Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Better Bakery. While I have been compensated for my work, all thoughts and opinions expressed below are mine.
It’s no secret that I don’t have the most adventurous eaters in my family. I wouldn’t classify them as picky (although each individual member has their quirks), but I certainly don’t have free reign in the kitchen to serve whatever I want. At least, not if I want everyone to eat a square meal with minimal complaining. So, let’s not call them picky. Let’s call them challenging.
Most of the time I’m up for the challenge. I enjoy cooking, and I love trying to expand their boundaries little by little. Family dinner is very important to me. I’ve learned over the years how to do this without freaking anyone out (for the most part) by following a few rules:
1. Mix tried and true classics (like my most-requested tacos) with a new dish in the weekly menu plan. If the new recipe is a bomb, tacos (or whatever other beloved meal) is on deck for another day.
2. Always balance new foods with foods I know everyone likes. If it’s a new main dish, I make sure all the sides are pleasers. If it’s a new side, I pair it with a familiar protein, bread and fruit.
3. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it. If you try it and don’t like it, thanks to Rule #2 you’ll still have plenty to eat.
4. There is no backup meal. I’m not a short order cook, so what you see is what you get. Again, thanks to Rule #2 you won’t starve. And thanks to Rule #1, something you like better will make an appearance another night.
5. If at first you don’t succeed (and it’s not a dry-heaving failure like the Brussels Sprout Incident of 2009), try again. And again. And about twenty more times. One day you’ll serve cucumbers for the twenty-first time and they will like them.
Side dishes probably give me more grief than any other cooking I do. It’s so easy to get into a rut, especially when the people you cook for aren’t very adventurous in the fruit and vegetable department. If I’m not careful, we’ll end up eating the same rotation of green beans-corn-carrots-apple slices every week. Reminding myself of Rule #5 has helped expand our side dish repertoire to include many dishes I never thought we’d all happily eat (though not, sadly, Brussels sprouts).
These Spiced Clementines are just one example. For years I only bought canned mandarin oranges. We’d all eat them half-heartedly, but we weren’t excited about them. They just kind of took up space on the table and filled in for our daily fruit requirement. I love buying clementines during the winter, when they’re in season and so reasonably priced. Tossing a clementine in a lunch box is fine, but for sit-down meals I like to serve my sides with a little more flair.
Spiced Clementines have flair alright – they’re like a side of sunshine. Not only are they easy to make ahead of time, they’re pretty to serve and delicious to eat. Taking a food your kids already like and preparing it in a slightly different way shows them that familiar ingredients can be enjoyable in a variety of ways. Playing with new flavorings and spices, such as cloves and star anise, opens them up to trying new flavors. Eventually that can open picky palates up to entire new foods and flavor profiles.
I paired these Spiced Clementines with Better Bakery Handcrafted Melts. These tasty hand-rolled sandwiches go from freezer to the table in twenty-two minutes or less. I love the Chicken & Bacon Club, while the rest of my family reaches for the Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza. With a batch of Spiced Clementines in the fridge and a stash of Better Bakery sandwiches in the freezer, we’re never more than a few minutes away from one of those mythical square meals with no complaining!
This dish is a great way to use up those last few sad, slightly shriveled clementines you might normally throw away. Even the driest and saddest of clementines will perk up in the spiced syrup and taste fantastic! Bonus: when the clementines are gone the leftover spiced syrup makes an excellent sweetener stirred into coffee or tea. You can substitute tangerines or mandarin oranges for the clementines. Serves 4.
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves (whole)
1 star anise pod
8 clementines, peeled and sliced
Bring water, sugar and spices to a simmer over medium-high heat. Allow to simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Place clementines in a heat-safe bowl and pour hot spiced syrup over them. Let clementines rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.
Made by hand in small batches, Better Bakery sandwiches are a tasty, easy and kid-friendly meal option you can feel good about serving. Look for Better Bakery Handcrafted Melts, including Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza and the Chicken & Bacon Club, in the frozen aisle at Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, HEB and Harris Teeter. While checking out all the offerings online, be sure to print out a coupon to save $1.50!