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How To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy? Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi Shows Us How She Does It

Cookbook author, food writer, and TV personality Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi’s most rewarding role is as mother of two little boys. She may have a thousand and one things on her to-do list, but that doesn’t keep her from taking charge of her family’s meals. Her challenge is the same one most moms dread: how to get your kids to eat healthy, balanced meals without a struggle. She shares delicious nutrition-packed recipes from her home kitchen that your kids will surely love. To get more of Stephanie Zubiri’s great home recipes, visit or pick up a copy of her cookbook Feast with Me.


Brown Rice, Vegetable and Mozzarella Arancini with Fresh Garlicky Pesto

Who doesn't love all things battered, breaded, and fried?! Kids love rice—and these arancinis get a healthy upgrade with brown rice and sneaky vegetables. The added bonus is that tasty cheesy center! They’re very easy to pick up and great for encouraging independent eating. The wine in the recipe is there to add taste, but don’t worry—the alcohol burns off during cooking. Try mixing things up and turning these into a complete meal by adding some cooked ground chicken or pork into the mix.

Serves 6 to 8

  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 white onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli, or pulsed in food processor
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped spinach leaves
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 packet paella spices or a pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 200 grams mozzarella, cut into very small cubes


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups fine breadcrumbs, seasoned with garlic salt and Italian herbs, if desired


1. In a deep skillet or casserole, over medium heat, heat some olive oil and melt the butter.

2. Sauté onion till golden and soft, then add broccoli and spinach. Cook for 2 minutes, and add the brown rice. Sauté rice until a little transparent, constantly stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add white wine and allow it to be fully absorbed.

3. Warm up the chicken or vegetable stock, then add the paella spices or saffron. Turn the heat down to low and add 1/3 of the stock to the rice. Keep stirring, and allow the stock to be completely absorbed before adding another 1/3 until you finish all the stock. Stir in the grated Parmesan. The risotto should be a bit drier than usual and not as al dente as it would be if you served it as a plain risotto. It should be slightly overcooked. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Allow the risotto to cool, then mix it thoroughly with a lightly beaten egg.

4. Prepare a baking sheet or a plate on the side. Take some risotto and form about 1 1/2-inch balls with your hands. Press a small piece of mozzarella inside. Re-form the balls so that the mozzarella is nestling firmly in the center, completely covered with the cooked risotto.

5. In 3 separate bowls, place the flour, the 2 slightly beaten eggs, and the breadcrumbs. Coat the balls or arancini in flour, then dip in the egg, before finally rolling them in the breadcrumbs.

6. In a deep skillet, heat some olive oil and carefully fry the arancini until they become a beautiful golden color. Sop up the extra oil from the arancini with paper towels. Serve immediately, with fresh garlicky pesto on the side (recipe below).


  • 2 heaping cups fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, or more as needed
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • freshly cracked pepper and salt, to taste

Pulse all the ingredients together in a food processor. You may add more or less olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Set aside.


Vegetable and Chicken Burgers

Use these as you would a meat burger patty—serve in a whole wheat bun with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and ketchup. You can also serve these with pesto and cream cheese and a smudge of cranberry jelly on the bun, topped with some alfalfa sprouts if your kids are extra adventurous. You may also use it in your favorite burger steak recipe. If you’d like to make it more appealing to adults or kids with more developed palates, you can increase the dried herbs to 1/2 teaspoon.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • splash of milk, to soften bread
  • 1/4 kilo ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup grated zucchini
  • pinch of dried thyme or Italian herbs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, for pan frying

1. Roughly chop onion, carrot, and garlic then pulse for a few seconds in a food processor until everything is finely minced.

2. In a large mixing bowl, soften bread slices in milk until they become mushy.

3. Add ground chicken, grated zucchini, and minced vegetables to the softened bread. Combine everything using clean hands. Season with herbs, salt and pepper.

4. Form burger patties to your desired size—you can do mini ones or full sized ones. Lay the patties on a baking sheet.

5. In a hot pan, heat some olive oil and pan fry the patties until golden brown and cooked through. Do not overcrowd the pan. If you are not using immediately, let them cool and evenly arrange on wax paper, on freezer proof trays. Freeze. When frozen, you can remove them from the trays, and store them individually in resealable bags in the freezer. To thaw, simply remove the patties from the freezer and thaw at room temperature. Heat directly in a fry pan over medium heat with some olive oil.


Roasted Squash Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is admittedly one of my own secret guilty pleasures but they are far from nutritious. This sauce sneaks in roasted squash and gives you that signature orangey “out-of-the-box” color. Amp up the nutrition factor by using whole wheat pasta.

Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped uncooked squash
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1/4 kilo macaroni pasta
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup cooking cream
  • 2 cups grated cheddar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a baking sheet, lay out the chopped squash evenly and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes or until soft.

2. While the squash is roasting in the oven, cook the macaroni as instructed. When the squash is cooked through, transfer to a food processor and add the chicken stock. Purée until smooth.

3. Transfer squash to a heavy casserole and increase the heat to medium. Stir in the cream.

4. Add the cheese and stir well. You can adjust texture by adding more cheese to thicken, or adding more stock to thin it out. Season with salt and pepper. Always season after the cheese has already been incorporated so you can control the saltiness. Toss with the cooked pasta and serve immediately.



A longer version of this article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 3, 2016
Recipes by Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi
Photography by Paulo Valenzuela
Food styling by Butchie Peña
Set styling by Athena Fregillana