I am not a parent. I was a nanny in my previous life, and found that one of the toughest challenges was serving nutritious meals that the little ones wanted to eat. How do you make a platter of roasted cauliflower appealing to a squeaky five year old? Besides the obvious– of engaging them to help me in the kitchen while preparing meals– I found that if I made the meal “fun”, they were more likely to gulp it down. Many times we sat down to bowls of monkey brains or dinosaur livers. Guaranteed after the giggles disappeared, the food was in their bellies.
While I was nannying, it was important to me that they ate a proper meal– proper being fresh food that was not overly processed. Okay, I am not going to lie, there was the occasional Nutella sandwich being served for a special occasion, but there was a healthy dose of carrots and apples alongside it. If I was a parent, I would be practicing the same beliefs that I have regarding food. Fresh, healthy and delicious.
One of the challenges with holiday meals can be the appearance of traditional dishes that we did not love as children but adore as adults. Such as Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes. If I was serving little ones this holiday season, I would undoubtedly make them a fun “kid” meal of turkey meatloaf cupcakes.
I have seen various versions floating around the blog world and wondered why I never thought of it sooner: cute little meatloaves with a creamy swirl of love (aka … mashed potatoes). Keeping with the Thanksgiving theme, I used freshly ground turkey meat. I opted to use darker thigh meat as it has more flavor and is moister. When I make meatloaf or meatballs for a child’s meal, I always mince up the onions, garlic and herbs. God forbid they gnaw on a big piece of onion. A lot of people like to add peas or carrots to their meatloaf as well. I hated that as a kid and still do, so I leave it out. Why not serve fresh cooked vegetables alongside the meal? They will be happier, and you do not need to go that extra step of trying to “hide” the veggies. I kept this recipe simple: meat and a little seasoning. Halfway through the baking process, I glazed the top of each cupcake with a little ketchup. My grandmother use to do that with her meatloaf and I loved the slightly sweet and crunchy topping. Just before serving the meat cupcakes, I gave each of them a swirl of creamy mashed potatoes and a sprinkling of chive garnish!
The night I decided to make this recipe, I couldn’t find any little ones to try it out on. I have used the same meatloaf recipe for other child-proof meals and they love it! One of the pickiest 11 year old eaters that I know thinks I make the best hamburgers. Guess what: it is this meat-based recipe. I did serve these meat heavy cupcakes to the big kid in my life and he LOVED both the idea and the meal. He wondered the same thing, why hadn’t I thought of this before. I am sure your little ones will too.
Denise believes anything can be made at home as long as you have a little patience, and time. All of her recipes are made using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her recipes have been featured on Eat Boutique, the Mushroom Channel, Saveur.com, Foodies of the World, PBS and Fine Cooking.
She, also creates the recipes on the popular food blog Chez Us. Saveur has featured Chez Us as one of 50 Food Blogs You Should Be Reading as well as one of the Sites They Love. Be sure to read more about what they are cooking up over at Chez Us.