5 Steps to Making Vegetables Your Kids Will Eat – GDS03

Hi. This is Matt, the Stay-at-Home G33kdad in Northern California. You’ve found the G33k Dad Show! and this is episode 3, 5 steps to making vegetables your kids will eat. Thanks for listening, let’s get to it.


Well, good day and welcome into episode 3 of the g33k dad show! Thanks for tuning us in. You know, that phrase is not very “podcast”. You dont’ typically tune in a podcast. That’s a very radio phrase. But this isn’t radio. This is the podcast where we talk about the intersection of parenting and technology and I am very glad you are here.

Our intro song is, as always, Insurgent by Grant Bowtie. You can find this song and more of Grant’s work on his Soundcloud page; the link is in the shownotes which you can find at g33kdad.thestrangeland.net/3

Today I want to talk to you about vegetables. We all know our kids and even ourselves need to eat our veggies. Many of us grew up in households where veggies weren’t all that important or which consisted only of boiled broccoli, boiled corn, boiled greens, etc. My own childhood was filled with mostly goodd vegetable dishes, with the occasional over cooked brussles sprout or asparagus thrown in on a special occasion. Today, having learned a bit about cooking and how to use vegetables properly, I can say that there is only one common, everyday vegetable I don’t care for and that is the Lima Bean. I hate em. Never had a Lima Bean that didn’t taste like something a cat had caughed up in the middle of the night. If you are a Lima fan, you can direct hate mail to me here at podcast central. The email address for hate or any other kind of mail is feedback@thestrangeland.net.

Now, here are the 5 steps:

  1. Buy good veggies
  2. Vary your cooking method
  3. Use “hidden veggies”
  4. Seasoning and cheese sauce are OK! (in moderation, of course)
  5. Be a good example (not really a preperation step, per se… but….)

So, let’s take a good look at these steps:

This seems like a no brainer. However, if you don’t know how to select veggies, you put yourself at a disadvantage to start with. For starters, fresh v canned v frozen. Fresh is always best. From a farmer’s market or from a friend’s garden would be ideal. One of the best reasons to visit farmer’s markets is because you can ask the people who grow the veggies any questions you have about them. So, if you see a weird squash or funky leafy green vegetable, you can ask what it’s like and how to cook it. I am fortunate to live in the agricultural heart of California. Chances are, if you eat garlic, a raisin, or an almond, it was grown within 100 miles of my house. It is very easy to find farmer’s markets, produce stands, and other outlets for finding fresh, local produce. Even our local grocery stores make a point of sourcing local ingredients. However, if you can’t get fresh veggies for some or most of the year, or if you are concerned about them going bad in your refrigerator; I suggest frozen vegetables as your next, best choice. I do NOT recommend using canned veggies for much of anything. Canned corn or green beans can be used in a pinch, but I usually just use frozen. The only time I prefer canned vegetables is if one of my kids is sick and I want to throw together some semi-homemade soup. If you keep some low-sodium canned mixed vegetables and some low sodium broth on hand, you can throw together soup in 4 min using the microwave. Plus, you control the ingredients in case of allergies or just to cut down on the massive amounts of sodium in canned soup.

Most home cooks treat veggies in one of two ways: either they boil them, or microwave them. In many cases, using a microwave is fine, but I don’t really recommend boiling much of anything except pasta.

My favorite methods for preparing fresh vegetables are roasting and steaming. Roasting is defined as a dry heat cooking method utilizing an enclosed space such as an oven. You can roast most any vegetable, including cabbages such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussles sprouts; root vegitables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic; or even “psudo” veggies such as gourds, tomatoes, and squashes. You can find many recipes for roasted veggis online, but I think simple is better. Cut up whatever vegetables in to simlarly sized pieces. Toss them with olive or other vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs or a seasoning blend. More about that in a minute. Then put on a baking sheet or in a pyrex lasagne pan and stick in a preheated, 400 degree oven. Roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Delicious.

When it comes to steaming, you don’t need specialized equipment. I happen to have a combination steamer/rice cooker/slow cooker, but I often steam broccoli and green beans in the microwave. To do this, cut up your broccoli into florets or trim your beans. Place into a quart-sized ziptop bag along with 3-4 Tbsp of water. You can also add seasoning here, I particularly like dill weed for dark green veggies. Seal the ziptop bag, leaving about a finger width opening. Place on a microwave safe place and microwave 2-4 min, depending on the power of your microwave. Let stand about a min after cooking, then pour any water out through the space in the zipper and serve. Easy peasy… Come to think of it, this would work with fresh peas, as well.

Another at home dad I know through Facebook turned me on to an idea which I adapted just last week. Jeffery Weaver is in New Haven, CT and he suggested making a veggie ragu and serving over pasta. He does this by chopping up cooked veggies and heating them in organic tomatoe sauce. I thought this was a great idea. I used squash, potatoes, carrots, and red onion which I seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs and roasted in a 400 deg oven. When they were cooked, I poured over a jar of pasta sauce and left it in the oven for another 7 or 8 min. Then I sprinkled with Parmesean cheese and served the mixture over rice. My kids and wife ate it up.

My favorite hidden veggie application isn’t really hidden at all, but I haven’t met a kid yet that wouldn’t eat it. It’s homemade split pea soup. This is a really easy dish to make. You can make it on the stove top or in the slow cooker and it comes out great. I’ve even made a “baked” version. You can find the recipe for this soup in the show notes.

There are a couple of other ways to use hidden veggies. The easiest is probably dried pasta. In our grocery store, there are a couple of brands that use vegetable flour along with wheat flour in making traditional pasta shapes like rotini, penne, elbows, etc. Some of them are colored and some just look like regular pasta. When you combine these with a good, organic, jar of red pasta sauce, you have an easy, meatless, veggie filled meal. Pick up some garlic bread in the bakery and you are out the door in 5 minutes with a meal for 4 people for about $10. You could also use the vegetable pasta in your favorite cassarole or mac n cheese recipe. Alton Brown of the Food Network has an amazing baked mac n cheese recipe. You’ll find the link in the shownotes.

Lastly, on the subject of hidden veggies I want to bring you an idea from another Stay at Home Dad, Spike Zelenka of Las Vegas, NV. Spike is dad two twin boys and blogs at www.doubletroubledaddy.com. Spike suggests buying a frozen bag of peas and carrots, defrosting them and then pureeing in a blender. The resulting mash can be mixed into pasta sauce or meatballs. I would also add that meatloaf would be a good use for this puree, as well as using it to thicken chili or sloppy joes. Big thaks to Spike for a great contribution! Spike posts recipes on his blog under the heading “Food Sunday”. The link is in the shownotes, so check it out when you can.

To my mind, there is no better veggie combination in the world than roasted cauliflower with chedder cheese sauce. Another great one is brussles sprouts with bacon. Or how about the classic asparagus with hollendaise sauce? I don’t know about you, but my parents seemed to think that adding these flavors somehow detracted from the healthyness of the veggies. I say, if it gets your kids to eat more veggies, it’s awesome.

Now, there are some caveats, of course. Adding butter, cheese, pork, etc adds fat grams and calories. Too much salt can also be a problem. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist; please consult one if you have concerns. But I will tell you, that a careful use of seasoning and saucing can break down the walls between your kids and vegetables.

Consider Mrs. Dash or other salt-free seasoning blends. You can find them in the spice aisle of the grocery store and they are pretty fool proof. If you are going to roast some veggies, toss them with some olive oil and sprinkle with your chosen spice blend. Assuming you are using a salt-free blend (CHECK THE LABLES!) also sprinkle with coarse ground salt and pepper. When steaming vegetables, add some dried herbs to the water. The flavor will infuse with the veg.

Using browned butter can also up the flavor value of your dishes. If you have ever been to the Old Spaghetti Factory, you have probably had their broccoli with browned butter. It is a fairly easy thing to make, simply put a stick of butter in your smallest sauce pan over your lowest heat. It will melt, it will start to smell nutty and turn slightly brown. This is easiest to do in a light colored pan. The dark coating of non-stick pans makes it hard to tell when the butter is brown. When your butter is brown, remove it from the heat and add just a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt (only add the salt if you started with unsalted butter). You can store it in a jar in the refrigerator for about a week. It is great on dark green veggies like broccoli, spinach, and brussles sprouts. It’s also great to toss with spaghetti and top with some grilled shrimp… but that’s another episode.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, you have to eat veggies yourself. Don’t be the parent that loads up their kids plates with broccoli and then eats just meat and potatoes. Your kids will learn so much more about how to eat right by watching you do it, than if you just tell them about it.

To this end, if you need to, practice eating veggies. You could go out to a vegan or vegitarian restaurant. Better yet, go out to a restaurant which features veggies in their cuisine. Japonese, Vietnamese, Indian, Thai; these are all good places to order vegetable dishes and practice.

Also, when you are serving the kids a meal, don’t serve them the veggies and not put any on your own plate. You want them to be healthy and to get all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow strong. They want you to be healthy, too! So, dive right in.

Wrap up

Ok, so by means of wrap up, lets take a look at that list again of 5 steps to making veggies your kids will eat. 1- Buy good veggies, 2- vary your cooking method, 3- use hidden veggies, 4- Seasoning and cheese sauce are ok (in moderation) and 5- Be a good example. I hope this list is helpful in getting you started on the path to more veggies in your diet and less battle at the dinner table. If your family does fun things with veggies, drop me a line or leave a comment on the shownotes. The shownotes can be found at geekdad.thestrangeland.net/3. Feedback is always welcome by email to [feedback@thestrangeland.net]. Also, follow me on twitter. I am @sahg33kdad. For updates on when new episodes are coming out you can follow the show on twitter; the handle for the show is @geekdadshow

Next Episode

On the next episode we get back to the geek. I will be discussing cloud storage and cloud backup options, and if you really should use them. So join me next time for To Cloud, or Not To Cloud!

The music you are hearing now is:

Track: I Won’t Go To Bed by Adhitia Sofyan. Find it on his SoundCloud page.

Thanks for listening everybody. See you next time on the G33k Dad Show! Bye now.

Click here for Matt’s Split Pea Soup recipe.

Click here for a PDF version of the recipe.

November 2, 2014

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