Saturday, November 19, 2005

Finicky Eaters and Holiday Meals

By Christina VanGinkel

With all the trimmings of a traditional holiday meal, one would think that there would surely be something amongst the elaborate spread to satisfy everyone's taste buds. Normally I would agree, unless that someone is a finicky toddler or preschooler. If you happen to be looking forward to the upcoming holiday get together, save for this small matter, do not fret another minute over the matter.

Whether you are making the meal at your own home, or going to the grandparents, make a dish that will compliment the main course, no matter how elaborate the main fare being served is. Not to mention one that will delight both the finicky child and the child inside each of the adults at the table. What one dish could satisfy both? A pot of fresh baked, and oh so creamy, macaroni and cheese!

I actually cheat a bit when making this, always starting with a couple of boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that I simply embellish with fresh shredded cheddar cheese that I top it with at the last minute, then pop into the oven to bake until the cheese topping melts. If the child has a favorite meat, such as hamburger, chicken, ham, or my daughter's favorite when she was little, tuna, I will also mix that in with the pasta before topping with the cheese. This provides both a welcome dish, not to mention a filling and healthy dish for the child. Simply follow the directions on the box, dump into a small casserole dish, mix in any additional ingredients (already cooked and / or drained) top with the shredded cheese, and bake for about ten minutes or until the cheese topping is melted, and serve.

Another kid favorite, though this may surprise many, is fresh vegetables. When cooking, set aside some fresh carrots and celery. Slice into thin sticks, and arrange in small plastic, colored cups. Kids will enjoy having their very own 'munch stack' next to their plate. I always pour a bit of bottled salad dressing in the bottom of the cups, tell them it's dip, and they are happily dipping away instead of pouting that they do not like what is in front of them.

Another tactic that I have used through the years with a child that is at least pre-school age is to let them help create and cook at least one dish. If there is not something on the menu that they want to help create, hand them a cookbook that is filled with pictures, and let them browse until they find something. Be sure to start this several days before the actual meal so that you will have time to gather the needed ingredients. When they have a personal stake in the meal, they are more apt to want to eat it. This works great for finicky eaters; as they get to witness what is going into the meal, so do not have to worry about surprises. I always am honest with them too, and tell them upfront what is in a dish, especially if they ask.

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