Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rethinking Greens (and other shades of vegetable)

And no, you don't have to bake them into brownies. But really, if you have a child who is refusing to eat vegetables, welcome to the club. Jude (the marathon eater who will chow down a beet and goat cheese panini, plus a bowl of pasta, yogurt and an apple) is weird about his veg. One day he ate a huge portion of sauteed summer squash at my mother's house. The next time I gave it to him he threw it at me. The only vegetable I know he will eat without fail is tomato sauce, and that's a condiment.

Sometimes you have to get a little creative when it comes to making sure your picky little gets a balanced diet. You should also start early and try try again. I can't imagine trying to get a two year old to eat broccoli if he's never had it before. Or never giving it to him again after his first refusal. It took me years to eat beets and I'm a food freak. Now I love them! Our kiddos are no different. They have preferences and moods, and the older and more communicative they get, the more they let us know about them. Now that I know this I stick to a few basic rules:

1. BE PREPARED. Keep the freezer stocked with a variety of frozen veggies (some chopped and some pureed) and anytime you prep and cook veggies for yourself, make extra. I always have a backup plan for a meal in case food flies.

2. SEASON WELL. Don't be afraid of your spice cabinet. Would you eat plain cooked carrots? I wouldn't. Salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon and curry powders are your friends. So are cumin, chili powder, ginger, and cayenne. If your kiddo refuses something, switch up the spice and try again! You never know what he (and you) may end up loving.

3. DON'T GET DISCOURAGED. I can't tell you how many times I have prepared a meal and though, "This will be a big hit!" only to find it strewn across the linoleum as soon as I turn my back. It won't kill you or your child to eat PB&J one more night, as long as you pick up and try again tomorrow. Food is fun and not worth getting mad about!

With all of that in mind, here are my favorite ways to get Jude to get his daily fill of veggies, even if he doesn't know it.


4. Eggs. Easy peasy. My go to add ins are greens. I keep chopped kale and spinach in bags in the freezer, sprinkle a few tablespoons into a hot frying pan and pour a scrambled egg over the top. Cook until firm and flip, season with salt and pepper, and cut it into squares to serve. Way less mess than scrambled eggs, and you can add some cheese, too! Sometimes I use leftover veggies from the night before, chop them tiny, and add those instead of the greens. Then I make a second one for me:)

5. Muffins. Not as easy peasy as eggs, but almost. Especially considering you can make one batch and freeze them for a few weeks. Muffins are a fantastic way to add veggies like carrots, zucchini, or winter squash to your breakfast routine. Just make sure you are using a recipe low in sugar and full of whole grains. 

6. Oatmeal. Yup, I said oatmeal. My favorite Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal recipe contains a full veggie serving, and if you leave out the sugar, it's perfect for your babe. You can add a little applesauce if you want it sweeter. Try replacing the pumpkin with sweet potatoes, yams, or butternut squash if you have it. Jude likes his with chopped walnuts and a dollop of yogurt.  

7. Pancakes. Yup, I said pancakes, too. Or waffles! Think of them as muffins, and add grated veggies to your batter! I especially love whole wheat waffles with shredded carrot, a dash of nutmeg, and a tsp. of cinnamon added to the batter. Serve these with cream cheese and it's like having carrot cake for breakfast. Ok, not really.


8. Pasta. I don't know a kid who won't eat pasta. Any vegetable that can be pureed can be pasta sauce. Toss ravioli with pureed broccoli, fusilli with pureed peas, pastina with pureed squash. Whatever. If your kid is like mine, mix half of your puree with tomato sauce and he'll never even notice. I also grate lots of parmesan cheese over the top, of course.

9. Quesadillas. Or dillas as they are called here. Spread your cooked chopped veggie or puree on one half of a tortilla, top with shredded cheese and fold over. Slide the tortilla into a pan over medium high heat and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Cook another 3 or 4 minutes until cheese melts. Cut into strips to serve. 
- Try serving with dips, like salsa, sour cream, or yogurt. Just get ready to clean it off your ceiling.
- These are awesome for adding in protein from mashed beans, chopped leftover chicken, or ground beef.

10. Pizza. We have English Muffin pizzas once a week. Smear a toasted english muffin with tomato sauce, top with chopped cooked veggies or puree, sprinkle with shredded cheese and pop under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Slice into squares to serve.
- Our favorite is eggplant pizza with goat cheese, but again, my kid will eat anything with tomato sauce, so I've snuck in chopped zucchini and broccoli, too.

11. Sandwiches. Just think of purees as spreads. A smear of pureed peas on a ham sandwich works, as does carrot puree with turkey. If you're feeling ambitious, go for sliced beets and goat cheese (or cream cheese) or avocado and chicken. I love the teeny whole wheat pita bread you can get at Trader Joes, because for some reason Jude won't pull them apart. With bread, I squeeze the sandwich together and cut it into cubes. If he can pop it into his mouth, he usually won't bother peeling back the layers. Usually.

12. Meatballs. Another fantastic make ahead winner. Add grated or finely chopped vegetables to your favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe. I try to stick to a 2/3 meat and 1/3 veggies ratio to make sure they hold together well. You can bake them on a sheet tray, or fill muffin tins and then freeze them for later. 

Ok, why not? If all else fails, and there may be days (or weeks) when it does, you may feel the need to treat your kiddo and yourself with something sweet. If it is the only way your little will eat a vegetable, so be it. It's also just another way to sneak in a serving.

13. Cake. I have a slammin' Chocolate Zucchini Cake recipe you should definitely try out for yourself. If you want to give it to your child, I'd suggest replacing sugar with applesauce or juice concentrate, and swapping the white flour for whole wheat. But that's just me. 

14. Cookies. Just as with pancakes, waffles, or muffins, you can add veggies to just about any cookie recipe. Have a chocolate chip recipe you love? Toss in a cup of shredded zucchini. Amazing. For realz. Or try this one from one of my favorite food mama blogs, Two Peas and Their Pod. 

15. Ice Cream. Or FroYo. One of my favorite ice cream flavors ever was a long ago discontinued Newport Creamery flavor called Indian Pudding that was full of pumpkin goodness. If you aren't so into making your own ice cream try this: Blend 1/2 cup of pureed pumpkin and 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt in a bowl. Stir in 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch each of ground ginger and nutmeg. Spoon into snack sized ziploc bags and roll the bags up tightly to make all of the mixture form a tube. Tape up the roll and stick it in the freezer for an hour or two. When you take it out of the freezer you can snip off one end and squeeze it out, homemade pumpkin pie go-gurt!

What's your favorite tip for getting your kiddo to eat veggies? Please share it in the comments so I can add it to my box of tricks!

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