Cooking with kids: bite-sized is better and other lessons learned

The following post is by editor Kara Fleck.

A few weeks ago I made a fantastic discovery:  my four year old daughter Lucy will eat just about anything, even asparagus, if it is purple.  Talk about a kitchen miracle!  Even though the asparagus cooks up green, it began as purple and so to her it was wonderful enough to happily put on her plate and into her mouth, while my husband and I watched with jaw-dropped amazement.

For this month’s Cooking with Kids feature, I wanted to share a few more lessons that I have learned in the kitchen when cooking for, and with, my children.

Lesson learned: my kids will eat just about anything in muffin form

One of the best kitchen discoveries this month came in the form of a muffin.  Much to my delight, I found out that fruits the children don’t particularly care for on their own, like rhubarb or pears, and even some veggies, such as grated carrots, they WILL eat in the form of a muffin – sweet or savory.

Eureka!  This goes right up there with my discovery of smoothies for getting healthy foods into my children.

We tried out Aimee’s muffin recipe from Simple Bites and have been making a batch at least once a week ever since, trying out all different combinations.  I add a salad to our muffins and this has been our lunch nearly every week day of the season so far.

Lesson learned: bite-sized is better

I recently made the Zucchini cakes recipe from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook.  When I first made this recipe the children didn’t really care for them.   However, my husband and I loved them so I thought I would try again.

This time, instead of making them pancake sized,  I made them smaller, like a potato chip, and added a dipping sauce the kids.   Suddenly all of the kids found the zucchini cakes more palatable, even delicious.

The lesson I learned was that my kids prefer smaller, bite-sized portions.  And, dipping sauce doesn’t hurt.

Lesson learned: don’t underestimate their palates

This is a lesson that I already knew, but evidently needed to re-learn.  My anti-lemonade child (yes, it is true, he doesn’t like lemonade) surprised me by loving the lemon ice cream that my oldest daughter and I made together over the weekend.  Even when his mother had the poor judgement to blurt out, “you won’t like it, honey, it’s lemon” (I know.  I can’t believe I said that either.) Well, Max loved it.

This just goes to show that he knows better than I do what his palate is and I should just keep mum and let him try new things.  He just might surprise me, especially if I keep my opinions to myself.

Other recipes and food we’ve been enjoying at our house this month:

What have you and your kids been cooking up in the kitchen lately?  Any surprises?  Hot weather kids pleasers?  I’d love it if you’d share your kitchen adventures in the comments (and share links if you’ve got them – we’re always on the lookout for new food to try!)

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Jussara says:

    Hi, Kara! We live in Brazil and now we’re heading to winter time. Ok, Brazilian winter, but anyway, a good time for soup! My 4yo decided, last year, that she doesn’t like soup anymore. But, last week, when she saw me preparing it for me and my husband, she asked if she could help. And, because she was envolved in unpeeling (?), putting the slices in the pan and taking caring of time to see if it was ready… she wanted to have soup with us! The proud cook wanted to have soup for nights in a row and even invited us for dinner in her room – table set and everything. :-)

  2. Suzanne says:

    What great tips! I was just thinking yesterday that I need new strategies for making mealtime less of a battle and more of an enjoyment. Thanks!
    Suzanne´s latest post: homepage

  3. Every child is different, and I really enjoy reading tips on how people have nurtured healthy eating in their children. Loved these (LOL about the purple food).
    The best way we get veggies into my toddler is with fresh juice. A $4 juicer from Goodwill = TONS of veggies juiced into one small cup, and Ray slurps it down no matter what I put into it. He enjoys the predominant taste of the oranges or apples I put into it, but he’s also learning to enjoy the flavor of veggies he doesn’t usually like served up on their own (at least I hope he is, haha – even if he’s not, fresh juice is still good for him).

  4. I second the muffins. We made gluten free zucchini muffins this week and my daughter loved them (the chocolate chips didn’t hurt anything). But my two-year old really surprised me when she scarfed down broccoli. She didn’t want to try it but when I added a dipping sauce she reluctantly put some in her mouth and declared, “these broccoli trees are good!”
    Steph´s latest post: Vulnerability, transparency and why it took me so long to tell anyone I had a blog

  5. Yes to muffins at our house too! It’s amazing what my girls will eat in muffin form.

    Two current dinner favorites at our house – mashed potatoes with pureed white beans mixed in and these mild tasting but yummy Chickpea Quinoa Burgers: Can you tell I’ve been looking for ways to get the girls eating more beans? :)

    I’ll be looking for some purple asparagus and see if the girls will go for it!
    Amy@Let’s Explore´s latest post: Climbing Critters

  6. Muffins are a big hit at our house as well! Another thing is when they cook with me. Even if they just had a small part, they will eat better.

    Just not acting like it is anything new or different is big thing. I think children sense when we put things out that we wonder if they are not going to like. They will probably live up to our expectations.
    Johanna´s latest post: Ideas for Menu Planning

  7. This is great, Kara. Glad the muffin recipe is working out for you. I can’t wait to make it with local blueberries.

    Just Pinned!
    Aimee @ Simple Bites´s latest post: Strawberry-Glazed Grilled Chicken Breasts

  8. SO TRUE! My kids will eat anything in muffin form, too. They have quirky tastes, these little people, and we have to accept that sometimes we must be tricky!
    Stephenie´s latest post: More and more and more, Part 1

  9. I have found that my kids will eat veggies they don’t normally love if they are in eggs or fried rice. We almost always eat our scrambled eggs with spinach in them and they love fried rice and scarf it so fast they don’t really pay attention to what veggies I put it (especially if I chop them really small). So funny, kids are!

  10. Our children beg for third and fourth servings when we cook veggies with sauteed onion & ginger, ground cumin, coriander, & turmeric, with a freshly squeezed lemon and a dusting of sea salt. We’ve made okra, mustard greens, spinach, cauliflower, snap peas, bok choy, and bean greens in this manner with smashing success. They also love to eat and prepare a simple soup made with either bok choy, baby bok choy, or nappa cabbage and chives or scallions, and a dusting of sea salt in chicken broth made from a roasted chicken.

  11. My toddler has to be one of the pickiest!!! He loves muffins too, and I have tried the “muffin trick” of putting healthy stuff in muffins. It does not work, and neither have any of the other things I’ve tried, but I will give it more time and a billion more tries!!!
    Debbye´s latest post: How Stay-At-Home Parents May Be Sabotaging Baby’s Sleep

  12. I must say that soup is the way my kids will eat other things they normally wouldn’t. That, and only serving one thing at dinner – this is what we’re eating, no short-order cook here!

    Today I had my boys in the kitchen to help make peanut butter cookies for Daddy for Father’s Day

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