For two weeks this summer I made it my mission to improve my 8-year-old son’s tolerance of vegetables.
I called it “veggie boot camp.” He called it torture.
My approach was simple. Every lunch and dinner I prepared at least three vegetables. Of those, he needed to select and consume two of them.
His approach was simple, too. Every lunch and dinner he moaned and complained and ate everything else on his plate first, leaving the dreaded vegetables for last. He’d then painfully and slowly force himself to eat them, often while threatening to mutiny.
Which gives the impression that my son is a horrible eater. Actually, he’s just the opposite. The kid devours sushi, chimichurri, mole... basically anything with gobs of flavor. He’s an adventurous eater who generally will try nearly anything. He most definitely is not your plain pasta and chicken nugget sort of kid.
Except when it comes to vegetables. For the past year or so, he has tended to get most of his produce in the form of fruit. I lived with it for a while, but this summer decided the easy living was over.
While the vegetable boot camp was hardly a pleasant experience for anyone involved, it did result in real progress. After two weeks, my son now regularly eats vegetables at every lunch and dinner. He doesn’t do it enthusiastically, but he does it. At this point in our lives, I’m good with that.
Early in the process, I found that roasting just about any vegetable dramatically improved my son’s response to it. This makes sense. Roasting concentrates flavors and caramelizes the natural sugars in produce. So to help other parents with veg-averse children, here are two of my son’s favorite (by which, of course, I mean most likely to be gagged down) roasted vegetables.
If you’d like to make both of these vegetables at once, you can roast the tomatoes at 500 F (the same temperature as the carrots) rather than use the broiler. They will take slightly longer than if you broiled them. Put them in the stove right after flipping the carrots.
Roasted Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes
Don’t be put off by the amount of salt in this recipe; much of it drains off before the tomatoes are roasted. Salting the tomatoes helps draw out excess water, producing a better roasted tomato. These tomatoes can be served on their own as a side dish, or over pasta for a simple (but delicious) sauce.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Slice the tomatoes in half, then set them in a strainer. Sprinkle the salt over the tomatoes, then gently mix. Place the strainer in the sink or over a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Give the tomatoes a shake to discard any liquid that has accumulated in the strainer. Transfer the tomatoes to a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Transfer the tomatoes to the prepared baking sheet, arranging them in an even layer.
Broil on the center rack for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to brown and soften. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 90 calories; 60 calories from fat (67 percent of total calories); 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 1 g protein; 490 mg sodium.
For reasons that befuddle me, my son consistently preferred when I used “baby” carrots in this recipe. It didn’t matter how many times I explained that those carrots are just big carrots that have been cut down. But with kids it’s all in the marketing, so I now use “baby” carrots for this recipe.
Start to finish: 35 minutes (10 minutes active)
1 pound baby carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and toss well to coat evenly. Transfer the carrots, scraping the bowl for any liquid and seasonings, to the prepared baking sheet, arranging them in an even layer. Roast for 15 minutes, then use a spatula to flip them and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and tender.
Nutrition information per serving: 90 calories; 40 calories from fat (44 percent of total calories); 4.5 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 1 g protein; 540 mg sodium.