Summer's here! Why not try a yummy 'French-style' dinner menu with your kids?

Thanks to all of the readers who have written in with enthusiastic comments on the French Kids School Lunch Project, which is now wrapped up for the year. Many people requested recipes, so I thought I’d kick off this summer’s blog posts with a yummy French kids’ dinner menu, based on some favourite family recipes.

As is usual with French meals, the meal follows a four-course pattern:

  1. Vegetable starter
  2. Protein-rich main dish, with vegetable side
  3. Dairy (Your choice, but usually yogurt or cheese)
  4. Dessert (usually fresh fruit, but I’ve included a recipe for a sweet treat below!)
Always on the table: water (no milk, juice, or pop); and plain, crusty, fresh baguette (not too many pieces! as you don’t want the kids to fill up on bread) 

Based on these four courses, here is the yummy French-Style Menu to try with your kids (note: each recipe is listed on a separate page, but I have provided a consolidated shopping list at the bottom of this post):

  1. Starter: Beet Salad (bonus: you can make beet popsicles afterwards)
  2. Main: Tomates Farcies (stuffed tomatoes) and Cauliflower Casserole
  3. Plain yogurt with a spoonful of honey
  4. Cherry Clafoutis (Sweet Cherry Souffle)

Note: Why do the French serve their meals in multiple courses? For several reasons:

  • serving vegetables first means that kids are more likely to eat them (particularly if they haven’t snacked right before mealtime);
  • serving smaller portions, in multiple courses, makes the meal last longer–which is an important strategy for self-regulating food consumption. Research shows that people tend to eat less if they eat more slowly, because the ‘satiety’ (fullness) signals take about 20 minutes to be transmitted from your stomach to your brain;
  • multiple courses permit a diverse meal which is nutritionally complete (no filling up on pasta!)
  • last, but not least, the French enjoy sitting at the table and eating. It’s a fun time for parents and kids alike.

Two more tips!

First, pre-meal preparation is important! The French usually set the table with a tablecloth, and make sure to have napkins on the table. Seems a little fussy, but it actually works wonders with children, as it makes the table seem more festive (and thus fun). Also, kids are less likely to eat messily, for fear of making a mess on the tablecloth (at least, that’s the theory!). So pull out any table decorations you might have, and gussy up the table. In fact, kids love setting the table — it’s a fun activity they can do while you’re cooking.

Second, talk about food–before, during, and after the meal! The French love to talk about food. So discuss this menu with your kids in advance. Older ones can help cook, and why not get the younger ones to draw one of the dishes? Talking about food helps kids familiarize themselves with dishes, and get over their reluctance to taste new things.

Bon Appétit!

 

8 thoughts on “Summer's here! Why not try a yummy 'French-style' dinner menu with your kids?

  1. Sorry – that shopping list disappeared (my fault) and I will put it back up this week. ‘Serve in courses’ means, in most French families, that someone goes to the kitchen to get the new dish. An alternative is to have a little side table where the dishes are placed, and then just transferred to the main table when it is time (this is sometimes done with salad and cheese).

  2. Merci!!! I am half way through your book and loving it!! Due to a number of food allergies/intolerances in our house (most notably corn and soy) we have made a big shift away from processed foods. It was definitely a shift, but one that we are all grateful for now. I chuckled as I read the first few chapters as I could totally see the old vs. new habits in there:)! We started our own organic gardens this year, and my kids have grown accustomed to trying many new foods (including those beets!!). Tonight we prepared the quiche from your book, which was a big hit! Many, many thanks!

  3. Delighted you’re enjoying the ‘French style’ approach….let me know if you tried any of the recipes!

  4. We’ve switched to “courses” in our family of 5 (7 yr old daughter, 3 yr old daughter, 2 yr old son), and we’ve been skipping snacks, and they DEFINITELY eat alot more vegetables, and really all the meal, with this change. Luckily, they’re all open to trying new foods, but serving the vegetables 1st, rather than American family style all on the table at once, has resulted in eating more vegetables, less of the carbs/breads/pastas. I’m loving this, and the kids are enjoying it too! thanks so much for the inspiration.

  5. Sounds like a good menu. Where did the link to the shopping list go? When you say ‘serve in courses,’ what does that actually look like? Mom goes into the kitchen three or four times to fetch a new dish and bring it to the dining table? Amercian family-style service would put all food on the table at once and pass it around or alternately have the parents serve everyone by dishing up then passing the plates around.

  6. My family loves eat dinner when I serve it in courses. Eating slower really makes the meal more enjoyable. Thank you for the inspiration.

  7. Oops! Well spotted! Will fix that. One medium-sized onion. Not too little, not too much!

  8. Love these recipes – what a great idea – beet popcicles! One question – the cauliflower casserole prep refers to onions, but the ingredient list doesn’t include onions – how many onions do you use? Without the onions this would seem rather bland, so I’d like to use onions, but don’t want to use too many!

    Thanks,
    Amy

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