And why chilaquiles are the best.
Kids can be tough eaters to please, but chef Alex Raij has discovered some clever tricks to keep both her omnivorous seven-year-old and picky five-year-old happy and well fed. Here Raij's five best tips for cooking for kids.
Sneak vegetables in wherever you can.
"Spanish tortilla is a good one to sneak vegetables into," says Raij. "It's great for everything from zucchini and leeks to Swiss chard and spinach. It's also something that you can reheat really easily. Or, just make the tortilla in the morning and let it sit out all day."
When in doubt, make a big pot of beans.
"Beans and other legumes are a great gateway for kids—they really respond well to them," she says. "I think since beans are mild and fulfilling, kids just gravitate towards them. Black beans and rice especially is always popular. You can throw vegetables in with the beans, too."
Let them customize their plates.
"Having kids assemble their own food can be really great," she says. "I made chilaquiles with my kids for brunch recently and I prepared all of the ingredients—shredded chicken, salsa verde, fried tortillas—and then let everyone make what they wanted out of it. That way the more ambitious people can make it like they want and my son can just eat as much poached chicken as he wants."
Reduce your workload by using leftovers.
"Using leftovers to make something new can be really beneficial," she says. "It shows kids how versatile food can be and how to reduce waste, too."
While baking isn't Raij's favorite activity, she knows that it's a great way to get even the most uninterested kid involved in the kitchen. "Anything baking related is always good because there are steps and a process to follow," she explains. "And let’s face it, every kid loves brownies."