Friday, March 11, 2011

Meals Kids Love: Meatballs

Jenny over at The Southern Institute for Domestic Arts and Crafts has been doing a series called Meals Kids Love. She’s doing a link up this weekend so we can all share a meal our kids love to eat, and I thought I’d join in.

There was another meal I wanted to share this week, but it takes more effort to prepare. I went with this one that is simpler, but maybe sometime I’ll still post that other meal.

I should probably admit that I am a terribly picky eater myself. Maybe that’s why I was ~blessed~ with picky eaters. I’ve gotten a little better as I’ve gotten older, but I can definitely sympathize with kids who don’t want to try new things.  As a parent, I’m always trying to find that balance between encouraging my kids to try new foods and making sure not to traumatize them.

Before I share my recipe, I want to tell you one method I’ve found that has helped me with the battle, and it works many times. Let me set the scene, and maybe you’ve had a similar situation. I’ll be home with the kids on a night when my hubby is away at class. I actually summon enough motivation to cook dinner even though I know the kids will probably turn their noses up at it. I cook the meal, set the table, and have the kids sit down with me to eat. I’m hungry and looking forward to eating the meal I have prepared. As soon as prayer is over (and sometimes before), the kids start complaining, saying they don’t want to eat what I made.

It might seem like I have two choices: to begin the battle or to cave in and make them PB&J sandwiches. One night, I decided to go a different route. I explained that I had worked hard to make them a nice dinner, and I was hungry. I was going to eat my dinner, and if they didn’t want to eat it, they could wait quietly at the table until I was finished for me to make them something else. There was some whining the first time I did this, but after watching me eat for a while, their resolve started to crumble. They asked to have some of what I was eating. No battle. No negotiating. And I didn’t make two meals that night. Golden!

Of course, this doesn’t work every time, but it has worked more times than I ever thought it would. What I love is that I get to eat my dinner in peace. They get to decide if their hunger outweighs their distaste for the food in front of them, and I usually get them to try new things without feeling like I forced them. It’s the perfect solution for those evenings when I don’t have the energy to negotiate, but I don’t want to give up entirely.

My kids are so unpredictable. They can love something one time and eat it up. Then, I can serve the exact same thing a few weeks later, and they won’t even take a bite. But most of the time, they like to eat these meatballs. They’re the same meatballs my mother made me when I was a picky eating child, and they were my favorite.

110309_0010-1a webTo make these meatballs, here’s what you need:

  • 1lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1 beef flavored Rice-a-Roni mix (or a store brand generic, which is what I use)110309_0003 web

Mix together the hamburger, egg, and the rice from the rice mix. Form balls about 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Place them in a skillet with a little oil. Brown the meatballs on all sides.

110309_0005 webAs you can see, I don’t always get every single part of the meatball brown. I do my best, but as I turn them over, they like to plop onto the side that’s already brown. Do your best, but don’t worry too much about perfection because you’ll be cooking them more.

Drain any grease.

Mix the seasoning packet with 2 and 1/2 cups warm water. Pour into the skillet with the meatballs. You may want to add some salt at this stage, or you can just add to taste once they’re done. Cover skillet and simmer for 20 minutes, turning them over once or twice so all the rice will cook. I like to simmer mine on a low heat so all the sauce doesn’t evaporate. That way, you can pour it over the meatballs sort of like an au jus. Cut one open to make sure they aren’t pink inside, and serve.

Since the meal already has carbs from the rice mix, I like to serve it with veggies or fruit. I usually like to make broccoli and cheese sauce with it, but I’m still working on my kids and broccoli. Tonight, I went with Caesar salad and orange slices.

110309_0006-1a webHere’s our meal! My youngest said she wanted applesauce instead of orange slices, but then she saw me cutting the orange and wanted some (of course). So she ended up with both. Just like my oldest refused the salad until she saw us eating it and wanted some, and she eventually asked for applesauce, too.

110309_0013-1a web110309_0014-1a webHow I love happy munching!

And the verdict? . . .110309_0017-1a web110309_0020-1a webThumbs up all around!110309_0025-1a webMy oldest ate everything but a little of her salad.

My youngest was a different story. She didn’t refuse to eat, but she only ate a very little of everything. She just likes to graze. She asks for snacks and milk all day long. I probably gave her too many crackers before dinner. Oh well. At least dinner was peaceful.

How about you? Do you have a go-to recipe that always seems to work with your kids? How do you convince your kids to try new foods? Join in the conversation. Become a follower. You’re always welcome at The Spare Time Continuum.

And be sure to come back Monday for my very first giveaway!!!


  1. Jocelyn, this sounds exactly like what happens at our house, including the younger one that asks for snacks ALL DAY LONG and then barely eats dinner. I'm so glad you shared this! It looks so easy and yummy to! I think I'm going to include everyone who links up in the Meals Kids Love archives so that all of these recipes don't get lost!

  2. Your kids are adorable and I am in love with their curly hair! Your youngest reminds me so much of Kristen's youngest, Kate!


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