Under normal circumstances, cooking for kids can be tricky—months of at-home lunches and trying to balance Zoom calls with snack prep have done nothing to alleviate the challenge. So we decided to check in on the experts: chefs who have spent quarantine juggling grown-up recipe testing with demands from the smallest members of their kitchen crew.
While there’s no magic solution for picky eaters, there is a consensus among the pros we spoke with. To switch up the mealtime routine, try involving your little ones in some way, whether that’s using their favorite foods or recruiting them for mixing duty. If you want to bring a new dish into the weekly rotation, begin with these foodie-approved ideas.
The chef: Peter Cho, owner of Han Oak restaurant
The sous-chefs: Elliott, age 5, and Frankie, age 3
The story: Of course, as a chef, my first son would be a picky eater—but even as a baby he always loved avocados. They’re super-easy to mash up, they’re healthy…they’re basically nature’s baby food. But as my kids have grown, they’ve gotten more used to eating what we’re eating, so we’ve stepped up to this soy and citrus-cured avocado and egg dish. It’s a surefire way to get them to eat something nutritious as toddlers, and it has become our family’s breakfast staple.
The chef: Eden Grinshpan, author of Eating Out Loud
The sous-chef: Ayv, age 3
The story: Ayv has become the official egg cracker in our family, since she has cooked and baked with me throughout the stay-at-home period. This was the first cake I developed during quarantine, and she was by my side the entire time. I’m Canadian and Israeli, so I tapped into two of my favorite ingredients from each culture to bring this baby together: maple and tahini. Banana bread has been so popular recently, and this recipe is a makeover of that classic. It’s super-addictive.
The chef: Julia Sherman, author of Salad for President
The sous-chef: Red, age 1
The story: I’m all about recipes that can be prepared in batches and held in the fridge ready to cook fresh rather than simply reheat. And while I love every form of pancake, the dosa (a South Indian crispy fermented rice and lentil pancake) might be my ideal food. It’s something Red can eat with her hands: The 10 minutes when she feeds herself are precious to a working parent.
The chef: Samantha Seneviratne, author of The Joys of Baking
The sous-chef: Artie, age 3
The story: Artie’s dad is in charge of dinner every night; I’m in charge of sweets. I don’t think we’ve ever needed dessert as much as we have these past few months! This is my simple recipe for homemade brownie ice cream sandwiches: The brownie layer comes together in minutes, and Artie loves to help me spread the batter out into the pan (which I know is just a ploy to lick batter off of anything he can). We fill them with store-bought ice cream. Mint chocolate chip is the household favorite.
The chef: Claudia Ficca, food stylist and recipe developer
The sous-chef: Leone, age 17 months
The story: I’ve been making these since my son was about 10 months old, so I always have a ready-to-go healthy snack for him. There are so many variations of these muffins; I make them with whatever fruit I have on hand—I also cook savory versions that he can have for lunch or dinner with a side of steamed veggies or avocado. He loves to bake with me, too. He mashes the bananas and helps with putting measured-out ingredients in the bowl. It’s a fun (and messy) activity.
The chef: Elsie Kriz, cooking class instructor and blogger behind Afrovitalityeats
The sous-chefs: Baylee, age 3, and Willa, age 8 months
The story: Back home we have contri njama njama, the African huckleberry. In the absence of this childhood favorite, the discovery of turnip greens has become a well-beloved substitute: It brings me great joy to watch my 3-year-old wash her hands and enjoy this with fufu corn just like we did as kids. We may not have access to those uniquely African ingredients here in Tennessee, but we sure are using what we have to develop the flavors.
The chef: Donna Lennard, author of Il Buco: Stories & Recipes
The sous-chef: Joaquin, age 15
The story: Cooking for my 15-year-old is not easy. The rules are: no fish, no cooked veggies (except green beans and sugar snaps), and lots of meat! One of my go-tos that always gets a smile is stir-fry. I make mine with andouille sausage and gorgeous Italian red rice, but Lazy Cat Kitchen’s spicy tofu take is pretty close to my recipe. It gets him all the wonderful nutrients, and I can put it together in 15 to 20 minutes.
Introducing Domino’s new podcast, Design Time, where we explore spaces with meaning. Each week, join editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez along with talented creatives and designers from our community to explore how to create a home that tells your story. Listen now and subscribe for new episodes every Thursday.