Chefs’ Picks: Kid-Friendly Snacks

Chefs are put to plenty of challenges, but pleasing picky kids can confound even the most-acclaimed professionals. Here, a few chefs share their creations that will satisfy pretty much any kid’s snacking dreams.

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

Chefs are put to plenty of challenges, but pleasing picky kids can confound even the most-acclaimed professionals. Here, a few chefs share their creations that will satisfy pretty much any kid’s snacking dreams.

Bacon Fries

Inspired by the kid-friendliness of french fries, Chef Nico Romo of Fish in Charleston, S.C., decided to play with an applewood-bacon update. The crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside potato logs are filled with shredded potato and finely chopped bacon for a cross between hash and classic fries. They’re great for dunking in ketchup.

Bacon Fries

6 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and shredded, or 6 cups frozen shredded, unseasoned hash browns, thawed and patted dry

1/2 cup cooked bacon, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Canola oil

Place shredded potatoes in a perforated pan or steamer basket above 1 inch of water in a large pot. Cover, making sure the lid is tight. Bring water to a boil over medium heat and steam for 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, add chopped bacon, cornstarch, salt, pepper and steamed potatoes while still hot. Mix all ingredients until well blended.

Cover all surfaces of a loaf or baking pan (no larger than a 9-by-5-inch pan) with plastic wrap and spoon in potato mixture, spreading gently to form an even layer. Cover the top with plastic wrap.

Fill a pan of roughly the same size with pie weights or dry beans and place directly on top of the potatoes, making sure there is sufficient pressure to flatten. Chill in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a large skillet to 350 degrees F.

After chilling, remove weights and carefully lift out the potato “loaf” using the plastic wrap to support it. Cut the loaf in half across the length. Then cut into 1-inch-thick strips. Place into skillet and fry in batches until golden brown on all sides.

FNK AVOCADO RANCH DRESSING Food Network Kitchen Food Network Avocado, Buttermilk, White Wine Vinegar, Garlic, Chives, Dill, Parsley

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Avocado Dip

As executive chef at Chevalier in New York, Shea Gallante spends his day cooking upscale French food, but he comes home to his pickiest customers: his kids. The father of three created a special avocado dip, similar to this one from Food.com. “Kids generally do not like the taste of cilantro or spiciness, but it is a good way to get them to eat avocado,” he says. For slightly more discerning palates, this Food Network version features chives, white wine vinegar and scallions. Cut-up vegetables and pita bread make great dunking mechanisms.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Most kids would gladly eat mac and cheese for every meal. As a father of three, Chef Mike Rakun — who focuses his Minneapolis restaurant Mill Valley Kitchen on healthy California cuisine — is often dreaming up healthier takes on the classic. One winner? Fold butternut squash into the pasta. “We wanted to present a familiar kids' favorite, but made healthier by the swap of butternut squash for some of the cheese sauce,” he explains. “It’s still orange, it still looks like regular mac and cheese, but now we are introducing new ingredients that make it better for you and expands kids’ palates.”

Pumpkin Dip

At Quality Eats steakhouse in New York, healthier meals are sneakily disguised as snacks alongside classic kid dishes. Chef Ryan Bartlow dreamt up a roasted pumpkin spread served with toast points and Granny Smith apples for younger diners. "For this dish we roast kabocha squash,” he says. “It’s a healthy, delicious and fun treat for kids.” For a sweeter dessert-style take using canned pumpkin, try this Food Network recipe.

Photos courtesy of Fish, Mill Valley Kitchen, Quality Eats
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