Julie Anne and Tatjana Rhodes by Johnnie Friedman
Television has been advocating “eat your vegetables” for decades. From cartoons like Popeye squashing a can of spinach into his mouth for the strength to save Olive Oil, to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. What will it take to make kids eat their vegetables?

Tatjana and the bottom lip
When babies start eating solids they start with pureed carrots and strained peas, and kids love color! What could possibly be more colorful than an artful array of fresh vegetables? So why is it so hard to get your kids to eat them? Are you setting a good example by eating tons yourself? Are you letting them off the hook too easily when they start to make a fuss about it?

A veritable paint palate full of vegetables
I know the only two veg I would eat when I was little, were beets (because my favorite color was red) and green beans. My mother would pretend to be the mommy bird feeding me “green worms”. Sometimes all it takes is an inspirational splash of imagination with a tiny drop of cunning.

Tatjana’s favorite Penne & Zucchini Arrabiatta

Find clever ways to make vegetables more palatable and visually appealing. Tatjana always loved zucchini sauteed in a little garlic and olive oil, then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese once I turned the stove off, tossing in the still warm pan, until melted and gooey; and she thought zucchini or eggplant were a normal part of pasta sauce. Most kids love peanut butter, so try a vegetable and noodle stir-fry with an Asian peanut sauce, or how about zucchini or sweet potato oven fries instead of French fries, or crispy oven roasted kale in place of potato chips. You can even puree various vegetables to blend new colors (as you would with paints). Get creative!

Purple Cauliflower
It’s not just mothers that are getting crafty these days… farmers are breeding vegetables with more kid-friendly colors. Purple carrots and potatoes, tomatoes in every color of the rainbow, and now green, orange, and purple cauliflower. Get your children excited about the funny colors, tell them you’re going to “paint by vegetable” for dinner tonight, let them choose the colors, and make the meal together. They are much more likely to be thrilled about devouring something you’ve found and created together.

Julie Anne Rhodes

Don’t worry… it is not dipped in dye, or the product of genetic engineering! The color is achieved through a traditional selective breeding process where specific strains of the flower (yes cauliflower is an edible flower… another fun selling point for your kids) are cross bred until they get the color and shape they are looking for. While they all taste the same, colored cauliflower may even be healthier for you. The orange cauliflower has 25 times the amount of vitamin A (good for the eyes and skin) as white cauliflower, and the purple has the same antioxidants found in blueberries or red wine (antioxidants strengthen the immune system, slow the aging process, and help ward off disease)!
Purple Cauliflower Mash

This easy kid-friendly side dish also happens to be great for low carb diets in place of mashed potatoes. Of course you can make it with any other color of cauliflower you happen to have, and let your imagination run wild with additional ingredients and variations.

Servings: 4

  • 1 large head of purple cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 4 tablespoons of lite cream cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

1). Fill a large saucepan 1/4 of the way full with water, cover, and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Place the cauliflower florets and garlic into the steamer section, then place between pan and cover. Steam for 15-20 minutes, or until cauliflower and garlic are very soft when pierced with a knife.

2). Remove vegetables, being careful not to get burned by the steam, to a food processor, blender, or put back into the drained pan if using a hand blender.

3). Add the cream cheese, and blend until smooth and the consistency of mashed potatoes. Season to taste, and stir well before serving.

Serving suggestions: Serve this with any dish you might serve mashed potatoes with. I love this with turkey, chicken, or pork. I’ll usually serve with some kid of greens or a green vegetable like broccoli or asparagus as well.

Variations: Add 1/3 cup Parmesan and a pinch of oregano, or if using a white or orange cauliflower, I like the spicier versions of adding 1/3 cup cheddar and tablespoon of canned jalapenos, or a couple chipotle peppers for a smokier flavor. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
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  • April 14, 2010
    7:19 pm

    oh love thisMadeleine Gallay

  • April 14, 2010
    10:14 pm

    I particularly love this post. I'm one of those moms who adds extra veggies to all of the meals I prepare. Everything you said is RIGHT on. My kids really love the cauliflower mash, to introduce this dish I started w/ a head of cauliflower and 2 potatoes mashed together and seasoned just as I'd prep regular mashed potatoes. They la-la-love it. …Kim Phillips Cuccia

  • April 14, 2010
    10:15 pm

    Cool the purple cauliflower and the recipe!!Martina D' Epifanio

  • April 14, 2010
    10:21 pm

    Hehehe… Mia would probably like this Martina!Kim I started making it with potato as well, then had a client that wanted to follow a strict low carb diet, so I tried it without, and never ever add the potatoes any more. I don't miss them at all.

  • April 15, 2010
    1:27 am

    Hi Julie Anne,Wow….love the purple cauliflower mash. Love the blog too and I totally agree with you. Kids love colour and my little Mia is just nuts about it too when it is in her food. She is totally obesessed with carrots (being NUMBER ONE), green beans and broccoli. At first it took a while for her to eat her green beans and she would pick the carrots out only if the two veggies were together. Now she eats everything displayed in front of her. Pasta with mixed veggies she is a huge fan of and she has to have it with parmesan cheese. It is a must!Being creative with food and adding colour is definately a way for kids to get in there and enjoy food.Aussie Mum

  • April 15, 2010
    2:57 am

    I love this idea of color. The purple cauliflower looks so pretty. I think whatever we enjoy, we enjoy with our eyes first. Food's gotta look good, especially to kids. I found with me (and with two of my five kids) that texture is important too. I don't like soggy or mushy. We eat salad often. This past week, I made a salad with cooked spaghetti squash, and raw red peppers, cilantro, green onion, and carrots tossed with rice vinegar and sesame oil…and it was gone before mom got any 😉 So good and so healthy too.When I was a kid, i didn't like any veggies, but that was mostly because my mom couldn't cook LOL…it was always canned veggies boiled to the point of lifelessness. Ugh. After I lived overseas following high school, I learned that veggies seasoned well or not cooked to death are actually quite good. 🙂

  • April 15, 2010
    12:01 pm

    Ya Dear i am totally assist with you that if wanna to keep fit and healthy our family, then we must Grow Your Own Vegetables

  • April 15, 2010
    6:08 pm

    Mmm…your blog inspired me to make one of my easy faves: grated parmesan on roasted cauliflower florets.I agree we must be good role models for our children. I never tell my son, "You have to eat your _____," nor do I bribe him with treats ("If you eat all your _____, you can have a cookie"). We talk about food that's good for you, not good for you (but not bad, like bread), and bad for you. To be strong like daddy (and mommy!), he knows he needs to eat lots of food that's good for him.It makes a difference to have him help prep and/or cook the vegetables. He's not even 3 1/2, but washing a bell pepper or tossing sliced carrots into a cool pan is enough to get him interested. He loves to harvest and eat anything in our (admittedly pathetic) garden. Another strategy I use is to allow him to choose any fruit or vegetable in the grocery store, and we usually eat it as soon as we get home while the excitement is high. One friend of mine reminds her daughter of the "Green Eggs and Ham" book; you won't know if you like it until you try it!

  • April 16, 2010
    3:13 am

    I am going to use that baby bird trick!

  • April 16, 2010
    3:53 am

    I want that mash. xxx