The Better Alternative to Serving Milk with Dinner
In Italy and France, parents do not have the custom of serving children milk with dinner. The reason is that milk is filling and can ruin a child’s appetite for the meal. In addition, the taste of milk conflicts with and overshadows the flavor of the food, making the food less interesting. Both reasons can interfere with your efforts to get kids to eat what’s on their plate.
By replacing the glass of milk with a course, you can introduce your children to a wider variety of foods, make their main dish more interesting, and serve a satisfying meal without needing to cook anything extra. So, instead of serving milk with dinner, do like the French and Italians and serve calcium-rich foods after dinner as a course.
Dessert- It’s Just Part of the Meal
In the U.S., Americans refer to anything served after the main meal as dessert, which has the connotation of being sweet and full of sugar. In France and Italy, something served after the main dish is just another course and is part of the meal. To show you how delicious and easy it can be to replace the milk at dinner with a third course, here are some nutritious ideas that are more exciting than a glass of milk and offer a delicious serving of calcium.
Plain yogurt is a typical last course for children in France. The French serve plain yogurt versus buying pre-flavored yogurt so they can control the amount of sugar and avoid additives. In France, it is typical to add sugar to the yogurt, although I prefer honey or fresh fruit as a healthier alternative for sweetening the yogurt.
Any honey will do, but it's a nice touch to add a specialty honey, such as honey infused with orange or lavender. You can find infused honey at a specialty shop, farmers' market, or perhaps at your local grocer. Infused honey adds an exciting layer of flavor.
Fromage Blanc with Raspberries and Blueberries
Fromage Blanc means “white cheese” in French. It is a soft mild tasting cheese that has a consistency similar to a thick yogurt like Greek yogurt. The creamy, cool texture will delight every member of your family. Fromage Blanc, with its slightly sweet taste, is divine on its own. The addition of honey, fresh berries, or fruit soup are also delicious combinations. Look for Fromage Blanc at your grocery, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s often have it.
Ricotta cheese with honey will also hit the spot. There’s nothing like hand-dipped ricotta cheese, and always worth grabbing some when you find it.
When you want to serve something extra special, try panna cotta. Panna cotta is an Italian treat made with just a few simple ingredients: cream, milk, sugar, gelatin, and vanilla extract. This elegant and impressive course takes 10-15 minutes to make and is one of the most celebrated desserts in Italy.
Another special treat, and so simple to make, is a Clafoutis. This is a traditional French dessert spelled both clafoutis and clafouti and pronounced Kla-FOO-tee. The texture of a clafoutis is a cake-like custard commonly made with pears or cherries. Some recipes are more like a cake. I prefer a lighter, creamier version, so you find I use only three tablespoons of flour. The rest of the ingredients are cream, milk, and fresh fruit. eggs and some sugar. It takes less than 5 minutes to prepare the batter, so it's fast and easy to make.
Try a savory clafoutis for an easy dinner idea, which is also perfect for leftovers.
Cheese and Bread
The discussion of serving a meal in courses French and Italian style would not be complete without mentioning one of the most popular after dinner courses- cheese and bread. Serving cheese and bread after dinner does not require any cooking or preparation and is an easy, delicious way to introduce new flavors to children. Milk is always the same, but cheese can be different every time you serve it.
To learn more about what types of cheese to serve after the main dish and how to store and serve cheese, click here.
Goat Cheese Tartines
When you are planning your third course, take a look in your kitchen and get creative with what you have. This was a last-minute idea and one that I now one I serve often. Toasted slices of baguette with goat cheese, drizzled with honey, and served with blueberries and basil.
A Sweet Ending
Whether or not you are serving something with sugar for your final course, it’s always a sweet ending when everyone is satisfied and enjoyed a well-balanced meal together. And serving “dessert” can help you accomplish this.
Instead of offering dessert as a special treat to entice children to finish their dinner, serve dessert every day and tell them this: Dessert is just part of the meal. We eat the first course- soup, salad, or veggies- then the main dish, then dessert. If they stop at any point, they must not be hungry, so they don’t need to move on to the next course.
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