Do you want your kids to try new foods? Here’s my secret

I have a sneaky secret.  It’s my underhanded way to get the kids to eat things they don’t ‘like’.  When I say ‘like’ I actually mean things they’ve never tried before and refuse to even taste-test.

Involve them in the preparation and let them get their hands dirty.

Truly, it’s that simple.

I discovered this when I first made Canneloni with spinach and ricotta.  Stinky argued until she was blue in the face that she*hated* spinach.  She’d never tried it but somehow in her little mind it was the devils food.

So I hatched a plan to get her to try it… *insert evil laugh*

One evening when she was about 3 I asked her to help me with dinner.  We both donned a pair of disposable kitchen gloves and were up to our eyebrows in spinach and ricotta goop, stuffing canneloni shells and giggling uncontrollably.  She ate the meal that night and has since declared it to be her favourite!

Mum -1 Stinky – 0

Since then, I’ve adopted this strategy every time I want the kids to try something new, and to date it’s worked.

There are still foods they’ve tried and not liked, but their palate has been significantly expanded thanks to this little trick.

I thought I’d share my recipe with you as it’s failsafe and always a hit:

I use store-bought shells, but knock yourself out if you’d like to make your own crepes.  I’m not patient enough!

1 pkt frozen spinach or 300g fresh leaves roughly chopped
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
500g ricotta (I use the low fat)
80g grated parmesan (+ a little extra to top)

1 400g tin crushed tomatoes
1 squashed clove of garlic
1 tsp olive oil
4 basil leaves finely chopped
1 cup water

Bechamel Sauce:
60g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
550mls warmed milk

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.

Start with the tomato sauce.  Warm the olive oil in a frypan and add the squashed garlic.  I squash a whole clove then take it out at the end for my fussy husband.  You can dice it if you want.  Simply cook the garlic until it becomes fragrant then add the tomatoes.  Once they start simmering, turn down the heat to about halfway, add the water and basil and cook for a further 10 minutes.  Blend to a fine sauce or leave it chunky and rustic.

Next prepare the filling.  If you’re using frozen spinach, place it in the microwave (covered) and cook on high for 2-3 minutes.  Strain all liquid.  If you’re using fresh spinach, chop and wash the leaves then shake off excess water.  Place in a frypan with only the water clinging to the leaves and cook until wilted.  Set aside to cool slightly.  While you’re waiting for the spinach to cool, mix the ricotta, egg, nutmeg and parmesan in a bowl.  Add the spinach and mix well.

Now is when the kids have fun!  Get them to stuff the filling into the canneloni shells.  This recipe makes one full box of supermarket shells and gives them about half an hour of fun and laughs!  It doesn’t matter if some shells crack.  They all cook the same.

Finally, make the bechamel sauce.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan then add the flour.  Whisk continuously for about two minutes while heating up the milk.  Then slowly add the milk a ladle at a time, whisking as you go.  When all the milk has been added, season with salt and pepper and keep whisking for about 5 minutes on medium heat.

Line the base of a deep ceramic dish with a couple of spoonfuls of the bechamel sauce (it’s easier if it’s rectangular when lining up the filled canneloni).  Lay out the canneloni in a single layer,  then top with the bechamel sauce.  Finally drop spoonfuls of the tomato sauce over the top and sprinkle with extra parmesan.

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes and watch the kids lap it up! Enjoy.

This recipe is from my all-time favourite cookbook: Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros.  If you don’t have it, do yourself a favour and get it.



  1. Margaret Mila says:


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