Feeding Your Picky Eaters

Whenever my mom made her famous cream puffs or coconut cake she would make this incredible pudding filling. For her cream puffs she folded decadent whipped cream into the pudding. Her coconut cake was  stacked 6 layers high with a filling of coconut pudding in between. I confess the pudding was the best part. It was so rich and creamy. I would sneak a finger full from the bowl of pudding. Maybe she knew it was me. If she did she never said anything, mind that I remember.

Weeks ago I was on a mission to recreate a box free version of my moms coconut pudding. The dilemma I ran into was, do I use a pudding recipe or a pastry cream. I noticed in my prior attempts when making vanilla pudding for cream puffs that the pudding was too soft and unstable.

Pudding by definition is a type of custard or soft dessert. There are two types of custards, stirred and baked. Puddings and pastry creams are stirred custards, with the exception of desserts such as bread pudding. Baked custards, like flan, are firmer and not as smooth. You would never use a baked custard or pudding to fill a cake. You would, however, use pastry cream.

I decided to use pastry cream. Pastry cream is thicker than pudding. It is meant to be used as a filling in pastries and cakes because the constant stirring enables the custard to thicken making it perfect to pipe with. Cook and serve Jello brand pudding is a easy substitute for pastry cream because of the additives that help thicken it.

Since I was using fat free milk I let the custard thicken a little longer. I was worried the custard would not set enough. I made coconut cake for my dad’s birthday once, when I was in college. I do not think I let the pudding thicken enough because the layers of the cake started to slide off. We ended up dumping the whole lot into a bowl and called it coconut punch bowl cake. It was still good.

Source: King Arthur Flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, or rice flour
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean. (If you’re using vanilla extract, add it at the end.) Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup milk.

Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the simmering milk.

Pastry cream will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. After that it may start to weep.

If you want the pastry cream to be sliceable, as for a cream pie, don’t fold in the whipped cream. The recipe will yield 3 cups of pastry cream in that case.

Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Doing this through a strainer will help prevent lumps later. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens.

Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (if you’re using it). If you’re going to flavor the pastry cream with chocolate or some other flavor, this is the time to do it (see variations below).

Rub a piece of butter over the surface of the cream, top with a piece of plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the pastry cream so it doesn’t develop a skin), then refrigerate until cool.

To complete, fold the whipped cream into the cooled pastry cream.

Flavor Variations:
— Butterscotch Pastry Cream: Add 1/4 teaspoon butter-rum flavor and/or 1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips to the pastry cream after straining, stirring until the chips have melted.
— Caramel Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup chopped caramel (7 1/2 ounces, or 21 to 23 unwrapped individual caramels) to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth.
— Chocolate Pastry Cream: Add 1 cup (6 ounces) chopped chocolate to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth.
— Hazelnut Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces). Add 3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) praline paste to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until combined.
— Orange Pastry Cream: Increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces). Add 1 teaspoon orange extract; 1/4 teaspoon orange oil; or 3 tablespoons orange zest to the hot, strained pastry cream.
— Peanut Butter Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup (7 1/4 ounces) smooth peanut butter to the hot pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth. If you’re using a natural or freshly-made peanut butter, omit the butter from the recipe, or the pastry cream will be greasy.
— Pistachio Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces). Add 3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) pistachio paste, or blanched pureed pistachio meats.

Whenever my mom made her famous cream puffs or coconut cake she would make this incredible pudding filling. For her cream puffs she folded decadent whipped cream into the pudding. Her coconut cake was  stacked 6 layers high with a filling of coconut pudding in between. I confess the pudding was the best part. It was so rich and creamy. I would sneak a finger full from the bowl of pudding. Maybe she knew it was me. If she did she never said anything, mind that I remember.

Weeks ago I was on a mission to recreate a box free version of my moms coconut pudding. The dilemma I ran into was, do I use a pudding recipe or a pastry cream. I noticed in my prior attempts when making vanilla pudding for cream puffs that the pudding was too soft and unstable.

Pudding by definition is a type of custard or soft dessert. There are two types of custards, stirred and baked. Puddings and pastry creams are stirred custards, with the exception of desserts such as bread pudding. Baked custards, like flan, are firmer and not as smooth. You would never use a baked custard or pudding to fill a cake. You would, however, use pastry cream.

I decided to use pastry cream. Pastry cream is thicker than pudding. It is meant to be used as a filling in pastries and cakes because the constant stirring enables the custard to thicken making it perfect to pipe with. Cook and serve Jello brand pudding is a easy substitute for pastry cream because of the additives that help thicken it.

Since I was using fat free milk I let the custard thicken a little longer. I was worried the custard would not set enough. I made coconut cake for my dad’s birthday once, when I was in college. I do not think I let the pudding thicken enough because the layers of the cake started to slide off. We ended up dumping the whole lot into a bowl and called it coconut punch bowl cake. It was still good.

Source: King Arthur Flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, or rice flour
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean. (If you’re using vanilla extract, add it at the end.) Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup milk.

Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the simmering milk.

Pastry cream will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. After that it may start to weep.

If you want the pastry cream to be sliceable, as for a cream pie, don’t fold in the whipped cream. The recipe will yield 3 cups of pastry cream in that case.

Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Doing this through a strainer will help prevent lumps later. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens.

Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (if you’re using it). If you’re going to flavor the pastry cream with chocolate or some other flavor, this is the time to do it (see variations below).

Rub a piece of butter over the surface of the cream, top with a piece of plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the pastry cream so it doesn’t develop a skin), then refrigerate until cool.

To complete, fold the whipped cream into the cooled pastry cream.

Flavor Variations:
— Butterscotch Pastry Cream: Add 1/4 teaspoon butter-rum flavor and/or 1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips to the pastry cream after straining, stirring until the chips have melted.
— Caramel Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup chopped caramel (7 1/2 ounces, or 21 to 23 unwrapped individual caramels) to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth.
— Chocolate Pastry Cream: Add 1 cup (6 ounces) chopped chocolate to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth.
— Hazelnut Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces). Add 3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) praline paste to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until combined.
— Orange Pastry Cream: Increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces). Add 1 teaspoon orange extract; 1/4 teaspoon orange oil; or 3 tablespoons orange zest to the hot, strained pastry cream.
— Peanut Butter Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup (7 1/4 ounces) smooth peanut butter to the hot pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth. If you’re using a natural or freshly-made peanut butter, omit the butter from the recipe, or the pastry cream will be greasy.
— Pistachio Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces). Add 3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) pistachio paste, or blanched pureed pistachio meats.

Over the past few years we have had many requests inquiring how to feed a picky eater. If you have a picky eater then you are familiar with what a daunting task this can be. We want our children to grow up healthy and strong and along the way develop healthy eating habits to ensure their success. When all a little guy wants is cereal or yogurt that goal may sometimes seem unattainable. Fear not. There is hope. The following is my own account of the struggles we are currently facing and how we deal with them. I have included additional links to posts with further suggestions on how to placate a picky eater.

Like many other households opting for a cleaner choice of foods we choose to limit the types of prepackaged foods in the house to wholesome cereals and breads and low fat dairy. By making the majority of our snacks at home at least I can control what goes into them. I feel better knowing our picky guy is eating something better than just empty calories. Secondly, drugs our picky eater has a major sweet tooth. If it is not in the house he nor I will eat it. If we happen to have crackers in the pantry they are put up where the kids cannot get into them. A picky kid with a taste for sugar is not going to want to eat his chicken and broccoli when there is a pantry filled with crackers and granola bars.

Limit the Treat and Packaged Foods:

Treats are reserved for special occasions such as movie night or dessert with Sunday dinner. By making a few alterations a basic sweet such as a muffin can become a filling snack offering the much needed vitamins and minerals a growing body needs. Some of the variations we make include:

— Replacing regular all-purpose flour with whole wheat, oat or coconut flour. I always add a double tablespoon of wheat germ and ground flaxseed.
— Swap out lard and vegetable oils for canola, olive and coconut oil. Butter instead of margarine.
— Replacing part or all of the refined sugar with pureed vegetables or fruits or natural local honey.
— Adding chopped, pureed and shredded vegetables to snacks and meals.

Restrict Snacking Before Dinner and Other Meal Times:

We follow strict snack times to help tie our kids over until dinner is ready. When kids snack right before dinner time they are less likely to try new foods much less eat their dinner. Our rule is they have to take at least one bite. If we are having salad with chicken and green beans they have to take one bite of each item. Our picky eater will often feign that he does not like something to keep up with his picky appearance. We have caught him sneaking additional bites. We do not make a big deal over it because with his temperament the praise would backfire. We just let him explore on his own while continuing to offer him the good stuff. We want to make dinner a positive experience for him.

Exploration:

For a picky eater trying new foods takes time. It requires working with them to help them overcome their fear. When I am cooking I let him help stir or measure. Sometimes I give him his own bowl and let him create his recipe. It allows him to feel in control as he places each item in the bowl and mixes it with his hands.

Our doctor reassured me our son would not starve. Meanwhile continue to offer the good stuff. Most of all make dinner a positive experience for them. Avoid negative comments and of course never try to force feed your child. Be sure to include something they are likely to eat but avoid making two dinners. Give them time and love and eventually they will come around.

For additional reading on how to placate a picky eater visit the following links:

Make and Takes – Helpful Tips to Appease Picky Eaters

Raise Healthy Eaters – How to Tell if Your Picky Eater Needs Help

What’s Cooking With Kids – Tips to Help Kids Accept New Foods

The Motherhood – How to Appease Picky Eaters

Dazzledish- More Peas Please

Food For My Family – Picky Eaters

Keep Kids Healthy – Picky Eaters

Nutrition Fitness Life – Getting Picky Eater to Eat Healthy

PBS.org – Science of Picky Eaters