Kid-friendly feasts feature foods they'll learn to love

Scan the Thanksgiving table and you'll see a landscape that is mostly white, beige or brown -- all food colors kids usually gravitate toward. But if you feel like adding a bit of holiday green, try this kid-friendly spinach salad.
Although most kids will wrinkle their nose at cooked spinach, raw spinach is a lot less icky. For color, add easy-to-peel clementines, which have a tangy-sweet flesh and are usually seedless. Add another favorite, green apples, and you have a salad even picky eaters are willing to eat. We left the peel on for added fiber and color.
Grandma's advice: If you like a creamy dressing, add the cream. If you prefer a vinaigrette, leave out the cream. Make-ahead tip: This salad should chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
1 pound spinach, well washed and trimmed of heavy stems
4 clementines, peeled, with white pith removed, and separated into segments
2 medium-size green apples, cored and sliced, dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning
1 medium-size red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad: Combine the spinach, clementines, apples and onion in a large salad bowl and mix together well. Cover the bowl with a clean towel, and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients in the blender and whirl until smooth. When ready to serve, pour over the salad and toss to coat. Distribute the salad among salad plates.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Per serving, based on 6: 201 calories (60 percent from fat), 14 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 18 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 78 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.
Source: "Twelve Months of Monastery Salads" (Harvard Common Press, 2004) by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette
Jammin' relish
If your kids like cherries, don't even tell them there are cranberries in this sauce. They'll never know. It simply tastes like a delicious jam, with the added benefit that it is loaded with healthful antioxidants.
Make-ahead tip: This recipe is so easy it practically makes itself; even better, it can be made up to two weeks in advance, then kept in the refrigerator until ready to use.
In a large saucepan, combine cranberries, cherries, sugar and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until most berries have burst and liquid is syrupy, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Cover, pressing plastic wrap directly on surface of relish; refrigerate.
Makes 3 cups
Per (1/4-cup) serving: 120 calories (2 percent from fat), 1 gram total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 4 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Source: Everyday Food, a Martha Stewart magazine, November 2003
Veggie dip
If kids are willing to dunk their chicken tenders in a honey-mustard sauce, why not dip their carrots?
The secret to perfectly cooked carrots: For even cooking, be sure to cut the carrots into uniform shapes (coins, julienne, whatever shape you choose), and cook only until tender to avoid even a hint of mushiness.
Kid-friendly tip: If your kids don't like little green things in their food, put the parsley in a small bowl for serving to the adults. Or, garnish with a whole sprig of parsley to suggest color and texture instead of chopped flecks.
3 pounds carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, optional
Cut the carrots into 3-inch lengths: halve or quarter the thicker ones so that they'll cook evenly. Steam or boil the carrots until they just yield to the tip of a knife, 5 to 12 minutes, depending on their size. Drain in a colander.
In a medium skillet, melt the butter with the honey or brown sugar, then stir in the mustard and carrots and season with salt and plenty of pepper. Cook over medium heat several minutes until well coated and bubbling. Toss with chopped parsley, if desired, and serve.
Makes 8 to 12 servings.
Per serving, based on 8: 109 calories (25 percent from fat), 3 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 114 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams dietary fiber.
Source: "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" (Broadway, 1997) by Deborah Madison
Keep it simple
In recent years, stuffings and dressings have gone gourmet. But kids generally prefer very plain and traditional versions so here's one we made that is about as stripped down as it can be.
Grandma's advice: You are welcome to make your own corn bread, but we made this recipe using 2 (8 1/2-ounce) boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix. Make it according to package directions, adding 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk. Six cups is roughly equivalent to 11/2 10-by-4-inch pans.
Make-ahead tip: To get a head start on the meal, make the corn bread the night before.
Kid-friendly tip: Serve remaining half pan of corn bread to the kids as an afternoon snack.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
6 cups corn bread, coarsely crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped sage plus whole sprigs for garnish
3 cups hot low sodium chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 11/2-quart shallow baking dish; set aside.
Heat canola oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, corn bread and sage. Pour hot chicken broth over mixture; stir just until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to baking dish, and bake until golden brown on top and crisp around the edges, 40 to 45 minutes. Garnish with sage and serve.
Makes 8 servings.
Per serving: 514 calories (25 percent from fat), 14 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 71 milligrams cholesterol, 80 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 1,375 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Source: Everyday Food, a Martha Stewart magazine, November 2003
Hidden delight
OK, I'm not above disguising vegetables. Thanks to the goat cheese in this dish, some kids will be willing to try it, and even like it. Super-rich and delicious, this is a decadent dish the adults will swoon over. A simple gratin of squash loaded with cream and butter. What's not to like?
To prep the squash: Hubbard squash are delicious but notoriously hard to cut. To aid in slicing, pierce the tough outer skin of squash with a paring knife and microwave on high 2 minutes; allow to cool so you can handle without discomfort. On a cutting board, cut squash in half lengthwise and use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds. Next, use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Slice horizontally.
To toast the pecans: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in oven, shaking the pan occasionally, until the nuts smell toasty, about 10 minutes.
Make-ahead tip: The gratin can be assembled several hours before baking, covered, and left at room temperature for up to 1 hour or refrigerated for 3 to 4 hours. Return to room temperature before baking.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch gratin dish.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the cream, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the squash and 3/4 cup of the pecans and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently 10 minutes. (The squash slices may fall apart when you transfer to the gratin dish, but the result will be sumptuous.)
Transfer half the squash mixture to the prepared gratin dish. Dot with half the goat cheese. Cover with the remaining squash mixture and sprinkle the remaining goat cheese over the top.
Place the gratin on a sturdy baking sheet. Bake until the squash is very tender, the cream is mostly absorbed, and the top is golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup pecans and the parsley. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Per serving, based on 6: 654 calories (77 percent from fat), 58 grams total fat (27 grams saturated), 139 milligrams cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 731 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.
Source: From "The Best American Recipes 2005-2006" edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens; original recipe from Gratins by Tina Salter
Minutes to make
An unusual twist on basic biscuits, this recipe should please kids and adults alike.
Kids will like these very moist, slightly orange-colored biscuits slathered in butter. You'll like them because they're getting a yummy dose of antioxidants to boot.
Make-ahead tip: This sweet potato puree needs to be chilled the night before. The good news is you won't have to chill the dough on Thanksgiving Day. You'll have about 3 cups puree, or enough for four batches of biscuits, or serve remainder as a side dish.
SWEET POTATO BISCUITSSweet potato puree:
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup chilled sweet potato puree
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
For the puree: In a large saucepan, cover sweet potatoes with water. Bring to a boil, cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain; puree in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper.
For the biscuits: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter, cut into pieces, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some pea-size lumps of butter remaining.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup chilled puree and buttermilk; stir quickly into mixture until combined (do not overmix).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, with rack on lower shelf. Butter an 8-inch cake pan.
To shape biscuits, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead very gently until dough comes together but is still slightly lumpy, five or six times. (If dough is too sticky, work in up to 1/4 cup additional flour.) Shape into a disk, and pat to an even 1-inch thickness. With a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits as close together as possible. Gather together scraps, and repeat to cut out more biscuits (do not reuse scraps more than once.) Arrange biscuits snugly in pan (to help them stay upright). Brush with melted butter. Bake until golden, rotating once, 20 to 24 minutes.
Per biscuit: 279 calories (38 percent from fat), 12 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 40 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 521 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Source: Everyday Food, a Martha Stewart magazine, November 2003
Easy does it
As the name suggests, this is a pumpkin pie with a light, smooth texture. The light seasoning may have something to do with the pure pumpkin flavor that shines through. The glossy texture comes from tempering the eggs, a technique that is not hard but should not be rushed. Be sure to add hot pumpkin mixture to the eggs a spoonful at a time so the eggs are gently warmed but do not cook.
Grandma's advice: To keep it simple, we opted to use a refrigerator pie crust rather than one made from scratch. If you have enough ramekins on hand, you could also pour all the filling into the cups and bake.
Kid-friendly tip: Let the kids have the ramekins or custard cups. Garnish with whipped cream and pecans, if desired. For the adults, garnish with a sprig of lavender.
1 refrigerator pie crust
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
Whipped cream and toasted pecans and lavender for garnish, optional
For the crust: Allow the pie crust to sit out at room temperature 15 minutes. Carefully unroll crust and fit on a glass pie plate. Flute the edges and bake at 325 degrees 9 to 11 minutes, or until it was light brown.
(If you're opting for ramekins or custard cups, skip this step.)
For the filling: Combine the pumpkin, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low to medium heat just to blend the flavors, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the condensed and evaporated milks, and whisk to combine; cook until heated through. Put the eggs and yolks in a medium bowl, and whisk to blend. Whisk the pumpkin mixture into the eggs, a spoonful at a time at firm to warm the eggs gently; whisk well to get a silky filling.
Pour the warm filling into the warm pie shell; you'll have extra filling, which you can pour into individual ovenproof custard cups and bake alongside the pie. Bake ramekins until the centers are barely set, 25 to 30 minutes. Bake the pie 40 to 45 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean; do not overcook or the filling becomes grainy. Let cool on a wire rack and then refrigerate. Serve at room temperature or chilled, with a dollop of real whipped cream and toasted pecans, if desired.
Makes 1 9-inch pie plus 3 to 4 ramekins.
Per slice, based on 12 total servings: 235 calories (38 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 84 milligrams cholesterol, 30 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 263 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Source: Adapted from "The Best American Recipes 2005-2006" edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens; original source: cooking school handout from cookbook author Pam Anderson.

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