Big holiday get-togethers hold enough potential for drama before the consideration of picky eaters. Rather than try to force a unified menu on every diner at the table, you can use simple forms of recipe substitution to provide a feast that offers pleasing dishes for the entire family. You don't need a wholly separate kids' menu to translate traditional fare for kids' appetites. Keep their tastes—and any special dietary needs—in mind as you craft your holiday fare.
Pick a Shape
Persuading kids to eat healthy side dishes or to accept nutritionally sound versions of high-calorie, high-fat Thanksgiving treats gets easier when you transform the look of the ingredients into something clever and appealing. Turn vegetable chunks into stylized turkey-shaped appetizers, using carrot and celery sticks to form the bird's head and tail. Dress a yogurt-based deviled egg with tiny pieces of pizza-topping ingredients. When you treat vegetables as part sculptural material, part food ingredient, you add interest and fun to items that kids often reject.
To keep chilled appetizers ready to serve, set the serving dish in a temperature-controlled refrigerator drawer and use its flexible presets to keep your special treats fresh. Break out your digital camera and take pictures of your best ideas for future reference.
Make It Small
To keep portions kid size, make some of your dishes in miniature as well as at full scale. Try tart-sized pumpkin pies, Cornish hens instead of a full-sized turkey, dressing or mashed potatoes formed with a cookie cutter instead of being dropped on the plate from a serving spoon. Bring the kids in the kitchen and let them help you with some of the preparations for meal items destined exclusively for their plates. The more they're involved in the cooking process itself, the more "invested" they feel in the results and the likelier they are to eat them.
Even little ones can cut out pieces of pie crust with a cookie cutter to form the top of a tart. If your range includes a divided oven that can maintain separate temperatures to prepare two sets of recipes simultaneously without their aromas crossing over, you can increase the range of baked and roasted items you serve without adding cooking time.
Children's allergies can range from nut, dairy and egg sensitivities to gluten-related digestive problems. Just as it's important to screen out problem foods and ingredients, it's also vital to provide a menu that doesn't leave kids feeling left out because of what they can't eat. If you typically restrict what you serve to everyone at the table so nothing presents a problem for your allergic child, Thanksgiving poses no additional challenges other than continuing to screen out troublesome items.
Alternatively, if your feast includes carry-in items furnished by relatives—items whose ingredients you can't monitor or restrict—set up a special service area that keeps these foods separate from the rest of the menu. To help side-dish contributors maintain ingredient profiles that a child with allergies can tolerate, send ingredient-substitution suggestions, links to websites that feature allergy-friendly recipes and other reminders from your smartphone in advance of the big event.
Stave off the prospect of boredom by presenting the remainder of your Thanksgiving leftovers in fresh, thoughtful ways that don't look like the same old Thanksgiving repeats. Instead of turkey sandwiches or a casserole, make up nugget-style pieces that appeal to kids' love of finger food. A light breading of salt-free seasoning, beaten egg and bread crumbs turns poultry chunks into a baked alternative to fried food and traditional holiday-meal "retreads."
If your refrigerator includes a compartment that can serve either as refrigerated or as frozen-food space, holiday leftovers make a great reason to set its temperature to the cool instead of the chill side. A refrigerator with an integrated touch screen provides inventory control of the age of your holiday remainders and helps you track what you put where in cold storage.
Photo Credits: Pamela Follett/Demand Media
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