If the food is warm, crunchy, bright and tasty, youngsters will generally eat it


Here are a few recipes that may appeal to children's palates.

Barbecued black beans and rice

Makes 4 servings.

1 cup long-grain white rice

2 cups water

2 (16-ounce) cans black beans

1 (14.5-ounce) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies

1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn or other vegetable, thawed (optional)

2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, or more to taste

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring rice and water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is just tender, about 18 minutes. If the rice hasn't absorbed all the liquid, drain it. Season the rice with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, rinse and drain the beans and combine with tomatoes, chilies, corn if using, barbecue sauce and cumin in another medium-size saucepan. Simmer beans gently over low heat until heated through, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle rice into deep bowls, then ladle the black beans with sauce over the top. Just for kids: Omit cumin and green chilies. When the beans are cooked, set aside one portion to remain mild. Stir 1/2 teaspoon cumin into the remaining beans and simmer a minute or so.

(Source: "Monday-to-Friday Cookbook," by Michele Urvater, Workman Publishing, $14.95.)

New-fashioned macaroni and cheese

Makes 4 servings.

2 cups milk, whole or skim

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 pound (2 cups) elbow macaroni

1/4 to 1/2 pound grated sharp Cheddar cheese, or half Cheddar and half Parmesan

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 drops hot pepper sauce, or more to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Whisk the milk and cornstarch together in a medium-size saucepan (not aluminum or iron) and set aside. Add macaroni to boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. At the same time, slowly bring milk and cornstarch to a simmer, whisking constantly over medium heat. As the milk comes to a simmer it will thicken.

Stir three-quarters of cheese into the sauce and reduce heat to very low. Cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese melts. Add the remaining cheese, remove pan from heat and let cheese melt. Add Worcestershire sauce and season with salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce. Drain elbows thoroughly and toss with sauce before serving.

Just for kids: Use the smaller amount of cheese and omit the Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce. Grown-ups can drizzle these seasonings over their portions.

(Source: "Monday-to-Friday Cookbook," by Michele Urvater, Workman Publishing, $14.95.)

Mom's own fish sticks

Makes 8 fish sticks.

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

3/4 pound flounder, sole or whitefish fillets, cut in strips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, wheat germ, sesame seeds, paprika and salt. Put egg in another shallow dish with water and beat with a fork to blend thoroughly.

Dip the fish pieces into the bread crumb mixture, then into the egg, then again into the bread crumbs. Place strips on a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

(Source: "Jennifer Lang Cooks for Kids," by Jennifer Lang, Harmony Books, $22.50.)

Frozen fruit pops

Makes 4.

1 cup plain low-fat or non-fat yogurt

1/4 cup instant non-fat dry milk

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup sliced fresh or drained canned fruit

4 ice cream novelty sticks

In blender or food processor, blend yogurt, dry milk and sugar until milk and sugar are dissolved. Add fruit, blend until smooth and pour into 4-ounce paper cups. Freeze until partially set, place a stick in the center of each cup and freeze until firm. To unmold, roll cup between palms of hands to soften slightly.

(Source: Neva Cochran.)

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