09/02/2011 07:53 EDT | Updated 11/02/2011 05:12 EDT

Picky Eaters, the One-Bite Rule and the Power of Change


When it comes to feeding a family, it's remarkably difficult to make a meal that is universally appealing to the many hungry mouths at the table. As a somewhat picky eater myself, I understand and accept this reality, but as chief cook-in-residence it can be a challenging one to navigate.

After years of cooking for kids, I've learned that I don't believe in forcing anyone to eat something that begs for groaning and reflexive retching. There is nothing worse than sitting across from someone -- this could be adult or child -- who turns many shades of green before lifting a hand to his or her mouth to cover a potential eruption. The entire table falls silent as the table-mate either expels what's in their mouth, or swallows the goods with a little shudder. Not pleasant for anyone.

So, while I'm obviously against force-feeding, I am a firm believer in the one bite rule. At least one bite must be taken from each item on the plate. Two or three would be preferable, but one will suffice. In my experience, what starts off as one usually ends up as three or four or even 10, eventually. And the less fuss I make about these bites, the more likely they are to be taken.

What I've also learned is that if one of my children detests something, like a burger for example, and I serve it in a new and inventive way, the previously offensive food is now one of interest; something worthy of consideration. It doesn't matter that I was only creative out of necessity (no buns in the house, only four pickles in the jar and barely enough cheese to feed a mouse), the bottom line is, I was inventive. Something old was transformed into a new and fresh food; one that was worth considering. And eating. And enjoying. Making me realize that while my kids won't always happily nosh on what's before them, they are more interested in trying if the foods can be seen in a new light.

Baguette Burgers

• 1 lb ground beef

• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

• 1 egg yolk

• Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

• 16 slices baguette rounds, about 3/4 inch thick

• 4 pickles, divided into 16 pieces

• 4 thick slices of cheese, divided into 16 cubes

• 2 large pieces of romaine lettuce, torn into 16 small pieces

• 1/4 cup mayo

• Toothpicks

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the ground beef, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, egg yolk, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well.

Shape into 16 mini patties, approx. 2 inches in diameter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and cook for 14 minutes, or until the meat reaches the desired doneness.

While the meat is cooking place the baguette rounds on a large platter. Spread each with a smear of mayo and top with a piece of lettuce. Once the burgers are cooked, place one each slice of baguette. Top each with a cube of cheese and a piece of pickle and spear with a toothpick to hold it all together.