Thumbs-Up Recipes to Make With Kids

Cooking new recipes together can help minimize picky eating

Parents of babies and young toddlers who will eat practically anything, go ahead and pat yourselves on the back. But be warned: It may not last.

Introducing a variety of purees, flavors and textures (depending on the age of the child) is an important part of building healthy and adventurous eaters. Keeping it going even when a child is going through a picky phase is important, too. Even when you want to throw your hands in the air and let them eat pizza every day, consistently offering a variety of foods will likely pay off in the end.

Some kids will eat anything without much of a push from parents. But most kids need an introduction and encouragement to try new foods.

Sometimes part of the problem with introducing new foods is that parents themselves don’t love eating outside their comfort zones. Some, but not all, picky children grow up to be picky-eating adults. And a parent who gags at the thought of cooking fish or hasn’t eaten peas since forced from the Gerber jar isn’t likely to make those things for their kids.

But trying the foods together can actually be a lot of fun. Kids will love it when mom or dad says, “I made shrimp! Let’s try it together to see if we like it!” Let the kids be critics, and give them scorecards to rate the new food from a 1-10 or thumbs down or thumbs up. Making it into a game or making it fun will help you go far.

Here are some recipes that may help you – and your kids – branch out into new culinary territory.

The sweetness of this marinade will appeal even to fish skeptics. This recipe comes from “Little Foodie” by Michele Olivier. It’s a great resource for finding recipes for babies and toddlers.

Honey-Ginger Baked Salmon

Makes 4 servings

  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons squeezed orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound salmon filet
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, orange juice, honey and pepper.
  2. In a shallow glass baking dish, place the salmon and coat with the honey-ginger glaze. Cover the dish, and let it marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.
  3. Place the baking dish in the oven, and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until you can easily flake the fish with a fork. For a crispy crust, turn the oven to broil, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly and serve. You might want to remove the skin for the kids.

Here’s another from the book “Little Foodie.” This can be given to kids ages 9 months and older. For grownups, pair it with veggies or crackers. It can be kept in the refrigerator for five days.

Green Pea Hummus

Makes 2 cups

  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • 1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Place the peas, chickpeas and turmeric in a food processor or blender, and begin to puree.
  2. Slowly add the lemon juice and the olive oil through the top spout, and continue to puree, scraping down sides every so often, until you have reached a smooth consistency.

Fish tacos are a great way to add more fish to the dinner rotation. This recipe, using Trader Joe’s products, comes together in just about 20 minutes. For kids, serve it simply with just the fish in a tortilla, with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of cheese.

Mango Fish Tacos

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 package TJ’s corn tortillas
  • 1 box TJ’s Breaded Cod Fillets
  • 1 jar TJ’s Roasted Tomatillo and Mango Salsa
  • 1 bag TJ’s shredded green cabbage
  • Sour cream
  • Lime slices, for garnish
  1. Heat fish fillets according to package directions.
  2. While fillets are heating, prepare tortillas. Heat a griddle or grill pan to medium-high heat. Fill a shallow bowl or plate with water. Dip each side of tortilla in water and immediately transfer to hot surface. Warm 1 minute each side, then place in foil to keep warm. Repeat for each tortilla.
  3. To assemble tacos, layer tortilla with one fish fillet, cabbage, salsa, and a little sour cream. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.

We love this recipe from Foodlets, a great blog with kid-tested recipes. If you have a child who doesn’t like carrots, let them try this and ask them to guess the “secret” ingredient.

Carrot Cake Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

Makes 18 muffins

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 4-5 carrots)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease muffin pans or use liners.
  2. Using a whisk and large bowl, beat wet ingredients together until frothy: eggs, oil and applesauce. Add the sugar and honey or agave and mix. Fold in carrots. Put a sifter over the mixing bowl and add the flour, wheatgerm, spices, baking powder, salt and soda. Sift then stir together, breaking up clumps but don’t over-mix. Stop when everything is just incorporated to keep your cakes fluffy.
  3. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 15-18 minutes. Touch the top of a muffin to find out if it’s done. If it springs back immediately, they’re done. Cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the filling.

Cream Cheese Filling

This doesn’t make a big batch of filling. If you want to frost the muffins as cupcakes, double the quantities below.

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Cream everything together with a spoon. When totally combined, fill a pastry bag fitted with a small tip with the cream cheese mixture. Poke the tip into the muffin top about half an inch, so it’s firmly in the muffin but not breaking the top layer. Squeeze the filling bag until you feel the muffin puff out at the sides. (Not too much!) Keep squeezing but gradually, gently pull up until the tip is out. Make a little peak on top of your muffin. Cool in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving.

Categories: Food

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