When is someone going to call me out over the fact that I’m bringing a six year old into this whole big sustainable eating project? Surely someone is reading this blog and thinking, “yeah right, there’s no WAY my kid would eat that.” And it wouldn’t be fair to say that it’s not an issue in my household as well. I struggle a bit, but not always in the way that I might have expected. First, I have to say that I have a child with an extremely adventurous spirit—I guess I can chalk it up to the fact that she was born in Turkey and has had more transatlantic flight time than most adults I know! She’s my road-trip buddy, my vacation friend, and my partner in all things fun and mischievous. So of course she was down with mommy’s food adventure! My struggle, however, is to create balance for her so that she doesn’t miss out on “kid foods” and end up with a complex about junk food as a result of a deprived childhood. Restated: I don’t want to be the crazy hippie mom who screwed up her kid.
I’m by no means qualified to write articles about making coordinating holiday curtains and napkin rings, or turning vegetables into kid-friendly dinosaur shapes. I don’t arrange zucchini into flowers, or make food into smiley faces on her plate. I didn’t even do the airplane spoon! These things really aren’t my thing. My approach is a little more straightforward. I don’t offer an alternate meal at dinner—I’m more of a “this is what we’re eating” kind of mom. So how do I get her to eat?
For the most part she is excited to eat what I cook because she’s involved in some way now. She helps me carry vegetables at the farmers market, and then helps me wash them when we get home. Later, when it’s time to eat kale or turnips, she feels connected to them and can’t wait to know what they taste like. She especially loves turnips because they usually have dirt on them.
The best way, in my opinion, to get my daughter to eat what I cook is to make her feel included—not just in the preparation process, but in the adventure in general. In my household, trying new things and being open-minded is right up there with the Golden Rule. She is not praised or rewarded for eating everything I cooked and mindlessly doing what was expected of her—she is praised for her willingness to try something new. I don’t expect her to eat an entire bowl of curried lentil stew, but I do expect her to try a small portion of it. When we run into something that she genuinely doesn’t like, I adjust her meal so that it’s fair to her, and without sending the message that I’m willing to cook her an entirely separate meal.
Sometimes I have to get a little creative. Not cutesy Halloween sandwich creative, but a little outside-the-box nonetheless. For instance, squash doesn’t sound so great to a kid, so from the time she was about two years old I just convinced her it was pumpkin. Very similar, but eating the jack-o-lantern was much more appealing to a kid than eating something that sounds like it may have come to an unfortunate end before reaching the dinner table. And eggplant? Who in their right mind would want to eat something squishy that has egg in it? I can’t blame her. But what’s in a name? In my house we refer to it as “that really pretty purple vegetable.” This concept works for many, many things. And with especially strange-looking foods, I help things out by mentioning that it’s so-and-so’s favorite. She hasn’t yet figured out that her grandmother and aunt have an impossibly long list of “favorite” foods…
But recently, she asked for “normal pizza,” and I realized that despite her adventurous spirit, maybe not everything I’m doing is entirely fair to her. So I will be making a few compromises. First, I have started making a big deal about home made Sunday brunch—and she gets to choose what we make. Also, once a week I let her order a personal pizza from a local pizza place. I want her to know that she is not entirely helpless and that I hear her concerns. The kid eats kale, lentils, and quinoa (along with pasta and other kid-friendly home made meals), so I’m happy to compromise. It’s not my job to shelter her and make all of her decisions—it’s my responsibility to guide her and educate her so that later she can decide how she feels about Pizza Hut.
Today’s recipe is one of Isabella’s favorites, and this recipe for black beans can be made into at least four different meals: tacos, chili, soup, and with rice. This is also ideal for the convenience factor because if you make a huge batch, you can either freeze the leftovers or repurpose them the next day. There is absolutely no way to mess this up unless the beans are undercooked!
Basic Black Beans:
2 Cups black beans
4 cups water
corn (you can use frozen, but fresh off the cobb tastes the best!
zucchini, diced (optional)
chili powder (2tsp)
onion powder (1/2 tsp)
2 cloves pressed garlic
salt (to taste)
cayenne pepper (optional)
Soak the beans overnight; I let mine soak in the crock pot. Drain and rinse, add more water. If you don’t remember to presoak, you can quick boil them (boil ten minutes, drain, add enough water to cover, then continue to the next step).
Add all of the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the corn and zucchini. Let cook in crock pot for at least three hours. If you start them in the morning and plan to eat them for dinner, then cover and cook on low. If you have less time, cover and cook on high. Watch to be sure that the water has not cooked out; add water as needed.
Add zucchini and corn 20 minutes before serving.
When I serve these over rice, I prefer them to be a little more watery. In tacos, I let the water cook out. For chili, I cook them with crushed tomatoes and serve with cheddar cheese. For soup, I add a few potatoes and whatever greens (chopped) I have lying around.