By Nancy Gottesman
How many times have you and your spouse sat down to enjoy steak and fresh green beans as your child dined on noodles with butter, frozen pizza or PB&J?
If this scenario is familiar, you’re hardly alone. Many parents serve their children blander foods than they consume in the belief that children’s palates are not ready for “adult” foods. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Nutrition experts say that the earlier you introduce children to strong flavors—such as those in vegetables—the more likely it is that they’ll continue eating these foods. Plus, they need the nutrients in veggies and other bold-tasting foods!
Joachim Splichal, one of the country’s premier chef-restaurateurs, knows all about kid-friendly food. He and his wife, Christine, started feeding their twin sons healthy, mashed-up grown-up food when they were about 4 months old.
Today, his boys are 12-years-old and they still eat everything they’re served, except Brussels sprouts (but how many adults do you know who eat them?). “Preparing food from scratch for children seems like a lot of trouble, but it’s actually quite easy,” says Splichal, who owns the Patina Group of restaurants—more than 20 in all. “For instance, almost any vegetable can be cooked in 3 to 8 minutes in a steamer. Just puree it for the very young and chop it up for older toddlers.”
We’ve selected three meals from Splichal’s book, Feeding Baby: Simple, Healthy Recipes for Babies and Their Families, to show you just how easy it is to prepare kid food that’s sophisticated enough for adult taste buds.
These dinners are highly nutritious and appropriate for adults and kids, so you won’t have to prepare a meal for each age group. “I think something is lost by serving prepared foods to children,” Splichal professes. “Not only vitamins and minerals, but the warm feelings that come from sitting around the table together and eating the same foods as a family.”
Go to the next page to see the recipes!
White fish in mashed potatoes
Any white, flaky fish fresh from the market can be used for this dish. This is a simple version of brandade, a French Provençal dish served as either a main course or side dish. Prepare the mashed potatoes first so they are ready for the poached fish. To round out the meal, serve Spinach With Pine Nuts (recipe on next page) on the side.
(SERVES 4; FOR AGES 1-4; PREP TIME: 50 MINUTES)
1. Boil 1 pound peeled and quartered Yukon gold potatoes in lightly salted water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and let cool. Rice potatoes when cool. In a saucepan, heat 1⁄2 cup whole milk and 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter. Stir in riced potatoes until smooth. Then stir in 1-1⁄4 cups yogurt. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, if desired. Cover with foil and keep warm in 250 degree F oven.
2. In a large sauté pan, bring 1⁄2 inch water, 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and juice of 1⁄2 lemon to a boil. Decrease heat to medium and cook 1 minute. Place 1-1⁄2 pounds white fi sh fillets, such as ling cod or halibut (seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, if desired) in the water; cover. Decrease heat to a simmer and poach for 5 minutes, until fish is flaky.
3. To serve:
For 1- to 3-year-olds, flake a portion of the fish and fold it into the mashed potatoes.
For 4-year-olds to adults, top the mashed potatoes with the fish. Pour pan juices over fish.
For adults, garnish with thinly sliced basil, if desired.
Per toddler serving (2 ounces fish and 1⁄4 cup potatoes): 197 calories; 29% protein (14 g); 22% carbohydrate (10 g); 49% fat (10.5 g); 3.5 g saturated fat; 242 IU vitamin A; 4.2 mg vitamin C; 0.7 mg iron; 99 mg calcium; 0.7 mg zinc; 15 mcg folate; 1 g fiber.
Spinach with pine nuts
(SERVES 4; FOR AGES 1-4; PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES)
1. In a preheated oven at 350 degrees F, lightly brown 1⁄4 cup pine nuts. Set aside to cool.
2. Sauté 1⁄2 clove minced garlic and 1⁄2 shallot, minced, in 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil for 1 minute. Add 11⁄2 pounds washed and stemmed spinach, and sauté 1 more minute until wilted. Add lightly browned pine nuts, 1-1⁄2 more tablespoons of olive oil and 11⁄2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, tossing constantly for 1 minute.
3. Season with a pinch of ground nutmeg, sea salt and black pepper and serve.
For children under 3, omit the pine nuts.
For children up to 18 months, puree the unseasoned sautéed spinach in a blender; for 1-1⁄2- to 3-year-olds, chop it into small pieces.
Per toddler serving (1⁄4 cup each): 88 calories; 13% protein (3 g); 17% carbohydrate (4 g); 70% fat (7 g); 0.5 g saturated fat; 7,990 IU vitamin A; 25 mg vitamin C; 2.5 mg iron; 86 mg calcium; 167 mcg folate; 66 mg sodium; 2 g fiber.
Chicken pot pie
This is a great one-dish lunch or dinner for the entire family. Phyllo dough can be used for convenience, or use your favorite pie crust recipe.
(SERVES 6; FOR AGES 1-4; PREP TIME: 1 HOUR)
1. Sauté 3 medium peeled carrots and 2 small celery stalks, each cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces, with 15 peeled pearl onions in 1-1⁄2 tablespoons butter for 5 minutes. Add 1⁄4 cup chicken broth; cook 5 minutes. Drain; set aside.
2. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir 1⁄2 cup all-purpose fl our into 4 tablespoons of melted butter and brown over medium heat. Decrease heat to a simmer and slowly add 2 cups of chicken broth, whisking until smooth. Add 1-1⁄2 cups whole milk; simmer, whisking until sauce thickens. Season with sea salt and black pepper, if desired.
3. Fold into sauce: 2 pounds of boiled boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes; sautéed vegetables; 3⁄4 cup fresh peas that have been blanched for 2 to 3 minutes; and 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves.
4. Pour mixture into one 9x11x13⁄4-inch baking dish or several individual-size baking dishes. Top with six to seven sheets of phyllo dough, defrosted and cut to fi t, brushing each sheet with melted butter (1 tablespoon total; to prevent the edges from cracking, lightly brush edges first and work toward the center). Pie(s) can be frozen at this point and baked later. (Remove from the freezer 1 hour before.)
5. Bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees F: individual pies for 15 minutes, large pie for 20 to 30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool slightly; serve. Mash filling with a little of the crust for younger toddlers who aren’t ready for lumpy food.
Per toddler serving (3⁄4 cup each): 265 calories; 42% protein (27 g); 25% carbohydrate (16 g); 33% fat (9.5 g); 5 g saturated fat; 316 mg sodium; 2,885 IU vitamin A; 7 mg vitamin C; 1.7 mg iron; 85 mg calcium; 1.2 mg zinc; 398 mcg folate; 2 g fiber
Green, brown and pink lentils with apple-smoked bacon
Many of the dishes of my childhood were flavored with bacon, and I naturally used it in the dishes I prepared for my boys after they were a year old. It’s now possible to buy nitrate-free bacon, which makes using it more attractive.
(SERVES 4; FOR AGES 1–4; PREP TIME: 45 MINUTES)
1. In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, cook 1⁄4 pound finely chopped apple-smoked bacon for 4 minutes, until fat is translucent. Add 1 minced onion and sauté 3 minutes. Stir in 2 peeled and diced carrots and 1 thinly sliced celery stalk; cook for 2 minutes. Add 11⁄2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 2 cups water, 1⁄2 cup each brown lentils, green lentils and pink lentils (rinsed and picked over), and 1 sprig fresh thyme leaves. Cover, decrease heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
2. Serve immediately. Freeze leftovers that won’t be eaten the next day.
Per toddler serving (1⁄2 cup): 147 calories; 23% protein (8 g); 46% carbohydrate (17 g); 31% fat (5 g); 1.5 g saturated fat; 1,493 IU vitamin A; 5.5 mg vitamin C; 2.5 mg iron; 26 mg calcium; 135 mcg folate; 167 mg sodium; 6 g fiber.
*BE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT NUTRIENTS YOUR TOTS NEED. CLICK HERE TO READ THE RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES.
The anecdotes and adapted recipes are courtesy of Joachim and Christine Splichal, co-founders of the world-famous Patina restaurants, and can be found in their book, Feeding Baby: Simple, Healthy Recipes for Babies and Their Families.
Save money by making a dinner you AND your tot will love.