Summer may be over, but the weather is still warm enough to fire up the grill for burgers. If your kids already like traditional burgers, you can use them as a gateway food to introduce your kids to new flavors and ingredients. Here are four burger riffs to help your kids try some new foods and eat a bit more adventurously.
Before you try these burger riffs, three tips to keep in mind.
Start with sliders. Trying a new recipe is always a risk. If you serve sliders (small burgers) instead of full size burgers, you can try out these burger riffs without wasting food.
Get the kids involved. Kids are always more likely to eat things they’ve helped make. Burgers can be especially fun because you can use your hands to mix ingredients together and make patties.
Allow for constructive feedback (and the possibility of failure). I’m not above sneaking in healthy food to my kids’ meals without telling them (hello kale smoothies!), but more often than not, I’m upfront about a new recipe. I tell the kids that we’re trying out a new recipe for dinner and everyone has to try at least 2-3 bites and wait 10 minutes into dinner before giving feedback. Then we go around the table and talk about what we like, don’t like, and how we could improve it. I give my feedback too and it’s good for the kids to see that sometimes I don’t like the new recipe either! When I introduce new recipes this way, I’m always impressed with the feedback I get from my kids. Instead of just “Eww!” or “This is gross!”, I get comments like “I like the flavor, but the texture is a little weird” or “I think it tastes better without the sauce.”
Here are four ways to build off your family’s love of burgers.
1. Make a change to your meat.
If your basic burger is always made with ground beef, switch it up by making your patty out of a new ingredient. Try out this recipe for a super moist turkey burger (the secret ingredient is ricotta cheese!) or go decadent with a 50/50 bacon and ground beef blend (ask your butcher for a blend). Try this Trader Joe’s frozen Salmon Patty or skip the meat completely and try out this Quinoa Back Bean Burger. See if the kids can guess what the burger is made out by tasting it.
2. Switch out your sauce.
If your kids always slather their burgers in ketchup, mix it up by letting them help make and choose from three new burger sauces. (Hint: You’ll be able to sell these new sauces if you pair them with a complimentary topping.) Try a strip of bacon and this easy aioli sauce. Or pesto sauce with a slice of fresh mozzarella. Or a homemade BBQ sauce with sautéed or grilled onions. Consider serving it without the bun to help your kids see beyond the traditional burger.
3. Add in a new condiment.
Often times kids get in food ruts because we keep making them the same foods the same ways. Mix up your topping options and tell kids they need to choose at least one new burger topping – parents too! Branch out from cheddar cheese and offer pepper jack, smoked gouda or swiss. Try grilled onions or pineapple on your burger. Slice up an avocado or cucumber. Top with coleslaw or mango salsa. Give an award for the most creative, best looking and best combo. Again, making mini burgers like sliders allows kids to try multiple options.
4. Branch out from a traditional bun.
This Spiced Lamb Patties with Nutty Garlic Sauce puts many of these steps together into one delicious dinner option. It’s quickly become one of my family’s favorites. It may seem like a big jump from a traditional burger, but all the basic elements are there – a “bun” (the flatbread), a “patty” (an oblong-shaped lamb patty), and toppings (peanut sauce and herb salad). While my 6-year-old eats this as is (herb salad on top and all!), my 8-year-old prefers to eat the parts separately – a kind of deconstructed burger. Another family favorite are these DIY P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps which include a crunchy lettuce “bun” and a chopped up ground chicken “patty”. Of if you’re really feeling adventurous – try out this tomato bun!
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