Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables―with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes (The Experiment, 2018), by Melanie Potock, is a wonderful guide to get kids involved in the kitchen. Potock provides many useful ways to get kids prepping and playing with the veggies they prepare. By exploring the veggies before they eat, kids may be less apt to turn their noses at what they prepared. Find this excerpt in Part One: “Parsnips.”
When pureed parsnips and carrots are added to a roux and then made cheesy with Gruyère, the result is a pasta topping that’s just the right color and rich flavor to rival any boxed macaroni and cheese—and won’t you feel better serving this version instead? A roux (pronounced “roo”) is the result of cooking flour and a fat together over heat and is used to thicken a sauce. As the liquid heats, its molecules begin to move around very rapidly. In addition, you’ll be whisking to speed things up even more: You’re making the molecules slam into the grains of starch in the flour. When that happens, the starch begins to absorb water. Now the mixture begins to thicken and presto: You’ve created a roux!
• 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (13 mm) cubes
• 12 to 16 ounces (340 to 455 g) pasta, preferably elbows or penne (gluten-free if needed)
• 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (chopped garlic in a jar is easiest!)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free if needed)
• 1/2 cup (120 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
• 1/2 cup (120 ml) 2 percent milk
• 3/4 cup (about 80 g) grated Gruyère
• Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the carrots and parsnips and simmer until tender. Drain.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook per the package directions while preparing the cheese sauce.
3. To make the cheese sauce, combine the cooked veggies and the garlic in a high-powered blender (such as a Blendtec), add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and puree.
4. In a medium or large saucepan, combine the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the butter begins to foam, begin to make a roux: Whisk the flour into the butter and cook for 1 minute. Tilt the pan slightly on the burner as you whisk to catch more of the liquid with each stroke. Put the pan flat on the burner again and add the broth and milk. Lightly whisk until the mixture begins to thicken.
5. Fold the vegetable puree into the roux with a wooden spoon. Add the grated cheese with a wooden spoon until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm if the pasta isn’t ready.
6. Mix the pasta and “just enough” cheese sauce together before serving. (The shape and size of the pasta will determine how much sauce is needed, so add sauce gradually and reserve some to add to leftovers. Pasta will often absorb some of the sauce when leftovers are refrigerated. It’s nice to have a bit more sauce to add the second day.) Add salt and pepper as necessary once more.
All Kids Can . . .
Wash and dry the veggies
Add ingredients to the blender
Add salt and pepper to taste
Plus, Big Kids Can . . .
Peel and slice the veggies (with adult supervision)
Add pasta to the water to cook (with adult supervision)
Make the roux (with adult supervision)
Stir the cheese into the roux
Parenting in the Kitchen
Is it ever OK to sneak veggies into other foods? On the one hand, we always want to build trust with a hesitant eater, and that’s why cooking together is so valuable. It makes the kids part of the process and gives them ownership in each dish. But, on the other hand, if it makes you feel better to add some veggie puree to a recipe on occasion, don’t stress. Think about it: Every time you enjoy a freshly baked brownie with your child, it’s not like you announce, “I knew you would like these! I put corn oil in them!” If you decide to “sneak” a little extra vegetable in a preferred food, be sure to eat it with your child. Then you can look for an opportunity to casually mention the hidden ingredient: “You know, I wasn’t sure if I would like this new recipe. It has [fill in vegetable here] in it. But I do like it! It’s yummy.”• Roasted Butternut Squash with Mixed Salad Greens and Homemade Dressing Recipe
Recipe from Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables―with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes by Melanie Potock. © Melanie Potock/The Experiment, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. experimentpublishing.com