Every time I am having guests over at home, more than anything else I am always thinking of “dishes” that will be suitable for children which they will thoroughly enjoy and remember. It is very important that while the adults are being entertained, the kids also receive great amount of attention when it comes to sitting together and eating a meal at parties or get-togethers. Let’s face it – sitting still is hard for toddlers and when it comes to food some children get really fussy. It then becomes essential that they are trained right from the young age. I see lot of parents running after children and the whole process not only make parents and kids tired but the purpose itself is not achieved at most of the times – children are left half fed and there would be pieces of food lying all over. Since the time I started solids for Little A I made sure he sat on his rocking chair in infancy and later on the baby chair once the food was served. And I also try to make sure he finishes off what is served in front of him. In the long run, I am practicing him to “appreciate” food instead of wasting it and I also try to teach him about the ingredients that went into cooking a dish. To be honest, the teaching process happened by accident and I am not joking. I love talking about food to Little A and he loves listening to it. And also hover around the kitchen when I am cooking. It is such a parenting blessing to have a child who isn’t fussy and throw tantrums on matters related to food. Seldom there are times when he refuse to eat something and I leave it at that. He eventually comes asking for food when he is hungry and that itself brings wickedly sheepish smile on my face. I don’t like to be strict but I want him to learn about the food that he is putting inside his body and be thankful for every meal of the day. I can proudly say that we are now at a stage where he enjoys all the cuisines and couldn’t be more grateful to him for being such a supportive and responsive child.
It is necessary to teach them the importance of finishing a meal and that can only start at home, ultimately from the parents itself –
- Dinner time is family time : Eat at least one meal of the day with all the members of the house, sharing stories about your day and asking them what they did during the day. It makes them feel very special. Little A has always been eating meals or snacks with us and main advantage to this practice is that it has brought a great amount of discipline in our lives too; eg. eating meals on time!
- Children eat what we eat: Moment Little A turned one, slowly and steadily I started feeding him the same food that we ate making slight alterations in spices. Parents should choose the menu and try not to make too many substitutions cooking separate meal for each member of the family. I have never seen my mom making different dishes for each one of us and that built a strong foundation in my life. It will help them in adopting a habit of eating what is served in front of them rather than complaining about it. And saves you a lot of work/time too!
- Teach them to cook: Yes, involve children in the process of cooking in one way or the other. Go to buy groceries with them, ask them to help you in shredding the herbs, teach them about utensils lying around in the kitchen and their uses and when they are little old enough, encourage them to bake or cook meals with you.
- Food is not a reward or a bribe: Never relate food with rewards and punishment. Make them have deep respect for food and not just learn to eat whenever they are bored or upset or while watching a television! When I was looking for a nursery for Little A, the manager at one of the pre-schools handed over a lollipop so that he sat at one place. We go see a doctor and the nurse or the doctor reward him with a candy for good behavior even though the reason we are at the clinic is because he isn’t feeling well. Stop rewarding children with candies and lollies for their good behavior!
- Mix up yummy dishes : If the child doesn’t like a particular vegetable, don’t force him/her. Try mixing veggies with something that they love to eat. Little A doesn’t eat carrots so I always make juice or soup of it or make a loaf cake that he loves. But, also let them know that you included something that he doesn’t prefer in making that particular meal and it’s benefits thereof.
- Slow Food : The concept of Slow Food is catching up a lot of rave in a time where everyone is rushing about and are least bothered about what they are eating. It is a way of saying “no” to fast food and fast pace of life. Avoid unhealthy fast food like burgers and fries from joints like Mc Donalds etc.; instead eat fresh, organic and take time to enjoy simple pleasures at the dining table. This will automatically make them acknowledge the kind of food they are putting into their body.
- Feed when hungry: When I first started solids for Little A, there were times I would get too frustrated when he refused to eat. Then I stayed calm and started feeding him at different intervals (though maintaining the same schedule each day). Since then I never forced him to eat a meal when I wanted him to eat. When children are hungry they will ask for it, so it makes lot of sense in not pressurizing them at your convenience. As simple as that.
- Taste your food : Various books that I have read say that French don’t just like to eat and sip on the wine. They also love talking about it, discuss how something taste and about it’s ingredients and children then love to join in the conversation. While at the dining table, teach children about where the food comes from and what real food is all about. It makes a world of a difference and they are sure to remember that in future too.
Since I am talking about children and Little A, I want to share one of Little A’s favorite pasta recipes. It is actually loved by all in the house but he is such a pasta devotee, I got to dedicate this one to him. This recipe has also been quite a hit with adults and children alike on many occasions when we had guests over. Or this could be that dish for lazy dinners/lunches when you are not bothered to cook up a storm in the kitchen. Spinach and Corn Penne Bake came together one Friday afternoon when Little A insisted on having pasta for lunch and all that I had in my refrigerator were fresh corns and a single bunch of spinach leaves. Feel free to use any fresh herbs or veggies of your choice. It should work well with fusilli and macaroni as options too.
Recipe for Spinach and Corn Penne Bake.
Serves – 3
- Penne – 2 cups
- Flour – 2 tbsp
- Spinach – 1 bunch, blanched and shredded.
- Fresh corn kernels – 1 1/2 cups, boiled.
- Fresh Milk – 1/2 cup
- Cheddar Cheese – 1/2 cup
- Mozarella Cheese – 1/2 cup
- Oregano – 1 tbsp
- Black Pepper Powder – 1 tsp (add more for more spice)
- Thyme – 1 tsp
- Butter – 2tbsp
- Salt to taste.
Cook Penne in seasoned boiling water till al dente. Drain the water and let them sit in a strainer till you proceed with making a white sauce. Melt butter in a pan and add flour to it. Cook the flour for a couple of minutes on low heat till the raw smell goes. Slowly add milk stirring all the time so that there are no lumps formed. Cook till you get the right consistency and add herbs, salt and pepper. Stir in shredded cheddar cheese and add pasta to the pan. Give a good mix with a light hand so that pasta is well coated with the white sauce. Take it off the flame. Blanch spinach, drain the water and shred them to pieces using hands or knife. Boil corn kernels and drain the water. Keep these aside. Pre heat oven to 180 Degrees Celcius. In a baking dish spread pasta in white sauce till it is half full. Scatter spinach and corn op top of it. Add another layer of pasta, spinach and corn. Top with shredded mozarella and bake till the cheese melts. Serve hot.
This post has been linked to Tasty Tuesdays.