Robin Miller, of the Food Network’s Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller, has 15 years of experience as a food writer and nutritionist. Coupling that with her experience as a mom makes her super-savvy about feeding finicky little folks. Here, Miller shares her thoughts on family meals and offers tips on how to get kids to eat—and enjoy—all kinds of foods.
iVillage: Besides your current show on the Food Network and your successful cookbooks, tell us what’s new in your culinary advances.
Robin Miller: I will be doing cooking demos, discussions and book signings at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in Orlando, October 6 to 10, and at Disneyland during Memorial Day weekend 2011. I participate in numerous events throughout the year, including the Scottsdale Culinary Festival; my website provides up-to-date information. I am currently working on both a new cookbook and TV show concept, so stayed tuned for that.
iVillage: It’s getting late, the kids are hungry and cranky and you need to cook something quickly, but you want to feel good about what you’re serving. What do you make?
RM: This is a common dilemma for moms. I would serve finger foods—they make ideal meals for kids since you can combine a variety of small portions on one plate.
iVillage: For all those moms pulling their hair out over veggie-averse kids, give us some tips on how to get them to eat their greens.
RM: This is always tricky, but giving fun, creative names to everyday nutritious foods may have kids asking for more. According to a 2009 Cornell University study, when kids were offered “X-ray-vision carrots” instead of plain carrots, they ate 62 percent more carrots. Try adopting this approach in your own house by giving silly names to a variety of foods, such as “cloud fluff” for mashed potatoes or “cheese in the trees” for broccoli florets topped with cheese. You just might be surprised at what your child starts eating!
iVillage: Do you have a recipe that would convert even the biggest hater of vegetables?
RM: I don’t think you need one perfect recipe, especially because vegetables come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. To get your kids to try veggies, serve them a variety of ways (in small portions) at every meal so your kids get used to seeing them. For example, serve cherry tomatoes with a side of ranch, put shredded carrots over pasta or mixed greens, puree roasted red peppers and use as a dip for crackers or pretzels, add green peppers or peas to meat sauces and meatloaf, and grill corn and zucchini to bring out more flavor. You can also roast veggies like broccoli and cauliflower with Parmesan cheese on top—kids love it!
iVillage: How about kids who only eat white foods (yes, there really is an epidemic of this nature)?
RM: I have heard of this, and this is an extreme case of a picky eater. The best advice I could give is to remember that kids learn by example, so it’s important to be a great role model from the beginning. When children see their older siblings, parents, other adults and friends eating a variety of foods, they are more likely to try them. For example, share a bite of a white food with your child, and then share a bite of a new food that you want them to try. If they see you enjoying both foods, chances are they will enjoy them, too.
iVillage: How do you make sure that a picky-eating child is getting balance in his daily diet?
RM: I like to bring variety to every meal. To make sure they are getting a balanced diet, I suggest trying this: Set up a “finger-food buffet” and have your kids pick the items they’d like to eat. They’ll feel included in the process, which will increase their interest in trying a little bit of everything.
iVillage: What’s in your freezer right now?
RM: Precooked pasta and rice, chicken, beef, fish fillets, leftover cookie dough, leftover sauces, gravies and tons of vegetables.
iVillage: What kitchen utensil or gadget changed your life, and why?
RM: The stovetop grill pan. I love the color and texture it gives meat, poultry, fish and vegetables (with very little fat) while allowing me to grill year round, rain or shine.
iVillage: What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
RM: The Joy of Cooking. It’s a great resource for the basics of cooking—from flavor combinations to cooking times and temperatures.
iVillage: For working moms, cooking at home can be especially stressful since they have such limited time to whip up dinner. Are there any kitchen techniques or strategies that can help them get dinner on the table more easily and make it a more pleasurable, less pressured experience?
RM: I like to prepare items ahead of time, like chopping and prepping produce on the weekends. I’ll chop onions, carrots, bell peppers and celery for salads and side dishes, or cut up pears, apples, oranges and grapes for a healthy fruit side salad to serve with dinner. Chopping and prepping produce up to four days in advance and throwing it in the fridge is a simple step that I find to be a serious time saver.
Robin has suggested the following recipe from her most recent cookbook, Robin Rescues Dinner, to be a sure-fire hit with picky eaters.
Lasagna Rolls with Herbed Cheese
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
12 lasagna noodles
1 cup soft herbed cheese
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray.
Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine herbed cheese, mozzarella, and basil. Mix well.
Arrange the lasagna noodles on a flat surface. Spoon a thick layer (about ¼-inch thick) of the cheese mixture on each noodle. Starting from one of the shorter sides, roll up the noodles and secure with wooden picks. Place the rolls side-by-side in the prepared pan. Pour the tomato sauce on top, and then sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cheese filling melts and the top is golden brown.
How do you feed your picky eaters? Chime in below!
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