Any ideas for fast and healthy, kid-friendly meals? I'm lucky, my son is a great eater, but we're still needing fast and healthy. –Susanna, MA
According to the Pseudo-Chef, the Pseudo-Chef is the last person to be giving advice on such matters. After all, do you know what her toddler had for dinner last night?
Ketchup. Yup, ketchup and…no, just ketchup. Is that what you had in mind? What about this?
For an entire week last week, he ate fully 0% of his dinner. That’s right, nothing. Not one goddamned thing, unless a molecule of food happened to splatter into his mouth after his plate soared across the room. The Pseudo-Chef is starting to lose it. Why am I talking in the third person?
The problem is the definition of kid-friendly. What appeals to one kid will surely look like a steaming plate of vomit to another. About this time last year, the toddler, who was barely toddling, was into black beans. And I mean really into them. So, I made a bean salad with tomatoes and fresh corn (like this one, but with lime juice instead of lemon juice). It was quite the sideshow to watch him scarf it down by the handful in such ridiculous quantities. The preschooler just poked at it.
Meanwhile, you could prepare cauliflower like this or cook up bow-tie pasta with chicken and broccoli in garlicky olive oil with Parmesan cheese (something Husband likes to whip up with precooked chicken from the store), and the preschooler will be all over it, no questions asked. The toddler, on the other hand, will punish you for days for your audacity.
All this to say, I dunno. Stir-fries?
Below is a stir-fry I make with green beans and pork. I buy a whole pork tenderloin, cut it into thirds, freeze them, and then defrost as necessary. I set the maximum amount of rice to cook in the rice cooker, parboil the green beans for two minutes, and then stir-fry. The next day, I take the leftover rice and make fried rice with peas, shrimp, and mung bean sprouts (though you could totally lose the shrimp to save time).
The preschooler will happily eat all of these things. The toddler might possibly eat the pork. Sorry, that’s the best I can offer.
Stir-Fried Pork and Green Beans
3 Tbsp. canola oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed (just whack them with something)
¾ lb. pork tenderloin, cut into pieces 1½ inches long, ¾ inches wide, and ¼ inch thick (or however it comes out)
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
1½ Tbsp. mushroom soy sauce*
1½ Tbsp. sugar
1 lb. green beans, cut into 1½-inch pieces
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
Get your rice cooking.
In a large pot of boiling water, blanch green beans for a few minutes. Drain and shock beans in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve their bright green color. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté a minute until golden brown. Stir in the pork. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the green beans and stir-fry a few minutes more, until the pork is cooked through. Mix in the pepper, remove from heat, and serve over rice. Or, alternatively, separate all the individual components so nothing is touching.
*Mushroom soy sauce is a thicker, richer variation of soy sauce made with mushrooms. Obviously. You can substitute regular soy sauce, but it will suck. Just kidding. It’ll be totally fine. It’s a stir-fry, for crying out loud.
Source: Adapted from The Elephant Walk Cookbook by Longteine de Monteiro and Katherine Neustadt.
Shrimp Fried Rice
2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whole scallions, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
¾ lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (EZ-peel works), sliced in half the long way (I keep some in the freezer for this purpose)
1½ cups frozen peas
5 cups cooked rice, chilled, broken up with a fork
2 cups mung bean sprouts
2 Tbsp. chicken broth (or water)
2 Tbsp. rice wine (or other white wine)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the eggs and stir-fry about 30 seconds to scramble them. Add the minced scallions and ginger, and stir-fry one minute. Add the shrimp and peas, tossing for a few minutes. Add half of the bean sprouts and all of the rice, stir-frying and continuing to break up any clumps. When the rice is heated through and the shrimp have turned pink and coiled, add the sauce. Mix well and remove from heat. Toss with remaining bean sprouts and serve.
Note: The rice will not be brown. Taste it before you complain.
Source: Adapted from A Spoonful of Ginger by Nina Simonds.