Every parent knows it can be tough to get kids to eat vegetables. So tough, sometimes, that it can be tempting to look for ways to trick kids into consuming their daily quota. Even so, I'm not a fan of "hiding" veggies in kids' food. I think it reinforces the idea that eating vegetables is a chore we have to get through. Not true!
I like the approach of serving veggies every day, and modeling how much you like them. I believe that if kids are consistently served a variety of vegetables in a positive way, eventually they'll come around to actually eating them. It's the method we use at the Burlington Children's Space. Teachers sit with kids at mealtime, serve themselves whatever vegetable we're having for lunch and talk about how colorful, crunchy, or tasty it is. It usually works!
That being said, there's no reason you can't boost the vegetable quotient in a popular dish that's already pretty healthy, like good old-fashioned red sauce! This recipe is a favorite at my house and at BCS. The best part? It's incredibly versatile — it works with pasta, pizza, lasagna, and can even be modified into a tasty tomato soup. Whether or not you tell you kids about the kale and carrots is up to you.
Very Veggie Pasta Sauce
(Makes about 4 cups)
1 bunch kale, washed, dried, tough stems removed.
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil (or 3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1. Add the first five ingredients to afood processor and whizz until everything is chopped finely and almost forms a paste.
2. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, then scrape everything out of the processor and into the saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is heated through.
3. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and stir to combine everything. Let simmer over medium-low heat until it just starts to bubble. Add the salt, pepper, herbs, vinegar and sugar and stir well. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour or two. Taste and adjust seasonings if you like.
4. Serve over pasta, use as a sauce for homemade pizza or lasagna OR stir in 1 1/2 cups warmed milk and 1/4 cup good grated parmesan cheese for a delicious soup. This sauce freezes well so I like to make a double batch and freeze half for another night!