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Feeding Kids Two Vegetables

September 22, 2014

Some kids apparently love vegetables. At least that’s what I’ve heard from a handful of parents. But I can’t recall ever seeing a kid greedily gobble up a salad with glee.

Presumably, if they truly exist, these kids are the anomaly. Or maybe I’m to blame for my own children’s eating habits. While I’ve overcome my predisposition against salad, I still find it unconscionable to try and compel a kid to eat one.

And I’m also not really crazy about the idea of conditioning youngsters to eat vegetables by offering them thick, creamy dressings or melted cheese sauces in order to disguise flavors and make the food group more appealing. Mrs. Fussy says that if I were left to my own devices, our kids would never eat any vegetables at all. I don’t think that’s entirely true, but I do recognize they would eat substantially fewer.

Encouraged by our weekly delivery of farm fresh produce as part of the CSA, I keep trying to feed the kids new vegetables and new preparations of old vegetables. Today I wanted to share some recent successes.

In other words, I’ve stumbled upon two things the kids don’t find entirely vile.

Nobody is more surprised by this than I am. Neither of these is what I would consider to be an especially kid friendly preparation. In fact, the first one was really a more out of sheer laziness on my part.

You see, I had all these string beans piling up in the fridge, and I really didn’t feel like trimming them. I know that some cooks can make short work of the task, but for me it takes a fair bit longer. Regardless, I figured that if I just blanched the damn things, the tips could be dealt with later.

Blanching is super easy. Boil for a minute or so in heavily salted water, drain and soak in an ice bath until completely cool. What is left is a tender-crisp version of whatever it was you were cooking. The food now occupies a nether world between raw and cooked. Really, the raw flavor has been cooked out, but it maintains the vibrant color and toothsome texture of the more natural state.

The best way to know when the vegetables are done is to keep tasting. Just remember that your food will keep cooking slightly in the ice bath, so you probably want to take it out a little bit on the firmer side.

Anyhow, on a lark I decided to give one of these blanched green beans to Little Miss Fussy. The rest is history. Green, crunchy finger foods? Who knew? It seems unlikely that I will saute another string bean in the near future, as the kids will eat as many of these as I put in front of them. I’ve even resorted to giving them a bowl to snack on while they watch TV, figuring they’ll lose track of how much they’re eating. Pretty sneaky, no?

The second thing is cauliflower.

That’s kind of remarkable on its face, because Mrs. Fussy can barely tolerate the smell of the stuff cooking. But at the CSA pickup, I bumped into one of my mom friends, and she explained the way her kids love to eat cauliflower. Anyway, I thought I would give it a shot. Especially since it was so simple: roasted with olive oil and salt.

Batch one went better than expected. The head gets cut into florets. Then it’s tossed with salt and olive oil. The whole thing goes into a roasting dish at 450 for about 40 minutes (or until browning).

Personally, I thought these were great. The kids needed a bit more convincing. With the cauliflower’s mild flavor, and the olive oil and salt really coming through, I was reminded of popcorn. The thing Little Miss Fussy loves on popcorn is a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. It adds a cheesy property to everything it touches. And it turned the cauliflower into a “please never make this again” into a “That’s not so bad, I’d eat a few bites, Daddy.”

In my book that’s success. Sometimes the key is having very modest goals.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2014 10:22 am

    My girls actually love salad. Or in truth, they love raw veggies cut into small pieces. They won’t eat lettuce of any sort, so does that negate the idea of salad? But cooking vegetables is tantamount to disaster in my house. Cooked corn only. Other than that, if you cook it, it is ruined. They could gobble up a ginormous amount of sugar snap peas of you simply put them in a bowl on the table. However, if you do anything as simple as blanching them and sprinkling a touch of sea salt on them, they will not be touched. So, raw is it in my house.

  2. September 22, 2014 11:00 pm

    I’m one of those annoying parents whose kids eat and love vegetables and have since they were small.
    Not to disparage anyone’s cooking but it’s all in preparation. Of course kids aren’t going to be into plain boiled or steamed veggies, (aside from your happy blanched beans discovery) I certainly don’t want to eat them that way either.
    Most veggies are delicious roasted simply with olive oil and s&p…asparagus (with lemon and Parmesan), string beans, carrots, winter squash (delicious in coconut oil and sprinkled with cinnamon), brussel sprouts (apples, bacon and garlic), broccolini, rutabaga…my point is, if it’s a veg, it can be roasted to enhance its natural sweetness and even avowed vegetable haters sometimes find themselves converted.

    And you might have changed your stance on salads as of late but you’ve been so vocal about your dislike of them in the past that it’s no wonder your kids won’t eat them. Apple/tree and all that.
    I like (love, really) salad and my kids grew up eating one almost every night with dinner. Even simple ones like lightly dressed greens. Again, apple/tree.

  3. September 26, 2014 1:53 am

    Professor – include your kids in the prep of the vegetables – have them snip the beans, shuck the corn, tear & spin the salad greens. The more involved they are, they may be more willing to taste the veggies – even better if they get to plant the seeds in a garden & watch them grow. Cucumbers are pretty easy. If you don’t have garden space, you can try container gardening. The peppers are growing in a pot on our porch.

  4. September 27, 2014 4:32 pm

    I find that the kid that does not like vegetables to be the anomaly. My daughter absolutely loves broccoli, green beans, squash, asparagus. Her neighbourhood friend is a nut for peppers any color and a wide assortment of veg. Many of her school chums (aged 4) also love a wide assortment of vegetables. One of the common factors (based on short conversations regarding food at birthday parties) is parents who also are big fans of vegetables and never believed that food had to be special just because it is for a child.

    All kids, just like adults, have different and varying tastes. I myself despise cauliflower.

    Thanks for the blog…I love reading it.

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