In this blog series, Erica discusses ways to introduce children to the diverse flavors of cheese. Starting with the challenges of new and unfamiliar cheeses on a young palate and moving through ways to make try new foods fun, she will explore expert advice, nutrition facts, and a world of recipes with the goal of making cheeses of all kinds accessible to kids. Last week, we discussed ideas on how to face the challenge of traveling with kids. Follow along and try some of the tips in these posts to see if we can get your child from string cheese lover to stinky cheese lover, and comment below for your chance to win a free issue of culture or a cheesy giveaway!
Let’s face it: No kid enjoys being excluded. One of my most vivid memories is the living room in my childhood home. Decorated in various shades of white and adorned with beautiful – but scratchy – pillows, my mother deemed the area as off-limits (mostly because she was afraid I would hurt myself on the large glass coffee table in the center). No matter how good her reasons, I wanted in!
I imagine that’s the feeling a kid gets while seeing beautifully untouchable foods come out of your kitchen, or while attempting to sleep upstairs while the sounds from your cheese and wine party waft up from the living room. It’s okay – and sometimes completely necessary – to have grown-ups-only time, but it’s also important to include your kids in some of the fun once in a while.
Earlier in this series, we talked about how encouraging your children to get involved in kitchen prep can help to expand their palates. If possible, why not involve them in the entire process? These cheesy DIY recipes will give your kid that warm, fuzzy feeling of being involved in a fun activity with their family – it’s a bonding activity that also serves as a way to introduce your child to new foods.
Pizza is always a favorite among children, and it’s easy for you, too. You could order delivery, or you could spend less than hour cooking with your kids, discovering what combinations they like best and tasting different types of cheese for them to melt atop their creation. This recipe for Grilled Naan Pizzas uses a whole wheat naan that saves time on making and kneading the dough. The flavors may be far out for some younger eaters, but an easy and fun solution is a toppings bar: Use what’s in your fridge and allow picky eaters to pick flavors that appeal to them. For slightly more adventurous eaters, culture‘s Spicy Chicken Sausage Pizza with Smoked Cheeses has crowd-pleasing flavors that don’t take long to prep.
Another route to consider is the mini-food route; “individual” versions tend to be a big hit with the junior crowd. Want to introduce a few new flavors to your regular lasagna recipe, but worried that your creative burst might not be well received? It’s very possible that the kids won’t turn their nose up so quickly if the lasagna in question is cute and kid-sized – just emphasize to them that it’s shaped like a cupcake! This recipe from Catching Fireflies combines three delicious cheeses – Parmesan, ricotta, and mozzarella – in a process that’s far easier than your average lasagna dish. Another twist on an old favorite is grilled cheese roll-ups, which are perfect for the pickier eaters who refuse to eat the crust. She Knows uses American cheese, but feel free to use any kind of cheese that melts well, from Asiago to Gruyère. Check out this article, which demystifies why some cheese melts better than others.
Another thing that kids get excited about is faces in their food. It’s a great way to sneak in some cheeses they might not be open to otherwise, like clothbound cheddar or Emmentaler. This adorable Mini Monster Cheese Balls recipe from Hungry Happenings calls for shredded cheddar, but with enough experimentation, you might be able to sneak some more exotic cheeses into the filling. Your kids will love playing with their new friends, and they’ll love eating them, too – eventually.
Babybel mini cheese wheels are also an easy way to make creative snacks for your children, and they’re available in just about any supermarket. Jarlsberg recently came out with a similar mini waxed version that we tasted in the culture office last week – it’s mild enough to please young taste buds. Craft these wax-covered cheese wheels into fun faces with different hairstyles or to look like your child’s favorite storybook or television character, like this recipe inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Have you ever tried any DIY recipes with your kids? Share your story in the comments below and you could win a free copy of our summer issue! Plus, one lucky commenter will be chosen from all the comments in this series to win a kid-friendly prize package of cheese from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Association. Comments must be posted by 11:59 p.m. EDT on July 31, 2014 to be eligible to win.
Photo Credit: Hungry Happenings