The Dr. Seuss Method of Getting Kids to Eat

Last year I wrote about being the character Sam of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.  I was just  reading the book, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, to my youngest son the other night.  Then last night had a moment where I felt like I was again Sam-I-Am.  My youngest is now seven years old and until a couple of weeks ago, broccoli was one of his favorite foods– not just one of his favorite vegetables, but of all foods.  Until two weeks ago that is; now he’s decided he no longer likes broccoli.  No, he hates broccoli.  My logo is of him eating broccoli with a huge smile on his face.  If he hates broccoli, I think, I’m done for.  But I remember what my mother said she learnt from Dr. Spock (not the Klingon Dr. Spock, but the baby book author that was popular in the 60’s & 70’s).  She said kids will go on “jags” eating nothing but one food until they suddenly no longer want that food.   I’m hoping this broccoli dislike is temporary. 

Anyway, my youngest is already my pickiest eater by far.  Well, when I made dinner last night, I took the vegetables I was going to use for a stir-fry and instead made a pasta dish.  It had garlic, shallots, green onions, broccoli, purple cabbage, shredded carrots, shredded cauliflower, zucchini, sugar snap peas and chick peas with a little olive oil and stock.  Number Two cried a bit at first then added ketchup (a trick a friend told him about and I said he could try), took a couple chickpeas out and ate most of it.  My eldest ate all of it and declared it delicious. My youngest son refused to taste it.  Wouldn’t eat a bite.  I just said he wouldn’t get anything else until he ate it… or at least tried it.

Fast forward an hour or so.  Youngest son is in the bath, probably with dessert on his mind.  I brought the pasta dish in to him and said, “Just try it, try it and you may see.”  He did without fuss and then requested I heat it up.  Of course I obliged and then proceeded to feed him in the bath (yes, I fed him like when he was a baby) with no train, fox, mouse or car in sight.  He even said he liked the broccoli “with the pasta” though he didn’t eat every piece and he asked to not have to eat the chickpeas (he loves hummus but not whole chickpeas).  The other thing he tried which previously he said he disliked was zucchini. I  explained that he might actually like it if he gave it a chance.  Immediately he said he didn’t but as he chewed and then swallowed his face softened and he said he did actually like it! 

He liked it!

He liked it!

I was so happy he ate so much of his dinner that he’d originally refused to touch with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot-pole.   It seems like I had the Sam-I-Am touch again.  

Don’t give up; sometimes you just have to catch them at the right moment — like when they are hungry enough to not fight you on it and they will actually try something new or healthy.

This is the video I made at my friend’s house showing how to cook Swiss Chard.  Some of our kids were running around and making comments.  Her daughter was so cute in some of hers!  It was like a screen test, but I haven’t made another how-to video yet.

I didn’t finish cooking it as it was hours before my friend and her family was actually eating.  As I mention, I’d finish it off with butter, salt & pepper. 

Spinach Bread just like from Frances’s Bakery

I grew up in a town which had a fabulous family-owned bakery, Frances’s Bakery.  We loved their breads, cakes, pies, cookies, brownies but most of all their spinach bread.  The bread was stuffed with tons of tasty, garlicy and cheesey spinach and was my way of finally eating spinach as a kid.  I’d start with the ends which had a higher bread to spinach ratio than the rest of the loaf.  And as I got older I’d forgo the ends for the most spinach middle pieces.  We’d often pick up two loaves at a time, one with meat (salami and ham)and one without.  When I had kids of my own we’d stop off there and pick up a spinach bread and bring it over to my mother’s house.  The same family owned it and would still hand out rainbow cookies to my kids— until a few years ago they sold it.  After that the quantity and quality went down and the new owners stopped getting our business.

So, with so much spinach from my CSA last week I decided to try my hand at making my own spinach bread.  I searched for recipes online but didn’t really find anything that I was looking for, so I thought I’d just wing it. 

For the amount of spinach to use, you want good amount in bread & once it cooks it decreases in volume.  So start off with a generous amount.


Spinach Bread

2 cups flour (½ cup whole wheat, 3 ½ cups all purpose)

½ tsp salt

¼ yeast

1 cup water

4-6 cups fresh spinach

2 cloves garlic, minced

handful shredded mozzarella

handful shredded parmesan

salt & pepper

olive oil

Mix flour, salt, yeast and water together until gooey.  Either knead on well floured surface and let rise for 2 hours or leave covered in oiled bowl overnight to rise.  Stretch out dough so it’s about 1/3 inch thick rectangle.  Let rest on parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Steam the cleaned and de-stemmed spinach until wilted.  Drain well.  Sauté garlic with 1 tsp olive oil until cooked but not brown.  Add spinach back to garlic & oil.  Mix well and then squeeze out excess liquid. Chop spinach so it’s easy to bite. 

Brush olive oil on dough and spread spinach, mozzarella & parmesan all over except edges.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.  Optional fresh or dried basil, oregano or tiny bit of nutmeg.   Using parchment paper, grab side & pull, should help roll dough/spinach into loaf.  Cut away excess parchment.

Place on cookie sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Let cool slightly and cut into pieces to serve.

It worked and the boys loved it too!  I brought it to friend’s house and they too loved it.  I decided to make again this week (had even more spinach!) with all white flour and brought it over to another friend’s home.  It was a huge hit.  The boys ran to grab a piece before it was all gone!

Can be served hot, warm or cold!

Portuguese Pork Stew with Spinach

Portugal has been known for its wonderful cuisine and great wines for centuries. I imagine Portugal’s proximity to the spice regions as well as its history (who the Portuguese conquered and who conquered them), vast exploration and trade explain many influences on its food, especially the spices used.  This dish has very distinctive  Moroccan influences.  If we make it with clams (yes, clams) and chouriço or linguiçasausage it is uniquely Portuguese.  This time, I’ve added Spinach to make it a more balanced meal for the kids. 

Portuguese Pork Stew with Spinach

1 pound Pork shoulder or butt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper (usually roasted but I felt like adding raw), chopped

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp smoked paprika

6-8 threads of saffron

2 bay leaves

¼ cup white wine

1 ½ cups chicken broth

1 lg can tomatoes, chopped

handful parsley, chopped

handful cilantro, chopped

1 pack baby spinach, rinsed

salt and pepper to taste

You could also add potatoes and chickpeas to this dish. 

Take the saffron threads and crush them in your fingers into a small amount of hot water, set aside.  Over medium high heat brown the pork in olive oil and set aside.  Sauté the onion for 2 minutes,  add garlic and continue until onions are clear making sure you don’t brown the garlic.  Add the paprika and stir for a minute before adding the pork and red pepper.  Add saffron, wine, broth, bay leaves, and tomatoes. Bring to simmer, cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 25 minutes and stir in herbs.  Add spinach and continue to cook until wilted.  Served over brown rice.  It can be made in a slow cooker to cook for 6-8 hours if you prefer.  


My youngest son was in a bad mood when he got to the table and initially refused to eat saying he wasn’t going to eat it because it was “yucky” but once he had cuddle from mommy and a taste he happily ate it.  My middle son didn’t even make a fuss (he’s normally the one who complains when he sees dinner).  My eldest was eager to try it and deemed it “delicious” when asked his opinion of the dinner.


Grounded Buffalo Chicken

I’ve loved the taste of Buffalo wings (spicy chicken wings originally from Buffalo, New York) since I was first introduced to them in the mid to late eighties by my older brother who went to university at RPI in Troy, NY.  As they are usually too spicy for most young kids, mine hadn’t ever had them (they’ve had wings, just not Buffalo style).  I don’t get out as often as pre-kids and wings are not something I make at home, but after reading a recipe for chicken cakes I got the idea for chicken burgers— and in particular Buffalo burgers.  We had good friends coming over for dinner the perfect opportunity for creating my idea.  I knew that the younger kids, especially my spice-sensitive middle son wouldn’t do well with them so I’d make plain chicken burgers as well.   For sides I prepared roasted butternut squash, roasted potatoes and a garden salad. 

I like both dark and white meat of chicken and decided to use both to give it flavor and tenderness.  I used around a pound of each and had enough to feed 10 people.  By adding the sauce to the ground chicken before they’re cooked it gives that tangy-spicy taste in each bite.

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

  • boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • chicken breasts and/or tenders
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • blue cheese
  • ranch dressing

Add butter to hot sauce and microwave on 20 seconds.  Set aside. Mince the chicken in a food processor.  Add other ingredients, reserving a Tbsp or so of hot sauce mix, and pulse until well mixed.  (To make plain just add salt, pepper and olive oil).   Take scoops of chicken meat and form into patties.  I used a griddle to cook the burgers, but you can grill them too.  Cook until 165F.  Just before removing from heat spread some hot sauce mixture to increase heat as desired.

Serve with slice blue cheese and/or ranch dressing.  I used Cambozola Blue (cross between Camembert and Gorgonzola) which is nice and creamy.  The older boys had Buffalo burgers and preferred ranch dressing on them while the younger ones had plain chicken burgers with ranch, ketchup or just as is. (Garnish as desired).

For the butternut squash, just peel and chop into bite size pieces, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Transfer to cookie sheet and cook in preheated oven starting at 450F for 10 minutes and finishing at 350F for 25 minutes.  You can cook the potatoes at the same time on another rack.

Completing a well rounded and colorful meal— the garden salad had yellow peppers, carrots, cucumbers, celery and  romaine lettuce. 

We all loved our burgers.  The 8 year olds were daring enough to try the spicier version and they loved them!  As my wonderful friend noted the roasted vegetables helped transform what would normally be a summertime dinner into an autumn comfort meal.  It satisfied my craving but in a healthier method.