Salad


Last summer I thought it would be a good idea to introduce my boys to raw vegetables.  They thought otherwise.  Bits of broccoli, cabbage and zucchini ended up on the floor, on the cupboards, in my hair, in my sons’ ears—everywhere but in their mouths.  I kept offering and they kept refusing.  Then I read a newspaper column by celebrity chef and father of four, Wolfgang Puck.  He claimed a great way to get kids to try new foods was to introduce the new food gradually to something the child already likes.  He was specifically referring to herbs and spices, such as adding tiny amounts of cumin or turmeric to steamed cauliflower to introduce the taste of curry, but to me this seemed like a sensible approach for introducing any new food.

Aidan eats his carrots mixed with pineapple and other yummy fruits.

Soon I was on the couch, flipping through cookbooks for inspiration.  By the end of the evening I had developed this tasty fruit and veggie salad—one that quickly became a staple in our house.  I especially like that it introduces kids to fresh salads— something very important to me as an avid gardener and salad lover.  It’s also toddler-friendly as the whole salad is shredded or cut into tiny pieces.

It’s been almost a year since I introduced this salad and my boys still won’t eat most raw vegetables.  But they love this salad—including the raw carrot!

Pineapple Carrot Salad

1 can pineapple tidbits, packed in juice (15 ounces)
2 apples
1 carrot
1/3 cup raisins*

Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice.  Peel and core the apples.  Remove the ends from the carrot and peel if desired. Shred the apples and the carrot and place in a large serving bowl.  Add the pineapple and 1/3 cup of reserved juice.  Add the raisins and mix well.  You may eat the salad immediately or chill and serve it later (the pineapple juice keeps the apples from turning brown too quickly, so this salad can be made a few hours early or enjoyed the next day as a left-over).

Servings: 4 adult servings

*Raisins may pose a choking hazard for kids under three.  Try boiling the raisins in pineapple juice until they plump (3-5 minutes in the microwave) to make them soft enough for a young child to chew.

Variation: Add 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt, mayonnaise or salad dressing to make the salad creamy or to introduce the taste of mayonnaise salads.  You may also try adding bits of shredded zucchini or finely chopped broccoli.

Get the Kids to Help:  Kids can add all of the ingredients to the bowl and mix the salad.  Letting your picky eater help may also increase the odds that she will at least try the salad.

Cameron picks out the raisins . . .

. . . then eats two helpings!

Picky Eater Pleaser:  If your child will not usually eat “mixed foods,” try letting her sample a bite of each ingredient first.  Then let her add the ones she likes to her own bowl to “mix.”  If your child is willing to eat mixed fruit salads, but you think she might balk at the carrots, try adding a small amount of carrot the first time you make the salad.  You can gradually increase the amount each time you make the salad or as your child shows a willingness to eat it.

Menu Planner:  This is a great fall and winter salad when apples are in season and fresh produce is hard to find.  Keep things simple by pairing it with grilled or baked chicken and baked potato.  I also like to serve this salad in the summer when I’m having a “summer salad meal”—a family tradition where the entire meal consists of fresh salads from the garden.  My boys might pick at the rest of their meal, but I know they’ll fill up if this salad is on the menu.

My friend Mary is smart, funny and kind.  She solo parents her twin toddlers five days a week while her husband works in another city, so by Thursday evenings she is also stir crazy and a bit desperate.  A few weeks ago the “great potty training fiasco” put her over the edge, and she lured four mothers to her house with the promise of mango margaritas and pasta salad after she put the girls to bed.  I thought this a strange entertaining combination, but equally in need of adult company, I called grandma to babysit and fled my own toddler twins.  The pasta salad turned out to be an inspired choice.  Made with fruit instead of the traditional vegetables, it was sweet, healthy, and filling.  Best of all, it was one of her girls’ favorite dishes.

Before we left that evening, Mary said she felt like she deserved a blue ribbon for potty training two toddlers by herself.  I agree.  Here’s to all parents who survive this toddler rite of passage, and here’s Mary’s Blue Ribbon Pasta Salad.  I made it with apples, strawberries and oranges, and I modified the dressing (Mary uses the time-saving method of dousing the pasta with commercial Italian dressing until “it seems like you’ve got enough”).  My boys wolfed this down!

Fruit and Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

8 ounces whole wheat pasta (bow-ties work well)
1 ½ cups chopped fruit (any combination of apples, strawberries, pears etc.)
2 ounces mozzarella, shredded (½ cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon oregano

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Rinse the pasta in cold water and put in a serving bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and toss.  Chill for at least one hour before serving.

Yeild: 4 adult servings

 Time Savers:  Cool cooked pasta in an ice bath before tossing with other ingredients to reduce chill time (a five minute ice bath should reduce chilling time to 15 minutes).  You may also substitute commercial Italian dressing for the vinegar, oil and herbs.  Sundried tomato pesto vinaigrette is especially good.  Pour in enough dressing to coat the pasta sparingly and add more when serving if needed.

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Reserve a portion of plain noodles, fruit, and cheese.  Serve in a toddler separator plate with a small dish of dressing to use as a dip.

Get the Kids to Help:  Set your kids up at the table with a cutting board and a plastic knife and let them cut the fruit into bite-size pieces.  Anticipate at least half will go into their mouths instead of the bowl (a good snack time activity!)  Kids can also pour in the dressing, add the cheese, and toss the salad (not literally, I hope).

Menu Planner:  This salad pairs well with cottage cheese for a light lunch or with grilled burgers and asparagus for a simple supper.