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How to get kids to eat fish

Once upon a time, Aunt Toby and the DH wanted the Little Siberians to learn to eat fish and we made the mistake of introducing them to fish fingers and batter-dipped filets baked in the oven. Yes, it is fish, but it’s fish that is sort of hidden under a lot of other stuff. We didn’t trust the kids to actually like fish. I think that’s a mistake. The Little Siberians got bigger and learned to like other forms of fish that hadn’t been so doctored up and we learned a couple of tricks in terms of introducing kids to new foods:

First – there is nothing wrong with doing a riff on something they already like. It takes a pretty sophisticated palate to like fish such as haddock or cod right out of the chute. “Mildly flavored’ doesn’t even begin to describe the way kids feel about it in its unadorned state; that’s why breaded, deep fried fish is so popular with kids (Mickey D’s has built an entire industry around those sandwiches): that breading and the grease from the deep frying give kids a stronger taste that they recognize and accept easily. But there are other tastes that kids recognize and that you can use to your advantage with fish that is frankly bland:

Italian Food: If your kids like anything with tomato sauce and cheese on it, don’t be afraid to bake fish such as haddock and cod with the same treatment. Or, if you want to go completely sophisticated, chop up veggies and tomatoes, add the appropriate spices (basil and oregano for Italian; cilantro, garlic and chili for Mexican) and bake in a 350 degree oven until done and if there is cheese, it’s all bubbly.

Chinese Food. If your kids like Chinese or Asian of any sort, tonight’s recipe is for you. Frankly, it’s an idea I cribbed from the fish display at my local Wegmans where they’d taken strips of fish filet and stuffed it and baked it. Now, I certainly don’t have crab meat laying around the fridge at Chez Siberia, but I had some other stuff and my son raved about this so much, he asked for seconds and then tonight asked for me to make it again, a sure sign that it’s a keeper.

Chinese Mushroom-stuffed Fish
Fish: filets of totally bland tasting white fish such as haddock or cod, cut into 1” thick strips, with no skin.
Mushrooms – whatever you’ve got, chopped really fine. 3-4 ounces of mushrooms chopped fine will fill up 6-8 of these little fish donuts.
Ginger – I used sushi ginger from the jar, but grated fresh ginger will do as well – see the photo for the relative size of the piles of ginger and mushrooms you will need.
Binder – I used Thai peanut sauce, but whatever Asian sauce, Asian salad dressing or whatever will do – use enough so that the mushrooms and ginger will stick together.
Mix all the filling ingredients together.

Grease a baking sheet and taking the strips of fish, make circles with them on the baking pan. Fill with the mushroom filling and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until done (don’t let the fish get dry).

Serve with Chinese stir fried veggies and either rice or noodles.

For more strongly flavored fish, I saw another really clever trick at the same store: This will work with fish that comes in steaks. Cut into big chunks, marinate in spiedie sauce (if you can find it in your area – it will be in the same area as the salad dressings and the bbq sauces) or some sort of bbq sauce such as Mexican. Put on skewers with veggies and grill. Serve with a salad, pasta or if you want to go totally ‘old school’, Italian bread for a fish spiedie sandwich. We had these once and they were fantastic – got a big thumbs up from everyone at the table.

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