A winning recipe for picky eaters

At our press table, shrimp risotto turns smiles into grimaces. Roast chicken elicits disdainful grimaces. Even pizza recently sparked mutual recriminations on the big one’s birthday. Cooking for the little ones is sometimes anything but child’s play.

Posted at 11:00 am

Veronique Larocque

Veronique Larocque
The press

This fall, several recipe books are coming to parents’ aid. On the menu: dishes that will appeal to young taste buds or that they can prepare themselves (with a little help). What is the secret to a recipe that charms difficult children? The press seek advice from the authors of these books.

Vary the textures

When chef Jens Ruoff was young, his parents would sometimes serve him plain blanched Brussels sprouts. “For me, that was the worst thing. This is the most terrifying way to eat Brussels sprouts. It’s bland, no spice,” says the co-owner of the very popular Montreal restaurant Butterblume. According to him, when you’re young, “textures play a huge role” in how you appreciate (or not!) a dish.


Chef Jens Ruoff

In her series of cookbooks for cooks ages 5 to 8 MiniMiniMenu, the chef attaches great importance to this element. Forget steamed broccoli, which, like Brussels sprouts, is sometimes frowned upon by children. Those of his volume dedicated to picnics are “baked” and accompanied by sauce. “Everything that is crunchy, baked, caramelized, tastes better,” points out the one who was particularly inspired by the preferences of his daughter Agathe, 8, to write with his wife Elizabeth Delage and her friend Jeanne Joly three cookbooks, in which adults are only assistant cooks.

Focus on simplicity

“When I serve a meal to my son, it has to be very simple. Without a lot of toppings on top. It’s not a big portion,” says Joanna Fox.


Joanna Fox and her son

With these elements in mind, this cooking enthusiast worked on the visual elements of his first cookbook, The little critics, with photographer Dominique Lafond. There’s no complicated assembly among the dishes offered in this book, which brings together winning recipes from the progeny (or entourage) of 80 Canadian chefs. Besides, take comfort: even their children sometimes sulk in front of the plate, assures the one who is also the deputy editor-in-chief ofSHE Canada.

Add some magic to meals

“To outwit the picky eaters, you have to use a few tricks. […] Put a little magic in their lives,” says Carolyn Savar, author of the books Perfect recipes for kids who are a little (very) difficult and quite recently Wow Desserts – 75 recipes that are too much fun to cook with kids.


Caroline Savar

Simple additions can turn an ordinary breakfast into a delight, says the mother of three children aged 9 to 15. For example, she sometimes sprinkles a few candy confetti into her daughter’s yogurt, which suddenly makes it “special.” “It was her day,” says the one who has been sharing her recipes and parenting tips for eight years on wooloo.ca.

Giving a dish a funny name also changes the child’s perception of it. in The little critics, we find chef Diane Solomon’s “Incredible Hulk Risotto” in particular. Something to delight any superhero in the making. Changing the shape of food can also appease picky eaters.

I am a fan of silicone molds. I have quite an impressive collection. If we bake a recipe for super healthy muffins in a donut pan […]it just took on another dimension.

Carolyn Savard, cookbook author

Dose the novelty

Joanna Fox noticed that her 6-year-old son was more inclined to try a new dish if it was accompanied by a food he already liked. For her part, Caroline Savard has found that when a dish resembles another loved one, the young person is more likely to want to try it. An example? Carrots or turnips in the form of French fries. “It looks like a normal fry, so it reminds the kids of a positive memory. »

She also says that mixing two dishes that don’t seem to go together is fun for little ones. “For example, in my first book I made melba for breakfast. »

Invite the kids into the kitchen

Involving your offspring in choosing and preparing meals is the best way to get kids interested in what’s on their plate, according to the three authors interviewed. “I believe that children should be involved in the kitchen in order to pass on to them a certain passion or at least an interest. […] So he sees that it can be an enjoyable activity. It can be fun to cook and enjoy the result with the whole family”, says chef Jens Ruof.

Don’t the kids around you want to get their hands dirty? Start with desserts, suggests Carolyn Savard. “These are the easiest recipes to get a child into the kitchen,” says one who speaks from experience. At home, if she takes out the mixer, she is never alone behind the counter for very long.

Lower your expectations

Let’s face it, though: when the little one is in the kitchen, damage is never far away. “Expect it to be a mess,” advises Caroline Savard, laughing. But the younger you start cooking them, the easier they will be to handle later. When she was 2 years old, her daughter loved breaking eggs.

“I find cooking is wonderful for bringing families together, for spending time together when you don’t have time. It’s two for one. you are doing something useful […] and you spend quality time with your child,” she continues. All that remains is to plan the day for cooking before cleaning the house…

Pappardelle with Pesto by Chuck Hughes


Chuck Hughes, his sons and pesto pappardelle

For a while, Chuck Hughes’ sons only ate his pesto pasta, says book author Joanna Fox The little criticswhich brings together the recipes that 80 Canadian chefs cook for their children or for those around them.

Preparation time: 30 minutes + 30 minutes rest or overnight
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients for pasta

  • 300 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 C. fine sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil

Ingredients for the pesto

  • 150 g (5 cups) fresh basil leaves
  • 30 g (1 cup) celery leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 70g (1 cup) grated Grana Padano, plus more for serving
  • 500 ml (2 cups) olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea ​​salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • Lemon zest, to taste

Preparation of pasta

  • 1. In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Transfer to a clean work surface and make a well in the center of the flour. Pour the eggs, yolk and oil into the well in the center and mix with a fork until a dough begins to form. Knead for 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
  • 2. Let the dough come back to room temperature for 20 minutes before rolling it out. Place it on a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, thin the dough to the thickness of a sheet of paper. Continue several times. Roll up the sheet of dough, trim the edges of the roll to make them even, then cut them into even slices to make a 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide noodle.
  • 3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the noodles in boiling water until tender. al dente, or 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the cooking water.

Preparing the pesto

  • 4. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until very smooth.
  • 5. Transfer the pesto to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the pasta and toss well, adding the reserved cooking water, 1 Tbsp. at a time to thin the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Grana Padano.

Note: you can use dry noodles for this recipe.

The little critics

The little critics

KO editions

272 pages

Surprising pork and feta meatballs


Surprising pork and feta meatballs

Among chef Jens Ruoff’s favorite family recipes are these pork and beef meatballs with a dollop of feta cheese. “Salty treasure in every bite,” can we read MiniMiniMenu Prepare dinner! Aimed at children aged 5 and up, this series of books is ideal for equipping apprentice chefs thanks to the illustrated preparation steps and video tips available by scanning various QR codes.


  • 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 kilogram of medium lean ground pork
  • 1 kilogram of medium lean ground beef
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • About 20 cubes of feta cheese 1 cm x 1 cm (how many dice)


  • 1. Preheat oven to 400 OhF (200 OhAGAINST).
  • 2. In a small bowl, soak the breadcrumbs in the milk for a few minutes while listening to your favorite song.
  • 3. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together with your hands, except for the cheese.
  • 4. Form balls one by one using an ice cream scoop. Place a piece of cheese in the center. Close each ball well with meat to hide the cheese and place it on a tray covered with baking paper.
  • 5. When all your stuffed meatballs are on the plate, ask your assistant cook (adult) to put them in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn them with tongs after 8 to 10 minutes of cooking. Serve the meatballs with your favorite vegetable or plain tomato sauce.
MiniMiniMenu - I'm making dinner!

MiniMiniMenu – I’m making dinner!

Cardinal editions

36 pages

Balls of cake batter and small candies


Balls of cake batter and small candies

Easy to make, this small-format dessert fits well in the lunchbox, notes Caroline Savar in her colorful book Desserts “Wow”! — 75 recipes that are too much fun to cook with kids.

Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooling: 1 hour
Yield: 15 scoops


  • 250 ml (1 cup) quick-cooking oats
  • 160 ml (2/3 cup) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) maple syrup
  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) sunflower oil or other seed oil
  • 7.5 ml (1/2 tbsp) vanilla extract
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) mini decorative candies


  • 1. In the bowl of a food processor, place all ingredients except the mini candies. Mix until a homogeneous preparation is obtained.
  • 2. Form 15 balls with about 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of the preparation for each.
  • 3. Place the mini candies in a bowl. Roll the balls in the candy.
  • 4. Place the balls on a tray covered with baking paper. Chill for 1 hour or until ready to serve.

Desserts “Wow”! 75 recipes that are too much fun to cook with kids

Practical edition

184 pages

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