Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cooking for the Picky Eater

I made this dish the another night for my youngest son Sebastien. Like many preschoolers, his taste run the way of simple carbs––sweets, bread, pasta and cheese—a maddening combination for a mom who is trying to raise healthy kids.

So I have my tricks. In the post-school, pre-dinner phase, when the boys are starving, I make a platter of carrots, celery, and cut apples. While they play or watch TV, they can snack on these foods, and then I don’t worry so much that they have eaten all their veggies at dinner.

Dessert is sometimes sweets, but more often I serve fresh pineapple, apples sauce, or frozen berries which they like to top with a little agave syrup and a tablespoon of heavy cream to make their own “ice cream."

I also cook with a lot of multigrain and farro pastas, so even if Sebastien picks around the veggies in any given dish, he is still getting some nutrition. Not that I'm above using white flour pasta, especially when the dish just would not work with a whole grain alternative (see recipe below). Being a good family cook means remaining flexible--and teaching your kids to have a passion for real food means making things that are truly tasty.

And finally, I cook special dinners for each kid, which features their favorite savory foods. It makes them feel special and cared for. When I made this pasta for Sebastien, he ate three platefuls, a record.

Sebastien’s Pasta
(adapted from a similar recipe by Giada De Laurentiis)

This recipes calls for Grana Padano, a hard Italian cheese not unlike Parmigiano-Reggiano, but a little more mellow and a lot less expensive.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet sausage (use bulk, or remove the meat from the casing)
salt and pepper
1 (10) ounce package frozen peas
1 pound dried farfalle pasta (I like Barilla)
1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil.

In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. Add the sausage and sauté, breaking up a large clumps with a wooden spoon, until golden brown. Drain any excess fat beyond 2 tablespoons. Add the peas and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until just done—about 8 minutes. Drain. Combine pasta, sausage mixture and cheese in a large platter and serve.

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