My kids aren't the pickiest eaters in the world—but they have their days. Sometimes getting them to eat their colorful veggies just isn’t worth the fight. Which is why, in my house, we have a lot of dishes on rotation that have the vegetables mixed or blended right into delicious stuff the kids adore. Here are five meal ideas that our little ones scarf down without a peep of protest.
1: Veggie-packed pasta
This is a go-to at least once a week, because our kids love pasta and red sauce, and this dish is So. Easy. It’s literally three steps: boil the pasta, add as many chopped veggies as you want into a simmering red sauce, and blend. An immersion blender works best, but you can also pour everything into an upright blender. The trick is puréeing the sauce until it’s completely smooth, and seasoning it well so the kiddos have no idea there’s spinach, broccoli, kale, carrots, or any number of nutrient-packed veggies hiding in there. For thicker and more protein-packed sauce, we blend in a can of great northern or fava beans.
2: Pizza with extra veggies
If your kids are anything like mine, pizza means cheese or pepperoni. Any attempt to sneak a pepper or leaf of spinach onto their pie is quickly foiled. Sneak those veggies into a plain slice of cheese by spooning the above veggie-packed sauce onto the crust (we love to use pre-made naan as crusts) before loading on the cheese and other toppings.
Smoothies totally count! What’s a better way for a kid to start the day (or get a boost of energy at snack time) than with fresh and frozen fruit, water or milk, a hearty green like spinach or kale, and maybe some flax or sesame seeds? They’ll love it, and you’ll love that they love it. Kids enjoy helping out in the kitchen, and because smoothies are relatively easy to make, take it as an opportunity pull a chair up to the counter and put them to work. (Here are 14 recipes to get you started.)
4: Cauliflower mac and cheese
I make a mean homemade macaroni and cheese. It’s based on an old Southern Living recipe, a variation of which you can find here (note: while this version includes Velveeta cheese in addition to cheddar in the sauce, I use only sharp cheddar). We also don’t bake the dish—it takes too long, and by cooking on the stovetop only, it’s a little closer to classic blue-box mac. Our kids don't object when we add basil and tomato throughout, but if you’re looking to make it even heartier consider blending some cooked cauliflower into the cheese sauce before serving or mixing some finely chopped pre-cooked florets right into everyone’s bowls. Cauliflower’s mild flavor and lack of color play well with the cheesy deliciousness, and it’ll have little ones asking for seconds and thirds. (Also check out this recipe for our food editor Merce Muse's take on cauliflower mac n' cheese.)
5: Cheese-and-veggie frittata
Fritatta, or “egg pie” as my kids call it, is a household favorite. C’mon, who doesn’t love a cheesy, eggy slice of goodness for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner? Even better, it’s an easy dish in which to hide whatever hearty goodness you want—from mushrooms to chopped broccoli to scallions to cauliflower. Pretty much any frittata recipe will do (this is our go-to); just be sure to use a mitt or hot pad when removing the pan from the broiler!
Photo by Paul Delmont