“Children like food that’s quick and fun, so sometimes you have to be creative if you want them to eat healthy, too,” says mother of two Meridith Satterwhite, who owns Three Little Birds Café with her husband, Ryan. After their daughter, Marlee, was born in 2004, the couple began to realize how limited kids’ menus were at most restaurants. “We wanted something more nutritious than chicken fingers,” she explains.
At the time, Meridith, a graduate of Trident Tech’s pastry program and former pastry chef for Mistral, was working as a freelance baker. Ryan, who attended the Le Cordon Bleu Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, was head chef at Il Cortile Del Re. They decided to combine their grown-up culinary experience and open one of West Ashley’s most kid-friendly restaurants, where the offerings include peanut-butter-and-fruit sandwiches and pita pizzas topped with vegetables. “You just have to make healthy additions to foods children already like,” says Ryan.
The magic wand in this couple’s kitchen? A food processor. “You can use it to pack a pasta dish full of veggies without little ones even knowing,” notes Meridith. “We like to make a puree from carrots, zucchini, and squash and then mix it into a marinara sauce for spaghetti.” Another favorite ingredient is cauliflower. “If you steam it first, it purees really well and can then be disguised in dishes like mac ’n’ cheese and lasagna.”
Just be careful not to go overboard. “Add vegetable purees into your sauces according to taste, but keep in mind that children will stand less vegetable flavor than you will,” Ryan advises.