Cooking for Kids

 For the last week I’ve been cooking for children as well as adults.  This has been a new challenge for me and it hasn’t been straightforward.  Everything unusual has been viewed with deep suspicion and many of my staple dishes have been rejected in the planning stages. 

If this were long term I could work on making the kids less fussy eaters perhaps, but it’s not and I need to come up new ideas that won’t involve a battle of wills at the dinner table.

Tell me, what do you cook for kids?


29 thoughts on “Cooking for Kids

  1. Sorry to hear you’ve been feeling down, Wendy!

    As for cooking for kids, it really depends on what they are in the habit of eating. The easiest solution is to find out what their favourite dishes are (every kid has at least one!) and start off with that, then perhaps try to introduce variations on those dishes. Having the kids participate in making the meal seems to make a difference.

    I find that my son is very responsive to nutritional arguments if they are detailed and convincing (more than just, “It will make you big and strong!”), but I think he might be exceptional that way!

  2. Pizza, because they love it, and because you can get them to do the work, and – made properly – they are good healthy food for growing children

    Good luck …


  3. It’s such a great idea to get the kids involved in the preparation of their food. My children wouldn’t eat cauliflower when they were young but if I made a cauliflower cheese it was eaten in a flash 😀

    Rosie x

  4. Have you tried pasta? Spaghetti and meatballs usually goes over well. Or you could do burritos and have the kids assemble their own. For that matter, I think anything they can assemble themselves usually goes over well: baked potatoes with different toppings, salads, etc.

  5. Rosa – Rather impressed by your son’s attitude! The girls have been getting involved in the cooking and you’re right, it does help.

    Joel – Good idea!

    Johanna – Made naan bread pizzas the other day (Nigella’s idea). Perhaps we should go the whole way and make bases next time.

    Maryann – Must try to think of more finger foods… Thanks!

    Rosie – Totally agree. Thought the kids helping might make “hiding” some veg more difficult but I’ve learnt quickly that no veg can be totally hidden!

    Salena – Yup, pasta is one of our staples. Will put baked potatoes on the menu this week Good idea. 🙂

  6. Wendy – I know exactly what you mean! I’ve been cooking for my small nephew this weekend.Luckily, he is quite little and still young enough to give most things a go. I have eight nephews and nieces and they all love mince, so shpherd’s Pie, spag bol, meatballs with tomato sauce etc always go down a treat! Fish pie is always a winner. The thing they all love most of all though is a proper roast Sunday lunch with all the trimmings. It might not be that adventurous, but it always results in clean plates.

    They also all love hummous with vegetable sticks and pita bread. Sometimes I’m surprised by the things they will eat – most of them adore olives, for example!

    I find though, that it varies enormously from one day to the next. My little niece used to love broccoli but then one day announced ‘I can’t like broccoli’ and that was that! Similarly, my nephew wolfed down a tuna pasta bake with tomato sauce and cheese this weekend and my sister tells me that he usually won’t touch tuna! I’ll be watching this post with interest for new ideas…

  7. Sorry – rather a long comment previously! One more thing to add regarding ‘hiding’ vegetables. I sometimes grate vegetables into certain dishes to disguise them – grated carrot and courgettes into spag bol or even homemade beef burgersworks a treat – I’ve not been discovered so far..! Obviously, hiding the veg isn’t the idea solution -we’d all love kids to embrace and love vegetables, but being realistic, it is a solution in desperate moments!

  8. Wendy, my boys love minestrone and lentil soup. They also eat fish fingers – the Birds Eye ones – but you could make them yourself. Chicken goujons go in too. Bacon sandwiches are a big hit. Pasta, pasta, pasta obviously but real parmesan gives a good calcium hit and it is easy to put brocolli into pasta. Also tricolor fusilli is popular. Pasta bake is good too but quite a bit of work. Have access to a bread maker? Make brown rolls – I call them elephant dung! Good with cheese at weekends. I bet your roast chicken would be a big hit too. Good sausages and mash – and try old fashioned mince and tatties. Give small portions, from serving dishes on the table, and then they usually ask for seconds. Another good tip is scones when they come home from school – or pancakes with maple syrup. Hope this helps. Your common sense is prevailing I am sure and I hope your energy levels are staying with you.

  9. I’m lucky (now) in that they eat everything, but it wasn’t always the case.

    Anything with sausages is good. Tuna pasta with toasted pine nuts is always good, too.

    Good luck…I don’t envy you!

  10. I am with Antonia on this my son seems to be a lazy eater and loves most dishes with mince, stews, fish pie etc – very little cutting and chewing involved! He loves tuna fishcakes that I make with mash and tuna – and you can all sorts of things in with it!

    For him salad is a big no no…fruit he loves

  11. Antonia – Wow! That was almost a post in itself! Hadn’t thought of fish pie. That will be on the menu later this week for sure. Many thanks.

    Shona – Thank you. Great ideas, especially the elephant dung. 🙂

    Lucy – Yes, just how did you turn those boys into lentil freaks? 😉

    Carolyn – Tuna fishcakes. Genius.

  12. You never know what kids will enjoy Wendy. My daughter liked chicken one day and not the next but always devoured spanakopita…go figure. The best thing was to offer them choices. “Would you like chicken or a hamburger, carrots or peas”, but, if cooking for a group it is harder. Get them involved in the cooking and make things like tacos or pizzas for example. Make your own ice cream sundaes always works out well, veggies and dip…

  13. Wendy, its my job with Expo Chef as well as a dad to feed kids! So it is a challenge for me every day. The key? Keep it simple. incredibly tasty without the need to put loads of additives and salt in and best of all, plenty of confidence so that they can stop eating with their eyes and put it into their mouths!

    Our message is simple – try all foods at least once otherwise you aren’t qualified to say what it tastes like. We might be in your next of the woods soon actually.


  14. Hey Hi Wendy – I took a week off and now I am fired up to get cookin again! I had family and friends in for the past week and today have just turned on my computer. Breaks are inspiring!

    When my son was small, he and his friends loved tacos, pizza or mac and cheese. For a big treat, though not very healthy, I would start a fire in the BBQ and let them roast their marshmellows for S’Mores! I even joined in on that one!

  15. Hey Wendy. I’ve been cooking for kids lately too. Winning dishes have been lasagna and chicken enchiladas. I feel responsible for these kids and the rest of their lives, so I try to incorporate as much green into the dish as possible–large fluffy salads, sugarsnap peas to dip into something yummy, etc. Those seem to go over well if they aren’t the center of the meal.

    Good luck. I’m glad these kids have someone who cares about them and what they eat helping them along.

  16. hi wendy,

    my ds2 is the fussiest ever! I do make my own chicken nuggetts, organic breast cubed then coated in breadcrumbs and oven baked. He likes them and fish, so its not to bad. Kids seem to like simple things like egg and soliders and scrambled eggs on toast!

    I am off this week with ds2, so I will have to get my thinking cap on, as well!!

  17. Valli – Ah, choice is a good idea. They might consider something the lesser of two evils but eat it anyway!

    David – Of course, I forgot you worked in the food education field. Let me know if you are up my way!

    Deb – What, tell me, is a “S’more”?

    Christina – I thought about you whilst I was writing this post and, remembering your post, bought some sugar snap peas to get those greens in. They loved them. Thank you.

    Megan – I love the chicken nugget idea and the kids will too! 🙂

    Antonia – No need for apologies – it was most gratefully received. 🙂

  18. My boyfriend’s son is 8, and a very fussy eater!

    I’ve won him over with pitta bread pizzas – letting him build it himself.

    He now loves fahitas – and even eats the peppers!

    I tried a new one last week, which vanished very quickly – chicken breast, flattened out, spread with cheese, tomatoes and sauted mushrooms, then rolled up and wrapped with bacon. Flash fry it on a high heat, then bake for 20 minutes. He loved it!

    And the last one – big bowls of hearty soup. Sometimes he eats chunky veg, sometimes he’s fussy and I blend it! Serve with hunk of bread (or garlic bread!)

    Good luck 🙂

  19. A S’More is an old girlscout treat we used to have around a campfire. I guess you could call it a dessert sandwich. Take a graham cracker and cut in half. Place a flat piece of chocolate bar on the one half, on top of that put a roasted marshmellow and then top off with the other half of the graham cracker. Eat it like a sandwich. Oh what a gooey treat!

  20. In my experience all kids love garlic bread and home baking but apart from that it’s difficult to generalise. I was amazed, before I had kids of my own, to find that the local kids were buying pickled onions from the ice cream van in preference to sweets – what??

    Of my kids, one will try almost anything and the other would live on sausages, steak pie, fish fingers and beans (heinz only, he can tell) neither of them will eat potatoes in any way other than deep fried. I’m pleased that they both eat loads of fruit and that’s partly because we grow a lot, def more likely to eat something that they’ve picked and helped prepare themselves.

    Once before I had kids of my own some friends were visiting with their young daughters and I panicked about what to feed them and so I took them all to a cafe – I don’t think the parents were too pleased

  21. Jane – Was stunned at the pickled onion comment until I remembered if I got 10p for sweeties as a kid I’d often buy a pickled egg instead! And kids that don’t eat potatoes? There’s a challenge.

  22. It is lightly sweet, no salt at all. I will pick up a box and tell you what the ingredients include. We use crushed graham crackers for pie crust like in key lime pie or chocolate pudding pie. I will get back to you on this. You would like them!

  23. Baked Macaroni (lovingly endeared in my house growing up as, simply, baked mac — it’s definitely not one of our more elegant dishes but it fits the homeyness of mashed potatoes

    1 lb of hollow pasta (penne, rigatoni, ziti, etc.)
    8oz of med. cheddar, grated
    8 oz of sharp cheddar, grated
    15oz good canned whole tomatoes, (san marzano) chopped or pulled apart with your fingers into smaller peices.
    8 oz. tomato sauce (bionaturae, hunts, muir glen, whatever you use)

    preheat oven to 350
    lightly butter a 9×13 baking dish
    boil pasta till al dente, drain, set aside.
    Add the tomatoes and sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese to the prepared baking dish. Add pasta and mix all together with your hands, until sauce, noodle and cheese are well distributed. Top with the remaining 2/3 of grated cheese. Put in the over for an hour or until the top is becoming a golden shade of brown and the edges sticking out are crispy.

    serve with whatever steamed vegetable the kids will eat. Broccoli, green beans, etc. and a nice simply salad. I have been eating it this way since I was maybe 3 or 4 years old and to this day, even if I am out of salad options, I still poor a little vinaigrette on the bottom of my bowl or plate, just so I can get the same flavor mingling… hope this helps.

  24. Iroseyoung – Thank you! We made something similar one of the nights actually but with mozzarella rather than cheddar. Will have to try out your version next time. 🙂

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