Yes. I am going to start by answering the question I know you will ask……”She knows how to cook healthy?” Yes, yes I do. Believe it or not, we don’t eat the stuff I post in my blogs on a daily basis. Our dinners are not filled with onion dip, chocolate cupcakes, and pimiento cheese. I am a firm believer in special occasion=special food, but on regular, day to day basis, we eat pretty healthy. I believe in moderation! Raising healthy kids is important to me. I don’t want my girls to struggle with body issues when they grow up. I feel that if I feed them good, nutritious food, and involve them in all aspects of it…they will take this with them when they leave my house. I don’t want to deprive them of anything because guess what will happen if I do that? Yep-as soon as they leave my house, they will gorge themselves silly on all the things I wouldn’t let them have. Moderation people!
I know that many of you struggle with picky eaters. I never have…..until recently. My 6 year old is going through a lovely phase (can you feel the sarcasm?) in which her likes and dislikes change on a daily basis. Me-“Addy, would you like scrambled eggs?” Addy-“Moooooom! I don’t like eggs!”. Me-“You ate them yesterday!”. Addy-“I don’t like them TODAY!” Meanwhile, my 3 year old will still eat whatever isn’t nailed down. I’m not stressin’ about Addy’s eating. Why you ask? Because I know what works in our house, and I know what doesn’t.
I believe that if I involve my kids in the preparation, all parts of it, they will be more likely to eat what is being served. I also try to keep it fun. I do not believe in “hiding” the healthy stuff. I don’t want to give my kids brownies with spinach in them (gross!). I don’t want to fake them out with veggies hidden in macaroni and cheese. If I do that, and “trick” them, how will they ever learn what to put in their bodies? This might work for some families, but it will not be something that happens in mine. So like I said, I keep it fun, and I keep them involved. If I give them ownership of the meal, especially Addy, she will eat it. She will be proud of what she made.
Let me give you a few examples of what I mean by “keeping it fun.” I make things in silly shapes, i.e. I always cut sandwiches out with a cookie cutter. I give things funny names i.e “Princess Tianna’s Gumbo.” ‘Ol Tianna has nothing to do with my gumbo, but she eats it in the movie…. I make things look like things they aren’t, like my meatloaf cupcakes that I will show you in a bit. And finally, I try to let the kids “build” things themselves, like pizzas, tacos, and salads.
Let’s start with that….building it themselves. My kids are big fans of any restaurant in which they have the control. Subway, Fresh Choice, casino buffets, etc. Any place that lets them choose what they get to eat, in a buffet style, is numero uno on their list. I have learned to do this at home. Addy’s favorite is a salad bar. We start at the store. She must choose one thing she has never had before to put on her salad. Then when we are ready to “build”, I set it all up on my counter like a buffet. My kids love this. They have the power, they have the choices. Let me show you….
This was our “salad bad” from a couple of days ago. Addy chose beets for her “new” food. I also set out garbanzo beans, cucumber, avocado, shrimp, corn, tomatoes, mushrooms, grilled chicken, sunflower seeds, parmesan cheese and homemade dressing. And a big bowl of salad, of course. I will give the recipe for the dressing at the end of this post.
Addy, making her salad.
Like I said above, my kids like to “build” things. We also do, build your own pizza (set out veggie toppings too!), taco bars, sandwich bars, and omelet bars. Bars get them trying new things……Bars are a good thing……no, not that kind of bar;)
I also promised you meatloaf “cupcakes”. Does the name gross you out? Trust me, it won’t gross your kids out.
My meatloaf recipe comes from my dear friend, Audra. Audra doesn’t eat beef, so this is a turkey meatloaf….which is perfect for healthy eating. I use carrots and onions that I have sautéed, whole wheat bread crumbs, honey, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup (use organic if you are anti-corn syrup, an egg, some parmesan cheese, and some Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple Spread.
I also use 2 packs of ground turkey, about 1 1/4 pound each.
To start, mix all the ingredients, except for the turkey in a bowl. Those are Addy’s little hands doing the mixing. Ownership, baby. Ground turkey doesn’t like to be over mixed, so it helps to mix all the other ingredients first.
Why is she so happy? Because look what comes next….
She gets to put her little baby hands into the mixture and go to town. The mixture gets mixed, by hand, just until everything is incorporated. What kid doesn’t love a gooey mess??
I scoop the mixture into a muffin tin, about 1/3 a cup per “cupcake”. I spray the tin first, with cooking spray.
After the cupcakes come out of the oven, I place them in a cupcake liner. Don’t bake them in the liner, as they will get too wet. Then, I pipe on mashed potatoes. I use a pastry piping tool. You can use a plastic food storage bag with the corner snipped off if you don’t have a pastry tool, or even just spread the potatoes on top with an offset spatula. I will provide my healthier mashed potato recipe at the end.
I finish the plate with veggie “confetti”, which is just corn, red onion and red bell pepper sautéed together. What kid wouldn’t eat this? It is such a basic meal, but made special with just a few little tricks. Now, I don’t do this every night. I am not a constant fun parade of food. But it is meals like this that get the kids to the table, excited for dinner. We are consistent about eating dinner at the table, all four of us. They get in a routine, and most of the time they get something fun, that they are excited about. Sometimes they get a boring meal, but the fun stuff keeps them comin’ back;)
I don’t claim to be an expert on all things healthy…..obviously. But I know what works for my family, and hopefully, some of my tricks will work for yours;)
8 ounces plain Greek style yogurt, lowfat
½ cup buttermilk, made with 1% milkfat
1 pack ranch dressing mix
Whisk all ingredients together.
2 packs ground turkey, about 1 ¼ pounds each
1 large carrot, chopped and sautéed till softened
1 small onion, chopped and sautéed till softened
½ cup Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple Spread
2 Tablespoons mustard
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons ketchup
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients, except turkey, in a large bowl. Once mixed, add turkey. Mix, by hand, just until combined.
Scoop mixture into greased muffin tin, about 1/3 cup each. Bake, at 350 degrees, for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Makes 16 cupcakes
Healthier Mashed Potatoes
1 large yam, peeled
16 ounce bag “honey gold” potatoes, do not peel
3 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup buttermilk, made with 1% milkfat
¼ cup Greek style yogurt, lowfat
Chop peeled yam into chunks that are the same size as the potatoes. Place potatoes and yam into salted water, just to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until fork tender. Drain well and mash with potato masher. Add butter and stir until melted. Stir in yogurt and buttermilk. Salt and pepper as desired.
-If you can’t get potato mixture smooth enough, puree in food processor