The Jacksons, Week 12: The Adventures of Cooking for a Choosy Eater

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

sweet spicy popcorn picture

Sweet 'n' spicy popcorn was a tasty treat (and a break from healthy home cooking). Credit: Deidra Jackson

As expected, my son was candid when he wrote about my recent attempt at healthy home cooking: "My mom made this shrimp soup and it tasted nasty. I don't mean to be rude."

He was annoyed with my version of shrimp-and-sausage jambalaya, my second crack at preparing one of the more than 75 recipes featured inside the wonderful -- and meant to be kid-friendly -- Weight Watchers Eat! Move! Play!: A Parent's Guide for Raising Healthy, Happy Kids.

Just like the spaghetti pie (page 190) that I cooked weeks before this latest dish (page 178), Jackson didn't like it. And, remember, those broiled whiting fillets? Jack wasn't having any of those, either.

Was my jambalaya supposed to have a consistency like risotto (it did) or should it have resembled a sticky rice dish? The recipe had no accompanying photo, so I was a bit clueless. Researching this quandary on the Internet didn't help; I found numerous jambalayas resembling soups, casseroles, stuffings (referred to as "dressings" by those of us down South), and all other textures in between.

It's tough to always please a persnickety child like mine, but I have to wonder whether it's the low-calorie recipes or my personal style of cooking that's killing his taste buds. He just volunteered that it was the ingredients, and not my preparation. Thanks, son!

For me, the lean-but-appetizing meals in the Weight Watchers book aren't just visually appealing, but also great for their short preparation and cooking times. In addition to the easy step-by-step recipes and helpful nutritional information, the book suggests ways children can assist in the kitchen, from peeling shrimp to stirring a mix and scraping it into a pan.

I chose the shrimp-and-sausage jambalaya because I thought it would be hearty fare on these cold days; also, all the ingredients were familiar to me, and the time the recipe said it would take to assemble the ingredients (20 minutes) and cook the dish (35 minutes) were reasonable.

It also was an attempt for me to stretch my healthy-cooking repertoire. I'm trying to kick up a notch from toasting pita bread, steaming fresh vegetables and broiling fish.

So, one day after the jambalaya affair, my desire to be more kitchen-adventurous -- without the complexity -- inspired me to cook my own rendition of sweet and spicy popcorn. I concocted a recipe that called for adding a mixture of bubbling melted butter, brown sugar and chili powder to popped corn. It wasn't a low-cal dish, but a fun and out-of-the-ordinary snack.

That was one batch of popcorn that didn't last long.

Thanks, largely, to me alone.

It wasn't one of Jack's favorites.

But it's on to another recipe next week -- the pumpkin-pie muffins on page 115 of Weight Watchers Eat! Move! Play!: A Parent's Guide for Raising Healthy, Happy Kids. The book instructs me to get Jack involved by having him sift together the dry ingredients and sprinkle pumpkin seeds evenly over the tops of the unbaked muffins.

Let's see, 15 minutes to prep the ingredients and 20 minutes to bake ... whole-wheat pastry flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin puree and raw pumpkin seeds ... we'll give those a try.

Jack should at least eat one out of the 12. Right?

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

How is the Jackson family doing? Check in on their progress!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.