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.

No battles tonight

We’ve been getting some beautiful vegetables from our CSA and other local farms. We had the local corn my youngest help shuck with cocozelle zucchini from our CSA, broccoli, brown rice and chicken.  I made two types of chicken, a curry yogurt marinade (trying for something like Tandoori) and some with a crunchy coating.  I mixed plain yogurt and Patak’s Hot curry paste in which I marinated some drumsticks and breast pieces.  I then roasted the chicken along with some pieces coated in panko with herbs de Provence, olive oil, salt & pepper for my youngest two, especially my middle son who’s very sensitive to spice.

The boys all liked what they were given, except that my eldest said he didn’t like zucchini (which he ate all of anyway).  I remember being his age and my brother and I staying at a friend’s house while my parents were away.  The mom made zucchini that was cut really thin and overcooked.  The seeds were huge too.  I did not want to eat it, nor did my brother, but we were not allowed to leave the table until we did.  I stuck it out for a while, but eventually gave in and ate the cold, soggy zucchini (probably holding my nose while I did!).  My brother was at that table for hours.  I think she gave up on him eventually so she could go to bed.   I avoid situations like that.  I wasn’t going to make my son eat more than a taste, but he just ate what was on his plate, after speaking his opinion. 

 I do cook my zucchini differently from that family friend.  I par boil the entire courgette until it’s almost soft, then shock, then slice lengthwise then across on a bias and finish in my usual butter, salt  and pepper.  I think the chunkier pieces that aren’t overcooked are more pleasant in the mouth than limp, thin slices.  If they were raw, maybe the opposite would apply.  Also using a type of zucchini with small seeds probably helps.  But the main thing is that my kids aren’t going to have to sit at a table for hours turning dinner into a battle of wills.  If they don’t like it, I’ll try again next time.  I would rather they test their mettle on something more worthwhile.

Merry, Merry, Happy, Happy

I am recovering from knee surgery so won’t be posting much for a few more days. 

I did actually make the boys and I a wonderful chicken, mushroom and zucchini dish last night which was very similar to the one posted here.  My middle son now loves zucchini (yippee!— he “hated” it only months ago) and my youngest loves mushrooms so it’s a win-win dinner.  It only took me 20 minutes from start to finish (chopping and all), so it’s great for a quick and nutritious meal and easy while using crutches!  I served this one over brown rice (cheated here— frozen TJ’s Organic brown rice takes only 3 minutes in microwave). 

Enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.  May the New Year be full of peace, happiness and health.


Forgot to buy cream… now what am I making?

Sometimes my dinners aren’t what was originally planned.  The other night I was going to make the chicken and mushrooms in cream sauce that my kids all love, but while I was browning the chicken I remembered I’d used the last of the cream to make scones the day before. So, mid cooking I needed to change course.  I had brown rice in my rice cooker.  I had the mushrooms all cut.  I’d pulled out a zucchini… so what direction should I go?  I went Asian style stir-fry.  I added sesame oil, fish sauce and soy sauce to the chicken once browned and set that aside.  I cut up a small broccoli crown, remaining half a head of cabbage, and the kid’s carrot sticks left over from their snacks.  My husband came home from work and helped by chopping garlic, grating fresh ginger and thawing/shelling edamame (soybeans).  Boy, at the speed of light he can mince that garlic into tiny pieces— I couldn’t even imagine doing.  I threw in some frozen red, yellow and green peppers.  And voila, a delicious meal that was not what we planned, but was so healthy and delicious. 


You can do this with whatever vegetables you have on hand that seem to go together.  I purchased the Cascadian Farms organic frozen peppers and edamame because they are handy and also great in stir-fries.  Not every vegetable freezes well, but some are fine and they actually retain their nutritional value plus you won’t worry about unwanted additives (the linings from cans or pesticides) this way.

Chicken, Mushroom, Vegetable Stir Fry

5-6 boneless chicken thighs (or 2 breasts), cut into 2 inch pieces

3 Tbsp tamari soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1 quart shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/2 quart white mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp fresh ginger grated

1-2 carrots, chopped

1 small broccoli crown, cut into small pieces

1 organic zucchini, cut in half lengthwise then sliced

1/4-1/2 small cabbage head, chopped

handful organic edamame, shelled

handful organic peppers (multicolored), sliced

canola, sunflower or peanut oil

Brown chicken in 2 tsp oil over med-high heat.  Add soy, fish sauce and sesame oil.  Set aside. Add another 2 tsp oil and sauté mushrooms.  Add garlic and ginger, stirring well for two minutes then add broccoli and carrots.  Keep stirring for another two minutes then add zucchini, peppers, cabbage, edamame, chicken in soy mixture.  Stir occasionally until vegetables are tender.  Check seasoning and add more soy or sesame as needed.

Serve over brown rice or rice noodles.


My kids all loved this and ate their entire meal without fuss.  Ok, well, my middle son saw it and said he wasn’t going to eat it and didn’t want it before my eldest and younger sons told him that it was delicious.  It was.  I was the lucky one who ate the leftovers (it was enough to feed all five of us with one remaining bowl for next day’s lunch).  My middle son was the first one of the kids to finish. 

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t what I planned. It was healthy, tasty, easy and the kids ate it.

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.

Mis en place

Mis en place is a term in cooking which means everything in its place— before you cook.  This is one thing that I’ve picked up from my husband.  I used to be a bit rash in my cooking and not have everything prepared before I began to cook but that can be tricky especially when cooking with ingredients that need to be added in quick succession.  

I needed to use up the remaining chicken thighs that I’d used in the previous night’s dinner and I also had some eggplant I wanted to use.  I found a Mark Bittman recipe that I thought sounded delicious.  It was a vegetarian dish but you can add meat to it.  I added the chicken; lamb would be perfect too.  It is something that can’t just be thrown together without prior prep, but it’s worth it!  You will need to have all the spices mixed, the ginger, garlic, veggies and chicken chopped prior to cooking.  It takes about an hour. 

Mark Bittman’s Curried Coconut Eggplant with Potatoes (and Chicken)

I cut the recipe in half because I only had one eggplant.  I also added one small zucchini.  It was enough for the 4 of us plus there were leftovers for 2.    This is the original recipe:

  •  2 med to lg eggplants
  • salt
  • neutral oil (I used sunflower)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (adjust for kids)
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger (I kept this measurement)
  • 2 tsp sliced garlic
  • 3 large tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used 1 lg & 1 sm)
  • 3 lg potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I used 3 med & one small)
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (you might need to add more depending on consistency)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • minced fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Prep the eggplant first by peeling, cubing and salting.  While draining mix the spices, (I ground the coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle.)  Then mince the ginger, slice the garlic, and peel and cut them the potatoes.  Mix all the spices together then prepare the tomatoes. (To peel slice an X into the bottom, dunk into boiling water for around 20 seconds then put into ice bath.  Skin will come right off).  Put oil and mustard seeds into a pan over medium heat and cover for about 3 minutes when they began to pop.  Add rest of spices, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring often until the ginger and garlic are soft.  Next add tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, chicken and coconut milk.  Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every so often.  Add chicken  and cook for another 15 minutes. (While that was simmering I put the rice on so it would be ready at same time.)  Add zucchini (optional) and if necessary some more coconut milk, salt and pepper then continue cooking for about 15 minutes (uncovered).  Once time is up, stir in the lime juice and serve over rice. 

You can also cook the rice in coconut milk (half water, half coconut milk) if you’d like.


My sons loved it!  I loved it!  My eldest liked it so much that he finished his brother’s after he’d devoured all of his!   It was a bit spicy for my middle son but he ate it with a mix of pleasure and pain and lots of water.  I hadn’t adjusted the cayenne but noted it for the future.  

Rush, rush, rush… now cook.

It can be a real challenge to actually find the time to write this blog let alone cook a good meal and take photos while I’m cooking— I’m already multitasking with keeping kids occupied and/or mediating fights (and working my “real” paying job).   So sometimes, I skip writing/posting to my site because I just can’t do it all. The other day I had someone over while I was cooking, I was busy talking and cooking so I couldn’t manage to actually take my camera out and shoot photos of the food before and during the cooking process.   I’d have overcooked the veggies (actually I did slightly overcook the zucchini) and burnt the salmon (luckily not) if I tried that much multitasking.  But she left just as dinner was ready, and it looked so delicious (it was) I had to snap some photos of the end result. 

If I haven’t mentioned before, salmon is my go-to main course.  My kids love it, I love it and it only takes a few minutes to cook in a pan or on a grill.  And if it’s seasoned with salt and pepper before it’s cooked there’s no need for sauce— so, easy. 

Our dinner that was made in 40 minutes from start to finish including getting our charcoal grill started and hot enough.  It would have taken only 20 minutes had I pan roasted the salmon (started on stove, finished in oven).  I made mixed grains that take just 10 minutes to cook, broccoli and zucchini that each take 3-5 minutes plus the prep time.  Oh, right and I made a coleslaw.    

Everything was enjoyed… although it wasn’t eaten neatly or with them sitting at all moments.  It’s more important to me that they eat well— getting them to eat with proper manners and without getting up is still a work in progress. 


Simple Coleslaw

Cut 1/2-1/3 cabbage into 4 inch long thin strips and put in bowl with  2 shredded carrots.  In separate bowl mix 4 heaping Tbsp of mayonnaise, 1 1/2 Tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, 3/4 tsp celery salt, pepper to taste.  Pour over cabbage/carrots and toss.  Chill if possible or just serve!  Shredded apple or minced red bell peppers are nice in there too.

Braised Chicken with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Mushrooms

Thankfully I write this in Word first.  Tumblr didn’t actually post my entire post with photos and all! 

Continuing on a cheap dinner theme, I bought 4 Springer Mountain chicken thighs on sale for under $3.  They aren’t perfect, but fairly good chickens- no antibiotics and humanely treated.  I wish they were outside getting greens and bugs, like I said, they aren’t perfect. 

Anyway, I decided on a dreary summer day that stewing or braising the chicken in a tomato based sauce would be perfect.  My youngest had picked out wagon wheel-shaped pasta, so I thought this would go well with it.  Since I still had some ratatouille left I knew it would go great with the chicken, but how to have it so all the kids would eat it… I added only about 1/2 cup full toward the end.  It added a wonderful subtle smokiness to the dish.  So, also using a CSA zucchini I’d forgotten that I had put in the fruit drawer since I had no more room elsewhere in my fridge and mushrooms I bought, I made a wonderful meal that everyone loved.  And since all of this was made in one pot (besides boiling the pasta), it was an easy clean-up.

Chicken Zucchini and Mushrooms

4 Chicken thighs (I used with skin & bones on)

1 large (or 2 small) zucchini- sliced

1 cup shiitake and crimini mushrooms- destemmed and sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 shallot (or 1/2 white/yellow onion), minced

1/3 cup white wine

1 tsp chicken base (Knorr Roasted Chicken Base)

1/4 cup water

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 Tbsp fresh thyme- chopped

1 Tbsp parsley- chopped

olive oil

salt and pepper

Optional: I added 1/2 cup of grilled vegetable ratatouille that I had left over. 

Heat olive oil in hot pan, brown the chicken (seasoned with salt and pepper) skin side down first for about 4-5 minutes each side.  Set aside.  Pour off excess fat.  Sauté shallot, garlic and mushrooms (if necessary add a little more olive oil) over medium high heat and set aside when done (not brown).  Keep stove on med-high and pour wine into pan and let boil off for a minute.  Scrape sides of pan to get chicken bits and then add chicken base and water.  Stir well.  Add chopped tomatoes, herbs, shallots and garlic.  Add chicken so that skin side is down, cover with sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Cover pan and reduce heat.  Let simmer for 30 minutes, giving it an occasional stir.  Add zucchini and mushrooms (and ratatouille if you have it) Cover.  Simmer another 10-15 minutes.  You can either take chicken off the bones or leave whole. 

Serve with pasta or rice.  We took ours off the bones (since there were 4 pieces but 5 people) and also added the pasta to the pan. 

This can be done with various different vegetables and without mushrooms.  It’s very delicious the next day too! My middle son whined so long that he didn’t want it.  I even tried to record him… he loved it and finished it without fuss. 

 They all did!

Summer (Grilled) Ratatouille

One of my favorite movie scenes is from Ratatouille when the hardened hard-to-please food critic tastes Remy the rat’s ratatouille and the scene quickly shifts to him as a young boy coming home upset and his mama putting a plate of ratatouille in front of him.  I love how it shows how a taste brought him back in time to a fond memory.  Food smells and tastes can have a strong effect upon us and seemingly transport us in time.

I love ratatouille (the vegetable medley) and first learnt how to cook it from a James Beard cookbook my mother had owned.  I used to add mushrooms though.  Maybe that’s where my youngest gets his mushroom genes from. It was these thoughts running through my head as I attempted a different way of cooking ratatouille. 

To me ratatouille is a fall dish.  A cold evening warm-you-up dish.  But, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers are in season right now.  Seemed like the perfect time to make it.  Since it’s summer, I thought grilling the vegetables made better sense.  I was planning to grill some chicken anyway.  I found this recipe I liked by Emeril Lagasse and only changed it a little to accommodate what I had in the fridge or garden.  This recipe is time consuming, so beware.

Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille

  • Ÿ        2 Eggplants- peeled and cut into lengthwise ½ inch pieces.  Sprinkle with salt and let stand in bowl for 20 minutes.
  • Ÿ        2 Zucchinis- cut lengthwise into ½ inch thick strips
  • Ÿ       2-3  Squash- (don’t advise you to use crook neck like I had, unless you peel it as it’s skin was too tough) cut lengthwise into ½ inch thick strips
  • Ÿ         2 large ripe tomatoes- cubed
  • Ÿ         2 bell peppers (I used green and purple, but any color is good)
  • Ÿ         Red onion- peeled and cut onion into ½ inch  rings (yellow onion would work too)
  • Ÿ         Basil- large handful, chopped
  • Ÿ         Parsley- handful, chopped
  • Ÿ         Hungarian hot peppers- cut top and take out seeds and white ribs
  • Ÿ         4 garlic cloves- peeled
  • Ÿ         Olive oil
  • Ÿ         1-2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • Ÿ         Sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Coat the garlic with olive oil and roast in foil boats on grill until soft. Coat each vegetable (not tomatoes) with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill, turning several times, until soft.  Peel the bell peppers (if you put over flame to blister outside then pop it in a paper bag, the skin comes off easier).  Once vegetables are cooked cut into ½ inch pieces. Crush garlic and toss with tomatoes and all the vegetables (except Hungarian hot peppers).  Add herbs.  Drizzle a little vinegar over vegetable mix and separate into two bowls. In one bowl add the chopped Hungarian hot pepper.  This way you can control the heat factor for the kids.  Mine like some hot things (wasabi, chili) but not all.  The grilled pepper sweetens and loses some of its heat when it’s grilled, but not enough for all my little ones’ palates. 

I served it with a grilled half chicken (coated in olive oil, s&p, chopped sage and rosemary).  Since the bones were still on the chicken it took at least 30 minutes.  I kind of lost track of time with refereeing kids’ squabbles and the ratatouille making.    I also made some just-picked Swiss chard about which my 3 year old declared “I love it!”.

The ratatouille was deemed “delicious” by my 8 year old.  When I asked my 6 year old if he liked it he humorously responded “red” by which I eventually understood to mean “no”.  My 3 year old refused to try it.  Since he had seconds of Swiss chard, I didn’t make him taste it.  It was still on his plate and one day, he might even say it was “delicious“ and remember the dish fondly as an adult.  Until then he will get served a small amount and soon will be made to try just one bite.  No dessert for any of them since they didn’t finish— it’s my way of ensuring the healthier foods get eaten: eventually. 

BTW, I served a soft tortilla and some ate it whole but my eldest made the chicken, brown rice and Swiss chard into a burrito; which my middle son soon followed suit.  It’s a great trick to make food fun.

Summer Pasta Salad

Corn, zucchini, basil, tomatoes, peppers… it’s August!  The garden is bursting, the CSA bin is brimming, the stores and farmstands are overflowing —it’s the season ‘round here.  What to cook/pack when you have parties or picnics, camp or beachside lunches?  A pasta salad that is not only healthy, but tastes great. 

Cook corn in oven, on grill or in boiling water as you would normally.  Here we boiled it for 5 minutes then bathed in ice water to stop the cooking.  Then cut corn off cob.  Also cut the stem-end off the zucchini and boiled it with the corn.  It takes about the same amout of time, but with end cut off you can check its doneness.  

Cook corn in oven, on grill or in boiling water as you would normally.  Here we boiled it for 5 minutes then bathed in ice water to stop the cooking.  Then cut corn off cob.  Also cut the stem-end off the zucchini and boiled it with the corn.  (It takes  the same amount of time amount of time, but with end cut off you can check its doneness by just looking at how done it appears.)  Once it was done, also dunk into ice bath.  Cut in half lengthwise then into smaller pieces.

Cut up orange bell pepper and  tomatoes (without seeds).  Both of these are raw. 

I have noticed that (some of) my kids prefer certain vegetables raw and other veggies cooked.  Peppers raw/mushrooms cooked; tomatoes raw/zucchini cooked; carrots raw/broccoli cooked… it can depend on the child(ren) so remember when you’re preparing something like this to try and get it to their preference so they’re more likely to eat it!  By not overcooking you retain more nutrients and sometimes by adding fat can make it easier to convert those nutrients in the body.  Don’t avoid all fats.

Mix veggies with cooked fusilli, penne or farfalle pasta (these are all great in pasta salad) and pesto sauce.  If you don’t want to make your own, buy some fresh. 

Make sure you season with sea salt and pepper if needed.  Chill or serve just room temp.  



Most all kids love pasta.  My kids love this salad because of the pasta, crunchiness of the corn and peppers, the colors and the fresh flavors.