We have a rule at dinner, taste it at least once. If you like it, eat it. If you don’t then you can have a peanut butter sandwich (but no dessert). This rule (mainly the threat of taking away dessert) means that Little Guy tastes and eventually eats much of his dinner most of the time. He doesn’t always like it, and he doesn’t always taste it easily (OMG that kid can whine). However, it works better than many of the other rules I attempt to enforce.
Four-year old brains are like mini recording devices. If you say something to them a few times you’re going to get it thrown back at you. That’s what happened a few weeks ago. It was the day I taught Little Guy to roll down hills. I introduced him to the idea when we spent the day at Castle Island with the grandparents. I explained how to lay flat and roll yourself down the hill. He, like most children, took to it quickly. For the next hour he ran up the hill and rolled down it, making himself so dizzy he couldn’t walk straight, each time rolling himself at an angle that would collide with one of his siblings. They wavered back and forth between thinking this was funny and simple annoyance.
Later in the day, after playgrounds and the realization that he did like french fries when they are dipped in ketchup (a relief to us all since we thought there was something wrong with him for not liking french fries,) he asked me to go back to the hill. On the way there he begged me to roll down the hill with him in the relentless way only a young child can. Several times I explained that rolling down hills is for kids, that grown-ups get too dizzy and dizzy isn’t fun at 39 in the same way it is at 4. He kept begging, please Mommy, he said, just do it and it will be over; a phrase stolen from my pleas for him to take his ibuprofen every time he has a fever. I said NO in what I thought was my best firm but caring tone. Then he went in for the kill. “But Mommy just try it once, isn’t that what you always say about food? Try it once and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again.” Soooooooo, I rolled down that hill with all I could remember of my seven-year-old self. You know what? It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
I knew that I had ammunition too. I would be able to take my willingness to throw my self down the hill and use it the next time I wanted him to try something. I saved it too, until I really needed it.
Fast forward back to yesterday. We made pasta. Not just any pasta, but handmade spinach fettuccine. Do you think your four-year old would willingly try pasta flecked with green bits? Neither did I. Oh, he fought it, but I had a few reasons I knew he would give. I had him make the pasta himself. Rule one in getting your child to eat something he might not otherwise try is to get them involved; that way they own it – they are proud of it and want to try it.
The second reason I knew he would like it was that the pasta rocked. I knew it would, and it did. The recipe was from an AMAZING cookbook,The Silver Spoon. A cookbook touted to be the Bible of Italian Cooking. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is certainly THE go-to book for authentic Italian recipes. Just looking through the book should be a recreational sport.
And, lastly I planned on playing the Castle Island card. It worked. Not easily, but I got him in the end. First he asked to have his pasta plain with cheese and his meatballs and sauce in a separate bowl. Then he scarfed down a meatball or two which were my adaptation of Cooking Light’s Italian Meatballs which I already knew he loved. Finally he took a timid taste of the pasta and he was hooked. He admitted that his favorite meatballs would actually taste good with the pasta, and he polished off the whole plate. Well worth the roll down the hill.
The original version of the meatballs was part of a recipe for meatball sliders. We’ve had that recipe several times, and we love it. However, like many things I have tweaked the recipe to stretch the meat and increase the nutritional value. I use a full pound of ground beef instead of the 12 ounces called for in the recipe, but I also add a cup of firm lentils. This increases the number of meatballs the recipe makes from 24 to 40. The meatballs are great reheated and just as good when frozen. When you simmer the cooked meatballs in your favorite red sauce, such as my Vegeriffic Veggie Sauce and serve it over handmade spinach pasta, it supercharges you meal with healthy goodness. Enjoy!
Italian Meatballs with Lentils
recipe adapted from Italian Meatball Sliders, Cooking Light July 2012
1/3 cup panko
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
2 tablespoons parlsey, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup firm cooked lentils such as brown or green
1 clove garlic, minced
Pre-heat the oven on broil. Combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and mix with your hands until evenly combined, not too long because you do not want to over-mix.
Using a tablespoon or half ounce scoop, portion the meatball mix into small balls, about 1/2 ounce each. You should end up with about 40 meatballs. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and cook under the broiler for three minutes. Turn the meatballs over and cook for another three minutes. Remove from the oven and serve plain, in a sandwich or cooked in sauce.
What a happy Squishy Delishy looks like crawling right at you…