Picky Eater Tips: Get Messy in the Kitchen – Caramel Pecan Brioche Rolls

Breakfast and Brunch, Breakfast Breads, Kid Friendly Recipes, Picky Eating, Yeast Breads | 39 comments

At 15 months we learned that Logan had a severe peanut allergy, and we learned it the hard way: allergic reaction. Almost immediately we saw his predispositions toward being a picky eater turn into something much more.

Imagine your child being on guard all the time. And over time that fear of unknown foods turning into a habit. Suddenly, your child doesn’t like eating at all and emotionally loses it when around new foods – but he doesn’t even know WHY he is feeling that way. As parents, suddenly we found that despite our best efforts, Logan began to eliminate more and more foods from his diet.

logan on the slide

Food became a power-struggle. I was in a constant state of worry about Logan’s nutritional intake. And already on the smaller side, food strikes were not an option.

One of the most helpful parts of our picky eater experience was the time we spent in feeding therapy with Logan. Essentially that meant that we had bi-weekly appointments with an occupational therapist who specialized in feeding. We learned that Logan wasn’t really a picky eater, but a “Problem Feeder.”

The OT helped us learn techniques to encourage Logan to try new foods and expand his diet and to understand why this was happening. She also helped us break down the wall Logan had built against new foods. In the beginning of therapy (and at home) Logan couldn’t even handle having a new food on his plate without a debilitating meltdown. We also worked closely with a registered dietitian so we could closely monitor his nutrient intake.

kneading bread

Through therapy, our therapist worked with Logan to get him comfortable around new foods without the pressure of having to try something. Basically: we played with our food. A lot. We made jokes about it. Cut everything out with cookie cutters. Made our meals more appealing. Logan had to re-learn that he could be safe around food. And he’s still learning.

What I first saw as something rather silly is now something that I am very passionate about. Yes, sometimes elbows are on the table, napkins on the floor rather than laps, and even I have been guilty of eating with my fingers. I won’t even tell you the things Eric has done. But I will tell you: He is very much in touch with his inner child.

Play with Your Food

I know we’re trying to teach our kids table manners, but playing with food means you’re touching it and that’s one of the first steps to trying something new.

  • Make fun shapes our of sandwiches. You can go all artistic and fancy like these at Funky Lunch. Or just cut sandwiches out with a simple cookie cutter.
  • Make sail boats with cheese triangles and crackers.
  • Paint with chocolate pudding and pieces of fruit.
  • Roll out some dough. Kids love rolling pins for pizza, pie crust, or cinnamon rolls.
  • Remember to keep it pressure-free.

Involve Kids in Grocery Shopping

If you’re a mom with small children, you’re probably sighing at the thought of this. Trust me. I’m right there with you. BUT, the grocery store is a great place to teach your children about food without the pressure of eating anything.

  • Talk about the different colored produce.
  • Allow them to choose 1-2 new things per shopping trip as something new they’d like to try.

Let Kids help with Meal Prep and Menu Planning

Encourage kids to help out with meal selection. Just because they are kids doesn’t mean they won’t have great ideas. Plus, children who are involved in the meal preparation are more likely to eat what they’ve helped create. When appropriate, let them help as much as possible!

  • Logan isn’t to the point where he can realistically help plan the dinner menus, but he is great at helping choose ideas for breakfast.
  • Give a choice between a few options and let them select.
  • Set aside small tasks from a recipe that are age appropriate: tearing lettuce leaves, peeling an orange, stirring muffin batter, etc.

And so I’m really excited to tell you about the Clorox Cook up a Mess contest with you. Clorox thinks it’s awesome to get messy in the kitchen too and they’re offering a trip for 4 to New York for the person with the best getting messy story.

Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner removes tough stains, grease, and dirt, and most importantly, germs you might find after working with raw eggs or meat in kitchen activities.

If you’re interested in entering, head over to the Clorox Facebook Page for more contest information. Need some mess making ideas? Check out the cool resources here.

getting messy in the kitchen

We’re not in feeding therapy anymore and Logan is no longer considered “at risk.” I’m happy to report he is doing quite well compared to the day we started therapy.

He eats a wide variety of fruits, a couple vegetables, loves cheese and yogurt, and enjoys almost anything I make for breakfast.

He’s learned to put up with our monthly challenges where we focus on one new food for the entire month, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped getting messy in the kitchen.

picky kids in the kitchen

Logan’s in school every day now, but I let him help me as often as possible. The great thing is that I’ve been able to use the skills we learned in therapy continually in home and apply them to Madeline as well.

My kids are both very much a part of what I do as a food blogger. From taste testers, to grocery store companions to helping hands, we’re in the kitchen together (making a mess) all the time. They like taste testing best.

Kitchen messes are definitely not all bad. In fact, yesterday’s mess was so very worth it.

recipe for caramel cinnamon rolls

More Picky Eater Posts:

Caramel Pecan Brioche Rolls

Print Save Recipe


For the Dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 packets granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups melted butter
5 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups freshly ground whole hard white wheat flour

For the Caramel Topping:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
30 pecan halves

For the Filling:

4 tablespoons salted butter, soft
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


To Prepare the Dough:

Dough is best prepared the day before.

Add the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, melted butter and water to a 5 quart bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the all purpose and whole wheat flour to the liquid mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, or use a stand mixer with a dough attachment.

Cover the dough and let rest for 2 hours, at room temperature, until doubled in bulk. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill. After chilled, remove a 1 1/2 lb. portion of the dough. Store the remaining dough covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, otherwise you can freeze it in 1 lb. increments for up to 4 weeks.

To Prepare the Topping:

Combine the butter, salt and brown sugar in a bowl and beat until well creamed. Spread in a 9 inch cake or pie pan. Evenly arrange the pecans on top. Set aside.

To Prepare the Rolls:

Combine the ingredients for the filling: butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and beat until well creamed. Set aside.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle 1/8 of an inch thick. Spread with the filling and roll starting on the long end until it is in a log shape. Then, using a serrated knife, slice into 8 portions. Place on top of the prepared pan. Cover and let rise for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. After rising, bake for 30-40 minutes. Dough should be set in the middle and golden brown.

Immediately after baking, run a knife around the edge of the pan. Turn out upside down onto a serving dish. Serve.

Disclosure: The Motherhood asked me to participate in the Clorox Cook up a Mess Campaign and I was compensated for my time. However, everything in this post is real and sharing Logan’s story with you was long overdue.

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

Email  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest

  • 1
    Julie @ Willow Bird Baking - March 25, 2011 @ 6:42 am

    What a great post. I’m glad to hear Logan is doing better. ANd these caramel pecan brioche rolls sound amazing!


  • 2
    Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} - March 25, 2011 @ 6:55 am

    Wow I can’t imagine what it must have been like trying to cope with Logan’s feeding issues. I’m glad you got help and figured it out! Thanks for sharing.

    P.S. My daughter has the same shirt your daughter is wearing in the pictures. Very cute. :-)


  • 3
    Erin - March 25, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with Logan. We’ve experienced similar issues with our oldest son, and even our younger two periodically. It gives me hope to hear what types of things have helped you. What a great feeling to have! I’ve been thinking that we need to take the pressure away regarding food and meal-time, but when faced with the fear of seeing them starve, my husband and in-laws see no other option. But after hearing how play and un-pressured interaction with food has helped you, I’m planning on packing up my 1, 2, and 3-yr-olds, and heading to the grocery store and into the kitchen! Thanks again!!!


  • 4
    Rachel @ Baked by Rachel - March 25, 2011 @ 7:29 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. We definitely have some food trouble here with our oldest but I keep trying.
    Love the recipe too :) The rolls look great!


  • 5
    brandi - March 25, 2011 @ 7:32 am

    so happy to hear that he’s doing better! These rolls look like they’d be a great way to start any day :)


  • 6
    Tracy - March 25, 2011 @ 7:48 am

    Thank you for sharing! So glad to hear that Logan is doing better…I know firsthand how frustrating a peanut/nut allergy is to finding safe foods to eat. You are a wonderful mama!


  • 7
    Joanna - March 25, 2011 @ 8:08 am

    Those rolls look amazing! I’m curious about this instruction: “After chilled, remove a 1 1/2 lb. portion of the dough.” Is this because the brioche dough makes a larger batch than needed to make these rolls? How much of the total dough (roughly) is 1 1/2 lbs.? Any suggestions for what to do with the rest of the dough?
    Thanks for sharing your experience with Logan. I think good things often happen when people take children’s experiences seriously.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — March 25th, 2011 @ 8:16 AM

      Is this because the brioche dough makes a larger batch than needed to make these rolls?

      Yes, that is exactly right. I haven’t worked out how much of the batch that is. I’m guessing about 1/4. But that is the method of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day. You make a large batch and store the rest in the refrigerator for the next 1-2 weeks and use the dough as needed. I first tried this method with Light Whole Wheat Baguette.

    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — March 25th, 2011 @ 8:21 AM

      Just double checked this and for this particular Artisan Bread in 5 recipe it stores for up to 5 days refrigerated and 4 weeks frozen. Added instruction to the printable recipe for your reference.

      Other recipes, like the Boule (used for baguette) will store for up to two weeks. It’s a great method because you can have bread whenever you want without hardly any prep work.

      I used some of the Brioche the other day for hamburger buns because I didn’t feel like going to the store.

  • 8
    Erin - March 25, 2011 @ 8:13 am

    This is so awesome. I’m an OT so this is right up my alley. I do some feeding therapy myself and love to see the results it can have! Here’s another blog about picky eaters:


  • 9
    Maris (In Good Taste) - March 25, 2011 @ 9:26 am

    Super cute post. Had no idea that Logan had so many struggles with food…you must be super proud of how far he’s come (and will probably laugh about it when he’s a teenager and eating you out of house and home) :-)


  • 10
    jenn nahrstadt - March 25, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    so glad you sought help for logan and found something that worked or is working. a friend of ours had the same problem with their daughter, and she is now 14 and eats mostly only peanut butter on ritz crackers. keep after it–as you already know, it’s worth it!


  • 11
    Aimee @ Simple Bites - March 25, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    We love playing with our food! Great post, Katie.


  • 12
    skip to malou - March 25, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

    Glad to hear that Logan is doing well. I just finished cleaning up my kitchen and my kids are a lot older than yours. My girls who are on spring break made a good spread last night and you’re so right.. it is so well worth it…



  • 13
    Jan - March 25, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

    Most kids don’t like a huge variety of different foods, and taste buds will change as they grow older. I just tried finding a food they liked from each main item: such as wheat…..did they like whole wheat bread? or waffles? Broccoli, raw or cooked? or not broccoli? then another cabbage family veggie, since cruciferous veg. are so good at fighting cancer. Oatmeal for breakfast or oatmeal pancakes? Best to not make an issue/big deal out of it, and make helping out in the kitchen with food preparation a fun time. Our rule was that you had to eat one bite of a new food, and if you didn’t like it, you didn’t have to eat anymore of it at that meal……we’d try again another time. A few times one of the kids would kinda gag on it, but they knew they wouldn”t be forced to eat any more than a taste.
    Our last child was quite a picky eater. Years later we found out it was from him being on the high end of the autism spectrum….and this caused him to like plain foods mostly fixed alone. We didn’t push him into eating what he didn’t want. We let him choose seeds and plant his own garden…..and of course, he wanted to eat what he planted…..hooray.
    Wow, I can’t believe you spent money on therapy that you could have done yourself. Somebody made money off of your worries on that one for sure.


    • Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies replied: — March 25th, 2011 @ 5:16 PM

      Wow, Jan. Just wow. Way to judge someone’s parenting by a tiny amount of information. I don’t see anywhere where Katie asked for your opinion of her parenting style and choices, she simply shared what worked for her. Why on earth would you say this to someone? Didn’t your mother raise you with any manners?

    • Kristen replied: — March 25th, 2011 @ 5:16 PM

      I’m sure that Katie tried and tried and tried on her own… from what I know about her she doesn’t give up easily.
      I think it was very smart for her to turn to therapy to help Logan. Obviously, if he was failing to thrive, this was an issue beyond just not “liking” certain foods. There was something deeper there…

      Asking for help when we need it most is a difficult thing to do but is a strength, and I’m proud of Katie and her family for having the courage to take the next step. Look how far they’ve come since doing so!

      Katie – I’m glad you shared this story. Imagine how many people this post will help if they are in the same situation. Well done!

    • Aimee @ Simple Bites replied: — March 25th, 2011 @ 5:21 PM

      Jan, at first I though there was some truth to this comment, but your ending left me sick to my stomach.

      How could you acknowledge that this mother worried over her child — and then sneer over it? Your tone bites – and it’s not even my child in discussion.

      I’m surprised that a mother could even say this to another mother, especially when you both have been in the same trenches.

      Katie – the most important thing is Logan;s health, not the ineffective judgments of others. Give him an extra squeeze at breakfast tomorrow.

    • Jamie | My Baking Addiction replied: — March 25th, 2011 @ 5:30 PM

      As a behavior intervention specialist, it appears that Logan’s issues went beyond what is deemed the norm. I too would be concerned if my child’s eating repertoire was as restricted as Logan’s was. Katie, you should be commended for being proactive because there are numerous health issues that can result if a child’s unhealthy/restrictive eating habits are not addressed. Early intervention is key, recommended by pediatric physicians, and covered by most health insurances.

      P.S. Your brioche rolls look incredible.

    • Tracy replied: — March 25th, 2011 @ 7:14 PM

      It’s obvious that Logan is not “just” a picky eater. If you were in Katie’s position, would you just sit by and watch as your child struggled to the point that they weren’t getting the nutrients they need, and it began adversely affecting their development? I wouldn’t, and I certainly don’t think it’s fair to judge Katie for doing what she felt was right for Logan.

  • 14
    Charissa - March 25, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

    Someone needs to pick me up off the floor…I’m completely craving these right now. Wow.


  • 15
    JulieD - March 25, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

    Katie, these rolls look amazing. I’m so sorry about your son’s peanut allergy and subsequent food problems/fears. I can’t imagine what you went through.


  • 16
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies - March 25, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

    I want these for Saturday morning breakfast! I love that getting Logan involved helped him transition and ease into foods a bit more. I wish my aunt and uncle would try this with my cousin Lucas. He has autism, and they treat him like he can’t do anything, which is incredibly far from the truth.


  • 17
    Maris (In Good Taste) - March 25, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

    What cuties your kids are! I am happy Logan is doing so well. Hard to resist food like those brioche rolls.


  • 18
    Kristen - March 25, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

    Wow! Lovely article, thanks for being brave and sharing your personal struggles. I am happy to hear that things are working out. Each and everyone of us is so different.

    I too have had trouble with my son, and after some outside help we have been able to understand how he processes things and how to help him. Now we all understand ourselves and one another better and are stronger as a family because of it. Don’t be discouraged by the “glass is half-full” kind.

    Those rolls look divine and messy :)


  • 19
    Lisa (Dishes of Mrs. Fish) - March 25, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    It’s great how far your son has come! Thanks for sharing his story!
    These rolls look amazing. :)


  • 20
    Shaina - March 25, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

    These are fantastic, Katie, and I’m so glad Logan has been steadily improving. Failure to thrive isn’t something I’ve had to deal with, thankfully, but it is a very serious issue, and it’s great to see your persistence in helping him pay off in so many ways.


  • 21
    TheGourmetCoffeeGuy - March 25, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

    Very nice post and great photos as usual. Your son’s story is very touching and our family is happy for your successful efforts in overcoming his feeding problems. Allergies can be very challenging. Thank you for sharing.


  • 22
    Sukaina - March 26, 2011 @ 5:20 am

    Thanks for sharing this heartfelt post with us. I’m glad to hear that Logan is doing better. You are so right when you say that invloving them in the kithen makes them better eaters. I have already seen that with my 2 year old. We recently had a baking birthday party for her and had a blast. Oh and the brioche rolls look fabulous.


  • 23
    Susan - March 26, 2011 @ 8:43 am

    This will be so helpful for so many moms! I know a lot of moms I work with have trouble with little ones eating and it becomes a huge battle. I love how you were able to determine it was truly another issue altogether and find some solutions. Your ideas are inspiring and I will share this post often! Thanks


  • 24
    llamawriter23 - March 26, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

    This recipe looks wonderful – I will be trying it out as soon as possible. I had two picky eaters out of my three – well past that stage now, thank goodness. I could have done with your tips at the time though.
    I’d say you have two chefs in the making there!


  • 25
    Libby - March 27, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

    Yes to getting messy, boo to cleaning up! I get my son cooking w/ me for many reasons (he’ll be so prepared when he starts fractions!), but with his food allergies, I feel like he will need to be self sufficient in the kitchen as an adult. Besides, it’s fun!


  • 26
    Meal Makeover Mom Janice - March 28, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

    Great post Katie. As a registered dietitian I’m delighted that you sought help from specialists, including an RD. In my research on eating issues (that go beyond the typical picky eating) it is critical to get help early on so that problems down the road can be averted. Thanks for sharing your story – it will be helpful for so many.


  • 27
    Jan - March 30, 2011 @ 7:34 am

    Everyone has an opinion. I gave mine based on my views. You gave yours based on your views.


  • 28
    Tickled Red - April 02, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

    Katie what a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing your families struggles. What courageous steps you have taken as parents to not only help your son in every way possible but by putting yourselves out there as well with the story. I am so glad that Logan is learning to find joy with food at his own pace. It wouldn’t surprise me if he turned out to be a fantastic chef one day. Bravo! Keep playing with food. By the way, love the brioche!!


  • 29
    Melissa Daams - April 04, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

    Wow. thanks for sharing these tips. I have a couple of picky eaters as well. But i find it difficult to let them help out in the kitchen and they want to so badly, but that kind of anal side of mine is like – no it’s gonna get messy, and besides i can make it so much quicker… i need to learn to let go and relax… and the kids will start to enjoy food better too… of course, my kiddos love sweet rolls… it’s veggies that they gotta get used too and mashed potatoes. :)
    hey, Will you link these to my sweet roll linky party here:

    It would be great if you would :)

    cheers, Melissa


  • 30
    Meg - April 16, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

    I am pretty sure my boyfriend would wash dishes for life for these!!


  • 31
    Diane Tauscher - October 21, 2012 @ 11:36 am

    Enjoyed reading about Logan’s food issues. I have an adult daughter who just found out she has food allergies and has probably had them since childhood. She’s having fun experimenting with recipes and has a willing husband who will try them. Question about bricoche dough recipe: can I use whole wheat flour from grocery store as I don’t ground my flour. And I’ve never heard of whold hard white wheat flour. What is it? I’d like to try this bread dough. Thanks.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — October 30th, 2012 @ 9:19 AM

      I grind my own wheat flour from whole wheat grains and the particular variety of grain I buy is called “hard white wheat.” It is mild in taste and good for substituting in baked goods that call for all-purpose flour. Here is some more info on whole white wheat from the Whole Grain Council:

Leave a Comment