People are always asking me for tricks on getting their kids to eat better. The short answer is, there are no tricks only persistence and patience. I always tell them to lead by example and keep offering and usually things fall into place. There really is no magic trick. Some kids like to eat and some kids don’t. Some will happily eat sashimi with a side in foie gras and others will only eat french fries. if you have always offered them healthy choices and continue to do so, rest assured, their picky eating phase is more about them asserting their independence and less about your failed parenting skills. It’s hard and can be very trying on a parent who really wants their child to eat well but if continue to cook and eat together as a family, they will come around.
There are all sorts of books out there on getting your kids to eat vegetables by hiding them. Not A. Fan. I really feel that hiding vegetables isn’t teaching your kids anything. Also, I don’t know about you, but I barely have the time to make dinner on most nights let alone start pureeing up black beans to sneak into my kids brownies (oh! and um…yuck!). I get the appeal of the books, because as parents all we want to do is protect our children and keep them healthy. And as much as I know about how developmentally appropriate it is for a two and three year old to be a pain in the tuchas about food, it still made/makes me crazy. Rather than resort to hiding veggies, I just stay the course and steer clear of junk food and fast food. I’m a big believer in one dinner for everyone and try and offer meals that everyone can at least tolerate if not love. I have two kids and my three year old still refuses many vegetables but we keep trying and offer him the ones he does love. I make the most out of the things he like eating and hope that with most phases of parenting “This too, shall pass”. Keep calm and cook on.
My oldest son practically lived on rice balls for his entire two’s and that was pretty much OK with me. When the picky eater phase of the terrific twos came, I was just happy he ate anything so who was I to argue, right? Besides, when you think about it there are a lot worse things he could have been demanding. I love rice balls. Who doesn’t right? Their portability and self contained deliciousness make them the best kind of fast food and so darn cute! And you know what? Rice balls make the perfect finger food and kids usually love them!
Being the crazy woman that I am, I decided to make the most out of his obsession by playing around with different flavors and ingredients, packing quite a nutritional punch into that little ball of goodness every chance I got. Spinach, peas, mushrooms, ground beef, chicken, white, rice, brown rice, you name it, I rolled it into a ball and he ate it. Success!
One of my favorite rice ball recipes is my Arroz Con Pollo Balls. They’re packed with yellow rice, chicken and olives—a real meal in and of itself. I like to serve these to company as an appetizer with cocktails or to the family as a light lunch with a side salad. They are incredibly delicious and so unexpected. From the outside you think you know what you are getting into, but as soon as you bite into one of these babies and their beautiful saffron yellow peeks out, you know you are in for something special. Eat up!
Arroz Con Pollo Balls
Makes 12 Rice Balls
2 cups cooked yellow rice, cooled
3/4 cup store bought Roasted Chicken, shredded
1/2 cup chopped pimento stuffed green olives
1 tsp salt
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1 tsp pepper
2 tbsps chopped cilantro
1/4 cup cotillo cheese (or any grated cheese you like)
3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsps of water
2 cups vegetable oil (or use your favorite frying oil)
1. Cook your rice according to package directions and allow to cool. ( I used Canilla white rice in a 1-2 ratio and added in a pinch of saffron threads to give it the yellow color).
2. In a medium bowl, combine rice, chicken, olives, salt, pepper, cilantro and cheese. Mush the mixture with your hands until it is stick enough to form balls (if it isn’t coming together add 1-2 tbsps of water to the mixture). Form mixture into 12 equally sized balls.Roll each of the balls into the egg/water mixture and then in the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate balls for 10 minutes.
3. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/3 of the way. Heat over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees. Fry the rice balls in batches (4 at a time), turning occasionally, until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve.
TIP: If you do not have a frying thermometer, simply sprinkle a little breadcrumbs into the oil. If the breadcrumbs begin to sizzle, then the oil is hot enough.Christina Stanley-Salerno is a mama, recipe developer, food stylist, photographer and blogger atTakeBackYourTable.com. She loves cooking for and with her family. Life is hectic, but Christina is passionate about mealtime because she believes that family meals are the glue that holds everyone together. Creating simple, quick and healthy meals is her specialty and her trick to keeping the family meal a reality, even on busy weeknights.
Follow her on Twitter @TakeBackTables