A few years ago, before I was a mother, Eric and I were living in Denver. I happened to find a vegan meet up group who was planning a potluck. Eric and I were eager to make some new friends and vegans seemed like a good start.
When the day arrived we drove across town to a church that had agreed to let the vegan group use their dining hall.We walked in nervously, not sure what to expect, there was tons of food all of the dishes labeled with ingredient lists and recipes! There were plenty of friendly vegans from all walks of life; it was great. We dished ourselves up a heaping plate of vegan food and seated ourselves at one of several round tables.
Soon enough we were joined by a young mother and her daughter who was about 3. We chatted and had a pleasant meal, but what I remember most (and the point of this story) was being absolutely impressed at what a good veggie eater the 3 year old girl was. She picked up broccoli and ate it up, lettuce was followed by peppers and carrots and any vegetable put in front of her. I asked the mother what her secret was for getting her child to be such a good veggie eater and she, without a hint of irony said that she'd just always put veggies in front of her daughter and the girl had grown to love them. She informed me that was a bonus of raising a vegan kid.
Fast forward to the present. I have my own vegan daughter who had been, until a few months ago, a pretty good veggie eater. I have always put veggies in front of her and sometimes it has taken a few tries, but she had always eventually given it a go. Something has changed and now she eyes every dish with suspicion. She spots a black fleck and panics that it might be a mushroom (who knew mushrooms were an issue). The smallest fleck of herb is dutifully extracted. This morning she pulled off a nearly microscopic piece of her pancake and informed me that it was "stinky." Thankfully she will drink veggie juice by the gallon, leading me to believe that this is a visual and textural issue more than anything.
So, I am taking a trip down the veggie disguising avenue. I plan to continue to put regular veggies in front of her, but I am also sneaking them in wherever and whenever I can. Last night I made a lasagna with this issue in mind...now it isn't a culinary masterpiece, it is geared towards little ones, but I thought it was pretty good. The squash gave it a mellow flavor.
1 roasted butternut squash (cut off stem, halve, seed, roast face down on a cookie sheet at 300 F 40-50 minutes)
1 jar of tomato sauce, nothing chunky or picky eaters will discover!
1 package of lasagna noodles
1 package extra firm tofu, drained
1/4 c. vegan cream cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 package mozzarella Daiya shredded vegan cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 300 F. Scoop out the flesh from the butternut squash once it has cooled and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy. Mix the squash with the tomato sauce. Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mash the tofu into a crumble, no big chunks. Add the cream cheese and mix. Add the garlic powder and lemon juice and mix. Once the noodles are done cooking, drain. Pull out a big casserole dish. Layer noodles across the bottom, then a layer of 1/3 of the tofu mixture, spread evenly. Top with 1/3 of the sauce/squash mixture, spread evenly. Finally add an even layer of the Daiya cheese over the top. Repeat 2 more times. Then place the lasagna into the oven and back for 20-30 minutes. Serve with a salad, some fruit and French bread.
Now I want to say this was a resounding success. I imagined her eating 3 helpings or something and that didn't happen, but she did end up eating about half of an adult size serving with only a fair amount of suspicion. I think I am on to something. So now I am just planning to add pureed veggies to anything and everything I can. Hopefully she will become accustomed to the taste and the rest will fall into place. How do you get your kids to eat veggies?