eat plain rice and chicken are much higher than if I proposed a stir fry.
Another trick I’ve had luck with is to make a smooth, mild vegetable purée that can be added to soups, pastas, etc without it being overly apparent. To do this, I use my trusty magic bullet-type blender. In order to make the purée smooth, you have to pick vegetables carefully, peel them if necessary, and cook them well in broth. Vegetables that work well in this inconspicuous veggie smoothie are carrots, peeled zucchini (peeling removes off-putting green flecks), peeled tomatoes (milder than canned tomato purée), sweet potatoes, and canned beans. For extra protein, you could consider soft tofu as well, and if your child is not green-phobic, spinach or peas.
Using that method, I came up with this mac and cheese recipe, and I was really pleased with how it came out. You don’t really taste the vegetables and beans, but they help thicken the cheese sauce and give it a nice sweetness. And it did get eaten by you-know-who.
Incognito Veggie Mac and Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups dried macaroni
- 2 large carrots, finely diced
- 1/2 can white beans, rinsed
- 2 peeled medium zucchini
- 2 cups water with powdered bouillon to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup light cream
In a saucepan, boil 4 cups of water with your choice of bouillon (chicken, vegetable, etc). Add zucchini and carrots and boil until softened. Add rinsed white beans and cook another 5 minutes. Remove vegetables with a few tablespoons of cooking liquid and purée in a blender. Add more liquid if needed to achieve a smooth consistency. Set aside.
Next, cook macaroni according to package instructions. When done, drain macaroni and return to the pan. While still hot, add butter, cream, cheese and vegetable purée. Stir well and then allow to cool several minutes. Serve.