Fish Sticks and Sticking to Your Guns

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The method is working.  We have a few food rules when it comes to feeding Olive and ourselves.  All these thoughts are fueled by the game-changing book, “French Kids Eat Everything“.  I highly recommend it if you find yourself stressed that your kid eats a limited selection of foods.  Babies don’t know snacking exists.  They learn it soon enough from peers and tv and observing adults who randomly nibble throughout the day, but in the formative first couple years of life where you have most of the control over what your baby consumes, you can show them a different way.  And maybe even learn to eat better, yourself!  Olive gets one snack a day. Yes, she’s 15 months old (almost) and only snacks once a day. (And it’s a good one! Something fun and really tasty. Usually a piece of fruit or some dark chocolate and bread with milk.  You gotta make it something they look forward to.)  It’s in between lunch and dinner, because that’s the longest stretch without food.  We also have to emulate this discipline for her.  How would it be fair to snack in front of her without including her?  And if I want her to be hungry enough at a meal to be willing to try something new, well darn it, she needs to not have eaten a snack an hour before dinner!  Makes sense to me and it seems so obvious, yet so few do it.  We should all eat this way!  Hunger is a discipline that too few of us experience. And the discipline is learned before the age of two.  It can be learned if started after two, but it’s just so much harder (think: excessive whining).

We’ve even pushed dinner back to 7:30 the past few nights and she has eaten EVERYTHING.  Whereas before, I was serving dinner at 6:30 and it was a fight to get her to eat for 10 minutes straight (she’d had her snack just two hours before and had drank milk in between, so, consequently, she was only mildly interested in dinner.)  Eating an hour later has been a transformation –  she ate marvelously and ate everything from fish to broccoli to berries to a nice piece of Manchego (the King of Cheese).  So, it’s working!   The next day, she ate like a bird and acted like bananas were the devil (a  former favorite). Even if she has days like that, I try to remind myself that she will not starve and that maybe she’ll eat more at the next meal (this is SO hard.)  This structure of eating has made my days better, too.  I don’t have to constantly find something for her to eat.  Other than her snack, we’re all eating at the same time.  This will get harder as she gains the ability to ask for things and tell me she’s hungry.  I’ll tackle that problem when it gets here.  Hopefully between now and then, she’ll form the habit of knowing when food is served and being willing to wait till we can all sit at the table together for the family meal.  Also, because she eats so much quantity at each meal, she’s often not even that hungry until about 30 minutes before the next meal. So waiting for the meal is as simple as distracting her with playing in another room with Matt, or just including her in the cooking process like holding the herbs, or a peeled carrot, or whatever.  She sits on the counter a lot :)

The recipes today come from two cookbooks.  The fish recipe came from Tyler Florence’s book, Start Fresh, which is an absolutely wonderful book filled with recipes I would be just as happy eating as I would serving them to a toothless baby or toddler.  Toward the end of the book, there are recipes for the whole family to share.  My wonderful friend, Becky, sent this cookbook to me as a gift to me and Olive, and she put sticky notes all throughout the book with comments she made about which recipes looked good, which she wanted to try, etc.  It made me miss her so much and long for my genius-in-the-kitchen friend to be beside me, cooking and enjoying these recipes with me.  I’d recommend doing that to any cookbook you buy for someone – it just made it seem like she was here with me as I looked through it.

The tartar sauce recipe comes from the Bonne Femme cookbook and I swear to you, this is THE best tartar sauce I’ve ever had.  It puts every other tartar sauce to shame.  Makes them seem like a joke.  Like mayo with pickles.  This has tang and zip and crunch and so much flavor, I really will never feel satisfied eating any other tartar sauce, ever again.  (Dramatic, much?)  I’ve made two batches since last week and turned the latest batch into a potato salad.  Amazing.  You can’t go wrong with these recipes and I feel that this would even be an acceptable meal for a kid who does not like everything.  Surely on this plate, any kid could find SOMETHING they were happy to eat!

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Oven Baked Fish Sticks with Roasted Potatoes
serves 4

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 lb cod or tilapia fillets, cut into 1 inch wide fingers
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (I ran out of panko and used plain and it worked fine)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb assorted baby potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
2 tbs olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Line two rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour buttermilk into a large bowl.  Add the fish pieces and turn to coat.  In another bowl, stir together the panko, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Dredge each fish finger in the breadcrumbs to coat completely and arrange on a baking sheet.

Combine the potatoes (and broccoli pieces, or asparagus or green beans – whatever other green veg you want!) in a bowl and drizle with the oil.  Toss to coat thoroughly, then arrange the vegetables on the other baking sheet.  Bake the fish and vegetables, turning once, until the fish fingers are golden, about 15 minutes.  The potatoes may need longer.  If so, simply take the fish out when they’re done and tent with foil to stay warm.

Serve fish (and potatoes, really) with tartar sauce!

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Tartar Sauce
makes about a cup

3/4 cup high-quality mayonnaise (we think, aside from homemade, that Hellmans REAL mayo is the best.  No low-fat or miracle whip crap.)
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons (small sour French pickles)
1 small shallot or 1 scallion (white part and some tender green tops), minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley or fresh parsley and chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons capers, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or chervil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a bowl, gently fold the mayonnaise, cornichons, shallot, parsley, mustard, capers, vinegar, and tarragon together (don’t mix too vigorously, or your sauce will be too smooth). Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and preferably 2 hours, before serving. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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4 thoughts on “Fish Sticks and Sticking to Your Guns

  1. Looks great! I might even be able to do this. But, did you say to roast the broccoli WITH the potatoes? Wouldn’t that be too long for the broccoli?

  2. I think it could be, but I cut the potatoes really small so they could be easy bite sizes for Olive. I think if you cut them bigger, they might take longer than the broccoli. But I like my roasted broccoli to be on the crispy side, so I guess it’s a matter of taste!

  3. I have been cooking almost ALL our vegetables this way since your butternut squash recipe. Broccoli is soooo good… we all thought it tasted like fried okra. We have always been good veggie eaters, but have really enjoyed the change up! Thanks!!

    • That’s awesome, Tammy! I just love how veggies taste roasted. You’re right about the broccoli tasting like fried okra. What a concept!

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