In the middle of my daughter’s one year check up, our pediatrician took me by surprise. He casually mentioned that by the time she turns 18 months old, she should be eating what my husband and I are eating. In six months time, if we were eating chicken and brussel sprouts, she would be eating chicken and brussels sprouts. If we were eating Papa John’s pizza, she would be eating Papa John’s pizza.
Right then and there I decided to start offering her options that better aligned with our typical meals, instead of relying on pouches and your average “kid cuisine.” My philosophy was that the sooner we introduced textures and flavors that aligned with our palettes, the better. I certainly don’t want to morph into a personal chef, taking orders on demand from a toddler. Operation make-my-kid-eat-like-us was officially on.
Here are three easy recipes that have become staples in our house.
Recipe #1: Salmon with couscous and spinach
It’s easy to assume that kids will be picky eaters. After all, many of them are! But, while my daughter is still curious and willing to taste what we offer her, I decided to be adventurous. One of my daughter’s new favorite meals is baked salmon with a side of couscous and spinach. My sister laughs and calls this her “fancy meal,” but in reality, it’s so simple to make and tastes really good.
Step 1: Prep.
Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray, then place the salmon fillet skin side down on the sheet. Check to make sure your salmon doesn’t have any bones (if you find any, remove them).
Step 2: Make the marinade.
In a microwavable bowl, soften 3 tablespoons of butter (do not boil). Mince one clove of garlic and add it to the butter, along with a tablespoon of dried parsley and one squeeze of lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine and gently brush the entire mixture onto the fillet.
Step 3: Bake the salmon.
Put the salmon in the oven and set a timer for 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. You’ll know it’s ready when the salmon easily flakes when you pierce it with a fork.
Step 4: Cook the spinach and couscous.
Bring one cup of water to a boil. Place a handful of spinach leaves in the water and then add a cup of couscous. Quickly stir to combine, then turn off the heat and cover for at least 5 minutes. After all of the water has been absorbed, add salt to taste and stir.
Step 5: Plate and serve.
Cut the spinach and salmon into bite-sized pieces and make sure it’s warm to the touch (not hot!) before serving.
Recipe #2: Nom Nom Paleo Chicken + Roasted Veggies
The other night I took my Dad out for his birthday dinner. When the waitress informed us that brussels sprouts was a specialty appetizer, I eagerly put an order in. As my daughter and I dove in, my Dad expressed his disdain. He explained that he hated brussels sprouts and always had ever since he was a kid. It turns out my Grandmother prepared them by boiling, creating a gross taste, texture and smell that permeated the entire house. My Dad just turned 65 years old and he still won’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole.
Several years ago, I was introduced to the beauty of roasting. After learning this was the best technique to prepare brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, beets, cauliflower, broccoli and garlic heads, I never looked back. Much to my delight, my daughter gobbles up these roasted veggies. She especially loves them with “Cracklin’ Chicken” by Nom Nom Paleo (I highly recommend this meal for both babies and parents!). My hope is that she’ll be able to forgo any unappetizing memories and won’t find herself turned off to wonderful food from an early age.
Step 1: Prepare.
Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Step 2: Wash and chop veggies.
Thoroughly clean all veggies, then roughly chop into bite sized pieces. Throw them all into a bowl and mix, drizzling with olive oil and lightly seasoning with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Bake.
Spread the vegetables onto the prepared baking sheet and put in the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes. Carefully stir halfway through. You’ll know they are done when you can easily pierce potatoes with a fork.
Step 4: Serve!
Recipe #3: Tex Mex Favorites
My daughter was born in Georgia, but my husband and I are native Texans. We moved back when she turned six months old. We’re determined to raise her right – on excellent quality Tex Mex (no pre-packaged items injected with preservatives here!). From authentic, fresh tortillas, to hand mixed guacamole, and tender, flavorful meat, here’s our easy recipes to recreate at home.
Step 1: Prepare your menu.
I put together a plate of my favorite Tex Mex foods, presented like a charcuterie board. This way she can pick what she wants to eat, exploring how the different flavors pair together. An average plate contains:
- Pieces of a flour tortilla
- A scoop of guacamole
- Diced baked chicken
Step 2: Make the guacamole.
Using at least two fresh avocados, peel and smash in a medium bowl. Add the following combination of spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, a pinch of cumin and sometimes a dash of cayenne pepper (optional). Tip: if you don’t have these spices on hand, it also works well to add ⅓ cup of your favorite salsa and mix to combine.
Step 3: Prepare the chicken.
You can grill, bake or fry chicken (even heat up leftovers from a previous meal). My best advice? Buy and cut up a rotisserie chicken for easy protein packed with flavor.
Step 4: Warm the tortillas.
Instead of using the microwave, place a tortilla (freshly made, not pre-packaged, if possible) in a nonstick pan over medium heat on the stovetop for about 30 seconds per side (be careful not to burn or cook for too long as the tortillas will stiffen).
Step 5: Serve!
By introducing a variety of flavors and textures early on, my hope is my daughter will develop a love for a diverse menu. She is a toddler, so she’s definitely not consistent. One night she will devour the salmon, begging for seconds. The next? She’s feeding it to the dog from her high chair. 😒While I can’t control her attitude, I do keep the meals on rotation and hope she loves them more often than not.