As a woman with two highly picky children and one moderately picky husband, my house is often a battleground at dinner time. The reason? Vegetable diversity. These guys like few, if any vegetables. Furthermore, they have no desire or interest to expand their culinary palates beyond the two vegetables they will actually eat.
This problem is mostly my fault. When my husband and I first got married, I did not have a whole lot of vegetable love either. I still ate more than he did, but not by much. Then my oldest entered the picture, aka “Demon Baby,” and I was willing to feed that kid anything just to shut him up for 30 seconds (but that’s a story for another day.) Basically, I created a house full of picky eaters, and now I am reaping what I sowed.
In the past few years, I’ve expanded my personal vegetable diet, and have worked on preparing them in more healthy ways. After all, frying the okra probably cancels out its’ nutritional benefit, right? And smothering broccoli in cheese knocks out any good points you get for eating the broccoli in the first place, I’m sure. Unfortunately, my family is not exactly on the bandwagon with this whole vegetable diversity plan. I’ve tried bribery, begging, threatening and an assortment of other theatrics to no avail. My current plan involves sneaking them into other foods, so they can’t be avoided.
While my plan is still hit and miss, I have discovered a secret that has helped all of us like a few more vegetables than before. My magic secret? Roasting (which just means baking the vegetables in the oven.) Most vegetables that can be roasted taste WAY better compared to steaming, boiling, etc.
Here is an example:
The other night I started with this:
I chopped it up, tossed with some olive oil, sprinkled on some salt and it looked like this:
I baked it on a sheet pan about 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees, until the vegetables were turning golden brown and delicious. Yummy! Of course, I had to mix it up with some rice to coax the kids into eating it, but Lord, for these small victories I am grateful.
This also works with asparagus, which can roast up in about 8 minutes flat at 375 degrees. Again, just toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt (after cutting off the woody ends), and you’ll end up with the best dang asparagus you ever put in your mouth. If you close your eyes, you can almost pretend it’s french fries. Don’t take my word for it; Granny, Grandaddy, Sister Emmers and Best Friend M. all agree.
I actually got Bayou Husband to eat some roasted cauliflower the other day, though it was sprinkled liberally with Parmesan cheese.
Next time you are waging Vegetable War at your house, roast the veggies. You may be surprised at how much better they taste, or at least how much more you can force feed your kids before they enter full-scale riots.
To get you started, here is a recipe from this month’s Southern Living that I tried last night, and to my surprise, everyone actually ate it. Just roast your asparagus instead, and toss it in at the end! You can have this on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Chicken Tortellini with Asparagus
- 1 (20-oz.) package refrigerated herb-and-chicken tortellini
- 1 pound fresh asparagus
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions (about 2 onions)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium-size red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 (10-oz.) jar sun-dried tomato pesto (this is usually by the jarred pasta sauces)
- 1/4 cup (1 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. sliced ripe black olives (optional)
1. Prepare tortellini according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces.
3. Sauté onions in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until softened. Increase heat to medium-high, add asparagus and bell pepper, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes.
4. Stir in pesto. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and, if desired, sliced black olives. Serve immediately.
It may not be pretty, but it’s dang tasty, and it got some asparagus into the opposition. We’ll call that a victory for vegetable diversity.