Greens — and by that I mean dark green, leafy vegetables like collard greens, kale, spinach and chard — have never been an easy sell when it comes to kids. For my mine it was a textural thing. They couldn’t get past the “slime factor.” Simply steamed or even sautéed greens are, indeed, an acquired taste. Frankly, it took me a while to acquire it myself.
Since greens, especially kale, have been the darlings of the nutrition world for the past few years, I’ve felt compelled to find ways to work them into my family’s diet on a more frequent basis. It’s an easy thing to do this time of year because they’re a staple in every local farmers market.
To make my efforts succeed, and to get my kids to actually enjoy the greens as opposed to choking them down, I’ve tried a number of approaches.
Of course, kale chips, a recipe that has made the rounds on almost every food blog in existence, worked like a charm. They’re crunchy, salty and most definitely not slimy. They’re also not dinner — an important issue for those of us with hectic schedules. I rarely have the time to make special snacks. As delicious and rewarding as they are, if I’m going to be in the kitchen, a full meal is usually the required result.
So I turned to one of the most reliable ways to introduce a new food: Pair it with pasta; spaghetti to be precise. When the greens are thinly sliced, sautéed and combined with the spaghetti, the youngest at the table doesn’t usually get a big mouthful at once. Instead, diners get delicate little strands intertwined with the spaghetti and enhanced by a generous amount of garlic, Parmesan and a dash of lemon zest.
When I served it to my crew, no one even asked what was in the dish. It disappeared too fast to question it. That didn’t stop me from sharing my secret ingredient with them. Naturally, I waited until after they were finished, as any smart mom would, making it a pleasant surprise instead of a difficult sell.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @meredithdeeds.