Feed Your Children Well

I was a picky eater as a child, which was part of the reason for my palette being quite limited for many years, but I also didn’t grow up in a house where International food was served. Mexican food consisted of tacos with ground beef, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. No beans, no rice, no guacamole. Because of this, I’ve been pretty determined to have my little guy try as much non-traditional American cuisine as I can. My son is by no means a picky eater. Since he started on solid foods, we’ve been hard pressed to find something that he will not eat. He’s tried, and loved, curries, quinoa bowls, enchiladas, and falafels.

I’m not a chef, but I really enjoy food, and since having a baby means we eat at home a lot more than we used to, my culinary abilities have been getting some practice. I’m also lucky enough to spend a lot of time at home with my son, so I’ve had the time to be able to make all of his baby food. We are a vegetarian household, and he has tried a variety of veggies, grains, legumes, and cheeses. At 17 months, he finally has four teeth, and now I can get a bit more creative with what I feed him since I don’t need to mash everything up.

Breakfast and dinner are generally easy meals to find different things for him to eat, and, now he that he has some teeth, he can usually try a little bit of whatever I’m having. Lunch, however can be a challenge. PBJ is the norm at our house. Annie’s mac and cheese makes an appearance sometimes, and grilled cheese sandwiches, obviously. As a passionate fan of The Grilled Cheese,  I know how easy it is to get caught up in the “I only eat grilled cheese” phase. Yet, I couldn’t not let him experience a sandwich with such cheesy goodness, so I got to thinking about how I could make it more interesting and a little healthier for him.

Grilled cheese and hummus has been his favorite variation so far with this experiment. We started with just cheese and hummus, but have since progressed to adding different ingredients. The comfort of a traditional grilled cheese sandwich, with the added bonus of flavor and vitamins provided by the vegetables, as well as the protein from the hummus. Definitely kid-friendly, the recipe below was today’s variation. 

The ingredient amounts do not have to be absolute, adjust accordingly. For instance, I try to cook with as little oil as possible for my son to keep it easy on his belly since he’s still a little guy, but that can be adjusted as he gets older, and his digestion stronger. For this sandwich specifically, I grilled the white onion in a very minimal amount of olive oil, just enough to coat the cast iron frying pan I was using. I used vegetable oil spread on the bread, applied in a thin layer, just enough to crisp the bread without it burning.

Any bread can be used for this sandwich, a nice seedy, whole grain loaf would add even more nutritional value, but I used an organic white bread that uses fruit juice instead of sugar to sweeten it. And let’s be real, nothing grills quite like white bread. 

I used plain hummus today, but I have also used roasted red pepper hummus, which was even more flavorful. We love red beets over here, but I know that they can be too “earthy” tasting for many people. Golden (yellow) beets are a great substitute because they are sweeter and not as “dirty” tasting. I’ve also used mozzarella cheese instead of cheddar, but again, it all depends on what is available in the fridge!

I’m laughing at myself as I write this because I literally just wrote an entire blog post on a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich, but I do feel as though it’s important to introduce our children to as much as possible. One way to do this is to take what we, as parents, have always considered “comfort food” and jazz it up; add new ingredients, combine recipes, make it exciting. Looking back on my days as a picky eater, I think I might have been more open to unfamiliar foods if I’d been exposed to more flavors at an even younger age. For me, breaking out of my pickiness has also meant eating healthier, no more fast food and cutting out most processed foods. 

Aspects of our society have not always portrayed health and convenience as going hand-in-hand, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be. More grocery stores than ever offer organic, local, or sustainably sourced products and their prices are even beginning to become more affordable. The more informed we, as a society, become about where our food comes from and the energy put into producing it, then it will make more sense to pay a dollar more for juice that doesn’t have added, processed sugars or hasn’t been made with fruit doused in pesticides. If we can hope to change the standard of food quality and production, not just in the US, but all over the world, then we have to start by educating our children and exposing them to more than just meat and potatoes (or grilled cheese 😉).

Here it is, easy cheesy. Enjoy!

Kid-Friendly Grilled Hummus and Cheese

Ingredients

1tsp vegetable oil spread/butter

2 pieces of bread

1/2 tbsp grilled white onion 

1 tbsp plain hummus

1/2-1 tbsp shaved beets

1 tbsp shredded white cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Spread veggie oil/butter on one side of each slice of bread.
  2. On the unbuttered side of one slice, spread the hummus.
  3. Add grilled onions and shaved beets on top of the hummus.
  4. Sprinkle the cheese over the veggies and cover with remaining slice of bread (buttered sides facing out).
  5. Grill sandwich until golden and cheese has melted, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side.