I live with one picky eater, and let me tell you, I’m glad I wasn’t one; I don’t think my mom had the patience for it! I love every veggie, fruit, and speck of green on the planet, but my 8-year-old ‘big kid’ just will not take it. Broccoli? Never. Kale? Absolutely not. It’s as if the world as we know it would vanish if he ate a leaf of lettuce without me bribing him to eat it. If he could, I swear he’d live off nothing but white bread, chicken nuggets, and sprite.
Have you ever felt like you’ve given birth to a food critic? This lettuce is raw, there’s not enough cheese on it; ridiculous accusations from an 8-year-old. I still wash your underwear, and this is how you treat me! The audacity. I HAVE been seeing where he gets it a lot lately. I do the bulk of the cooking, but when my partner does cook, it’s how you say, a desired taste? He put cucumbers in marinara sauce for god-sakes! How can I emotionally trust him again? I’ve got a handful with a picky eater and a garbage can for a mate.
ANYWAY, you can see my struggle, can’t you?
Needless to say, I’ve had to get creative trying to tackle seasonal cookery for Chris’s little taste buds. Here’s what I’ve discovered after a few weeks in a dazed trial and error state.
If it’s got cheese, the likelihood he’ll eat it goes up 2 fold.
Anything ball-shaped is likely a smash hit.
Creaminess hides all sins.
So, taking what I’ve learned from my intense, completely scientific measurements and graphs, I’ve devised a plan. Chicken meatballs with cheesy farro. Hide the veggies, put it some cheese, he’ll never know I’m giving him real nutrients! Don’t tell him, I’m trusting you.
Let’s talk about farro. Good for your gut, a little chewier than rice. I love cooking it like risotto for my little guy, because it draws out the natural starch out of the grains, making it creamier and less healthy-looking. The addition of a little parmesan and a liiiiiittle bit of butternut squash make it a nice, nutritious lunch or dinner for my baby.
Now, these meatballs have some hidden gems in them as well, with a bit of carrot, some onion, and lemon. So far, so good; operation hide-the-veggies-so-the-kid-eats-more-than-garbage has been a long, messy operation, but we’ve finally made progress.
What does your picky-eater think? Let me know! What tricks do you use to get your little ones to eat something not from a box? I know I can’t be the only one struggling with this. Hopefully, my recipe can help spread the word that hiding veggies kind of works, as long as there’s a little cheese to bribe them.
Chicken meatballs with Cheesy Farro
For the meatballs
1 lb ground chicken
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 rib celery
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons cream (you can substitute coconut cream, which I often do)
3 tablespoons shaved parm
For the farro
1 cup farro
2-3 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 cups oat milk
½ cup cubed butternut squash
½ teaspoon thyme
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ cup parmesan, or more if you want it super cheesy!
Yield: 3-4 servings
Cooking time: 40-50 minutes
All-Clad 8Qt Stock Pot: https://amzn.to/328yKFL
To prepare the meatballs, finely chop all the veggies; if you have a food processor, use it! This will save you a little time, as we want the veggies to be small enough so our little ones don’t catch on to our tactics.
In a large bowl, combine panko with the cream and egg. Mix this to break up the egg and let it sit for 5 minutes to soften the panko; this will keep our meatballs moist.
Once soft, add the meat, cheese, and thyme, along with the zest of a lemon.
Mix the chopped veggies with the meat mixture, along with 2 teaspoons of salt. You want the veggies to be fully incorporated with the meat, so mix accordingly!
Form into golf ball-sized balls.
In a wide pot, sear the meatballs off with a teaspoon of oil and brown on all sides. The heat should be a medium heat.
Once brown on all sides, transfer to a plate. It’s ok if the meatballs aren’t cooked all the way through; we’ll finish them later.
In the same pan, add in our onion, garlic, and thyme, along with our bay leaf. Saute and scrub off all the bottom flavor bits off the pan. The onions should be softened before moving onto the next step. Make sure to add a nice pinch of salt!
Add in the farro and toast for 4-5 minutes. This brings out the nuttiness in the grains.
Half a cup of water at a time, simmering the grains until almost dry before adding the next half cup.
Once on your last half cup, your grains should be soft and almost fully cooked. If not, add another half cup of water before adding the milk.
Add in the oat milk and squash, and lower the heat to medium-low. Add another pinch of salt to season.
Reduce the oat milk until the farro is nice and creamy and the squash is soft all the way through.
At this point, add the meatballs back into finish cooking. I like to keep a lid on for at least 5 minutes at this step.
Once done, turn off the heat and stir in your cheese to melt.
Serve when piping hot to get all the ooey-gooey cheese pull, and feel free to add more cheese to your preference!