There is no magic trick that will turn your spinach-adverse toddler into a great eater. But getting your kids to at least try vegetables requires three basic things: (1) buying fresh, delicious produce, (2) preparing the vegetables in kid-friendly ways and (3) patience, patience and more patience.Stock up. The first step is getting the vegetables in your house. Joining a local CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture) is a great way to expose the whole family to new produce while also supporting local farmers who use sustainable farming practices.
The CSA shareholders (that’s you) pay in advance for a share of the crops grown by a group of farmers throughout the season. In return, you get fresh, often organic, varied produce delivered to your house or a pick-up location.CSA boxes also offer the opportunity to try more exotic produce like rhubarb, delicata squash and garlic scapes. Be sure to include your kids in the experience by unpacking the contents of the box together and chatting a bit about each item. For more information about the many CSAs in our area, check out www.localharvest.org.
Another easy way to get a wider variety of vegetables on your dinner table is to visit a farmer’s market. Once you have stocked up on your weekly tomatoes and berries, shop around for something new. If you have a vendor you trust, ask him for a recommendation—maybe he has delicious edamame or just-picked watercress to offer. Let your kids participate by choosing which new item to try. Don’t be shy about asking for advice on how to prepare a vegetable that is unfamiliar to you.
Make something yummy.Once you have your refrigerator stocked with fresh vegetable finds, the next step is to prepare the veggies so that your kids will eat them up (or at least be willing to take an introductory nibble).Try, try, try again. So your son didn’t love your arugula pizza. Be patient and reintroduce the same ingredient in another preparation that he might find more palatable—maybe arugula and walnut pesto over his favorite pasta. Don’t underestimate how important it is for you to be a good role model when it comes to food.
Ideas for the harder-to-love produce
This is a great recipe for kids who love to dip their food. Slice up some kohlrabi with the usual crudités and serve with a dip of your choice. Kids will devour the crunchy kohlrabi right alongside the more pedestrian veggies.
Potato and Celeriac Mash
Boil the potatoes and celeriac in separate pots of salted water for 20-30 minutes, until fork tender. Drain. Add half of the warm milk and butter to the celeriac and puree in a food processor. Put the potatoes through a potato ricer or a food mill. Mix the celeriac puree and potatoes together, adding the remaining milk and butter until you reach the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Your little mashed potato lovers won’t know the difference.
Kale Crisps (or "Green Chips")
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the kale. Remove the stems and tear the kale leaves into equal-size pieces for even cooking. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper until all of the pieces are evenly coated. Place the pieces on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for eight minutes and check progress frequently (kale crisps are delicious, burnt kale is not). Serve kale crisps in lieu of potato chips alongside a sandwich for lunch.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a Chicago mom and freelance writer. Visit her at www.ahenandtwochicks.blogspot.com.