Mashed potatoes are a new item on our three kids’ menus — ages 3 1/2, 2 and 10 months. We’ve lived in Italy for the last four years, where potatoes aren’t very starchy, so we didn’t eat them this way often. Now we’re in North Carolina, where the local spuds are organically grown and perfect for mashing. Because they’re novel, I’ve got a few tricks to make them a successful part of the meal.
Always: Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream and buttermilk for cream — both add protein and cut fat, two habits I’d like our kids to get used to early.
Sometimes: Add finely diced veggies to the boiling water during the last few minutes of cooking. Shredded spinach, kale or carrots can always be called “confetti.” Or get more clandestine with turnips or cauliflower.
Keep reading for recipes
If you have picky eaters, try updating a classic that most kids can’t get enough of. They’ll have a built-in veggie and you’ll eat a meal in peace (probably). Update your favorite mac and cheese recipe by adding 3 cups of chopped cauliflower or grated carrots to the pasta water when there’s still about 3 minutes left to cook. Continue with the remainder of the recipe, adding an extra 1/2 cup of milk to the cheese sauce so everything stays nice and moist. Note: Cauliflower works especially well for anyone going through a “white food-only” phase (and if you are, I hear you).
Keep going? Crumble 1/2 cup of extra-firm tofu or mashed white beans into the pasta as you mix it together with the cheese sauce. Instant protein, undetected.
But if presentation is what inspires your brood, as it often does from the booster seats here, try individually baked ramekins. Or save time by scooping this creamy goodness into little dipping bowls and stacking them on top of each child’s plate. Who knew invisible veggies could be so cute?
Start with these basic mac and cheese recipes
More likely than not, your kids have better things to think about than garden-fresh produce, bustling farmers’ markets and mindful grocery shopping. But, when they sit down at the dinner table, all that good stuff is what’s for dinner, even if they’re morally opposed to eating their veggies. Use these recipes to get your kids excited about spring produce.
For some, green beans are good eaten straight out of the produce bag. But for those who need a little push, Alton Brown’s Best Ever Green Bean Casserole is just as the name implies. Rather than using the store-bought crunchy onions, Alton whips his up from scratch.
Broccoli is typically a no-go for most little ones, but when it’s served up in a style reminiscent of mac and cheese, it’s much easier to sell. With a foundation of rice and a scattering of florets, Sunny Anderson’s Cheesy Mushroom and Broccoli Casserole (pictured above) does just that.
Get more kid-friendly sides from friends and family
This summer, Food Network’s Grilling Central is packed with recipes for the entire family’s taste buds, boasting the best in burgers, dogs, chicken and more all season long. But with so many recipes, where do you start? Each Friday, FN Dish is giving you a complete menu that is stress-free, and this weekend’s dishes are sure to please your youngest eaters.
Though picky eaters may not yet be fans of Asian-style ribs or sausage kebabs, they’ll flip for juicy, pint-sized Smashed Sliders made just for them. The key to searing these five-star burgers is to press down on them with a spatula while they’re cooking; this will make the patties thinner than traditional burgers, but because they’re not cooked for as long a time, they’ll still be moist and tender. Nestle these easy-to-eat burgers inside slider-style buns and let your kids dress them up with their favorite toppings — ketchup, mustard and pickle slices are no-fail classics.
Main Course: Smashed Sliders
Side Dish: Mix and Match Pasta Salad
Dessert: Praline Ice Cream Sandwiches
Drink: Berry-Guava Lemonade
Planning on making one of these dishes? Snap a photo and post it on Food Network’s Facebook wall.