The food thing has reached mission critical in my house. I’m getting tired of coming up with meals. I’m getting tired of complaints from small people about eating vegetables. (Tonight I got “we’re not poor… why do we have to eat vegetables as a main course, they are supposed to be a side dish!” Clearly the meat lobby has gotten to my 11 year old.) I’m way over trying to cook two separate meals, something I swore off after weaning my oldest child as a toddler off of a steady diet of chicken fingers, grilled cheese, and strawberry yogurt. We generally do pretty well–or I should say, did pretty well–at family dinners. There would be the occasional clunker but more often than not the kids would eat what we ate for dinner.
And then came the plants.
Us grown up converted easily, the kids… not so much. My middle child is my best veggie eater and always has been, so it has been easiest for him. My oldest has felt this change in our diets as a personal affront. My youngest is still at the age when any unusual, non-carbohydrate food is given the stink eye and may result in cat-with-a-hairball style gagging.
We did get rid of dairy as a family and now only have almond or soy milk in the house. That transition was not without friction but we made it through. So tonight I decided to fall back on what Dr. Fuhrman says in his books about getting kids on a plant based diet–to paraphrase, if they are hungry, they will eat. If you only provide healthy food, and they are hungry, they will eat it. Eventually.
Tonight it was just me and the kiddos at home, and I was inspired (actually, I was pin-spired) to try out this crispy orange cauliflower recipe. You can find it here:
Where would I be without the internet? Such great inspiration! I love using cauliflower as a meaty main dish–something you can sink your teeth into. This recipe is a little heavier in oil than I would like, but I figured by frying the cauliflower I would be more apt to get my kids to eat it. Cause really, you could fry a shoe and it would taste good, right?
I did change it up a bit. I eliminated the oil from the batter (you don’t need it), and I just lightly misted my skillet to saute the green onions and garlic. You don’t need a whole teaspoon full or whatever it says. I did fry the cauliflower in vegetable oil. If I make this again, I will try baking it instead. I know that can be done as I’ve made a similar recipe where the cauliflower was baked. If you want to find a good substitute, google around for baked buffalo chicken cauliflower and I bet you’ll find it. I also got kind of tired of cooking–this was a bit labor intensive for me on a weeknight and took a little under an hour from start to finish. So I left off the very last sauce step. I also substituted orange juice–probably about a half cup–for the zest and juice of an orange. I added a little cornstarch to the sauce to thicken it. My final dish looked kind of blah so I added a couple of clementines, peeled and segmented, for color and a little pop of sweet. Here’s how mine turned out:
The verdict? I loved it. This is a dish I would order in a restaurant. The combination of sweet from the orange and tang from the vinegar is perfect. If you like extra sauce for your rice, then don’t skip that last step like I did. I served this with brown rice and cantaloupe. Me, I had two decent size servings and now feel kind of eh from the oil I think. I will definitely make this again, but will be baking it. But I wouldn’t hesitate to make it again, fried even, for carnivorous guests or as an appetizer for a party.
The kids reactions? Kid #2 ate two servings and said it was really good, “just like chicken.” (I had said it tasted kind of like Chinese style chicken… something they can relate to.) Kid #1 ate a small serving and declined seconds, saying that it tasted nothing like chicken, and that it was too spicy. Kid #3, predictably, made cat-with-a-hairball gagging faces, complained it was too hot (it wasn’t) and too spicy. He had a mouse sized nibble. But he asked for some brown rice and ate all his cantaloupe.
Hey, I’m calling it a successful family meal. I take what I can get.
How do you get your kids to eat healthier foods and minimize the dinner table tantrums?