by J.M. McKeel, Army spouse
When my kids eat, it’s like feeding time at the zoo. The only difference is this: The caged monkeys love their vegetables. For the littlest ones, I’ve tried tricks like the “double dip”-dunking a spoonful of veggie puree in something that they do like before trying to coax the proverbial hatch open.
But my 1-year-old can separate the two in her mouth and spit out the hidden nutrition faster than an open blender. I’ve also tried spreading vegetable matter on bread for my toddler’s sandwiches. His answer is an immediate conversion to an open-faced ham and cheese.
FINDING THE ANSWERS
After digging into the problem, I found three solutions that allow my wife (who is also my soldier) and I to make sure the kids eat their greens (and yellows, and reds, etc.).
· Bake vegetables into bread. Banana bread was a staple in my mom’s kitchen when I was a kid. She also made breads with zucchini, squash-whatever was in season. These were highly nutritious vegetables that my sister and I would touch if they weren’t baked in bread. My kids love vegetable laden breads too, as long as the veggies are well incorporated. A quick spin in the food processor usually does the trick, chopping the veggie pieces plenty small. Veggie breads can also be made into tea sandwiches, muffins or even cupcakes!
· Get saucy. A handful of pureed veggies mixed into a tasty tomato sauce easily disappears under the picky-eater radar. My son will pick out-or spit out-any chunks of tomato larger than a pencil eraser in his spaghetti. So I’ve started pureeing a little sauce just for him on the side, a perfect moment to slip in a little extra nutrition in the form of additional veggies.
· Soup for you. Soup is great for delivering solid nutrition. And the diverse ingredients, given time to sit together, share their nutritious contributions in the liquid as much as they retain them in their bits and pieces. In a fine dining kitchen, the vegetables are often removed for presentation. It’s no less true in a home cook’s arsenal for dealing with people who don’t like the farmer’s contribution as much as the butcher’s (or the pastry cook’s). Serve the nutrient-rich veggie broth alone as soup, or add noodles, or use it as an ingredient in another dish entirely. My toddler goes into his best behavior mode over veggie-infused broth and noodles. It’s fun, all that slurping and drinking from a bowl! Little does he know he’s eating vegetables and enjoying it.
As children grow, priorities shift. You can use logic and rhetoric to convince them that eating a salad is a better idea than having that third grilled cheese sandwich. But when dealing with toddlers and the in-between years, there’s a limit to constructive argument. Parents must do what’s right for their children, despite what their individual desires might be. Bill Cosby used to joke that cake made sense as a breakfast food for kids. “It’s got milk, eggs, flour… that’s nutrition!” he’d say. Maybe he was on to something though. We might prefer that our children see a salad and push aside their dessert to get to it. In most cases though, a kid sees cake, the kid eats cake. Little does the kid know cake is more than meets the eyes-veggies in disguise!
Recipe: Mom’s Vegetable Bread
1 Cu. sugar
2 Cu. sifted AP flour
½ Cu. shortening at room-temperature
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in a small amount of warm water
2 or three ripe bananas or equivalent pureed vegetables
*For cupcakes, double the egg and baking soda, add 2 tsp cinnamon and 2 tsp fresh nutmeg, and mix the wet ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Also, for some vegetables like squashes more baking soda may be used for a firmer bread, up to 2 tsp, you can also add baking powder, up to ½ tsp.
Lightly grease a 4×8 or 5×9 baking dish or pan. Combine the sugar with flour. Separately, combine the shortening and egg. Mix the shortening and egg into the sugar and flour mixture. Add soda slurry into the pureed bananas or vegetables. Fold into the bread mixture. Pour into the greased pan. Bake at 350*F until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean from the center (about 1 hour).
Recipe: Basic stock*
2 rotisserie chicken carcasses, wings, leftover chicken meat
1 ½ TBSP butter
1 sliced onion
1 sliced carrot
1 chopped rib of celery
2 cups chicken broth
2 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
*Add pureed or chopped vegetables either during cooking (to discard with the rest) or after (for a vegetable soup). If you add pureed veggies, wait until after all the liquid has been added to the stock to prevent burning them.
Brown the vegetables and chicken pieces in the butter. Drain the fat. Add the broth, herbs, and enough water to cover the chicken by ½ an inch. Simmer for an hour and a half, skimming the fat from the top with a spoon. Remove liquid from solids. Reserve liquid for immediate use, or store in the fridge for up to three days or freeze for future use. If you refrigerate, a layer of fat will form on the top and is easily removed with a spoon if you are unable to skim during the simmer phase.
How to puree
Chop vegetables into small pieces, then put into a blender. The “puree” setting is a little superfluous. Run the machine at desired speed until the contents mix together and turn into a creamy mixture. There should be no observable chunks and a spoon stuck into the fluid and pulled out should be coated on the back. If you need to scrape down bits from the sides, make sure the blades have stopped spinning, then use a long spoon or silicone / rubber spatula to push larger bits down towards the blades.