I have never been a picky eater. In fact, there is a family myth that when I was in the hospital diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of two, the foods I requested were barley soup and avocados. Now, tell me is that the food of choice for a normal two year-old? I think not. I have continued like this my whole life. Yes, like any normal human a good dose of sugar or carbs is sometimes comforting, and now that I live in the world of pasta and pizza I admit that I may be eating a little more than necessary; however, the truth is that I LIKE VEGETABLES. Presented with the choice between plain pasta and grilled eggplant, I would go for the eggplant 90% of the time.
This is why I can’t understand when kids refuse to eat vegetables. Yes, uncooked vegetables are more daunting than vegetables in disguise, but really throwing a fit because you can’t seem to fit a tasty carrot down your throat between heaping bowls of pasta is ridiculous to me. This is why I have made it my mission in Italy to introduce vegetables into the Italian child’s diet.
Lesson #1: Vegetables are not poisonous
In the child’s mind, green seems to be connected to fear. This also applies to American children as well as grown Italian men, and I have yet to understand the psychological connection as I am an exception to this phenomenon. I have seen many people refuse to touch a fantastic plate of food, because there is a single green leaf (usually basil) among the white carby mush. Seeing this breaks my large healthy heart!
My first order of business is to sever what I refer to as the green-fear connection. I do this with zucchini bread. Zucchini bread is not threatening. On the green spectrum it is very low. The zucchini is disguised in a soft moist cake, so that only specks of green are visible to the naked eye if examined closely. The trick is to avoid telling children what is in the bread, and just calling it cake obvious chocolate chips will add to this facade. After they have tasted the zucchini bread and probably even gone in for seconds, you can let it slip that the main ingredient is in fact the vegetable they hate most in the world.
In my personal experience this is highly successful and extremely amusing for the baker. I got one particularly picky eater who hasn’t touched a zucchini for 10 years (she’s 14) to eat an entire piece and more. Here is the recipe I used:
Zucchini Bread (the not-so -healthy version)
adapted from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/moms-zucchini-bread/
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tsp vanilla lievito2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 eggs1 cup olive oil2 cups white sugar
- 3 small-medium sized zucchinis grated
1/2 cup chocolate chips
- Beat liquid ingredients (eggs, oil,)Add sugar and lievitoAdd zucchini and mix
Slowly add in flour, cinnamon and salt
Mix until mixture has a smooth runny texture
Add chocolate chips
Bake in bread tins at 170 c or 350 f for an hour or until toothpick comes out clean…
When I make this recipe for myself, I change a lot of things… I use whole wheat flour, I substitute 2/3 cup olive oil for plain nonfat yogurt, and I use 1/4 cup honey or agave instead of 2 cups of sugar. These substitutions make for a very different bread. It is still moist and soft thanks to the zucchini, but it is less sweet (more of a muffin) and it has a heavier richer taste thanks to the whole wheat flour. Although I prefer this recipe, it is not exactly kid-friendly, which defeats the purpose of my experiment.
As always buon appetito e in boca al lupo!