How to Cook Vegetables the Way Kids Love Them
My readers are asking how to cook vegetables for kids. They want to serve more veggies, but don’t know how to prepare them in ways that appeal to kids. As a home cook, I too had to learn new ways to prepare vegetables. Most of the vegetable dishes I serve my family are not the ones I grew up eating.
Kids like to eat food that looks and tastes good – just like we do. Here are five vegetable preparation techniques to help you learn how to cook vegetables for kids and to help your family fall in love with vegetables. Vegetables will go down the hatch when you prepare them in one of these a tasty ways, and you expect your kids to eat vegetables, just like they are expected to learn to read and brush their teeth. Enjoy.
How to Cook Blanched Vegetables for Kids
en you plan how to cook veggies for kids, consider blanching your vegetables. This simple technique can save you bundles of time in the kitchen. You can blanch a bunch of veggies once a week, and use them all week to pack in lunches or use for after school snacks. They also make a great nibbler for starving kids who start to smell dinner as you’re cooking and insist on a snack 20 minutes before you serve. Blanched veggies are crisp and perfect for munching, dipping or adding to green salads.
Technique – Drop clean, bite sized veggies into a pot of boiling water for one minute. Strain veggies, and put them in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Once cool, drain, towel dry and pack them in zip top bags or air tight containers.
Great for – fresh green beans, snap peas, snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus.
How to Cook Roasted Vegetables for Kids
Your oven does most of the hard work for you when roasting. Roasting gives veggies a caramelized, sweet, intense flavor. Roasting vegetables makes the whole house smell good, mmm. That’s how to cook vegetables for kids!
Technique – Cut veggies into large pieces. Toss with a healthy fat, just to coat. Season with salt or preferred dry spices. Spread on a roasting pan or large casserole dish and roast for 20-50 minutes until fork tender and golden brown. Root veggies like potatoes and turnips will take longer than broccoli.
Great for – root veggies (onions, carrots, potatoes, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, and parsnips), broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts.
How to Stir- fry Vegetables for Kids
This method requires a bit more time, but it’s worth it. Pick three veggies, match them with a protein (tempeh, pork, chicken, beef, sausage), and add a little sauce serving it over brown rice or brown rice pasta and you’ll never order take-out again.
Technique – cut veggies into bite sized pieces. Cook meat and onion in a bit of sesame seed oil and remove from pan. Add more oil to the pan and then add veggies. Cook 1-5 minutes until bright and crisp. Return meat to pan with veggies, add sauce and cook until it thickens. Serve over rice or pasta.
Great for – cabbage, bok choy, bean sprouts, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, pea pods, green beans, broccoli, onions, zucchini and leafy greens like collards and kale. Frozen veggies are great stir-fry meal helpers, helping you as you experiment with how to cook vegetables for kids.
Raw veggies pack the most nutrients, losing none in the cooking process. The best way to eat raw veggies at dinner is in a salad. Serving a salad course before the main meal ensures your kids have a chance to dig in before their appetite is dulled by favored protein and starchy carbohydrate options.
Entrée salad bars are another great way to pack in the veggies. Remember to add protein choices like drained canned beans, hard boiled or poached eggs or diced/shredded meat. Keep appetizer salads simple with one or two veggies. Leafy greens are not required! You could serve a simple slaw, or cucumbers and carrot coins tossed in a simple vinaigrette.
Don’t be afraid of fat content of salad dressing. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. Not only does your brain need fat to function, but vitamins in vegetables will be better absorbed with the fat in dressing.
Technique – Wash and slice all the veggies and add to a bowl. Prepare a home-made salad dressing. Toss and serve for appetizer salad, or set out vegetable and protein choices on the counter top and let each eater make their own salad.
Great for – leafy greens (including spinach and kale), left-over grains, drained canned beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, sprouts, zucchini
How to Cook Steamed Vegetables for Kids
These are not your mom’s steamed veggies! Learn a few steaming rules and your family will gobble them up. 1) Thou shalt not over cook steamed veggies. 2) Thou shalt season steamed veggies with great flavors.
Technique – Keep vegetable pieces large when steaming so they don’t overcook. Green vegetables should still be bright green when you take them off the heat, not dark green or brownish. You should be able to stick a fork in them, but not be able to mash them with a fork. Toss healthy fats like real butter from pastured cows or olive oil over hot veggies. Add zest from citrus fruits for a bright fresh flavor. Or toss warm steamed veggies in a vinaigrette of oil, vinegar, one dry spice, and a little zest, salt and pepper.
Great for – broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, zucchini, okra. When you are out of ideas on how to cook vegetables for kids, refer back to some of these ideas and get inspired again!