As toddlers go, my children are pretty good eaters. They love broccoli and carrots. They gobble up hummus by the spoonful. They have recently become (oddly) obsessed with granola. So I don’t have too much reason to complain despite the fact that these days Quinn prefers everything to be prepared in a way that can be eaten with a bowl (“bow”) and spoon (“poon”) and Xavier insists that all of the “strings” be removed from his bananas and ears of corn before he will touch them and that his pasta sauce not have any tomatoes in it (he’s referring, of course, to the visible chunks that are signs to the rest of the world that the sauce is decent and not the cheapo canned stuff).
But a few lightly traveled food frontiers remain, among them leafy greens. I would love to meet someone whose toddlers regularly dig in to crunchy salads filled with kale, spinach, and arugula. Mine are not among them. Our most recent solution? Hiding spinach in shakes. I heard and read about this a while ago in multiple sources, but hadn’t tried it before. A couple of weeks ago, I tried out this recipe (there are tons of them on the web) and the kids (and their parents) enjoyed their chocolate shakes without noticing the handful of spinach pureed into them. This I will definitely try again.
We’ve been sampling a lot of other recipes both old and new these days. After ODing on Your Vegan Mom’s cashew crock cheese spread this summer, we’ve turned to more cold weather recipes like her baked ziti. We’ve also put the fresh figs that have been showing up in the stores this season to use in her pizza recipe (which, by the way, features a great pesto sauce containing more spinach the kiddos won’t notice they are eating). For Xavier’s back-to-school night, I made chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies using the recipes from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (the resource, as far as I am concerned, for vegan cookies). They were entirely gobbled up by the end of the night (much to my family’s chagrin).
Our next culinary frontier? Soup. At the first sign of cooler weather, Jeremy and I begin to salivate over our mental lists of all of the wonderful soups we’ll sample before the warmer weather returns. Our children do not share our glee. Xavier marvels at the process of cooking down onions, garlic, and all kinds of vegetables and greens and turning them into a liquid meal. He takes much less pleasure in eating said meal. And despite Quinn’s aforementioned preference for meals involving bowls and spoons, after oh-so-hesitantly touching a spoonful of soup to his lips, he contorts his face into scowls that 17 month olds should not be capable of. This fall I have resolved to expose my children to enough different kinds of soup enough times that by the winter they will each be able to finish at least one bowl of at least one kind of soup. This can’t be too lofty a goal, can it?
The first recipe we’ve tried this season is a super easy pumpkin soup I adapted from Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food. (Ready for the recipe? Mix and heat up one can of pumpkin, one can of coconut milk, and one cup of vegetable stock. Add 3 tablespoons of agave nectar to sweeten it a bit, a couple dashes of red pepper flakes for some spice, and a bit of salt to taste and continue to heat for a few minutes. Serve.) Jeremy and I gobbled it up. The kids tried and rejected it. Last night we tried Your Vegan Mom’s tomato soup (which her toddler son loved). The kids tried and rejected it. Next up is the “Bestest Soup Evah” from Beans and Greens, a perfect way to turn carnival squash into a soup as delicious as they are beautiful. I have no high hopes that my children will gobble it up as hungrily as their parents will, but I’m in it for the long haul. The season is young, after all, and I have oh so many recipes to try.