We have a number of standard menus that meet these criteria. We eat these standards regularly and the kids are perfectly satisfied. The kids are also perfectly satisfied to watch the same episode of Phineas and Ferb 50 times in a row; I, however, am not.
This desire for a more adventurous meal plan has lead to many cooking experiments designed to broaden the palette preferences of the kiddies. Throughout these food trials, there are a few things I’ve noticed:
1) Taking something familiar and changing it up a bit usually works. For example, we eat a lot of chicken and we have a couple favorite ways to make it. So, to change it up a little, I did a tandoori style chicken, soaking it in a yogurt based marinade and then broiling it. The flavor was different then our standard, but subtle. The kids and I both loved it and now we have a new taste that I know will be eaten!
2) Changing or adding one dish in the meal can prove successful. This works well when the meal consists of a main food item and side dishes. For me, it’s usually a new vegetable concoction that I’d like to try. Most recently I did this with a broccoli recipe. The kids both like broccoli, but only steamed and with a bit of butter and salt–this gets a bit boring for the mom. The recipe I tried included red bell peppers and a garlicky stir-fry like sauce. I knew if I just made a stir-fry it would be a no-go, so I snuck it in as a side dish to salmon & rice. I’ll admit they didn’t love it, but they ate it. And, they ate the salmon so I didn’t end up with hungry kids grumbling for something to eat right after dinner.
3) Let the kids help ‘invent’ a new recipe. This is one of our favorites and is actually the most successful. It doesn’t always result in menu item that is loved, but the kids always try their inventions and give honest feedback. Plus, they’re always excited to tweak their own recipes to make them more to their liking. One of our favorite recipes that Alex was instrumental in inventing is our Chicken Strips (which we’ll be demoing in a future episode of 2 Kids Cooking).
I think that trying to keep meal time interesting is always a challenge, but giving up is not an option. I don’t care how many times Alex and Soph wrinkle their noses at a new dish–most of the time, once they taste the food, they like it. Even if they don’t, exposing them to lots of different kids of healthy foods will keep their minds open so that when they get older, they just might appreciate a little variety.