Burgers and Tater Tots!! Dinner of champions and 4 year olds! Yes, I realize this isn't the most glamorous looking meal. When you are working with new foods and preschoolers, familiarity trumps fancy.
As a general rule, we all eat the same thing at dinner. Sure there are times when we have leftovers and everyone eats something different, or I'll let Blockette have something like nuggets and Mrblocko and I will eat something a little more grown up. Most of the time our plates look very similar.
This goes back to the days when Blockette was in food therapy. Blockette had difficulties with the transition between phase 2 and phase 3/solid foods. She just didn't want to chew. A good portion of her problem was the result of stubbornness. (Where did that come from?!) Anyhow, one of the rules while she was in therapy was to eat what she eats. Ew. I cringe thinking about all the weird food combinations I ingested. (Think french fries dipped in grape jelly and tartar sauce. Gag!)
When Blockette graduated from therapy, I continued to use many of the therapy rules on a daily basis. The rules not only became effective tools to get a picky toddler to eat, but to try new things as well. The concept behind this particular rule is: kids are instant replay buttons. If they see a certain behavior enough times they will mimic that behavior, whether it is a good one or not.
This isn't an instant fix for the picky eater problem. It took us many frustrating months of trial and error to figure out the specifics of what would work the best for Blockette. There are days when it doesn't work at all. (Like, say when she has Bronchitis.) However, if you look at the big picture, most of the time she tries a lot of new things with little or no objection.
The other therapy rules we still use are:
1. Who ever is home at meal time, we sit down together at the table. This also means she is not allowed to get up from the table unless she asks first.
2. No TV. This used to be no distractions at all. I used to have to close the window curtain because even that was too distracting.
3. If we are having a new food, some of it has to be on her plate, and she has to try at least one bite.
4. If she wants dessert she has to eat all of her dinner. This sometimes encourages her to get past that first bite of new food. A lot of times she realizes she likes the new food on the third bite.
5. She can't have her drink until she has finished her meal. This eliminates saying she is full from her beverage. We are working on removing this rule now by allowing her to have half her drink during the meal.
6. Getting her involved in making the meal. If she helps make the meal she has pride in it and is more inclined to eat it.
7. She has 40 minutes to eat her meal. It's her choice to eat if she wants to, but when the timer goes off the meal is over and the table is cleared. This was one of the more difficult rules for me at the beginning of therapy. I was convinced Blockette was going to starve because she was going to screw around/stall/do anything but eat. Then the therapist pointed out that most people eat a Thanksgiving dinner in less than 40 minutes. This includes going back for seconds (or even thirds) and dessert. Blockette has not wasted away from starvation and I haven't gone insane from 3 hour dinners (or lunches or breakfasts). Most of the time we don't even have to set the timer. She just eats like a normal person. Then there are days when she can only manage 2 bites in those 40 minutes. When that happens, you'd better believe she wolfs down her next meal.
8.Finding fun new names for food. Sometimes if the food sounds fun, it makes it fun to eat.
Rule #8 is my favorite. I told Blockette the meal pictured above was called Wormy apple burgers. This might not work for a lot of little girls, but I know Blockette finds the idea of eating worms hilarious. I also told her the "worms" were made from apples. She has it in her head that she doesn't like onions. (Maybe I should write a rule #9-- down right trickery!)
Mrblocko and I saw this recipe for Autumn Harvest Burger with Caramelized Onion and Apple last year on Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown: Burgers. This recipe wasn't the winner, but we sure thought it looked tasty.
The recipe says to make 4 burgers, but we thought the portion size would be insane for us. Instead we made 8 bun sized burgers and 2 half size burgers for Blockette. Four of the burgers we stuck in the freezer, uncooked, to eat another day. We did use all of the Caramelized onion and apple topping for the 4 regular and 2 small burgers. I really liked the onion and apples together, and totally pigged out on it.
We decided to omit the bun for a few reasons. First, we weren't sure that all the toppings would stay put. Second, Blockette sometimes gets a bit overwhelmed by all the bread in the bun. All the onion and apple and cheese on top would have made for a sandwich that was too thick for her to bite into. Third, we had enough carbs with the tater tots. Mrblocko and I agreed that the burger would have tasted good on an onion roll, but overall, we didn't miss the bun.
We cooked up enough burgers to have one as a leftover meal later in the week. I find that reheating burgers can be tricky without drying them out. These burgers were moist enough that wasn't a problem. Instead of having the leftovers in burger form, I chopped them up and reheated them in a pan with the onion/apple topping. Had I been thinking, I would have added a few scrambled eggs. The leftovers would have made a tasty omelet!
Autumn Harvest Burgers with Caramelized Onions from Food Network
2 tablespoons butter
2 Vidalia onions, sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
2 pounds 80 percent lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
4 large crusty rolls, split
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup blue cheese
Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to hot pan and begin caramelizing, stirring occasionally. After 4 minutes or so, add apples to the onions and continue to cook until onions are golden brown, about 6 more minutes. Remove from heat when done. While onions and apples are cooking, blend together in a large bowl the ground beef, salt, pepper, thyme, Dijon, egg, and bread crumbs. Be sure ingredients are well incorporated, but don't over work. Form mixture into 4 good-sized patties. (hint: If you create a concave burger, with the center thinner than the edges, when it cooks the burger won't swell up to look like a meatball, but will remain flat and patty-like)
Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place burgers on grill and cook about 10 minutes per side, or until cooked through. As burgers are finishing (after the first flip), spread mayonnaise on both cut sides of each split roll. Place rolls on grill, mayonnaise side down, to toast for about 1 minute, or until golden. Place each burger on the bottom half of a toasted roll. Top with about 1/4 cup of blue cheese, then with a generous scoop of the caramelized onion and apple mixture. Cover with the roll and serve.