Do you like eggplant? I do not.
No matter how many ways I try it, I have yet to meet an eggplant dish that I have really liked, let alone loved.
It’s not the eggplant’s fault. Along with a few other vegetables, eggplant and I got off to a bad start in childhood. As a recovering vegetable hater, I vowed to give my kids and vegetables a better start.
So far, I have a 50-50 split; one child accepts most vegetables, and the other kid, well let’s just say he’s a tough food critic. I'm wearing him down, though, little by little.
My approach has four principles:
1. Cook them properly.
The poor eggplant became the object of my hatred because of one to many overcooked mushy encounters in childhood. As a result, I’ve worked to learn different cooking methods, to feature vegetables at their best. Internet tutorial videos have been a great learning resource.
2. Fresh and in season is best.
To also serve vegetables at their best, I have become more aware of choosing those that are locally (or as closely as possible) in season. This means that the vegetables are at their peak flavor, and haven’t had to travel thousands of miles. Because they are generally plentiful, and competitively priced, this also helps my budget.
3. Always offer, and honestly.
While I am not opposed to “sneaking” more nutrition into meals that a child will willingly eat, like pasta sauce, I don’t want it to be the main way my kids get their veggies. Even if I think my child will reject what I prepare, I still put some on their plate and encourage “try-it bites.” The jackpot is when they surprise me and dig into it without any hesitation. Of course, it’s frustrating to make something that isn’t eaten, but I counter that with scaling down the portion I make, and feel at least they see their parents eating it.
4. Involve the kids.
In the grocery store, I get the kids involved by practicing colors, shapes, numbers and letters recognition while we're shopping for our fruits and veggies. Although this is a real test of my parental patience, I am also getting better at allowing my kids to help with some of the prep work, such as washing, tearing, and supervised chopping. Extra bonus: I have found that watching the food processor pulverize veggies is great entertainment for my little boys.
If you need some inspiration to incorporate some more vegetables, try some of our kid-tested winter vegetable recipes, and please share your own in comments.
Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Swanson at 101.cookbooks.com
While the color green on his plate is a generally big no-no for my oldest child, he curiously has a couple of exceptions to this rule—lettuce and anything resembling pesto. I’ve found this recipe makes a great pesto-like sauce, but with nutrient rich spinach or kale instead of basil. My son has declared this glowingly green sauce his absolute favorite.
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled*
- 4 small shallots, peeled
- 12 oz. baby spinach, washed
- 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 c of Swiss and gruyere cheese mix, available at Trader Joes, plus more for topping*
- Pinch of fine grain sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Fresh lemon juice-optional
- 12 oz. dried penne pasta*
- A few pinches fresh thyme
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water generously, and add the garlic and shallots. Boil for 2-3 min., stir in the spinach (or kale) and cook for another ten seconds. Don't overcook. Working quickly, use a slotted spoon or strainer to remove the greens, garlic, and shallots from the water. Use a food processor to puree the ingredients along with the olive oil and cheese. Add a couple tablespoons of hot pasta water to thin the sauce out if needed. Add a pinch of sea salt, and add black pepper to taste. Set aside.
Reheat the pot of water and boil the pasta per package instructions. Drain and toss immediately with the green sauce.* Serve topped with a few pinches of fresh thyme and more cheese.*
Prep time: 10 min. Cook time: 10 min.
*I usually add a few more garlic cloves, depending on the size of the cloves. We like extra garlic, especially during cold and flu season.
*The original recipe calls for goat cheese.
*I usually choose a whole grain, or a gluten free alternative pasta to improve the nutritional content.
*The sauce reheats really well, so I tend to only mix as much pasta as I think the family will eat, and save the rest of the sauce for another meal.
*If your child is adverse to visible “green bits,” just toss the thyme into the sauce while you are processing.
(Find the original recipe here)
Clear the Fridge Winter Veggie Soup with Chicken
Created by Patch Parent Council mom and local catering company owner, Barb Besse.
My kids both love soup, so I cleared the veggie drawer one day and made this soup. A great winter meal!
- 8 c cold water
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp. whole peppercorns
Simmer all ingredients for 2 hours, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken, cool and then shred. Reserve meat. Strain the remaining ingredients and reserve the stock.
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped (be sure to well clean the leek)
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 can organic diced tomatoes
- 1 can cannellini beans
- 1 c brown rice
- Salt and pepper
Sauté the vegetables in butter for 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add vegetables to the reserved broth, then add the parsley, tomatoes, beans, rice and chicken. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes, until rice is cooked thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. I have also used prepared broth and a roaster chicken to save time.
Cream of Potato-Leek Soup
Adapted from a recipe by Aimee at SimpleBites.net
My favorite vegetable discovery as an adult is leeks, and their milder onion flavor works well for kids. This soup is very quick and easy to make, particularly if you have a larger food processor. My family literally fought over the final portion of this soup.
- 5-6 pieces of thick-cut, double smoked bacon, chopped
- 3/4 lb chopped well-cleaned leek, mostly white with some green. About 1 large leek, or 2 packages of pre-trimmed leeks at Trader Joes.
- 1 lb butter gold potatoes quartered (or new potatoes)*
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 c whole cream
Heat a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Sauté for about five minutes until the fat is rendered and bacon begins to crisp. Add chopped leek and sauté until leek is wilted, about two min. Add chopped potatoes and 4 cups of filtered water. Simmer, partially covered for 25 min., or until potatoes are soft. Stir occasionally. In two batches in a blender (or one batch if you have a 10 cup food processor) puree soup until velvety.
Add salt and cream, blend again and taste for seasoning. Serve hot.
*The original recipe calls for peeled new potatoes, but I didn't peel my butter gold potatoes.
Yields: 8 cups.
Prep time: 5 min. Cook time: 40 min.
(Find the original recipe here)