Even though my office is brimming with virtually every healthy recipe ever created, when it comes to my kids and their meals I tend to fall back on a handful of safe favorites. The rotation for my boys is pasta pesto, roasted chicken, teriyaki pork tenderloin, breaded chicken cutlets and the occasional steak or lamb chop. They usually have a vegetable such as peas or broccoli or a salad and I seek out quality (often organic) ingredients so they are well nourished….but bored, or at least I am. I spoke to a few friends and it seemed they too were in a rut. You want to branch out but when you’re in the supermarket you tend to go for the meals you know by heart and let’s face it you go for what will be well received. Moms have egos too!

I stumbled across an article in Time Out New York Kids about chefs who come to your house to cook family-friendly recipes. I expected to read about chicken nuggets and hamburgers and instead I was intrigued by the mention of kale and salmon and for lack of a better term grown-up food. I grew up with a mother who eschewed children’s menus and I had always believed kids shouldn’t have separate kiddy food that is….until I had kids. And so I felt a little guilty when I read one of the chefs quoted saying “my goal is for children to enjoy the same foods their parents eat, not for them to be pandered to with cat whiskers made out of spaghetti.” While I had never made a spaghetti whisker, I had to meet this person who preached my B.C. (before children) notion of a family meal. I found out her name was Jenna Helwig. I emailed Jenna that instant, found 3 friends to join in de-kidifying our family meals and we set a September cooking date.

Jenna asked us a little about our current cooking habits. We each emailed her with our stories. One child ate lots of vegetables but little protein; another ate poultry and meat but nothing green. In certain cases one sibling was rather adventurous while another ate only three foods. Needless to say, Jenna had her work cut out for her. And Jenna rose to the challenge. We made 7 recipes in our 3 hour class. We compared notes and shared tips. Zina puts a shredded apple in her turkey meatballs to keep them moist and Tracey toasts pine nuts with a little brown sugar and her kids snack on them. And Sue pointed out that her vita mix blender could also heat soups (I’m still unclear how this works but like the sound of the 1 appliance meal). We sliced and we diced and at the end sat down (well actually clutched plates standing up because this is how most moms eat) and tasted our creations. We were pretty impressed with ourselves but we weren’t the jury. My jury was at hockey practice and wouldn’t be home for hours. I would have to wait.

My rugrats weren’t home for 30 seconds when I dragged them into the kitchen. “You have to taste what I made in my cooking class” said the psychotic mother to her sweaty children. In truth, hockey had made the boys hungry and so they indulged me and sat down. I opened my various containers, spread out utensils and again waited. It was like Mikey and the Life cereal commercial. One tasted the soba noodle and vegetable salad and the other the chicken with pineapple salsa. “YUM” said the soba taster and “this isn’t salsa but I like this chicken” said the other. They continued to taste everything, they loved the turkey meatballs and the spinach-basil pesto. They were devouring foods that had jalapenos in them and others made with cayenne. As a nutritionist and a mom, I cannot lie; this was one of my happiest moments. And while I can’t promise that the kids will eat the same food we do every night, we now have a wonderful new handful of favorite recipes.

Find out more about Jenna at https://www.rosaberry.com/.

What are your favorite family recipes?

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