Every year come February you’ll find my family devouring greens and citrus like lost sailors. We are priming our bodies for what we know is in store, despite the snow storms and presence of winter woolens languishing by our front door: long days with aprons full of tomatoes, rhubarb bouquets and pea forests.
For the last two months we’ve had spinach salad with dinner, every night. No joke. And sometimes for lunch. We like it plain: leaves and dressing. My kids’ favorite dressings: Annie’s Goddess and Newman’s Caesar. Lately, I’ve been inspired to shake it up and have had made a variety of salads, some good and a few great. This one is pretty great.
asparagus + brussels sprouts spring salad
coconut oil (or other cooking oil)
one yellow onion, chopped
one bunch asparagus, cut into one inch chunks
one pile of brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
three fistfuls of spinach
two tablespoons champagne vinegar
two tablespoons olive oil
one teaspoon dried sage
juice one lemon
Heat oil over medium-high heat with onion and cook for a few minutes. Reduce heat a bit. Add asparagus and 1/4 cup water. Cook for three minutes or until bright green but still firm. Add brussels sprouts. Cook for two minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and put in fridge to let cool for 20 minutes. Or eat warm. It’s great warm too!
Mix up dressing with a fork in a small bowl. Toss dressing with cooled salad. Add spinach and serve immediately.
My lunch the next day. It keeps well for several days.
We ate ours (sans spinach the first time; t’was good good but spinach adds so much) with black lentils, farro (both from our grain CSA) and feta.
We also made breakfast burritos with the salad, farro and lentils: add scrambled egg and fold into a warm tortilla. Good stuff. The kids did NOT go for this.
I get asked a lot about the food our kids eat. I’ve written a bit about it in my kids and food bravery post and I have a few things to add, some tips that work well for us:
* CHOP IT UP. Large chunks of anything in a sea of same-sized particles leads to skepticism. My kids loved this salad but if the brussels sprouts had been whole it’d have been a different story. Often, I make chunky soup like, say, white bean tomato kale. Andy and I eat it like that and I break out the immersion blender for my kids. Puréed soup = kids hoovering dinner.
* USE NEW INGREDIENTS. And don’t make a big deal about it. How can we expect our kids to try a new meal at a friend’s house if they aren’t practiced at trying new foods at home? Adding new veggies or herbs into something puréed is a great way to begin. Depending on your child or their mood, you may want to slip it into dinner, disguised and then talk about it after the meal. Or, include them in preparation which will naturally increase curiosity in the food. Ruby loves leeks simply because she thinks they are beautiful. Chopping them up together made her want to eat them.
* KEEP IT EASY AND FUN. Nobody wants dinner time to be a battle. Our kids are required to try everything we make. They usually like it. Sometimes they don’t and that’s ok. We don’t make them eat it. And I try my hardest to approach the whole thing peacefully and kindly, which is not always easy with a tableside meltdown. But I do it because it is important that mealtime is about connection and nourishment. As a woman who has experienced the depths of bulimia and anorexia, I am especially sensitive to nurturing healthy food relationships for my daughters. I never want to encourage food as something to fight with or about. We make new dishes and we make lots of easy, comfortable staples too. Every dinner needn’t be an exercise in experimentation and patience. If your kid is a picky eater, know they will outgrow it with your gentle guidance and support.
* CREATE EXCITEMENT AND INVESTMENT. My kids have discovered some favorite meals that we’ve developed through experimentation and exploration in the kitchen. When they like something we name it together, cook it together. My kids are three and five and they know how to make soups, french toast, pancakes, bread. They fetch the ingredients, tell me when to add the oil, when to turn it down to a simmer. They have ownership and pride in their recipes. For example, I made a corn and zucchini chowder last summer. Margot ate it every day until it was gone. So we call it Margot’s Corn Chowder and she loves to make and share it with friends.
More recipes to come! I’ve been having loads of fun in the kitchen and am excited to post more here. What have you been cooking up? Please share your favorite recipes and links!