A Real Happy Meal

Dutch Babies from bibberche.com

My girls are not the type to grab the box of cereal and milk, and call it a proper breakfast, even on the school mornings. If my alarm miraculously fails to scream the most obnoxiously repeated sound in my ear at the proper time, I have to go for the emergency cereal box and offer it to them, feeling inadequate and very guilty. But usually I make them omeletes, sunny-side-up eggs accompanied with a half of a grapefruit and some cottage cheese, french toast with raspberry sauce, roasted red peppers sauteed with cream cheese, slow-cooked oatmeal with brown sugar, dried cranberries, and cinnamon, crepes filled with apricot jam or Nutella, sauteed chicken livers, and their favorites, Dutch Babies.

They were not born this way, of course. I managed to create a few monsters out of perfectly normal girls raised in the heartland of America. They could have been just like thousands of their peers who truly enjoy a visit to McDonald’s and always order from the children’s menu in a family restaurant. They would not have looked at me as if I were speaking Swahili when I mentioned Hamburger Helper or Rice-a-Roni. They would not have writen in their first grade class cookbook of favorite meals that they first unwrap the toy, then eat a few fries, and toss the burger away, as my oldest did (not the best literary piece, I know, but it made me smile with pride and stop feeling guilty for not taking her to fast food places more often).

They decided early on that they liked real food, because I fed them real food. I did not buy the jars of baby food. Instead, I mashed my own vegetables, strained soups, blended stews, and cut up everything really tiny, perfectly sized for an army of Liliputians, and they learned to eat everything we ate: spicy food, sauerkraut, prosciutto, moldy cheeses, and even offal.

When we were planning her sixth birthday, Zoe asked if she could have mussels instead of ubiquitous pizza. I dissed the idea as impractical as most of her schoolmates would not have touched the mollusks from a mile away. I compromised with make-your-own pizza party, which the girls loved. Anya’s favorite dish is bouillabaisse, and she dreams of a day she can enjoy it al fresco somewhere in Marseilles, as she describes every detail of that extraordinary culinary experience as if it were happening right now. Nina devoured every morsel of caviar they served on the Volga cruise Father took her to a few summers back, and now eagerly awaits her twenty-first birthday so that she can enjoy the caviar and champagne tasting they offer at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

My ex-husband was flabbergasted when Nina asked for a platter of steamed crab legs instead of a grilled cheese sandwich and fries, counting the bills in his pocket and calculating the difference. She was only five at the time. None of them would eat the lunch provided by school if they had a choice in the matter. They like the crusty, Tuscan-style bread and ciabbata rolls instead of plain, white, soft bread wrapped in plastic that endures for months on the shelf without changing one bit. (We named it duck bread because we used to feed the ducks with it when we lived in the house on the lake in Ohio.)

Fresh from the farm eggs from bibberche.com

They have developed very refined tastes and even though it is hard for me when they whine if I offer Kraft’s Mac&Cheese for lunch (the stash is definitely Husband’s, along with many other extraneous and suspicious looking food products residing in boxes), and only halfheartedly accept a quesadilla when I refuse to whip up a gourmet sandwich much more to their liking, I cannot help but be proud.

My three girls will be able to survive on any continent, in any environment, and they will never have to be hungry because they are afraid to try something new. Their eye might sometimes wonder to the bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, but they know that they will enjoy more the tiny, crispy, flaky pastries or cheesy crackers I make for them occasionally.

To feed them this way costs much less and takes just a tiny bit more time out of my day, which is an investment I am not regretting. They have always been eager to help, and even though it drives me crazy when they take fifteen minutes to peel a potato or cut the onion, I invoke my inner mantra and meditate while they play with food, learning more and more every day.

I know that I am doing it the right way when I spend half an hour guiding my twenty-year-old through preparing Salmon En Papillote utilizing nothing but text messages on iPhone. She knows the elemental things of cooking and I supply the flourishes and details. Too much tomato, not enough lemon, and it really would have tasted better with cheese, she says. I smile, warmed by the sense of accomplishment. She knows what she likes, she is willing to experiment and change, she embraces creativity and refuses to conform. (I still would not add cheese to this dish, though).

Nina from bibberche.com

I don’t know what I’ll come up with for tomorrow’s breakfast. But this morning they each ate a whole, big Dutch Baby, all golden and puffy, dusted with powdered sugar, soft and yielding, exquisite in its simplicity. They planted big, wet kisses on my cheek before they sauntered off to school, thanking me for the best breakfast ever. And that always gives me more energy and strength than an extra big serving of Turkish coffee that awaits me at the table.


I make one batch, divide it in two and bake one after the other, as I have only one cast iron skillet. If you have two (I envy you!) but you can bake them together.


  • 1 cup of milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp butter
  • powdered sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 500F. Place an 8-inch cast iron skillet in the oven.

Mix together milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar, and salt until combined. Slowly add flour and mix until incorporated and no more lumps show.

Add 1 tsp of butter to the hot pan, pour half of the batter into the hot skillet and bake for 10-15 minutes until puffed-up and golden. Remove the pancake to the plate using a big, flat spatula and dust with powdered sugar.

Repeat the process one more time.

18 Responses to A Real Happy Meal

  1. What an awesome post!! It reminds me of my kids. My 6 yr old wont touch mac and cheese but will eat a whole wedge of Parmesan and she loves linguine with clams! My 2 year old has the appetite of a small bear and has been caught stealing from his sisters plate on many occasions :) I think I’ll try this Dutch Baby this weekend, maybe with a little drizzle of agave?
    Thanks Lana…

    • Lana says:

      Thanks, Gerry! My three girls are also different – fortunately mostly turned off processed and fast food. In time, they will grow their own gardens, I hope:) Love the idea of agave:)

  2. My children grew up with a broad range of foods to eat but they did not dictate what I served them; maybe that I grew up in a family with six kids, I brought that to our table. They could eat what I served them or not but I did not cater to any one person’s taste or allow their judging what I prepared! I think too many parents in America do that and then struggle with family dinners when the kids make it miserable for everyone. I guess my kids did benefit from my love of cooking and I’m happy they an adventurous spirit today. Heck…my oldest daughter took me out for sushi the first time!

    As far Dutch babies…they were always a favorite for a lazy morning breakfasts. We always called them German pancakes…did you know the Dutch moniker came from an American who started a restaurant selling smaller German pancakes and who maligned the word Deutsch?

    I only discovered that a few years ago when I was doing an article about my German grandparents and wondered why the St. Louis area that I always knew them to live in was labeled ‘The Scrubby Dutch’ – same mangling. That area of town was filled with German immigrants and alluded to their propensity to literally sweep their sidewalks and streets to keep them clean. OK, can you tell this one hit close to home. Kids, grandparents…if you had only talked about a dog I could have gone on! :)

  3. Oh these Dutch babies look SO good! I like Barbara’s explanation – makes sense!

  4. Lana, you are such a wonderful mom and Iove your recipe for Dutch Babies! I must make these for my boys soon! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Ilke says:

    I don’t have kids, so I will make these for myself this weekend. Preparing to clean the house after a month of not touching anything so this will be a nice breakfast before the work starts.

    Your girls are lucky to have you. Sometimes watching what other kids eat at the restaurants and fast food places make me wonder..”Really?? You are eating that??!” If we cooked more at home, we would not have some of the things the nation deals like obesity…

  6. Valentina says:

    Nina is beautiful. The Dutch Baby is beautiful! I will tell you one day what my older son’s favorite meal is (it’s too embarrassing say in the presence of so many foodies)! ;-)

  7. What a fabulous mom you are. My mother hated to cook, but still insisted on making every meal with food from our garden and meat from my former pet collection. Yes, I am still in therapy over that! I am grateful that she put me on the path of eating real food and not “boxed” food of any form. I still live by that today… except the eating of the pets part. :)

  8. How delicious, something I have never made before and it is something that I am about to try asap! think my little one will adore it too! thanks for sharing!

  9. My little one will adore these, I am going to make these asap! thanks for sharing!

  10. Gloria says:

    Lana, will you be my mom? Your kids are getting the real deal happy meals. That’s pretty awesome. Your daughter is beautiful by the way. :)

  11. Selma says:

    Draga Lana, svaka čast, uspjela si. U toj Americi tako zasićenoj ponudom junk food-a koji vreba sa svakog ugla, tih primamljivih TV reklama kojima se nudi to smeće uspjela si od svoje tako mlade djece stvoriti mlade ljude koji znaju istinski uživati u pravoj hrani. Dobro je i to što su tvoje djevojke i individualisti koji imaju svoj stav i ne žele pod bilo koju cijenu slijediti svoje vršnjake, pa sam sigurna da i u školskoj kantini biraju zdravi obrok.
    Zdrav i dobar doručak za početak dana je u mojoj obitelji odavno temelj. nema šanse da se izvuku iz kuće bez doručka. Tvoj meni mi se čini stvarno dobrim.
    Dutch babies i deserte tog tipa volim, a ovaj sa ovako fino pečenim rubovima izgleda super primamljivo.

  12. sippitysup says:

    I was raised much the same way as your girls. Good job I say. GREG

  13. Mary says:

    We adore dutch babies (I call them German Pancakes though) and I make them at least once a month. Just wanted to share, I make a triple batch and cook them all at the same time in pie plates. :) It works beautifully and we can all eat at the same time.

    • Lana says:

      Thanks for the tip, Mary! I was not willing to buy another cast iron skillet just for Dutch babies:) And, yes, I also heard the name German pancakes (Dutch is bastardized Deutsch:)

  14. I love this post:) And I so so hope my Ognen turns out at least a bit like your girls. Few weeks back I went to check out his future daycare (he starts next September…gulp!) and the first thing I asked was to see the menu (which, don’t get me started on…):) Hmmm…this Dutch baby looks like it would be a good treat for him this long weekend:)

    • Lana says:

      I remember how horrible food was when my oldest went to preschool in Serbia (she only started eating cabbage salad recently, having eaten it EVERY day for weeks when she was small:) I don’t have any doubts that Ognen will develop into a foodie – just give him time!

  15. […] Dutch Baby Pancakes by Lana of Bibberche Last, but not least, Gina had to share one of her deletable dessert recipe that will elevate brunch to a real celebration of Mom and all that makes her special! […]

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