April 30

How To Get Kids To Eat Broccoli (Two Ways)

Blog, Cooking

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My mom got me to eat broccoli when I was a kid through parental trickery of my love for all things DINOSAUR.  When I was served the small bits of broccoli, I bit into them and didn’t like the taste.  Sure, they were “good for me” but they tasted like green mush.  They were typically frozen veggies that were reheated in a microwave and seasoned.   I only ate them, because they were the gateway to dessert at the end of the meal.

One day, my 5-year-old self pushed away a bowl of broccoli I just didn’t want to eat.  She said, “Eat your broccoli!”

“No!” I whined.

Suddenly, her voice changed and she casually said, “Eric, you are a dinosaur and those pieces of broccoli are baby trees.”

I froze and began to process this new reality:  I was a dinosaur, and not just any dinosaur, but a big bad dinosaur with large claws and big teeth.

“Don’t eat the baby trees,” my mom cooed.

Immediately, with youthful ignorance, I knew I had to disobey.  I would show those trees who was the boss of this house.  I slowly reached for a floret and opened my mouth.

“Don’t do it!” she said.

The broccoli was in my hand and moving closer to my mouth.

“The baby trees!  Don’t eat them!” my mom said, recoiling with fear.

“Raaahhh!”  I roared as I shoved those baby trees into my mouth and munched away, feeling my mighty body go stronger with each bite as I devoured the small forest in front of me.

“Oh no!  You ate the baby trees!” she said.  And I did.  I ate all those trees.

dinosaur broccoli

Fast forward 20+ years later and now I’m the one trying to get kids to eat broccoli through after-school programs and summer camps.  As a parent reading this, you are welcome to use my mom’s game to get your kids to eat broccoli.  But there are better way to get kids to eat their veggies.

Why should we eat broccoli in the first place?

Broccoli is considered one of the healthiest foods around because it detoxifies the body through:

– Vitamin A (great for your eyes)
– Vitamin C (great for your immune system)
– Vitamin K (great for your heart and bones)
– Potassium (great for your nerves and muscles)
– Folate (great for your cells and DNA)

To put it in one sentence:  Eating a portion of broccoli helps maintain the health of your eyes, heart, bones, nerves, muscles, cells, DNA and immune system.

So if you hear broccoli is called a “super food,” now you know why.

How can we get kids to eat broccoli?

Getting kids to eat broccoli at a young age requires you to pass through two hurdles working against you:

– When it’s raw, broccoli has very little flavor and tastes bland and chalky
– When broccoli is cooked, the flavors soften and become more palatable, but if it’s overcooked, broccoli can become spongy and mushy.

So how do you cook broccoli so it’s not overcooked and tastes good?

That’s a problem that we like to solve at our summer camp when we serve broccoli, which is served once per week at camp.  Below are two ways to cook broccoli as a side dish.  One method is fast, and one I personally use a lot because it takes about 10 minutes.  The second method is slower, taking about 40 minutes, because it’s roasted in the oven, but it gives the florets a crispy, delicious texture.

 

Method 1:  On the stovetop (15 minutes)

panbroccoli

Ingredients:

2lb broccoli (about 2 or 3 large stalks)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Optional:  Grated Parmesan, Lemon Wedges, Melted Butter, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Shopping With Your Child:  One key to get kids invested in the cooking process is to have them pick the broccoli at the store.  Give them a bag and tell them to pick the broccoli of their choice so you have about 2lb worth.  Plus this is an excellent time to bond with your child!

Cooking At Home:  You can remove the large stems, while your child can use their hands or a metal butter knife to break up the florets into bite-size pieces.  Then give the broccoli a quick rinse.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add the florets and 1/2 cup of water.  Cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes.  Come back and point out to your child how the broccoli has now turned a bright green color, meaning it’s softened during the cooking process.

You child can help you move the broccoli around the pan using a wooden span so that the broccoli cooks evenly.  Cover the pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the broccoli is cooked but not overly mushy, tasting it as you cook.

Carefully drain the broccoli over a colander, then move it to a bowl.  Give your child the authority over how to season the broccoli.   Sprinkle with salt, black pepper or a mix of grated Parmesan, fresh lemon juice, melted butter or olive oil as you like it.   Try a bite and see how it tastes.

Serve immediately or keep it in a pan in a 200°F oven to stay warm.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Method 2:  Broccoli The Slower But Tastier Way (40 Minute Total)

broccoli

Ingredients:

2lb broccoli (about 2 or 3 large stalks)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Optional:  Grated Parmesan, Lemon Wedges, Melted Butter, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Cooking At Home:  Just as in the previous recipe, you and your child will choose the broccoli at the store and assemble it into florets.  Heat an oven to 425°F with a rack in the middle.  Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a bowl flavor the broccoli with olive oil or melted butter, a good pinch of salt, black pepper and garlic.  Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until broccoli is crispy and tender.  Carefully transfer broccoli to a bowl and toss with Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon.  Taste and serve warm.

In Conclusion
The key elements of getting your kids to enjoy cooking and eating broccoli are:

1)  Allowing your child to choose the broccoli at the store.

2)  Cooking with your child as you prep and season the broccoli florets

3)  After the cooking, making sure your child is the one in charge of making it taste good.

By involving your child throughout the entire shopping and cooking process he or she will feel ownership over the broccoli and proud when it tastes good!  This gratification will inspire him or her to continue cooking with you and making more vegetables.

Best,
Chef Eric Horwitz
CEO Lift Enrichment


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Eric Horwitz

About LIFT

Eric founded LIFT Enrichment in 2010 because he wanted to help young kids develop their culinary skills so they could make healthy foods for friends and family for the rest of their lives.  He has worked with kids for over 15 years and enjoys their energy and enthusiasm for learning new things.  Eric studied abroad in Italy while at UCLA and discovered a passion for cooking.  

Eric Horwitz, Ceo of Lift

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