Feeding fish to kids is often a tricky proposition, as children are more sensitive to certain tastes and smells, which can include "fishy" ones, than adults -- and kids are also often reluctant to try new foods. While you might be tempted to skip the fish experience completely, keep in mind that fish, such as cod, are high in brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids -- and high in protein and low in fat. So instead of opting out of a fish challenge, try out a child-friendly fish recipe. Cod is more or less interchangeable with other firm-fleshed white fish such as pollack, halibut, mahi mahi, tilapia or snapper.
Kids love fish sticks, perhaps because they're breaded and fried and served with ketchup. Commercial fish sticks typically usually utilize pollack -- a close relative of cod because it's cheap and abundant, but you can substitute true cod if you like. You can also bake instead of fry your homemade fish sticks for less mess and less fat. To prepare, coat the cod sticks in toasted panko -- or crushed cornflakes if you don't have panko in the house. Dip the sticks in beaten eggs and then in the toasted panko or crushed cornflakes again. Bake the sticks in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, turning once. Serve with baked homemade fries for a healthy, fish-and-chips dinner.
Bacon-Wrapped Fish Nuggets
If your kiddo is dubious about fish but loves bacon, try combining the two to entice him to give the fish a try. Cut cod fillets into nugget-sized chunks, wrap in bacon, and then bake on a cookie sheet drizzled with oil or sprayed with cooking spray at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Voila! -- bacon-wrapped fish nuggets. Serve with a light vegetable side dish such as steamed broccoli or a cucumber salad.
Fish in Parchment
Cod filets baked with vegetables in a parchment paper package make for an entertaining surprise for children, who can unwrap their "packages" right at the table to discover what's inside. The fish and vegetables are steamed together for a healthy all-in-one meal. For each serving, take a 15-inch square of parchment paper and place it on a cookie sheet. Place a cod filet on top. Add a few thin slices of potato plus a small handful of green vegetables such as whole bok choy leaves, green beans, asparagus spears, snow peas or snap peas. Dust with some chopped fresh parsley or thyme if you like. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice -- or add a thin slice of lemon to the packet. Fold the paper up, tuck the ends of the paper underneath to secure the packet and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. When serving, assist your child with the unwrapping -- and watch out for the hot steam!
Fish tacos can consist of either sauteed fillets or breaded pieces of cod -- whichever you think your child is more likely to eat. You can prepare the breaded pieces of cod by coating them in panko or crushed corn flakes -- and then baking them in the oven, just like the fish sticks. To saute fillets, drizzle a small amount of oil in a saute pan and heat until simmering. Dredge the cod pieces in flour, then place them in the pan and cook until they're opaque in the center, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Tuck them into flour tortillas and top with coleslaw and a little bit of salsa plus a squirt or two of lime juice. This is another all-in-one recipe that needs no accompaniment, although sliced avocado might work well.
Fish cakes come from the British Isles -- and are a crafty way to use up leftover fish. If you don't have leftover fish, however, you can simply pan-fry cod filets and then mix them with bread crumbs or mashed potatoes, plus herbs and garlic. Add an egg for binding, form into patties and pan-fry. Serve with tartar sauce, ketchup or cocktail sauce. Include green beans or a rice pilaf as accompaniments.