Tag Archives: picky eater

Kids Love Chicken Meatballs

Observing the children who participate in my classes each week, I definitely see lots of patterns emerge about what kids do and don’t like to eat.  These patterns fit in so nicely with the current literature, studies and the tools I demonstrate.  I do find that MEAT is either a “Love it” or “Leave it” for most kids.  Meat is a textural minefield and many of the problems result from how it is prepared.  I obviously don’t cover meat in my classes – I only do fruits and vegetables – however, the routines we learn in class for the fruits and vegetables are directly transferable to your kitchen & table.

I do see children that have had allergies or currently have allergies.  A common allergy is egg.  Did you know that you can substitute egg with chia seeds?  (Well yes, if you have seen my post last week for princess cakes, you would already know this.  The princess cakes are egg & gluten free and are a yummy toddler approved morning tea.)

For those playing at home with the materials I have given you in class and are trying to assist your child overcome a food jag, this is a recipe that you can use if you are transitioning to whole pieces of meat from processed meat (eg. wanting your kids to have chicken breast as opposed to processed chicken nuggets).  It’s also perfect for families that have to consider an egg allergy.   Families should aim to have the one meal and this is a great recipe that will satisfy everyone.  Use the best chicken mince that you can & the texture of the balls will be between that of the chicken nugget & a chicken breast.  You can spice it up as you please (however, remember radically changing the taste profile for food jaggers is the final step in the transition.)

Chia & Chicken Balls | Why they are great for fussy kids | Play with Food


  1. Soak 2tsp of chia seeds in 4tsp of water for at least 10mins until gluggy.
  2. In the meantime, sautee 1 clove of finely chopped garlic & a rasher of finely chopped bacon.
  3. Then once cooked & in a separate bowl, combine the bacon mix, 1/2 cup multigrain breadcrumbs, 2tbsp tomato paste, 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce, chia mix and 350g chicken mince.
  4. Roll into balls & cook in the pan

If you are interested in learning more about our toddler, preschooler or 5-7yo class programs.  Have a look here for our current schedule!

If you have any questions about this recipe, food jagging or just love chicken meatballs – leave me a comment below!

Happy Eating!
Simone Emery

Are you on team carrot?

Carrot is stupidly versatile!  I can’t think of a cuisine that doesn’t use carrots in one way or another. However, I have to admit to it being one of my least liked vegetables growing up. Now I am happy to say that I am on “team carrot”.

Last night I made a quick carrot & fennel salad (both chopped raw & topped with juice from one orange + olive oil). We had a fair bit left over. So I decided to try my hand at a roasted carrot, fennel & apple soup for lunch with my toddler.

She went back for seconds!


3 carrots (chopped)
1 fennel bulb (chopped)
Juice from half an orange
Drizzle of olive oil
1 apple (chopped – leave skin on)
500ml vegetable stock
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)

Combine first four ingredients & spread out of a baking sheet. Bake in a 180oC oven for 20min. Add the apple to the mixture giving everything a good turn over. Roast for a further 10mins.

Bring vegetable stock to the boil and add the chopped garlic. Add the roasted medley to the stock & simmer for 15min. Puree to get a nice smooth soup with a handheld mixer.

The good thing about this soup is that you could do the roasting in the morning & then the final steps quickly for dinner.

Roasted carrots, fennel & apple

I served ours with a slice of multigrain toast.  My daughter loves to dip her toast fingers in soup. She inhaled this soup & went back for seconds. I loved it too!

Pear Flapjacks For Kids

Inspired by a fellow blogger, I adapted her recipe this week, healthy flapjacks, to suit the ingredients I had on hand. The result was so quick & easy to make and is a perfect lunchbox counterpart packed with fibre!

Fun fact: Did you know one medium pear has 5.5g of fibre? Hence, it is one of the most fibre rich fruits.

On the super healthy kids blog, they have been talking all things fibre this week. So, I recommend having a look at the recipes they’ve been posting.

Pear flapjacks for kids
1 1/2 cups of Oats
1/2 cup Dried Mixed Fruit
2 peeled, cored & chopped ripe pears (you don’t have to peel it & this way you keep more fibre)
Juice from half an orange
1/2 cup Dessicated coconut
1tbsp Honey
2tbsp Macadamia nut oil
1tbsp Butter


Preheat your oven to 180oC & get out a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin.
In a food processor, whizz oats, dried mixed fruit, coconut, orange juice and pears to get a thick paste.

In a saucepan melt the butter together with the honey and macadamia nut oil. Pour this into your tin (this acts to grease the tin too) and swirl it around. Mix in the oat mixture. Pat the flapjack mixture down into the tin & pop it into the oven for 20mins.

Cut it into bar like slices once it is out of the oven. You can store these in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.

Happy Eating!

St Patrick’s Day Drinks

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

No this post isn’t about Guinness … It is about green smoothies.

Smoothies are a great way to pack in lots of nutrition into your meals. Smoothies are a big hit at our place! If I have any smoothie left over, its poured into little ice block moulds for a special dessert or afternoon treat later down the track.

Green smoothies are all the rage at the moment – kids like calling it “monster milk”.  It is handy to keep some green seedless grapes or a chopped banana in your freezer so you can get a smoothie ready when your heart desires. Or you can use frozen banana for a healthy ice cream base and frozen grapes as a healthy sorbet base.

To celebrate St Patrick’s day we had a green smoothie for lunch with a green main meal of risoni pasta, peas & salmon.

Today’s smoothie was:
1 cup frozen green grapes
1 tub of banana kids yoghurt (100g)
Leafy parts of a large kale stalk
1 cup of water

(makes enough for 1 large or 2 medium smoothies)

What is your favourite smoothie recipe?


Happy Eating!

February is Eggplant Month

At the beginning of the year, I set out a monthly challenge to make dishes from seasonal products and see how my toddler liked them. To see upcoming challenges see my Happy 2014 Post here! The benefits of setting and sharing this challenge include:

1) Eating seasonally is budget and local farmer friendly
2) It stretches my cooking repertoire
3) Seasonal produce goes from farm to fork quicker and is nutritionally better for us!
3) It encourages new food appreciation for my family, especially my toddler.

February is Eggplant Month!


Recipe #1: Eggplant Chips

Toddler Review: She sucked the crumbs off and ate mushy inside of the chips – but left the skins behind.

Ingredients & Method:  Sliced one large eggplant and cut into “steak fry” sizes.  Coated with a drizzle of olive oil and then tossed in multi-grain breadcrumbs.  Baked at 150oC for 40mins.

Eggplant Chips served with Hummus
Eggplant Chips served with Hummus

Recipe #2: Burghal & Pork Stuffed Eggplant

Toddler Review: Toddler loved the stuffing mix.  However, was not fussed on eating the actual skin of the eggplant again.

Ingredients & Method: Take 2 Medium sized Eggplants and roast them whole in the oven at 150oC for 1 hour. Remove and let them cool down a bit.  Make up your stuffing mix next by letting 1/3 cup of burghal absorb 2/3 cup of boiling water in a heat proof bowl (takes about 5 min).  In a pan, sautee a diced brown onion in some olive oil.  Once the onion is starting to go transparent, add 200g of pork mince and cook through, add the burghal, 2 tbsp of tomato paste, 1/3 cup of diced caspisum, 1 tsp dried oregano and a handful of chopped fresh basil.  Cook all together for a few minutes until fragrant.  Remove from the heat.  Cut your eggplants in half and remove some of the larger veins of seeds.  Add the flesh of the eggplants to your stuffing mix.  Add an egg to the stuffing mix and combine well.  Put the stuffing mix into the shells of the eggplant and finish with grated cheese.

PlaywithFood-1876Return the stuffed eggplants to the oven for a further 30 min until the stuffing is fully cooked and the cheese is browned. Serve with salad.


Recipe #3: Zucchini and Eggplant Dip 

Toddler Review: “yum”  – my toddler loves dipping sauces though!

Ingredients & Method: Roast 2 medium sized eggplants on 150oC for 1 hour with 1 medium – large size zucchini.  Coarsley chop the zucchini (skin as well) and remove the flesh (including seeds) from the eggplants and put this into a food processor.  Add 1 cup no fat greek yoghurt, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice (or juice from 1/2 a lemon) and 2 cloves of garlic crushed.  Blitz in the food processor, spoon into serving dish and then top with an additional drizzle of olive.  We had ours served with some sourdough rolls.  It is also really great chilled and served later.  A great dip to make ahead for a party or BBQ!


Cooking with Kids

Before I started blogging my recipes (this year), I regularly published recipes to my Facebook page & also I write recipes for Mum’s Lounge.  The recipes for Mum’s Lounge are in a “little one & me” format, where I step out what the kids can do and what the adults can do to complete the recipe together.  I really and truly believe cooking with the kids leads to wonderful conversation and food awareness …. but don’t just take my word for it….

Why involve kids in the kitchen?  Children who learn to cook before the age of 8 are 50% more likely to have healthy diets!  Read more here  

Today’s post summarises my “little one & me” recipes for you to have a look at:

"Monster Balls" served with a white bean dip
“Monster Balls” served with a white bean dip

My FAVOURITE “little one & me” recipe is for these Monster Balls.  Why is it my favourite?  Because it is so versatile.  You can use the basics of this recipe (bread crumbs, eggs & cheese) then choose any left-overs / or a clever mix of your child’s tolerated and preferred foods to make these.  See the variations list in the introduction to the recipe and some ideas for dipping sauces at the end.  Giving food clever names will help engage your children to a theme & spike their interest in trying it out.  There is nothing wrong with having a bit of a laugh in the kitchen!

Strawberry and Apple Crumble with the added goodness of Quinoa is a great celebration of springtime flavours when strawberries start hitting the green grocer.

Strawberry & Apple Crumble
Strawberry & Apple Crumble

Healthy Gummy Stars are a good recipe for lolly alternatives.  They are a very firm jelly made with real fruits and no cane sugar.  The little ones can probably only assist when it comes to cutting out the stars (or whatever shapes you have).

Easy & Healthier Snickerdoodles are a great motor planning exercise with the children as they wrap the dough around the filling.  Plus, they taste so good whilst still warm from the oven (note: if you use chocolate buttons / squares they stay piping hot for a while so always taste test them first for correct temperature before letting the kids loose on them – plus this way you ensure to get your share of them before it’s too late!)

Chocolate Button & Banana Filled Snickerdoodles
Chocolate Button & Banana Filled Snickerdoodles

Also, check out the dough that I use for the snickerdoodles because it can be made sweet or savoury, it is super easy AND is egg free!  We use this dough recipe regularly for pizza bases in our house.

Zucchini & Sesame Quackers (Crackers) is a great make ahead recipe for a party or gathering where you are told to bring a plate.  You can enhance the flavour of these crackers with herbs or parmesan cheese, depending on your taste preference & any allergy considerations you have.  The version I have made here is dairy and egg free.

A big hit on the Play with Food Facebook page in 2013 were my sweet vegie muffins and I have to say that they are so nice straight out of the oven.  You can also substitute the golden syrup with honey.  There are some good tips in the comments too for encouraging interaction with the kids during this recipe.

Wishing you all the best for some “little one & me” cooking time!


Simone Emery

Giveaway: Chinese New Year Inspired Vegie Game

As we move from the year of the Snake to the year of the Horse, I thought it would be a bit of fun to make my own board game to encourage vegie sensory play.

What you will need to prepare before starting the game:

1 carrot  or zucchini prepared as follows – use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons ie. “snakes” and a grater to make the rest of the vegetable into “hay” for the horse. (See note below about using containers / laminating the paper).

A counter for each player.

A die

Printable – you can laminate if you want or put individual bowls over the barrel & trough icons to stop them getting very wet from the vegetable juices.

You may want a learning bowl for your child also so that they can put their hay stack or snakes into it when they finish with them.  Use some of our positive encouragement steps from classes to guide your child gently from touching to smelling, kissing, licking or tasting the vegetable.  Remember not to push them past where they are comfortable. If children aren’t comfortable touching the vegetable, try using a cocktail fork & plate for them so that they can participate too. At this stage the important part is participation in the game and enjoying some sensory exploration (this is not to be viewed as a scheduled snack or meal time.)

chinese new year 1


Each player takes turn to roll the dice and move their counter to the circle that reflects the number that they rolled.  If they land on a horse or a snake they complete the sensory task explained on the board.  If they land on a free square there is no sensory task to complete.  Take turns until everyone has gotten to the finish line.

Link to the PDF of the game board:

Snakes And Horses Game