Green and Brown (eat your veggies!) Spaghetti

July 24, 2011

Yes, it is true, my kids eat their vegetables.  No, not every vegetable, every time, but they do eat them and what is more they like them.  They even ask for them.  So you do not peg my family and sweet little munchkins as social and culinary oddities, I thought I would let you in on a couple of tricks that I am convinced have helped me to raise two kids who are not afraid of vegetables.

1.  Serve different kinds of vegetables, often.

Though there are certain vegetables that my kids will almost always eat (sweet peas, cucumbers, broccoli), I am careful to serve other types of vegetables frequently as well.  I find that the more I mix of the types of veggies and the way I prepare them, the more likely they are to try different tastes.  Though I never force them to eat anything, I do encourage them to try a bite.  For the most part, I ignore them if they say they do not like something. What they do not like on a certain day, they may love the next.  Keep at it.

2.  Eat vegetables yourself and let them see you.

As a general rule, I figure I should be eating more vegetables than my kids, if I expect them to eat veggies at all.  I pile on the salads and extra servings of vegetables and make sure they notice.

3. Catch them when they are hungry.

There is little chance my kids (or anyone else’s for that matter) are going to eat a pile of broccoli, when they have already consumed two bowls of mac and cheese or another preferable kid food.  In the hour before dinner when my son is loitering in the kitchen complaining that he is “starving”, I like to put out a big plate of fresh raw veggies.  Both he and my daughter will polish off  surprisingly large servings of carrots, cucumbers, peas, broccoli, celery, etc. as they are waiting for dinner.  After that, I do not worry too much if they happen to pick at their dinner vegetables.

4.  Let them pick which vegetable to buy or cook.

When kids have the choice of which vegetable to eat, they are in control and may be more likely to actually eat it.  Often at the farmers’ market or grocery store, I allow each child to pick out a vegetable.  Often they surprise me with their choices (cauliflower, jicama), but almost without fail, they will gobble up their selection.

5.  Vegetables should taste good.

Take the time to serve fresh, seasonal vegetables raw or cooked in a way that fits that food.  Vegetables should taste delicious, just as the other parts of the meal should.  Taste it, if it tastes good to you, it probably will to them as well.  If the vegetable is overcooked or underseasoned, you cannot really blame your kids for not eating it.

Green and Brown Spaghetti is my kids only favorite way to eat zucchini.  As any gardener knows, there is never a shortage of zucchini in the summertime.  When recently both kids announced that they did not like zucchini (or ma-chini as my daughter calls it) I knew it was time to break out this favorite from last season.  In this recipe, the zucchini is cut very long and thin to resemble spaghetti.  I picked up the technique from Smitten Kitchen last year.  Instead of cooking the zucchini, the hot cooked pasta is simply drained over the zucchini in a colander.  The zucchini becomes just slightly tender, while still maintaining a good bite.  Tossed with a bit of fresh pesto, it is a huge hit with our kids, but is certainly not a “kid food.”  You can be proud to serve this to hungry eaters (and veggie-phobes) of all ages.

I will admit that the first time I served this dish this season, I did not let on about the zucchini.  I called it Green and Brown Spaghetti.  Half-way through his second bowl, my son paused, looked up from his bowl, and asked if what he was eating was zucchini.  I responded, yes.  He peered at me suspiciously and said that he did not like zucchini.  I simply nodded and said, OK.  After a moment he planted his face down in his bowl and resumed enthusiastically shoveling the pasta into his mouth.  Needless to say, there were no leftovers.

Green and Brown Spaghetti

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

serves 4 as a side dish

(or two voracious youngsters as a main dish)

3/4 pound zucchini

3/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti


pesto to taste (recipe follows)

the garnish

zucchini flower, cut into thin strips (optional- garnish)

parmesan cheese

Use a mandoline to cut the zucchini using the fine french fry cutter.  If you do not have a mandoline, finely julienne the zucchini so that it resembles spaghetti.  Place zucchini strands in a colander in the sink.

Boil a large pot of water.  Cook pasta in salted water until al dente.  Drain pasta over the zucchini in the colander.  Shake to remove excess water and transfer to a serving bowl.  Stir in pesto (start with 1/2 cup and add more according to your taste).  Top with zucchini flower strips and parmesan.

Basil Pesto

adapted from Ina Garten

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

4 cloves garlic

2 1/2 cups packed basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients except parmesan cheese in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.  Add parmesan and process until just combined.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipes:

Green and Brown Spaghetti and Basil Pesto

You may also like:

Packet-grilled Potatoes

Brussel Sprouts with Garlicky Bread Crumbs

Beets with Pistachios and Mint


6 Responses to “Green and Brown (eat your veggies!) Spaghetti”

  1. Yu Kim Says:

    Looks pretty too! I think I may do this to my husband… =) Thanks!


  2. Janice Says:

    I can’t wait to try this. Another way to use Z. and easy too. I’ve wanted to use the blossoms too. Perfect!

  3. Sally Says:

    Thanks Karen. We just finished off a bowl for lunch. The hubs thought it was to die for. Another way to use up the extra z. that are taking over the world.

  4. Hannah Says:

    What a great way to serve zucchini! Always looking for new ideas this time of year. Nice tips for helping kids to enjoy veggies!

  5. […] of one dinner a week.  What seemed benign at first quickly spiraled into many successive nights of pesto pasta, hamburgers, and spaghetti and meatballs.  My kids, who would eat anything, had a very short list […]

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