Many families try to figure out how to get their kids to eat more vegetables. Mine is no different.

So my ears perked up when friend and colleague Ken Rubin began raving about a recipe for cauliflower steaks that his kids loved. He’s vice president of culinary training at Rouxbe (Rouxbe.com), an online cooking school for both home cooks and professionals.

I was interested in more than his recipe. I wanted to find out how Rubin, who at age 8 chose to become a vegetarian and who today works for a company that promotes healthful, plant-based diets, handled the issue in his own home.

Rubin, who over the years has moderated his stance on meat, takes a sensible approach with his two sons, Gabe, age 6 ½, and Ben, 4  ½. “I don’t want to focus on what not to eat with my sons,” said Rubin. “If you always are thinking about what you can’t eat, it becomes fearful and negative.”

Instead, he employs a strategy that helps his sons make good choices. “As adults, we can change the conditions. So I serve the healthier elements of the meal first, when they’re hungry and more open to things like broccoli and beans.” After they’ve staved off their initial hunger with veggies, he brings out the buttered pasta and/or meat if they’re serving it that night. “The stomach has limited real estate and if they’ve already eaten the good stuff, there’s just not as much room for anything else,” he said.

Of course, smart dinner table strategies are never successful 100 percent of the time — even in the Rubin household. So how do they handle the occasional rebellion? “I try to stand back and look at the bigger picture. Am I really going to fight over 12 peas? No, I just serve broccoli or cauliflower, two vegetables I know they like, the next night.”

One of the ways he has served that cauliflower is in the form of “steaks” — thick slices of cauliflower, braised slightly, then seared until crispy.

“Kids like it when you change the form of a vegetable,” said Rubin. In this case, the change not only makes it more interesting, but it also allows each diner to embellish his “steak” any way he likes. While the adults may enjoy theirs topped with a vibrant, citrusy orange and olive pistou, the kids may top theirs with pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella, or Parmesan and a dab of butter, or with just a simple splash of soy sauce.

No matter how they’re served, the result is surprisingly substantial, even meaty — and something that might turn a dedicated carnivore into a happy vegetarian, at least for one meal. And that’s how a healthier diet happens for us and our families, one meal at a time.

 

Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.