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Deconstructed Stir-Fry

March 4, 2013

I used to judge parents whose kids were picky eaters.  “They must not be giving their kids enough exposure to other foods,” I thought.  “When I have kids, no way will I make multiple meals for the family.”

Then I had kids.

Our kids are maybe not the pickiest ever, but they do have opinions about what they will and will not eat at any given meal.  I try to provide three or so choices (usually two vegetables and a protein) at lunches and dinners, at least one choice being a familiar or comforting food in case another choice is new or one kid doesn’t like it.

  • Jamie has had several lunches in his life consisting only of peas.
I love peas!  And watching kids play soccer.

I love peas! And watching kids play soccer.

  • If chicken is an option, Audrey will only eat that of all that meal’s choices.  Or not, if she decides it’s not a chicken day for her.
I love Mommy more than chicken!  Most of the time.

I love Mommy more than chicken! Most of the time.

  • Theresa has almost never willingly eaten meat in her finger-food life (a rare exception being the bleu-cheese-stuffed burgers that Daddy made a few months ago–a girl after her Grampy’s and uncles’ hearts).
I love animals--maybe that's why I don't eat much meat.

I love animals–maybe that’s why I don’t eat much meat.

Sometimes they won’t eat anything, even if they have previously loved whatever is offered.  Which would be fine, except they cry.  And throw said unwanted food.

I can now truly understand giving in to the temptation to convert their diet to mac’n’cheese and pb&j.

I am also incredibly stubborn and am determined to provide healthy choices, and not get upset if my kids refuse all of them.

But…confession:  if a meal is too hard to eat with fingers or I think they will all refuse it, I will occasionally make them something else.  Ravioli, or quesadilla, or something they all eat.  Then Alan and I eat the stew or whatever after they go to bed.

So this last meal surprised both Alan and me.  It was new and involved a sauce, which we don’t usually do, partly because of the mess factor and partly because the girls are finicky about having gooey stuff on their fingers.

I made all the elements of a stir-fry and served them separately, letting them dunk the pieces into the peanut sauce.  They like dunking; it’s how I serve soup:  pieces of soft bread dunked in the soup instead of using a spoon.

Theresa ate more chicken with sauce at lunch the following day than she had perhaps in her entire life.  I could have fed her old tires if they were a vehicle for peanut sauce.


Audrey not only willingly ate something new, she loved the peanut sauce.


Jamie ate everything and wore his peanut sauce well.


Okay, so maybe no one ate the snow peas.  But I won’t stop trying.  Next time I add bok choy!

Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce

adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest


  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 4 Tbsp. rice or cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 12-oz. package tofu
  • cornstarch
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • steamed snow peas
  • 1/2 pkg. frozen edamame, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 pkg. soba noodles, cooked according to package directions


  1. For sauce:  Stir together peanut butter and boiling water until it’s an even consistency.  Use a little less water if you want the sauce to be thicker.
  2. Add rest of ingredients through sesame oil, and mix well.  Set aside.
  3. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch “steaks” (cut cross-wise).  Dust with a little cornstarch.  Heat sesame oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.  When oil is hot, fry the tofu on each side until light brown.  Drain on a paper towel.

Serve stir-fry to toddlers:  1 bowl of peanut sauce, 1 plate of tofu, 1 bowl of cucumbers, 1 bowl of snow peas, 1 bowl of edamame, and 1 bowl of noodles.  Kids can take what they like and dunk in their peanut sauce.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Neal & BJ permalink
    March 5, 2013 4:22 pm

    Amen for the peanut sauce!! Great pictures. See y’all soon!

  2. Emily permalink
    March 5, 2013 11:05 am

    I never thought I would have a picky eater either. And when I tell other people that I think Brianna is picky, they usually look at me funny. But if it isn’t a carbohydrate, it will probably take some work to get her to eat it. So I usually dole out a small portion of the carbohydrate along with the other food that is for dinner (she gets what we are eating, possibly rinsed off if it is spicy). She has to eat the other food in order to get more carbohydrate. I think that the picky eater stuff gets worse for a while before it gets better. But good job making them eat healthy food. I don’t know a lot of other parents who do that.

    • March 7, 2013 2:27 pm

      I hear you about the carbohydrates! If my kids could subsist entirely on plain bread, tortillas, and pasta, they’d be happy. And bananas and grapes. I’m glad you and I are holding the line, even if it’s frustrating!

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