Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mission Impossible - Operation Picky Pants

You may remember GJ's alter ego, Captain Underpants.  It wasn't easy, but I am proud to have defeated him and his obsession with wearing dirty underwear.  Since that sweet victory, life has been fairly peaceful in the land of Team V, until recently, because I have a new foe - Major Picky Pants. 

He's actually not new at all.  GJ has always been a picky eater.  What's new is that I no longer think it's OK for him to be deathly afraid of all sauces, ground meat, foods that touch each other, hamburgers, soups, stews, and much, much more. I used to think GJ would grow out of his finicky ways.  But now he's 8 and I see no cracks in his iron clad resistance to flavorful food.   I believe that he will be better off if he can learn to enjoy new things and incorporate more food into his diet. So "game on," little man. 

You should know that I know that Operation Picky Pants won't be an easy win for me.  I have been trying to conquer GJ's fussy ways since his birth.  We had our first food battle when he was two days old.  It was over breast milk, of course. "Drink this or die" - was my first parental ultimatum and it took a trip to the pediatrician, a visit from the lactation consultant, and buckets of tears from us both to win that battle.  And since then I have followed the text book rules on matters of picky eating.  I think Dr. Spock and Dr. Phil would both approve of my methods.  I serve one meal to everyone and they can all choose to eat it or not but there are no alternatives.  Nevertheless, GJ always beats me at this game.  He is happy to skip dinner without even trying what was served.  He just wakes up the next morning and eats a cave man's breakfast.

After recently turning my full attention to this problem, I started thinking about what we eat around here.  I love to cook and I love to try new recipes or change up the old.  It's how I keep myself convinced that cooking is my hobby and not the thrice-daily chore that it really is.   Thanks to "The System" I have a record of our family's menus over the years and in looking back I see that the kids are lucky if they see the same dish twice in a year, with a few exceptions for things like pizza, spaghetti with meatballs, and a few other staples.  So I started thinking that variety, while the spice of my life, was not going to serve my new objective of beating the Picky Pants off of GJ.   

Haven't you heard or read in more places than one that kids need to see a food 40 or more times before they accept and learn to like it?  John and Sofia never seem to have trouble eating what I make even if they've never seen it before.  But maybe for a headstrong boy like G, it would help to get a shorter meal rotation going.  And therein lies my plan.

I will choose 20 dishes to put in a rotation, with one day a week set aside for experiments and new recipes.  We are going to stick to the rotation for six months and see if we can acclimate GJ to all 20 things and even help him learn to like all 20.  Imagine that.  Then we can try switching things up by adding to the 20 or choosing a different 20.

So I need help creating our first 20.  I have lots of ideas but I'd love to know what you make (or what you used to make) for your families.  I'm looking for food that appeals to the young and old alike. No fish sticks or chicken drummies, please.  And Grandmom, you may not nominate your "messy meat."  I know my brother likes that stuff, but how can he judge?  He has no sense of smell for God's sake!

Here's my list so far.  I'm trying to keep it seasonal for Spring into summer - no stews or soups and a few options for the grill as the weather warms up.  I'll serve these mains with our usual veggies and sides, all generally acceptable to the kids.  What do you think?  What would be on your list?

Working Draft of the Team V Spring meal rotation
1. Spaghetti and Neama's meatballs
2. Chicken strips (aka breaded chicken cutlets) and orzo
3. Fettucine alfredo with ham and peas
4. Spaghetti puttanesca
5. Chicken and broccoli stir fry
5. Beef bulgoki-style stir fry
6. Grilled chicken fajitas
7. Teriyaki salmon
8. Grilled swordfish
9. Black bean burritos
10. Sesame noodles with edamame and assorted veggies
11. Grilled Italian sausage with peppers and onions
12. Spaghetti al'amatriciana
13. Seared ham steak with sweet potato puree
14. Thai chicken on rice stick noodles
15. Lemony shrimp over linguini
16. Homemade pizzas
17.  Fish tacos


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  2. Arroz con Pollo: 8-oz bag of Vigo Saffron Yellow Rice. Cube 1 1/2 lb chicken breasts and fry in olive oil. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Add 1 cup (jar) of pimento olives to cooked chicken mixture and stir. Add chicken and olive mixture to cooked saffron rice. Serve salsa on the side. (Sorry for the double post, I had typo in the last message.)

  3. Done. I'm trying this for sure.

  4. Shrimp and Orzo with Greek Flavors. From Food & Wine mag... My girls eat the shrimp, olive and tomatoes (but they also love salt!) try it for GJ.

    1/2 pound orzo (about 1 cup)
    1 pound large shrimp, shelled and halved lengthwise
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 tablespoon red- or white-wine vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/3 cup olive oil
    4 scallions including green tops, chopped
    1/2 cup pitted and chopped black olives, such as Kalamata
    1/4 pound feta, crumbled

    In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the orzo until almost done, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until both the shrimp and orzo are done, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Drain thoroughly.
    In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano; add the oil slowly, whisking.
    Add the orzo and shrimp, the scallions, olives, and feta to the dressing and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

  5. This sounds so good. Feta will be a tough sell, but I could serve that on the side.

  6. How about peel and eat shrimp? GJ used to like this. Serve with oven roasted potatoes, not frozen french fries like I used to do.

  7. Peanut Noodles & Chicken from Susan
    Lauren ate some!!!!!

    Recipe is for 4 servings

    1/2 pound linguine
    2 T light soy suace
    2 T fresh lemon juice
    1/2 t cornstarch
    1/3 cup reduced fat peanut butter
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1/2 t sugar
    1/4 t red pepper flakes
    1 t sesame oil
    1 pound cooked chicken, shredded
    1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut into 2 inch matchsticks
    1/2 cup bean sprouts ( I did not go there)

    1) Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse under cold water
    2) Mix together the soy, lemon juice and cornstarch. In a med saucepan, combine pb, garlic, sugar and pepper flakes and 1/2 cup HOT water. Whisk in the soy sauce mixture and bring to a simmer. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil.
    3)In a large bowl, whisk together linguine, chicken, and pb mixture. Scatter cucumber and bean sprouts over the top and serve at room temperature.

    What's not to like...Tastes just like a good satay!!I would double the sauce, I think next time.

  8. Laura, I'd say GJ is doing very well if he tried half those dishes. How could I possibly add anything to that delicious list! I know that this is not springy, but do try it sometime. It's DELICIOUS and I'm not one for bland old shepherd's pie. This recipe is anything but bland with lots of carmelized onions and cheddar cheese on top. Google Shelburn Farms Shepherd's Pie. everyone loves it! Even Natalie who can pick out a tiny minced onion from mouthful of spaghetti and meat sauce!

  9. These are GREAT ideas. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  10. Very delayed response to your great post - I need these recipes (although some of them I think I did jot down on a visit long ago to VT).
    I only seem to do really easy recipes these days. 2 easy recipes that the kids like that I already have typed up:

    Barbecued Brisket
    2 ½ to 3 lb fresh beef brisket
    1 10 oz can chopped tomatoes with green chili peppers (like Ro-tel)
    1 8 oz can applesauce
    ½ of a 6 oz can (1/3 c.) tomato paste (can add more)
    ¼ c. soy sauce
    ¼ c. packed brown sugar
    1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    Few dashes of Liquid Smoke
    10-12 hamburger buns, split and toasted (optional)

    Trim fat from meat. If necessary, cut meat to fit slow cooker. Place meat in cooker. In a bowl stir together the undrained tomatoes, applesauce, tomato paste, soy sauce, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce; pour over the meat.
    Cover; cook on low-heat setting about 10 hours (low-setting) or until meat is tender. [definitely monitor your slow cooker the first time you make it – mine takes much less time to cook, and I usually switch it to low after 6-8 hours]. Remove meat, reserving juices; cover to keep warm.

    Pour cooking juices into a large saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until reduced to desired consistency, stirring frequently. [I usually skip this step. When the meat is cooked, I usually take it out of the slow cooker for slicing, but continue to cook the sauce a little in the slow cooker – that seems to work pretty well, and saves you from cleaning another pot]. Thinly slice meat across the grain. (If desired, place meat on bun bottoms, drizzle with cooking juices; add bun tops.) This freezes well.
    I usually serve this with coleslaw (I'm not above using the bagged shredded cabbage.)

    Fig and Chile-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

    ½ cup fig preserves
    ¼ cup rice vinegar
    1 tablespoon chile paste with garlic [this dish is mildly spicy, but you can use a little less if kids are sensitive]
    1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
    2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed
    ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    Cooking spray

    1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
    2. Combine preserves, vinegar, chile paste, soy sauce, and ¼ teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk.
    3. Sprinkle port with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Place pork on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 18 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink), turning occasionally and basting frequently with fig mixture.
    I usually serve this with rice and a green veggie. I'll use leftovers to make tacos later in the week.
    Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 3 ounces).

    Another idea is to try breakfast for dinner. A quick weeknight meal is: Chicken Apple Sausages (love the ones at Trader Joes!), Frozen Shredded Hash Browns, and Green Veggie.

    Please post more recipes!

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