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:
- Vegetable starter
- Protein-rich main dish, with vegetable side
- Dairy (Your choice, but usually yogurt or cheese)
- Dessert (usually fresh fruit, but I’ve included a recipe for a sweet treat below!)
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):
- Starter: Beet Salad (bonus: you can make beet popsicles afterwards)
- Main: Tomates Farcies (stuffed tomatoes) and Cauliflower Casserole
- Plain yogurt with a spoonful of honey
- 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.