Winning recipes for picky eaters

At our reporter’s table, the shrimp risotto turns into laughter and discomfort. Roasted chicken causes disrespectful grimaces. Even pizza has recently sparked criticism at grown-up birthdays. Cooking for little ones is sometimes anything but child’s play.

Posted at 11:00 am

Véronique Larocque

Véronique Larocque

This fall, a few recipe books are coming to parents’ rescue. On the menu: dishes that will appeal to young palates or they can cook themselves (with a little help). What’s the secret to a recipe that appeals to difficult children? Press Advice sought from the authors of these books.

Change the texture

When Chef Jens Ruf was a child, his parents would sometimes serve him blanched Brussels sprouts. “For me, it was the worst thing ever. It’s the most horrible way to eat Brussels sprouts. It’s soft, not ripe,” says the co-owner of the very popular Montreal restaurant Butterbloom. According to him, when you’re young, a food appreciation (or not!) “Texture plays a huge role”.

Photo by Edouard Plant-Frechette, La Presse Archives

Chef Jens Roof

In her series of cookbooks for cooks ages 5 to 8 mini menu, The chef attaches great importance to this ingredient. Forget steamed broccoli that kids sometimes hate, like Brussels sprouts. His volume dedicated to the picnic is accompanied by “tanned” and a sauce. “Anything that’s crispy, fried, caramelized, it’s delicious,” points out the man who, with his wife Elizabeth Delage and friend Jean Joly, was particularly inspired by his daughter Agathe, 8,’s preference for adult-only chefs’ assistants.

Focus on simplicity

“When I serve a dish to my son, it must be very simple. Not too many toppings on top. Not a big part,” says Joanna Fox.

Photo by Dominique Lafond, provided by Co Editions

Joanna Fox and her son

With these ingredients in mind, this cooking enthusiast worked on the visuals for her first recipe book, A little criticWith photographer Dominique Lafond. There’s no complicated assembly to the dishes offered in this book, which combines winning recipes from a lineage (or cohort) of 80 Canadian chefs. Also, take comfort: Even their children sometimes get uncomfortable in front of their plates, guarantees the deputy editor-in-chief.He is Canada.

Add a little magic to food

“To overcome picky eaters, you need to use a few strategies. […] Put a little magic in their lives,” believes Caroline Savard, the author of the books Perfect recipe for kids who are a little (a lot) difficult And very recent “Wow” Desserts – 75 Recipes That Are Fun to Cook with Kids.

Image provided by PRATICO Editions

Caroline Savard

The mother of three children, ages 9 to 15, says simple additions can turn a mundane meal into a joy. For example, she sometimes sprinkles a few candy confetti on her daughter’s yogurt, which suddenly makes it “special.” “It was her day,” says the woman, who has been sharing her recipes and parenting tips on the site for eight years.

Giving a dish a fun name also changes the child’s perception of it. inside A little critic, we specifically find chef Diane Solomon’s “Incredible Hulk Risotto.” Something to please any superhero in the making. Changing the shape of food can also satisfy foodies.

I am a fan of silicone molds. I have quite an impressive collection. If we bake a super healthy muffin recipe in a donut pan […]It just took another dimension.

Carolyn Savard, cookbook author

Dose the novelty

Joanna Fox noticed that her 6-year-old son was willing to try a new dish if it accompanied a food he already enjoyed. For her part, Caroline Savard has found that when a dish resembles another favorite, the young person will want to try it. An example? Carrots or turnips in the form of French fries. “It looks like a normal fry, so it reminds kids of a positive memory. »

She also says that mixing two foods that don’t seem to go together is fun for little ones. “For example, in my first book, I made a breakfast sundae. »

Invite the kids into the kitchen

Involving your children in food choice and preparation is the best way to get kids interested in what’s on their plate, think the three authors interviewed. “I believe that children should be involved in the kitchen so that we can pass on to them a certain passion or at least a certain interest. […] He thus sees that it can be a pleasurable activity. It can be fun to cook with the whole family and enjoy the results”, believes chef Jens Ruf.

Don’t seem like the kids around you want to get their hands dirty? Start with dessert, suggests Caroline Savard. “These are the easiest recipes to get a child into the kitchen,” she says, speaking from experience. At home, if she pulls out the stand mixer, she’s never alone behind the counter for long.

Lower your expectations

Let’s admit one thing, however: when little one is in the kitchen, mischief is never far away. “Expect it to be a mess, advises Carolyn Savard, laughing. But the younger you start cooking them, the easier they’ll handle later. When she was 2, her daughter loved cracking eggs.

“I think cooking is great for bringing families together, for spending time together when you don’t have time. It’s two for one. You are doing something useful […] And you spend quality time with your child,” he added. All that’s left is to plan the cooking day before cleaning the house…

Pappardelle with pesto from Chuck Hughes

Photo by Dominique Lafond, provided by Co Editions

Chuck Hughes, his boys and pesto pappardelle

For a while, Chuck Hughes’ sons only ate his pesto pasta, book author Joanna Fox says. A little criticwhich brings together recipes that 80 Canadian chefs cook for their children or those around them

Preparation time: 30 minutes + 30 minutes rest or overnight
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients for pasta

  • 300 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. Fine sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil

Ingredients for Pesto

  • 150 g (5 cups) fresh basil leaves
  • 30 grams (1 cup) celery leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 70 g (1 cup) grated Grana Padano, plus more for serving
  • 500 ml (2 cups) olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Lemon zest, to taste

Preparation of pasta

  • 1. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Transfer to a clean work surface and make a well in the center of the dough. Pour the eggs, egg yolks and oil into the well in the center and mix with a fork until a dough forms. Whisk for 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.
  • 2. Let the dough come back to room temperature for 20 minutes. Place it on a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to the thickness of a sheet of paper. Proceed several times. Roll up the dough sheets, trim the edges of the rolls evenly, then cut the rolls into even slices to make noodles 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide.
  • 3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook noodles in boiling water until soft. Chath, or 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 125 ml (1/2 cup) cooking water.

Preparing the pesto

  • 4. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until you obtain a very smooth texture.
  • 5. Transfer pesto to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the pasta and toss to coat well, adding the reserved cooking water, 1 tbsp. At a time, to thin the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Grana Padano.

Note: You can use dry noodles for this recipe.

A little critic

A little critic

KO version

272 pages

Amazing meatballs with pork and feta

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Delage, Cardinal Edition

Amazing meatballs with pork and feta

Among chef Jens Ruf’s favorite family recipes are these pork and beef meatballs with feta cheese crumbles. “A salty treasure in every bite”, can we read? Mini menu I’m cooking dinner! Intended for children aged 5 and over, this book in the series equips beginner cooks thanks to the appropriate preparation steps and its instructional videos accessible by scanning various QR codes.


  • 3 cups fresh bread crumbs, cubed
  • Milk 1/2 cup
  • 1 pound medium lean ground pork
  • 1 pound medium-lean ground beef
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • About 20 cubes of feta cheese, 1 cm x 1 cm (the size of a dice)


  • 1. Preheat oven to 400 WhoahF (200 WhoahVS).
  • 2. In a small bowl, soak breadcrumbs in milk for a few minutes while listening to your favorite song.
  • 3. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the cheese with your hands.
  • 4. Using an ice cream scoop, make balls one by one. Insert a slice of cheese in the center. Close each ball well with the meat to hide the cheese and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • 5. When all your stuffed meatballs are on the plate, ask your assistant chef (an adult) to put them in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Flip with tongs after cooking for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve the meatballs with your favorite vegetables or a simple tomato sauce.
MiniMiniMenu – I'm cooking dinner!

MiniMiniMenu – I’m cooking dinner!

Cardinal edition

36 pages

Cake batter and small candy balls

Image provided by PRATICO Editions

Cake batter and small candy balls

Easy to prepare, this small format dessert fits well in a lunch box, notes Caroline Savard in her very colorful book. Dessert “Wow”! — 75 recipes that are super fun to cook with kids.

Preparation: 5 minutes
Refrigeration: 1 hour
Yield: 15 scoops


  • 250 ml (1 cup) quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 160 ml (2/3 cup) chickpeas, rinsed and dried
  • 45 ml (3 tsp.) maple syrup
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp.) sunflower butter or other seed butter
  • 7.5 ml (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) mini decorative candies


  • 1. In the bowl of a food processor, place all ingredients except the mini candies. Mix until a homogeneous preparation is obtained.
  • 2. Shape into 15 balls, using about 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of the preparation for each.
  • 3. In a bowl, place the mini candies. Roll balls in candy.
  • 4. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until ready to serve.

Dessert “Wow”! 75 recipes that are fun to cook with kids

Practical version

184 pages

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *