We all know it can be difficult getting kids to eat their vegetables, especially the leafy green kind that are so good for us. But with a little creative preparation, I believe any vegetable can be turned into something kids will find delicious and be excited to eat. Take pasta with tomato sauce for example, a quick, go to meal that many families eat on a regular basis. A meal, I might add, that most kids absolutely love. The tomato sauce can be a vehicle for serving a whole bunch of vegetables to picky to eaters without them even knowing it.
For this recipe, I use kale or collard greens from my garden, but spinach or chard would work as well. Kale can usually be found at winter farmer’s markets in the Chicago area, being that it can withstand pretty cold temperatures. Feel free to get creative with the recipe, a lot of different vegetables can be added to the sauce, so long as you keep the proportions in check. Too much of one thing will take over the sweet and tart flavors of the tomatoes that kids love.
6 Veggie Tomato Sauce
4-5 leaves of kale or 2-3 large collard green leaves (or the equivalent amount of spinach or chard)
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
1 green pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic
a few basil leaves
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
Cut stems out of kale by running a knife right along the stem. Discard the stems. Dice up remaining vegetables into ½ inch pieces. The size is not too important as long as it is consistent, so that the vegetables cook evenly.
Heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add the carrot, onion, green pepper, and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, until the onions and peppers start becoming limp. Then add the kale, sauté until wilted. To this, add the can of chopped tomatoes and a few basil leaves. Let it all cook together for about 5 minutes.
Remove the mixture from the heat. After it has cooled down a bit, put the contents of the pan into a food processor or blender. How much you process it depends on what kind of texture you want your final sauce to have. I like my sauce to be a little chunkier, so I process until everything is cut up into tiny pieces, but you could also process the mixture until it is a puree for a smoother sauce. After you are finished processing the vegetables, return the contents back to the pan and put it over medium heat.
Next you want to add the can of tomato paste. If the sauce is too thick at this point, add a little water. Once you reach your desired consistency, add salt, pepper, and honey. I usually add about a teaspoon of honey, which add just a bit of sweetness and tones down the acidity of the tomatoes. Serve over pasta and with a protein. We usually serve it with tempeh meatballs or canned tuna.
-Jeremy Arendt is head cook and co-owner of Sprouts Home DayCare, an organic, eco-healthy day care located in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs. He graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield where he studied sustainable food systems. When he is not cooking for the kids, you can usually find him tending to the gardens or hanging out in the greenhouse.
-photo credit: andersbknudsen, flickr