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Children's Dinners


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I'm going to the Netherlands for a year as an au pair and will have to look after 3 kids (4 year old twins and 6-year -old). I'm the youngest in the family and my memories of dinners when I was that age was well..whatever everyone else was having (rice and dishes!).

Here I am going to Holland and I have absolutely no idea what children in non-Asian countries eat! The parents of this family will eat separately(so I won't be cooking for them) from the children.

What do you feed your children for dinner? Recipes(not too complicated please)? Is it just one dish and say, salad? Or is it a few dishes (like I said, I really have no idea!)? Will I have to prepare dessert everyday(simple stuff of course..like jelly,fruits,creme caramel...)? And quantity? How much do kids eat exactly.... *sigh*

I don't think they'd appreciate me cooking chicken curry or ayam masak merah and rice all the time (will be living in a farm, in a tiny little town so there's a possibility that they've never tried foreign food).


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Broadly speaking Western style meals include a starch (bread, pasta, potatoes, maybe rice usually long grain. I'm speaking very broadly, before someone corrects me by mentioning arborio :rolleyes: ), a protein (meat, poultry or seafood) and vegetables (sometimes just one).

Protein tends to be the a larger portion of the meal (unless of course they are vegetarians) than is the case with most Asian style meals. Oftentimes dessert is served after dinner. Maybe a cake or ice cream. Fruit if they are more health conscious.

As for portions depends on the child. Would you believe that my 2 year old sometimes eats as much as me throughout the day, not in one sitting. You'll have to figure out that one when you meet the children in question.

I'll be back later with some recipes/menu suggestions. I gotta get my daughter off to school.

Edited by touaregsand (log)
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I found this website that might be of help to you. I don't know about Dutch children in particular, but I do know alot of European kids and other kids in general. Of course I don't know these children in particular. I don't think that the parents will expect you to understand right away what their kids like. You could just ask them before you go.

Generally kids like:

Cheese melted on bread, sprinkled on pasta

butter on pasta

plain tomato sauce on pasta

Meats, poultry and fish simple as possible, salt and pepper seasoning usually pan fried, roasted or grilled.

Vegetables cut small. Grated carrots or zucchini. Usually steamed, blanched or sauteed with salt a little butter or olive oil.

You can "sneak" more vegetables into a pasta sauce, soup or stew.

Breaded chicken tenders are another favorite.

Potatoes, french fried, mashed, sauteed, baked...

Basically protein, starch and vegetable.

If the older child ask for a knife at the table give her a blunt dinner knife, no steak knives at that age. No knives at all for the younger kids. Cut the food into bite size pieces for them. Some kids don't like to see specks of spices or herbs on their food.

I know a few who pretty much each anything, hope you luck out. The picky eaters can make you nuts. :biggrin:

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A few more thoughts:

If the children are Dutch, they'll probably be accustomed to eating quite a bit of cheese (not sharp cheese).

Also, many European children love Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread), spread on bread or toast as an afternoon snack, used to fill crepes as a dessert, etc.

You may be able to get them to try simple, not too spicy, Asian noodle dishes or fried rice. Leave out ingredients like scallions, which most kids pick out!


"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I wouldn't assume that they won't like Asian food. My parents lived in Holland for 5 years. The best Indonesian food I've ever had was in Holland. Indonesia was a Dutch colony for many years and there's still a sizable Indonesian population and influence in the country. Best place to get a ristaffel outside of Indonesia, I'd guess.

As for dutch food, I know a little. For fast food, they're partial to fried croquettes and fried potatoes (frites), those would probably be popular with the kids. Croquettes usually filled with a mild chopped up chicken mixture. Frites served with mayonaise, of course.

The dutch are very partial to cured meats, dark breads, and cheese, these were common lunches and snacks and universally available.

The most common fresh meat was pork, followed by chicken, and lamb. Beef was much less common, no space to raise it. The local vegetables are those common to northern latitudes, always had a lot of brussel sprouts and belgian endive (Belgium is right next door). And although it may sound stereotypical, many dutch meals are cooked in one big pot on the stove top (Dutch oven! Who'd a thunk it? :laugh: )

Also, it's a small country, so a trip to the big city now and then for ingredients, if you want to do it, shouldn't be too long of a journey. The train service is great.

Good luck!

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I don't know Dutch children, but I do know my own. I expect my children would enjoy your Eastern cooking about as much as they enjoy my Western cooking, completely unpredictably.

I'm sorry to break this to you and perhaps your charges will be wonderful but, they're fickle little beasts, kids are, what they like one day they might not the next. And you are guaranteed if you have 3 of them to care for, you will have three completely different sets of taste buds. My 5 year old son at this moment won't eat pasta, or rice, or tortillas, or chicken, or really potatoes either, although most Western children eat these as staples. He is all about fruit, bread, cheese, ice cream, peas, broccoli and yogurt at the moment. Occasionally I can sneak in a few other things.

One good thing is that most children prefer simple to fancy. You can start off with very basic things like yogurt with fruit and honey, or bread and cheese. Then get to know them, the children are old enough they will appreciate tremendously if you ask THEM what they like rather than making assumptions or asking their parents.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?


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The most common fresh meat was pork, followed by chicken, and lamb.  Beef was much less common, no space to raise it.  The local vegetables are those common to northern latitudes, always had a lot of brussel sprouts and belgian endive (Belgium is right next door).  And although it may sound stereotypical, many dutch meals are cooked in one big pot on the stove top

In my experience (lived in Amsterdam for 35 years) fresh beef is one of the most common meats, right beside pork and chicken. I would say lamb is much less common. Meatballs, sausages, schnitzels and other cuts that cook quickly are very popular.

Some Dutch classics are prepared in one pot (stamppot for example, a typical winter dish of potatoes mashed with a vegetable (sauerkraut, kale, turniptops..) or splitpeasoup), but a typical dutch meal (the kind most people still have on a day to day basis) is not cooked in one pot but in 3. It consists of a piece of meat (pan fried or braised), a cooked vegetable and boiled potatoes. The frying or braising of the meat provides a gravy that is poured over the boiled potatoes. Gravy is very important!

Dessert often is just a bowl of custard or fruityoghurt.

Ofcourse even in the Netherlands we have been introduced to foreign cuisines. In supermarkets you will find many "exotic " ingredients readily available.

Like children all over the planet, Dutch children can be picky eaters. However I think these children are lucky to have someone from another country come and cook for them. If you were coming to cook for my children, I would love it if you would introduce them to new flavours and customs, instead of cooking them the things that they're already used to. But that's up to the parents I guess! So maybe you can ask them in advance what their opinions on the subject are.

What's the name of the town you're going to live in?

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Oh, portion sizes. They don't eat that much at one sitting, maybe one small plateful total, but there are likely to be about 6 small sittings every day. My kids do breakfast, lunch, dinner plus 2-3 snacks daily. Snacks are usually fruit or bread based (either dried or fresh fruit) with milk or water.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?


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When my husband and I were kids we ate whatever our parents made us.

Kids these days! :angry::laugh:

My daughter attends a French private school with a very International student body. When her school mates come over I find that most like steamed calrose rice, roasted seaweed, soy sauce and miso soup. Some of them like fish cakes too. When cooking with soy sauce I find that kids of all extractions tend to prefer it sweetened with sugar. Also steamed rice with a touch of sesame oil and salt, rolled in roasted seaweed has become quite the thing for some of my daughter's classmates (non-Asian). Also pan fried tofu...

Honey/soy skewered meats are another favorite. Something about meat on a stick.

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Mother of three reporting. Sometimes they are hungry and eat voraciously, sometimes they just pick.

Some are picky eaters, some are not.

But, how you present the food is important. Describe it as fun, new, whatever, but just don't say "I'm not sure if you'll like this or not." Tell a story to accompany the food. A personal story from when you were a child. Don't necessarily feel you have to feed them as you've been fed as a child, but try and expand horizons.

Until you meet these kids, and eat with them, there's no way you'll know what you are getting into.

Will you be doing the shopping? If so, get the kids to go with you. Play food games.

Most of all, make food fun for kids. I do, and my kids are adventurous and willing to go along for the ride.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Thanks for all your help!

It looks like cooking for the children will be quite easy after all; meat,vegetables,potatoes and ready-made vla! :laugh: I practically never cook here though I do bake sometimes and when I DO cook Malaysian food, it takes me 2-3 hours because I'm made to do everything from scratch(my mum is one of those people who despise anything ready-made..even curry powder *sigh*)

Snowangel: Thanks for the tip. Time to start churning up stories but now I'm wondering if it's ethical to make up stories haha but that's what I'm going to do anyway. Anything to get them to eat!

Chufi: I'll be in Maarsbergen (doesn't have a train station but the Maarn train station is just 3km away) which is 18 minutes by train from Utrecht. :wink: She said, in the summer "it's all grass and you can see cows outside the window" :raz: I don't mind though, I quite like the country.

There's a possibility that the children might like Malaysian food(in fact I'm quite sure they'll like certain dishes) but I've heard that buying ingredients in Holland might be expensive and I guess that's something for their parents to think about and that's why I prefer to cook with whatever is available.

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When I was a nanny I asked the parents to make a list of the foods their children preferred. I also asked the main cook to give me a few pointers on preparation for the first week. They never refused and I was saved a lot of guesswork and wasted time.

I think most kids like simple things. The vegetable steamer was my greatest ally in the kitchen ,cooking for kids. Children also like to eat small amounts all through the day. So, if you make a large container each of cut up fruit and vegetables in the morning you'll have the beginnings of meals or snacks

when they are hungry.

Try plain, simple food at first and enjoy your time! :biggrin:

If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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