15 February 2012

My top 7 vegetable recipes for kids

My thanks to the sponsor of this post: Hidden Valley® Ranch, also known among parents of finicky children as the "vegetable delivery vehicle."

The idea of "vegetable recipes for kids" makes me squirm because it implies that vegies need special treatment if kids are going to like them. It rubs up against my belief that kids should pretty much grow up eating what their parents eat. Eventually, they'll like it. Right?

Unfortunately, one's parenting philosophy doesn't always fit one's actual children. After more mealtime arguments than I care to admit, I had to adjust my vegetable thinking (and cooking) and take a long-term approach to raising vegie-lovers.

For us, that means:

  • Lots of different vegetables prepared in lots of different ways
  • Serving vegetables and fruits separately
  • Clear expectations (a taste of everything on the plate, even a small taste)
  • Low pressure (no wheedling, scolding or finger-wagging; hard to resist, I know)
  • Making vegies a consistent part of most meals and snacks

The good news is that my kids' favorite vegetable dishes are also the easiest and quickest to prepare. Here are my favorite kid-friendly vegetable recipes...the ones that get cooked -- and eaten (or at least tasted) -- week after week.

Soy-Sesame Broccoli

Steam fresh or frozen broccoli florets till tender-crisp and bright green. Drain if necessary, then drizzle with a bit of toasted sesame oil and soy sauce.

Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes"

Boil fresh caulilower florets in a small amount of chicken stock till tender. Drain all but a few tablespoons of stock and mash or purée the cauliflower with some cream or milk and butter. Add back a little stock if necessary to adjust the consistency. Season with salt and pepper (you may not need to depending on the flavor of the stock).

(Roasted cauliflower is also delicious.)

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss trimmed, fresh or frozen and thawed asparagus spears with olive oil and salt (if the asparagus is damp, pat it dry first). Distribute on an oiled baking sheet so they're not touching, then roast till browned, tender and sizzling.

Warm Edamame

EdamameEdamame is the Japanese name for green soybeans in the pod. They're sold in Asian supermarkets and the frozen vegetable section of many grocery stores. We buy ours at Trader Joe's. Once cooked, edamame are eaten by popping a pod into your mouth then pulling it back out through your teeth.

Boil edamame in salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain, sprinkle with a little salt if you like, and serve as a snack or side vegetable.

Photo credit: La Fuji Mama

Crudités With a Surprise

Peel or trim celery stalkscarrot stickssugar snap peas and a "wildcard" vegetable your kids have never tried: red pepper strips, black olives, cucumber spears, endive "boats," thin wedges of purple cabbage. Fill the celery stalks with cream cheese and slice into two-bite lengths. If your kids like dip, add a small bowlful. Arrange on a platter and serve as an afternoon snack or first course at dinner.

Sweet Potato Fries

Preheat oven to 450. Peel and slice sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch sticks. Pat dry, then toss with olive oil and salt. Distribute on an oiled baking sheet so they're not touching, then roast for about 10-15 minutes without disturbing them. Turn, then roast till browned and tender (another 10 minutes or so).

Cabbage, Carrot and Zucchini Threads

Juliene vegetablesJulienne or shred green cabbage, a carrot, and a zucchini (a mandoline really helps; I've used an inexpensive Swissmar Borner V-Slicer for years). The goal is to create long-ish threads as opposed to short, grated bits. Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan or wok. When hot, add the vegetables and a sprinkling of salt and saute till the vegetables are tender-crisp. Season with a little more salt and pepper and serve as-is, or mix with pasta that has been tossed with butter and Parmesan, or with a little soy sauce and sesame oil.

Photo credit: Redacted Recipes

* * *

Slowly but surely, my kids are coming to like vegetables. More importantly, we enjoy our meals together...and that's the best long-term strategy for encouraging healthy eating.

I'm always on the lookout for new ideas. What are your kids' favorite vegetable recipes? Please share in the comments!

More: We've been talking about vegetables and picky eaters for years.

This post is sponsored by Hidden Valley® Ranch. Discover how you can make vegetables delectable!

Your comments

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My kids actually request Brussels sprouts which I know is not a beginner vegetable. I slice them fairly thin (1/4 inch) so they end up looking like flat circles and loose leaves. I saute them in butter and olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

The trick is not to let them get overdone. You want many pieces to have browned spots because that's what makes them delicious and nutty, but you don't want them soggy and limp.

I also use the trick of serving crudites or even the dinner vegetable while I finish the rest of the food. Hungry kids are less picky!

Thanks for this post. I own a personal cooking instruction business, and a lot of our clients are parents who are trying to manage picky eaters. Will definitely try some of these next time. - www.cooksmarts.com

Yes, indeed, Lauren: feeding kids vegies when they're really hungry is an excellent strategy. Reminds me of this hack -- which takes further advantage of the "TV trance." I'm not generally a supporter of eating in front of TV (more because it's a hard habit to break than because it's otherwise "wrong") but this hack has a point.

http://www.parenthacks.com/2008/09/take-advantage.html

Great ideas! Always looking for good ideas for more veggies! My kids love kale "chips" - small pieces of raw kale (we like the curly kind, but any will do) without the stem, tossed in olive oil and baked at 350 until crispy but not too brown. Toss with some salt.

Love these ideas, Asha! Parents need to get creative and not just say "oh, my kids don't like veggies". They can! We sometimes just need to be creative.

Hands-down our favorite way to enjoy vegetables is roasted. It brings out the natural sugars and makes things like broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots and parsnips taste soooo much better. Here's a recent post on that: http://www.feedourfamilies.com/2012/02/broccoli-with-a-tasty-twist.html

Like Alexandra, my kids also love Kale Chips. Like our roasted veggies, just a little salt + olive oil goes a long way!

Like Lauren, my son and I love brussles sprouts & could eat them every night! I cook them the same way. We don't get to enjoy these too often as I noticed recently that the frozen ones just get soggy.

In the summertime we toss vegetables on the grill (squash, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, etc.), toss them in salads or eat them raw. My kids will pull cherry tomatoes or snap peas right off the vine when they're outside playing.

Even though my daughter needs to gain weight, I don't pile on the calories over vegetables. It's important to me that they enjoy the veggie - not the sauce. So, we add calories in other ways to her diet. Or at least, we try.

Great suggestions via Twitter: green smoothies, pureed vegies mixed with fruit and frozen into pops (especially good for teething babies), and more lovers of Kale Chips.

I love these ideas.
My kids use ranch dressing but almost ALL OF THEM use MSG in their ingredients. COULD THEY PLEASE STOP THAT? (Ahem Hidden Valley Ranch people??)
Anyway, thanks again!

Roasted brussel sprouts w/ lots of olive oil, salt and pepper are big at our house. My youngest is extremely fond of roasted parsnips and pickled beets. The rest of us enjoy salads of all sorts. We are also huge roasted sweet potato fries fans. I just keep the variety going and it all seems to work out (sort of).
Great ideas here Asha! I will be giving some of them a go.

awesome post & recipies for childeren..................

I have one picky eater who we fought with for 2 years, but we finally learned some "tricks" to make it easier. Her biggest complaint is usually texture, not flavor, so we set aside a little of whatever we're making and she'll happily eat raw the same thing she'll throw a fit over cooked (carrots, green beans, cabbage, etc).

We wanted to expand their options beyond Ranch so we had a dressing taste-test to see what else they might like. Raspberry vinaigrette is the hands-down fave now and they'll eat salad every night if they can have that dressing on it.

I spend a little time each week cutting up raw veggies - carrots, peppers, cucumbers - to keep in a container in the fridge. Perfect for when the kids are begging for a snack before dinner or when we're too tired to figure out a veggie to make for dinner. Just throw the container on the table with some Ranch and it's good to go.

Edemame is our favorite! Our kids gobble it up. And I have one daughter who LOVES brussel spouts, she asks to eat it every day!

Is there some secret society of Brussels sprout-loving kids? I'm so impressed! That was the ONE vegie I hated as a kid. Totally love them now.

I wish my second child were like my first. Elder Child loves all fruits and veg. She asks for brussels sprouts and lima beans. She is always excited to see what is in the CSA box and loves to try new foods. And my son won't touch any fruits or vegetables at all. Ever. Now matter how we prepare them. He would happily go hungry rather than try one. He will surely outgrow that, right? I mean, I think he would love strawberries and melons. But he's never even tried a bite. :-(

These ideas are terrific! We really need some imagination when all they want is candies or unhealthy snacks and this post helps a lot!

Newman's Own Ranch doesn't have MSG!

Alot of kids dont like veggies because they are addicted to sugar. Cut all sweet drinks, sweet desserts, cereals, white breads, and limited potatoes and corn. Once the addiction is cut (like 2wks) veggies will start to taste good. Fruit too. Im surprised sugar snap peas arent on the list, even my ASD picky eater likes those. And even though not the healthies-frying anything makes it a #1 for kids. We like fried squash, fried pickles, and fried green tomatoes. But limited to once a month.

The first trick is buying fresh in season produce,we do not buy Mexico or Chile unless it it normally grown there. the fresher it is the less stong it tastes......my daughter likes tomatoes, broccoli, squash of all types and spinach souffle her loved favorite, she hates potatoes carrots and ranch!! We find the microwave steam bags and some dreaded cheese sauce or sprinkled parma and making funny names and games at dinner for our kid a good approach...She has to try 2 bites before she dismisses a new item and veggies she must eat as many bites as her age of any available...even if it is cherry tomatoes and cukes AGAIN! Greek plain yogurt with a little salt and garlic is a good healthy dip for raw.

We love grilling broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Another way we love it is dipping in mayo mixed with soy sauce. Yum.

A huge hit with my 1 year old was carrots roasted with olive oil, a little honey and curry powder. She went bonkers for the taste, and the fact that it turned her hands yellow cracked her up. She is also a huge fan of brussels sprouts cooked in olive oil and drizzled last minute with some balsamic vinegar.

Barbecued squash. Cut a butternut or acorn squash into quarters (remove seeds and guts, but don't peel it). Toss in a bowl with olive oil and a spice - I use either cumin, mild chili powder or mild curry powder. Barbecue on medium-high, turning every four minutes, until soft. Let cool to a warm-ish temperature, peel and serve to your kids. My one-year-old can take down half an acorn squash in one meal.

My kiddo loves butternut squash fries, roasted parsnip fries or shreds and zucchini coins.... great ideas here folks! Thanks for sharing!

I read all the comments and I'm so.... psyched! My daughter is the picky eater but she likes a lot of veggies. The boy is another story but he will try if I nag him. I'm going to try a lot of the suggestions I found in the comments. Thank you!

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