Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Autism Sensory Cookbook: Mushy Edition

To call our kids "picky eaters" is to make a laughable understatement.  So many of us have tried to break our kids out of the fries-pizza-ketchup diet (or fill in what your kid eats here_____________) and we just end up feeling frustrated and eating the food ourselves.  Then we feel frustrated and really, really full.

Our family had a major breakthrough when we discovered that the boy would eat chili.  Miracle of miracles!  Here was a food that we liked, and he liked, and we could all enjoy together.  So I made pots and pots of chili.  Every week, the crockpot was bubbling with chili.

We got really sick of chili.

What I learned, though, that it was the consistency of the chili that was important.  He liked mushy food he could eat with a spoon.  He only ate ground meat.  (And chicken nuggets, but let's not kid ourselves.  They are ground.)  If we told him it was chili, then he ate it.  Soon, we were moving onto meatloaf and eggs and other mush.  Then I got clever and started sneaking veggies into the food.  Now I'm the Mushy Veggie Iron Chef Ninja!  (I need a better name.)
I love this effin' thing.

How do you do it, Mushy Veggie Iron Chef Ninja? you may ask.  Well, let me tell you.

First, get yourself one of those Pampered Chef chopper thingies.  (This is not a paid endorsement.) 
They chop stuff up into teeny pieces and are satisfyingly loud and thumpy to use.  Great for getting out aggression.

Then, start by introducing veggies your kid already likes, or will never notice.  I put zucchini in everything because it has no detectable taste.  Peel it first if you think they'll get suspicious about anything green.  Chop it up really small, sauté to soften, and hide it in whatever you're cooking.  If your food is brown, mushrooms are good.  I've even fooled Big Bro by telling him the mushrooms were sausage pieces.  Now I chop-n-hide zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. 

Now, I start with some veggies that look like this:
Onions and peppers and zucchini!  Oh, my!

And then I add it to whatever I'm cooking to make...
Meatloaf Cupcakes!
Hose 'em with ketchup and they'll never see the veggies.

I use gluten-free breadcrumbs for these.  I bake the meatloaf in these disposable tins and freeze them.  Then I just pop out single servings and nuke 'em up.  (I cannot take credit for this idea.  I have a good friend who's on Pinterest a lot.  A lot.)

When we realized he likes eggs, I started scrambling up this mess:

He inhaled this.  I swear.  It's all about mush with him.

I call these "Hamburger Eggs," though there's no meat in them.  I find if I add the name of a food he already likes to whatever I'm cooking, he's more likely to try it.
With the boy, it's about texture.  Maybe that's the key with most kids.  We just have to figure out how to make their favorite textures somewhat healthy.  So I'll leave you with two vaguely written recipes--"Hot Dish" and "Egg Mess."

Note:  I don't know from measurements or time.  Put in enough and cook it 'til it's done.

HOT DISH*  (My husband named this for the unidentifiable slop you'd get in the cafeteria at school--except it's good.)

*AKA "Chili Pasta"--see?  Tricked him!

1 lb ground turkey or beef
2 cups cooked elbow macaroni  (We use gluten-free)
Whatever veggies you can take
Tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, or pasta sauce.

Chop and sauté onions, peppers, or whatever veg you want.  In a separate pan, break up the ground meat into tiny bits and cook.  Drain the fat.  (Or keep it--I won't judge you.)  Add the veg, pasta sauce, and any spices.  We like red pepper flakes.  Throw in the macaroni.  Allow to simmer for a bit and serve.  (Sometimes we sprinkle a little cheese on it if we're feeling crazy.)

I don't have a picture of this, but it looks like hamburger helper--without all the sodium and guilt.

EGG MESS  (This is my version of a frittata, but if I said the word "frittata" to my kids, they'd run.  Call it "Egg Mess" and they ask for seconds.)

1 dozen eggs
1/2 c. milk (I'm totally winging it on this measurement.  I don't really know how much.  Just add milk.  Or don't.  I doubt it matters.)
Tater tots
Bacon, if you want.
1-2 cups of shredded cheese
Whatever veggies you want.

Preheat the oven to 350 or 400.  Lightly spray a rectangular pyrex with Pam.  Line the bottom of the pyrex with tater tots.  Do the choppy/dicey thing with the veg.  Fry up the bacon.  Set it aside to cool and then crumble.  Drain some of the fat, but not all.  Cook the veg in the leftover bacon grease.  Sprinkle the bacon and veg over the tots.  In a big bowl, beat the eggs with some milk and salt and pepper.  Pour egg mixture over the tots/bacon/veg.  Sprinkle cheese on top and bake for an hour or so.  (Check and make sure the top doesn't get too brown.  Cover it with foil if you're nervous.)

I like it with Crystal Hot Sauce.  The boys like it with ketchup, of course.

I don't have a picture of this, either, but it looks like a big-ass frittata.  And it's really good cold the next day.

Wow, this is the most domestic I've ever sounded like!  I don't cook every day.  I like to cook once or twice a week and then live off it.  In fact, I didn't cook a damn thing today because I was too busy writing, but nobody noticed or cared.  It was a Chef Boy-ardee and Glutino pizza night!

Bon appetit, yo!


  1. Hahahaha you're awesome.
    I have a rice cracker addict. He screams if he finds vegies, never thought to use my food processor. So blonde.
    He steals my smoked salmon a lot. Luckily he never steals my rum.

  2. I love egg mess frittata!!!! I know it as my aunt Cheri's country breakfast.

    Also: Mac & cheese with fried spam chunks. I don't know why, but it works. No idea if that will work for your mushy food requirements, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

    Also also: I LOVE THIS POST.

  3. I wish my daughter would eat some of that stuff. My daughter only eats dry and bland things like cereal and crackers. And pizza. Why pizza? Because:Autism. That's why.