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fruits & veggies for kids of all ages

I am excited to feature a guest post today by the lovely Carolyn Lenske of Girl with Spoon, whose blog began as a way to record her experiments in the kitchen. Her combination of simple, seasonal recipes and cooking technique quickly struck a cord with food-lovers who yearn for healthy meals that are easy enough for a weeknight dinner and delicious enough for a special occasion.

Getting kids to eat veggies can be a challenge. Children have sensitive palates, and I remember how some foods that I now love, like green peppers and Brussels spouts, tasted completely inedible when I was small. That being said, vegetables are inarguably good for us, and encouraging children to eat them and try new foods is a big challenge for a lot of parents. The following are five recipes for easy veggie (and a fruit) dishes that are mild and flavorful, and may just become your next favorite family sides. Enjoy!

These carrots will change your mind about cooked carrots, which I never liked as a kid. They’re sweet, nutty, and firm in texture, and they taste like Sunday morning waffles. You can use carrot sticks or circular slices cut from whole carrots, or you can buy packaged baby carrots.

For each child-sized serving, you will need:
- 1 six inch long carrot, peeled and cut in half length-wise, and then in half again, until you have sticks that are about 1/2 inch wide.
- 1-2 teaspoons of butter (or olive oil, if you are dairy-free)
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2-1 teaspoon maple syrup (or brown sugar, agave nectar, honey, or whatever you have on hand)
- Kosher salt

In a sauté pan with a lid (can be non-stick or regular), heat the butter, 2 tablespoons of water, and carrots over medium high heat. When you hear the butter start to sizzle (within a minute) shake the pan to gently move the carrots and distribute the butter. Reduce heat to medium low and put the lid on. Cook for 5 minutes or until you get a rich, golden brown color on one side. Flip the carrots (to get even color on both sides) and add another tablespoon of water. Cook for another 2 minutes or so, then add the maple syrup. Shake the pan to mix the butter and syrup together and sprinkle with a small pinch of kosher salt. When serving, pour the pan juices over the carrots.

Mashed potatoes are easy, comforting, and go with everything. You can use this recipe for regular white or red potatoes as well, but the bright ultraviolet color of these little purple spuds (available at most farmers markets I’ve been to recently, and also a lot of grocery stores) makes them really fun. They are much higher in antioxidants than lighter-fleshed potatoes, though their flavor is the same. They take very well to steaming, which, unlike boiling, preserves the nutrients, and their skins are thin and delicate enough to leave on when you mash (again, more vitamins).

For each child, you will need:
- 4 or 5 2-3” long potatoes per hungry child, which makes about a cup of mash
- 2 tablespoons milk, cream, or milk substitute of your choice
- 1 teaspoon butter, olive oil, or other fat
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Scrub your potatoes under running water with a soft vegetable brush. Place a steamer basket in a large sauce or sauté pan with a lid. Fill the pan with water up to the bottom of the steamer basket. Place the potatoes in the basket, place over high heat, and put the lid on. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are soft all the way through and give easily when pierced with a sharp knife.

In a mixing bowl, crush the potatoes by hand with a potato masher (or fork) until they are the texture of cooked oatmeal. Add the butter, cream, and salt, and mash until smooth. If you cook the potatoes through, they will be light and fluffy, without a lump in sight.

Extra: You can also turn these whole, steamed baby potatoes into mini “baked” potatoes. Simply split them open and add your favorite toppings. I like cheddar cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Plain yogurt, ranch dressing, and warm chili are delicious, too.

There is nothing simpler than pouring a handful of frozen peas into a small dish for a quick, healthy snack. It may sound strange, but they are sweet, cold, and crunchy, like little drops of ice cream. My mom used to give them to my brother and me when we whined about being hungry and dinner wasn’t quite ready.

Who doesn’t love alfredo sauce? Besides tasting heavenly, it’s gluten-free, and a small drizzle can take a simple steamed vegetable to another realm. Note that you can use any kind of melting cheese here. The classic is a hard Italian-style cheese like parmesan, but if you think your child would prefer a mild cheddar or Swiss, use that instead. You can mix the Broccoli Alfredo with pasta for a complete meal.

For 2-3 servings, you will need:
- 1 small head of broccoli
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan, cheddar, or Swiss
- Black pepper
- Nutmeg, optional (Great if using parmesan or Swiss cheese. If using cheddar, try a pinch of paprika or chili powder.)
- 1 clove of garlic, optional, left whole and crushed slightly with the side of a large knife or the bottom of a drinking glass, optional.

Trim your head of broccoli into large florets (trees!). Peel the stalk with a vegetable peeler, trim off the end, and cut into 3/4-inch circles.  Place a steamer basket in a large sauce or sauté pan with a lid. Fill the pan with water up to the bottom of the steamer basket, place the pan over high heat, and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, place the broccoli in the basket, put the lid on, and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the stalks are tender when pierced with a knife, but the florets are still vividly green. Immediately remove the lid and take the pan off the heat. (If you won’t be using it right away, run the broccoli under cool water in a colander to stop the cooking and preserve the color. Then reheat in the microwave or in frying pan when you’re ready to serve.) I like my broccoli fully cooked, rather than al dente, but if you prefer crunchier “trees,” test with a knife after 3-4 minutes of steaming.

While the broccoli is steaming, heat the cream, butter, nutmeg, pepper, and garlic, in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until it starts to simmer, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the cheese until it is fully melted into the cream mixture. Simmer for another minute for about 1/2 cup of cream sauce. (The longer you simmer the sauce, the more it will reduce. As it becomes thicker and creamier, it loses volume. How thick you want your sauce is completely up to you.) Remove the clove of garlic. Pour the sauce over the broccoli and serve immediately.

Though I don’t yet have kids of my own, I have babysat for many children over the last ten years, and not one apple-loving kid has ever refused my apple slices with cinnamon and honey. You don’t need a lot of honey (or if you prefer, a low glycemic syrup like agave nectar). There’s just something about the way the syrup coats the apples that brings out the richness of their flavor. Coupled with a light sprinkle of cinnamon, it’s like apple cider on a plate. Also, these apple slices don’t seen to oxidize as quickly, which makes them a great lunch bag treat.

You will need:
- Crisp apples, cut into slices with core removed
- Honey or agave nectar
- Cinnamon

Arrange apple slices on a serving plate. Drizzle with honey and very lightly sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon from between your fingers.

Hop on over to Girl with Spoon and check out more of Carolyn's amazing recipes!

1 comment:

Alice Garbarini Hurley said...

Hi Ellen! this is alice hurley--met you at Samsung. it was nice to meet you! love your blog, and love Carolyn's post, too....what a fabulous idea, i want to make those fruits and veggies for the little three-year-old who is like family to us, and for/with my teen daughter, too! thank you! best, alice

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