Are you one of the few moms blessed with children who are good eaters? Do your toddlers actually enjoy eating their veggies? Or are yours more like mine and take pride in declaring, “I don’t like vegetables!” to everyone sitting at the dinner table?
As moms we want our kids to be healthy and happy. We hope that they’ll learn healthy eating patterns. More than anything, we wish meal times didn’t have to be such a battle. But often, evening after evening, we find ourselves in a struggle between us-- the food pushers-- and them-- the kids, who are supposed to be consuming the food we’ve labored so hard to prepare.
Sometimes we threaten. Other times we bribe -- “No apple pie unless you eat five green beans.” And sometimes we just give up. Worse yet, we don’t even put vegetables on our children’s plates because we know the kids won’t eat them anyway.
I’m still navigating my way through murky waters in the land of What-Do-I-Cook-For-Dinner-That-My-Kids-Will-Eat?
Fortunately, I have learned some tricks and secrets along the way. For instance, I know that my my two-year old won’t touch certain dishes until I cut his food up into ½-inch pieces. I’ve also learned how to hide veggies in unlikely places.
If you’re a mom of toddlers and desperate for new dinner ideas, here are a few for you. These are guaranteed to be eaten without complaint from your kiddos.
SPAGHETTI WITH HIDDEN VEGGIES
1 pound of spaghetti noodles
1 pound of ground beef
26 ounces of spaghetti sauce
1 large carrot
1 large zucchini
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
- Steam one peeled carrot and one peeled zucchini until soft (in a food steamer/rice cooker or stainless steel steamer basket that fits in a pot of boiling water.) Be careful not to steam the zucchini too long or it will get mushy (5 - 8 minutes until soft when poked with a fork). You can steam more of these veggies but be aware that they do alter the color of the spaghetti sauce slightly.
- Cut up the steamed carrot and zucchini.
- Pour a cup of spaghetti sauce (without meat in it) into a food processor or smoothie blender. Add the steamed carrot and zucchini to the blender. Blend until smooth.
- Brown the ground beef in a frying pan and drain out any grease.
- Add the cooked beef to the spaghetti sauce in a pot. Heat over a medium heat. Add the pureed vegetable mixture to the spaghetti sauce in the pot.
- Prepare spaghetti noodles according to the noodles’ packet instructions. Serve prepared spaghetti sauce over noodles. Your kids will never know that they’re eating vegetables!
TURKEY SAUSAGE MAC AND CHEESE AND KALE CHIPS
2 6-oz. boxes of macaroni and cheese (I use Annie’s)
6 turkey sausage links
½ cup of milk (according to mac and cheese package)
4 Tablespoons of butter (according to mac and cheese package)
1 bunch of fresh kale
2 Tablespoons to ¼ cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Wash a bunch of kale thoroughly. Dry the kale off with a few paper towels.
- De-rib the kale by removing the thick, inner stalks of each piece of kale and discard the inner stalks. (These don’t crisp well in the oven.)
- Tear the kale into bite-sized pieces.
- Toss kale pieces in a bowl with 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of olive oil (enough to get each piece coated with olive oil).
- Spread out thinly on a lightly-oiled cookie sheet, making sure no pieces stick together.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Take kale out of the oven and flip over the pieces of kale. Make sure that no pieces are stuck together so that each piece will crisp.
- Bake for 10-15 more minutes.
- Take kale out of the oven and test each piece with tongs or your finger to see if the kale has crisped and feels crunchy. If the pieces still feel soggy, return them to the oven for a few more minutes or until they all crisp. Watch carefully not to burn the kale. When the pieces feel crisp to the touch stop baking them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.
- Prepare your favorite box mix of macaroni and cheese according to the instructions on the back of the package.
- Boil or microwave links of turkey sausage until they are hot to the touch.
- Cut up the sausage into bite-sized pieces and add them to the macaroni and cheese. Serve the kale chips on the side.
EASY CHICKEN QUESADILLAS WITH GREEN-INFUSED APPLESAUCE
4 flour tortillas (white or whole wheat, 6 inch wide)
1 ½ cup of shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 ½ cup of finely shredded cooked chicken
1-2 Tablespoons of butter
Garlic salt to taste
¼ a cup or ½ of a Toddler Veggie Squeeze Pack
2 cups of applesauce
Avocados and salsa (if desired)
(Makes 4 servings)
- Sprinkle shredded chicken and shredded cheese all over one flour tortilla. Sprinkle a small amount of garlic salt on top for extra taste.
- Set a frying pan on medium-low heat. Let 1/2 tablespoon of butter melt in the pan.
- Carefully place the tortilla (with chicken and cheese mixture on it) in the pan.
- Add a lightly-buttered tortilla on top of the tortilla already in the pan (buttered side facing up). Gently press with spatula. Watch for signs of the cheese melting. The tortilla on the bottom should get golden brown.
- Flip the quesadilla over carefully when the lower tortilla is golden brown. Wait for the second tortilla to get golden brown and for the cheese to all be melted.
- Remove the tortilla from the pan. Cut into fours with a pizza cutter. You can serve the quesadillas with salsa or mashed avocado.
- For a healthy side dish, mix 2 cups of applesauce in a bowl with ½ of a squeezable Toddler’s vegetable blend packet. I like to use one with spinach or peas in it so my kids are getting some extra greens. Blend applesauce thoroughly before serving.
I hope your toddlers enjoy these dinners as much as mine do. It’s such a relief not to hear them complaining about food or to have them refusing to eat something.
How about you? What are your go-to dinner meals that are big winners with your kids? Share the dinners that your kids most enjoy eating below.
Author: Catherine Writer