Every so often I really worry about my kids’ fruit and vegetable intake. At home with my brand new baby, I am watching a lot of daytime TV and worrying more, as postpartum women do.
Jessica Seinfeld was on Oprah a few weeks ago and got me thinking about healthier eating for my kids (again). I am way past her sneaking-veggies-into meals-idea, which never really worked so well (the pureed squash mixed in Annie’s Bunny Mac & Cheese worked once). Nonetheless, Jessica, in her irritating way, reminded me to at least put vegetables and fruits on my kids’ dinner plates, even if they don’t touch them.
I may be past sneaking, but am not above bribing. Last night, I roasted brussels sprouts for my husband and me, and included one half on each child’s plate. I offered Pillsbury Cinnamon Buns (filled with partially hydrogenated soybean oil) for breakfast the next day if they each tried one (yes, I know this defeats the purpose somewhat). The pickier child, 4-year-old J. will do anything for “Cinnabons”, so he nibbled the brussels sprout and proceeded to gag and spit tiny pieces onto his plate. I seriously thought he’d throw up the whole dinner. 7-year-old E. is smarter- she didn’t go for the bribe.
I told them how much I love brussels sprouts (and ate a good half dozen in front of them to prove it). I also told them that we were going to try more fruits and vegetables because Jessica Seinfeld on Oprah was making Mommy feel guilty. J. said, “Who is Jessica Seinfeld?” And I said, “A woman who married a very rich man who starred in a big TV show.” And my husband said, “And therefore is an expert on healthy eating.”
It’s not so much as she is an expert or not- it is that she has the time and money (re: staff) to spend on preparing healthy meals and snacks. And she is lucky enough to have not-so-sharp kids that are tricked into eating ground up chick peas in cookies.
I cook from scratch. I always offer my kids what my husband and I are eating. But sometimes I get tired and annoyed when they constantly rebuff my lovingly prepared meals or complain about food that I make especially for them and think they will like. So, I go into phases where I give up and they eat a lot of chicken nuggets just because they will eat chicken nuggets, and yes- I know I can make them myself but they like the Bell & Evans or- yikes- pressed together bad Tyson nuggets in the prepared food aisle at my local grocery store.
When my daughter was a toddler, her daycare provider cooked Persian food and her assistant cooked food from her native Colombia. E. would eat lamb and green beans and rice and all sorts of other exotic food with gusto. We brought her to France and Italy at 11 months and she ate whatever was on her high chair tray. I can’t pinpoint when it was, but slowly she got pickier and pickier about what she would eat, despite my cooking and trying. Her little brother as a toddler was even pickier- later we realized some of the foods he ate or tried to eat, he was allergic to (eggs, peanut, sesame). It is frustrating, but I trust they will be okay.
Every time we find something new they will eat, it is a triumph: the latest is ground chicken rolled in a tortilla with cheese (and cucumber for E.) So, each week, it is a lot of these “tacos”, and chicken nuggets, apples, turkey sandwiches and one of my favorites: Broccoli & Chicken Rachael Ray Pizza (see below). E. will eat the broccoli, and sometimes I can sneak a small spear under a dollop of ricotta for J., a la Jessica Seinfeld.
What works in your house?
Rachael Ray Pizza a la June Carol Clair
- 1 (16-ounce) package pizza dough brought to room temperature (I make my own w/dough hook on my KitchenAid Mixer if I am home that day as I don’t like dealing with thawing pizza dough)
- a head+ of broccoli
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
- 3 cloves cracked garlic
- 1/2 pound chicken breast cut for stir fry or chicken tenders (this is key- have the butcher cut it up for you “stir fry style”- they will do this at most grocery stores)- saves so much time)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
On a 12-inch nonstick pizza pan, stretch out your dough and form the pizza crust. Drizzle 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil on crust and spread it with a pastry brush over the dough to the edges.
In a small covered saucepan, bring 2 inches water to a boil. Separate broccoli tops into florets, discarding lower stalk. . Salt water and add broccoli florets. Cook covered 3 to 5 minutes. Drain broccoli and set on cutting board. Chop broccoli florets into small pieces.
Heat a small nonstick pan over medium high to high heat. Add oil, cracked garlic and chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Brown chicken breast cut for stir-fry or tenders until lightly golden all over, 3 to 5 minutes. Chop sauteed chicken and garlic on a cutting board into small pieces.
To assemble pizza, spread mozzarella on bottom of crust, then dot crust with chopped broccoli bits and cooked chopped chicken. Dot crust with spoonfuls of ricotta and spread ricotta gently with the back of your spoon. Sprinkle parmesan on top (this is a lot of cheese, so use your discretion). Place pizza in oven and bake 12 minutes, until cheese is deep golden in color and crust is brown and crisp at the edges (although be careful b/c kids get freaked out about brown on their pizza). Remove pizza from the oven and let stand 5 minutes and serve!