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.

They might actually like it, if you give them opportunity.


This gallery contains 3 photos.

Some days I think it’s impossible to get my youngest to eat what we’ve made for dinner (or breakfast and lunch) if it’s not one of his limited favorites at the moment.  He said he was NOT going to eat … Continue reading

Ugghh… it’s not always easy- even in my house.

So, many people think that my kids always eat well— without a fuss.  But you know if you read my blog that that is not always the case.  A few nights this week have been especially difficult with my middle son.  Each time I put dinner on the table he whined and cried that he didn’t want to eat what we’ve made.  And when I say he whines and cries… he whines and whines and whines then cries.  It’s not always easy to ignore (especially when I’m PMSing) but I don’t give in and eventually he comes around. 

Except several nights ago I did let him eat something besides the dinner I made.  It was a delicious chicken fried rice— brown rice, chicken, kale, beet greens, Chinese cabbage, red cabbage, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, egg, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger, leeks, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, ground pepper.  He cried and cried.  He said he liked many of the ingredients, just not all together.  I compromised once he was calm and could talk rationally. I said if he ate another 20 forkfulls (basically more than half) then he could get something else.  I wanted to make sure he ate the most nutritionally important food before the yogurt and pasta.  By compromising I’ve potentially set myself up for more whining in our future.

The next night my husband made bucatini spaghetti with a delicious sausage tomato sauce and a salad.  We both couldn’t believe he whined about that one!  He wanted the pasta plain with butter and no salad.  But we remained firm.  He ate it.  All of it.  Even his salad. 

Plus it was fun to eat!

I feel that I chose my battles again.  I know my middle son doesn’t really like those one dish meals where everything is combined.  I felt the compromise wasn’t really giving in (fooling myself?) because he still ate the majority of the meal.  It is so much easier to always give them what they want.  Unfortunately, easy isn’t always best for them.  But it does get easier.  He will keep trying new things and getting a taste for them and I will figure ways to satisfy us both.

Chicken Spinach Ravioli with Cherry Tomato Sauce

I am working on my list of healthier nut-free snacks to contrast what the kids’ school nurse sent home. In the meantime thought I’d share this awesome ravioli my husband made on the boys’ first day of school at my suggestion.  It’s funny sometimes:I buy all the ingredients and just have to tell him what I have in mind.  Then he cooks it.  He cuts faster, cooks and  knows what to do better than I do, so it works well.  I just help whatever he needs help with. And he loves to cook.

He used wonton skin wrappers that I buy in the grocery section of supermarket.  They make wonderfully thin raviolis so you get more taste of the fillings.  Poach chicken breast in water for 5 minutes (until done but not tough).  Sauté ½ small onion, minced and then 2 cloves garlic, minced both in olive oil.  Add pound of spinach until wilted.  Blend in food processor with chicken, tsp porcini powder and salt & pepper.  Mix in ½ cup of ricotta cheese.  Spoon in dollop onto center of a wrap, moisten edges and press another wrap on top gently squeezing any air out before sealing.   Press edges with a fork.  Keep on cookie sheet dusted with corn meal until ready. When nearly time to serve put in gently boiling water for about 5 minutes and remove with straining spoon.   

Served with a simple cherry tomato sauce.  Take several handfuls of cherry tomatoes (we used orange cherry tomatoes) cut in half, Tbsp of fresh basil chopped, 2 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and ¼ cup of chicken stock.  Cook until tomatoes are tender, stirring often.  So easy and delicious!

We served ours with a green salad. The boys weren’t too keen on trying the sauce but I finally got my eldest to try it.  His aversion is to the seeds.  My middle son was a bit easier but my youngest flat out refused.  They all loved the ravioli but next time asked for it without sauce.  Oh well.  Different sauce for them next time or just butter! My son loves to spike & color his hair for first & last days of school.

Meatless Meals

I often make meals without meat, but it’s usually when my husband isn’t here.  He just seems to think you need protein in each meal, but I don’t think it has to be animal-based.  After reading Mark Bittman’s recent article in the NY Times I guess I’m not the only one who thinks that way and my husband’s not the only who eats his way.

How much meat/protein is too much?  I’ve noticed often parents will be happy if their kids get protein through chocolate milk and yogurt but not give as much consideration to the kids’ vegetable (especially green veggies) or even sugar intake.  “At least they’re getting their protein.” is a common mantra.  But is it right?

Milk, yogurt, chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, and protein-fortified food and drinks.  I think my generation got a little obsessed with protein and overlooked the vegetables. 

We don’t need more than a few ounces of protein a day.  An 8 oz. burger is 4 or 5 oz. too many and especially if that’s not the only protein that person has had that day…  And that’s the recommended amount (around 3 to 4 oz or about 100 grams) per day for an adult. 

We are told we should be giving kids about 5 to 9 servings of whole* vegetables and fruits (*I just mean with the fiber of it; not just juice) daily.  So, the fruit flavored yogurt, fruit snacks or juice don’t count.  I found the best way to figure out what a “serving” is, is it’s about a fist-full.  A child’s fist is their serving size and an adult’s fist is our serving size. 


So, following in the footsteps of Meatless Monday, I’ve decided to serve some Meatless Meals (Whatever the Day).  And also try to pay some attention to how much protein we’re taking in during a day or week.

One was meal was Eggplant Parmigiana that I totally cheated on and lied about.  Cheating part was that I got frozen eggplant cutlets from Trader Joe’s which I baked first (according to package directions) then placed in oven-proof dish topped with their Organic Tomato Basil Sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Baked it until cheese was melted and sauce hot.  Served with roasted cauliflower and tri-colored radiatore tossed with olive oil, butter, sea salt and a little garlic powder.

My kids have never been big fans of eggplant unless it’s in ratatouille or a similar dish.  So I lied.  I had one try it first and when he said “Yum, what is it?”  I lied.  I can’t believe I did it, but I knew the others wouldn’t even try it if they knew it was eggplant.  So, I said chicken.  CHICKEN!?!  Later on I let them know it was eggplant, but that was after they’d eaten most of it. They kind of noticed when the breading was off that it didn’t look like chicken.  Hey, I never said I was perfect or that I don’t resort to tricks at times.  I got them to eat it and most amazingly my youngest liked it the most.  Now I can make it and tell them what it really is.

Roast Cauliflower

½ head cauliflower, broken/cut into small pieces

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp olive oil

1-2 Tbsp parsley, chopped

sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Bring ½ cup of water to boil and add cauliflower, cover.  Steam/boil for several minutes until cauliflower has softened slightly.  Shock with cold water. Drain and toss with oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Place in preheated oven at 375ºF for at least 20 minutes until cauliflower has golden brown crispy top.  Toss with parsley to finish.

Only my middle son and I loved the cauliflower.  He told his friend’s mom last night that cauliflower was his favorite vegetable.  My eldest said it was “Good.” but he didn’t want more than one piece. My youngest refused to try it.  It was so good, maybe next time.

Quick, Quick, Quick — Part II

Continued from Quick, Quick, Quick

More recipes/ideas for quick meals:

Chicken breast: unlike the dark thigh meat, chicken breast takes only minutes to cook.  It is so versatile and can be added to liquids to poach or sautéed  (browned) or baked in the oven.  I also don’t know many kids who don’t like chicken.  Again, just adding a few herbs or spices to the chicken can create a flavorful and quick meal.  Just a pinch of paprika and cumin over the cut breast and sautéed in olive oil for just minutes and served over potatoes, noodles or rice.  Add a 1/4 cup of cream and you’ve got a wonderful sauce as well.  Panko bread crumbs or my homemade bread crumbs with herbs (thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage) coating pieces of chicken breast then baked make a wonderful alternative to chicken nuggets. 

Pasta: always on hand in our pantry is a variety of pastas for different meals. There’s nothing wrong with keeping some jarred tomato sauces in there too. I often have Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato Basil sauce in my pantry (it’s healthy and cheap at just over $2 for 25 oz). It’s easy enough to create quick and healthy meals with pasta this way. Pasta is great for sides or for the main course and a wonderful way to incorporate vegetables, especially for those kids who are more resistant to eating them on their own.  Just chop veggies, (broccoli, zucchini, squash, beans, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, kale— all are great in pasta), add to olive oil and minced garlic, some protein (chicken, shrimp, beans, tofu), season with herbs, salt and pepper and lastly add to the pasta and you’ve got a great dish that most kids will love.  Ideal way to use up small amounts of vegetables and meats/seafood. 

Vegetables: whether the main focus or the side, incorporating many into your children’s diet is ideal.  Kids need around 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day.  Think of that as 9 fistfuls (the size being that of the recipient).  If you need a quick side dish frozen peas are super fast— microwave on high for about 2 minutes, stirring half way.  Add a touch of butter to help make it more palatable. Spinach can also be cooked in microwave, steamed for few minutes over boiling water or just throw in sauté pan with Tbsp water, dash of sea salt and cover.  Cook for few minutes (until wilted) and drain any excess water, add butter.  Broccoli can be boiled/steamed for a several minutes.  Just put in cold water when it’s done (soft yet still got some crispness/color). Again add a pat of butter.  Butter helps many kids eat their vegetables by providing umami the savoriness they/we like.  Fat (butter) is also helpful to absorb many vegetables’ nutrients. Hope this gives you all some ideas to help getting kids to eat healthily.  I wish everyone the best for this New Year!  I hope more kids will eat well and thrive. 

You can always contact me if you have recipe questions or requsts!

Dinner in 10.

At story time in the library yesterday a mother mentioned she never cooks because she doesn’t have time. Instead of saying I completely understand because my time is crazed right now and I have no time, I told her she could try some recipes I’d just cooked.  One I told her, took as long as boiling the pasta to make.  Her interest was piqued.  Now, I probably should have told her that I was up until 1:30 last night sorting and folding laundry because I’d let it go to the point of digging socks and underwear out of the mountain filled baskets, but I didn’t want to tarnish my super-mommy image (actually nobody who knows me thinks I am supermom, because I am usually honest about how messy my house is and how I just can’t do it all).  Ah, but one can dream and pretend for a day. 

I know that some people choose to keep a tidy house over cooking meals for their kids and I do have some friends that have tidy homes and cook great meals (even a couple that hold fulltime jobs) but they’re just much more organized and less ADD than me!  I have a cluttered office, an over abundance of toys to weed through, a laundry situation that constantly eludes me, and a back yard that will soon win the WT award.   Cause truth is I’d rather be cooking than cleaning, I’d rather be writing than cleaning and I’d rather have an over scheduled schedule than cleaning.  Now, if I start making more money I can hire someone to come clean regularly… ooh, and if I make tons I can hire someone to do my laundry.  Well, that means getting more clients and that takes a lot of time.  But, for now, messy house and laundry up the wazoo.


Back to the food… Here is one of recipes I told her about.  It took about 10 minutes.  


Shrimp Bianco with Spinach and Tomatoes


1 pound frozen de-veined shrimp

1/4 onion (or 1 shallot) finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

handful parsley, chopped

baby spinach (I used what I had from my CSA about 2 cups)

handful cherry tomatoes, cut in half

3 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup cream

1/4 cup white wine

sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 pound thin spaghetti


Run cool water over shrimp to thaw, set aside.  Put salted water on to boil.  Chop the onion, garlic and parsley.  Heat olive oil and sauté the onions then add garlic, making sure neither get brown.  Add shrimp and when they’re just turning pink add wine, cream, parsley. Stir for 30 seconds then add spinach and tomatoes and salt and pepper.  As soon as spinach is wilted, strain spaghetti and toss with shrimp mixture.  Serve. 


My kids loved this dish.  I loved that I made it so quickly.  I was seriously considering getting a pizza, but managed to save money and give something a little more nutritious in less time than it would have taken for the pizza delivery person to drive over here.  And there was not a single whine at the dinner table! 


Unfortunately because it was so quick, I didn’t have my camera ready during the cooking process. Next time!

Another quick, last minute meal

I have way too many tomatoes right now so I keep using them in recipes.  One  confession to make: sometimes I end up throwing them into the compost.  It’s not my preferred method of using them, but I just have too many for me to get to.  So, today after putting in some time at the farm where we get our CSA I learnt that you can freeze tomatoes to use in sauce (ok, I just have never done it, nor thought that it would be that great) but I decided to go the other route— canning.  I have bought some mason jars and other supplies. I remember making jam as a kid and preserving it, so if I could do it then, I’ll try it now. 

In the meantime (I just bought the stuff today, give me a day or two), I made some salsa on one day and pizza with the tomatoes as base another. I also used some cherry tomatoes in a killer I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-making-for-dinner-now-because-I spent-too-much-time-chatting-on-the-playground-oh-yea-I-can-make-THIS-pasta.  (I was going to make chicken gumbo, but that keeps getting pushed back due to time). I used to throw together these great chicken and pasta dishes that are like my version of stir-fry…whatever vegetables I have in stock that actually go together will go into the dish with chicken, garlic, basil and tomatoes.  I try to make it with mushrooms, because they’re perfect here, but I had none.

I used a bit of kale, corn, broccoli, onions, zucchini, orange bell pepper, and carrots.  Fussili pasta is perfect, but ziti or farfale will go nicely too.   It takes 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook (using chicken breast)— if you don’t have to interrupt for looking over kids’ homework or refereeing a squabble.

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta with Garlic and Tomatoes

  • Approx 1 pound chicken breast (or thighs), deboned, skinned and cut into 1-2 inch pieces (thighs take longer to cook)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 med onion or 2 shallots
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes, quartered or 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4-1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • choice of fresh vegetables, chopped  (spinach, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, carrots, corn, kale, chard, snow or snap peas, asparagus and/or mushrooms) 

Put pasta on to cook according to instructions. While that’s cooking: sauté onions then garlic in pan.  Add chicken and lightly brown on all sides, careful not to burn garlic.  Add wine and stock.  Cook for few minutes and add vegetables that take longest first (kale, carrots, peppers) then others (mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, corn).  While stirring, cook another couple of minutes then add herbs and tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Mix gently and cook for 2 minutes until tomatoes are warm but not disintegrated.  Toss pasta so well coated with sauce and veggies.  Serve.

This is always a winner with my kids.  Not everyone will like every vegetable each time, but it hardly ever elicits a protest because there’s pasta.  It’s great to get rid of left over vegetables and perfect for lunch the following day. And, it uses up some of those tomatoes. 

The tomatoes give it a fresh sweetness that goes so nicely with garlic, basil and pasta.  You can also substitute shrimp for the chicken.

Food Drama (White Clam Sauce)

So yes, my kids really eat this and that but sometimes it is not without a battle. Sometimes one of my kids will have a meltdown when he see what’s for dinner.  Most often it’s our middle son; he’s the most melodramatic.  It can be somewhat comical to watch him throw himself down on the ground and cry that he doesn’t want to eat what we’ve made.  It’s not really sad because we know he’s just overacting to try and worm his way out of eating something he thinks he won’t like.  He switches it off as quickly as it begins.  The funniest part about it is watching him eat his dinner with such enthusiasm after all the drama and he’s often the child who actually eats the most of it.  What we have to do is ignore the histrionics in the beginning and be confident in what we’ve made— we are fairly certain he’ll like it if he just gives it a chance. 

It can be challenging: how long should we let the drama go on?  Do we cave in and give him something he’ll actually eat so that he won’t go hungry?  To the former, not long because it gets ridiculous otherwise and to the latter, no.  Plain and simple, no.  Unless something is so spicy that they can’t tolerate it, I refuse to give a banana or a yogurt or some mac and cheese just so they’ll eat something.  I’d never get my kids to try half the things they do if I yielded.  They have to try the dinner.  They don’t have to eat it all.  And I won’t give dessert unless they’ve completed their meal to my satisfaction; i.e. all or most of the veggies.  But most often our meals are trouble free; especially ones they have often or include their favorite ingredients.

Twice this week my middle son was especially over-the-top.  One day he cried and cried that he didn’t like linguini white clam sauce anymore after my husband made an absolutely delicious one— before he actually tasted it.  The next day he threw himself on the floor and rolled out the back door when he found out spinach was in the pork dish we were having for dinner.  With the linguini— once he got to the table and tasted it he ate it all, slurping up the pasta with gusto.  With the pork dish— he loved it, spinach and all!


White Clam Sauce

  • 50 little neck clams or 1 pt container of fresh chopped clams and 1 bottle clam juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 lg garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch (mixed with 2 Tbsp water until lump-free)
  • pat of butter
  • If necessary salt and/or crushed hot pepper to taste

Shuck clams over a strainer with bowl underneath to catch juices.  Chop clams until they’re about 1-2 cm pieces.  Place in fridge until later. Put pasta on to cook if using dried.  In large skillet heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic until they’re cooked but not brown.  Add reserved clam juice and reduce at medium-high heat until juice is about half the original amount, intensifying the clam flavor.  Add corn starch slowly until it’s the consistency you like.  Reduce to medium heat, add clams and stir gently until clams are just cooked.  Remove from heat.

Once pasta is done reheat clam mixture with pat of butter, chopped parsley and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Gently stir until hot. Add pasta, toss and serve.  

  All of our kids love this dish, but it wasn’t something they all liked right off the bat.  It had to be served a couple of times before all of them dug in and devoured it like we do!So, giving in to the 6 year-old’s whims of dislike would avoid drama but wouldn’t give the opportunity to try new foods that he actually will eat with real enjoyment. 

What to do with all these tomatoes!

When my left over uncooked tuna wasn’t smelling fresh I had to come up with another last minute dinner plan.  I was going to cook an Indian Tomato Sauce recipe I saw in Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything, but realized I didn’t have 2 key ingredients.  Yikes, the dinner hour was fast approaching and I still was unsure of what to cook.  I had so many ideas but too little time and not always all the ingredients.  But what I did have was an overabundance of tomatoes (in different colors and sizes) so I knew I wanted to do something with them.  Since I had so many, I thought I could prep some for cooking before they get bad, so I removed the skins and seeds then crushed them. 

An easy way of removing tomato skins is to blanch them for a minute in boiling water.  First slit the skin then pop into the water.  Remove and place in ice bath.  Once cool enough to handle, take a paring knife and peel the skin off… it’ll come right off.  You’re not cooking the tomatoes, just softening the skin so it peels off like paper.  After cutting out the center core around where the stem base meets the tomato, I put them in a sieve and removed the meat; letting the juices drip into a bowl beneath.  I push remaining juice/pulp through the sieve with a spatula and put all the meat into the bowl with juices.  Now you can finish with a potato masher or an immersion blender to crush or purée the tomatoes, I used a masher. 

Finally after much contemplation I decided on a pasta with tomatoes, chickpeas and  beet greens.  I had steamed the beet greens a couple of days ahead because they were starting to wilt and I didn’t want to miss their peak freshness. I did this with kale and bok choy too.  Just steam or boil and cool immediately when just done.  Put in fridge and when you’re ready for dinner, this can come out of the fridge, plopped into a pan and reheated with desired seasoning.  You can freeze vegetables this way too. 

Pasta with Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Beet Greens

  • 1 can chickpeas (or equivalent)
  • 1 bunch of beet greens
  • 3-4 tomatoes- peeled, seeded and chopped or crushed
  • 1 shallot- chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves- minced
  • Handful of fresh basil- chopped
  • Handful of fresh parsley- chopped
  • Olive oil

 Prepare pasta according to directions.  Prep beet greens— clean, remove stems, cut into 1 inch wide strips and either steam or keep raw. Sauté garlic and shallot in olive oil.  Mix in crushed tomatoes, chickpeas and beet greens.  If the beet greens are raw, cover and steam for a couple of minutes.  Add herbs.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Mix together with pasta.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Add parmesan cheese if you wish. 


I used farfalle (bowtie pasta) that my youngest picked out at the supermarket.  On the side I gave them corn on the cob.  This can be taken off the cob and put into pasta as well.

I wasn’t sure how they’d like it.  My 3 year old didn’t want to eat the chickpeas even though he loves hummus and I explained that’s what it’s made from.  The middle son whined and said he wasn’t going to eat it but proceeded to eat it anyway.  My 8 year old loved it. 

If you notice that’s sort of the pattern with our family.  It shows that persevering will give the intended results (not all of the time, but usually).  Keep giving it to them even when they complain or say they won’t eat it.  Have them try it and eventually the may eat it and love it too!