Friday, August 22, 2008

Green Bean Fries (for pity's sake)

Feeding small children is an activity rife with more complications than raising a baby elephant in a ninth floor walk-up in a big city. I speak from experience – well, in the feeding kids thing, not the elephant in an apartment thing. Obviously.

I just never realized how much creativity would be involved in meal-planning when children entered the picture. Assuming that your kids will enjoy the same things you yourself like is one of life’s biggest fallacies. And while I’m willing to admit we all need to accept the differences in each other, I am not only not at all willing to cook separate dinners for everyone, but I also have some nutritional laws in our household on which I am not going to budge.

These tenets include, but are by no means limited to: children will eat foods that come in colors other than beige, high-fructose corn syrup is not a food group, a variety of foods will be consumed over the period of a week, candy will not be kept around the house, the majority of desserts shall be completely homemade so as to control preservatives and other chemical nonsense, and if a child chooses to eat meat, that is his prerogative, but he will have to endure mom sitting at the other end of the table mimicking the animal’s natural cute sounds while said animal is being eaten. Hey, it’s my table. I will moo if I want to.

Suffice to say, I have faced some challenges since these children have come into my life. And some wins have been easier achieved than others. Here are a few of the highlights:

The Big Boy, who as a younger toddler would have lived on fruit, hit a stubborn streak for a year or so in which he began to turn down every fruit offered. No bananas, no apples, no pears, no berries, nothing. I tried re-naming things, like calling blueberries ‘dinosaur eggs,’ but that victory was a short-lived one. So we started having daily smoothies, and The Big Boy was allowed to press the buttons on the blender. Fruit? Check. Protein? Check.

But then vegetables went by the wayside as well. See, when The Big Boy was a one-year-old, he would eat anything I put before him. He loved Brussels sprouts and broccoli and carrots. Even spinach and lettuce didn’t faze him. And you know what I did? I patted myself on the back, thought I must be the greatest mother ever (with the obvious exception of my own mother, of course), and wondered when I could expect to receive my gold medal. I'm sure you can guess what happened next though. The higher one thinks of herself, the harder she will fall. When The Big Boy clamped his mouth tightly shut and violently shook his head over virtually anything other than grits or pasta, I was shocked and dismayed. So I got creative. Again. And I started serving green beans with a big ole’ blob of ketchup (organic so as to avoid the high-fructose corn syrup) and deemed them ‘green bean fries.’ Ketchup has high levels of lycopene, as well as counting as a serving of either vegetables or fruit (depending on how OCD you want to be about it). Two years later, that trick still works.

And so I put dried fruit in The Big Boy’s oatmeal, and make my own berry sauce for his pancakes. I steam vanilla soymilk for him in my espresso maker and call it a ‘Vanilla Steamer’ (a trick I ripped off from Jittery Joe’s). And if he can be convinced that frozen fruit is a dessert treat, then so be it. Motherhood is not easy.

The thing is, kids just don’t seem to eat very much, and so I worry about every bite he puts in his mouth. If he will only be eating three forkfuls of food for dinner, then I need for those bites to be relatively nutrient-rich. And it has certainly not escaped my attention that his behavior is adversely affected when he eats packaged foods. I cannot be certain if it is the preservatives, the high-fructose corn syrup or some other additive, but without fail, every single time he is given a ‘juice drink’ or a bag of sour candies, he turns into a terrorist. Regular sugar doesn’t seem to have the same negative results. Meal-planning, errand-running, and play dates are virtual minefields. One does what one can.

I am filled with gratitude that the nearly-11-month-old Little Miss Piggy is still eating every bite of each dish I put in front of her, but I’m simultaneously gearing up for the battles ahead. I will wear these stubborn little buggers down, if it takes every ounce of strength I’ve got. In the meantime, if anyone has any other proven ideas, I'm open for suggestion.


GREEN BEANS WITH GARLIC AND SHALLOTS (serves four as a side dish)
This recipe is delightfully flavorful, and much more elegant than a typical green bean side. The Carnivore and I enjoy it as is, and serve it to the four-year-old with ketchup for dipping (which also serves to mask the assertiveness of the garlic, something which typically offends little children of a certain age).

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans or haricots verts
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced garlic
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary or Italian seasoning (or 1 tsp fresh rosemary)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • ketchup for small children (argh)
  1. In a steamer basket or metal colander covered with a lid and set over a large pot filled with about an inch of boiling water, steam the beans until crisp-tender. Drain.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.
  3. Add the garlic and shallots to the melted butter and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly browned.
  4. To the pan, add the beans, herbs, salt and pepper, and saute for another 3-5 minutes, until heated through.


Holly said...

my brother and i both went thru phases where we refused to drink water. so, secretly of course, my parents would fill a pitcher with ice, top it off with water, and let it all melt in the fridge to super-cool it. they called it "magic elixer water" and we were fooled by it till we were like 12... which now that i think about it is just sad :-P

...not that i won't do it to my kids too :)

Sarah Beam said...

Holly, that is really funny. Your parents are my kind of people. I have convinced Ray that the display of cookies and cakes by the coffee counter at the bookstore is an art installation. He always grumbles and says, "That sure does look some yummy art."

Shel @ Life With Seven said...

"and if a child chooses to eat meat, that is his prerogative, but he will have to endure mom sitting at the other end of the table mimicking the animal’s natural cute sounds while said animal is being eaten. Hey, it’s my table. I will moo if I want to."

I laughed so hard at that comment, I love it!

One of the ways we get some greens in our kids is to blend some romaine, raw spinach or other greens into their smoothies. They all drink it up (I have to sneak the greens in when they're not looking though, which can be tricky). ;-)

Sarah Beam said...

Oh, Shel. I'm mildly alarmed at the thought of putting raw greens in our smoothies. Last night, when The Big Boy saw his much-older cousin stirring his salad INTO his pasta, he ended up asking for some leaves for his noodles too. I gladly obliged (since he so rarely eats greens), but was mortified to watch him eat it all together.

Maybe your idea isn't so strange after all...

Haley said...

We would like to feature this recipe on our blog. Please email if interested. Thanks :)