Broccoli: Healthful vegetable can be enjoyed by everyone in the family

September 20, 2011|By CHRIS COPLEY |
  • Jack Bernardo, 4, of Hagerstown, eats a bowl of Kid-Friendly Broccoli Cheese Soup. Recipe creator and food blogger Jennifer Frias emphasizes the use of whole foods in cooking.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

To paraphrase the aphorism about alligators and draining the swamp, it's easy to forget, when quarreling with a child about eating vegetables, that this little person or adolescent is someone you love.

Ellyn Satter, author of "Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family," said it's important for parents to remember this larger context.

"I tell parents to stow their agenda," she said by phone when being interviewed for this series. "Have the meal be pleasant. Make conversation about something other than food. And if they have an adolescent, and they're having family meals together, that's great! That's 90 percent of the (challenge)."

Everybody knows broccoli is nutritious. Look on almost any Top-10 list of vegetables and you'll find broccoli.

According to, 1 cup of broccoli provides more than 100 percent of a person's daily recommended intake of vitamins C and K. It provides 11 percent of vitamin A and 14 percent of folate, one of the B vitamins, and 10 percent of manganese.

Plus, broccoli is pretty kid-friendly. It looks like a tree, it's tasty raw or cooked, and its stalk has a slight sweetness.

Hagerstown-based food blogger Jennifer Frias likes broccoli.

"As a child I never had much of a problem eating broccoli," she wrote in an email. "But I know plenty of parents who struggle with getting their children to eat any form of a vegetable. However, there are things that a parent can do to hide vegetables inside a kid-friendly meal."

Frias follows dietary guidelines that emphasize whole foods, no soy, grass-fed meats and little or no refined sugar, salt or flour. She does not avoid high-quality fats. Frias offers recipes and health guidelines in her blog at This week, she offered a cheese-broccoli soup (reprinted below).

Tammy Thornton, nutritionist with the Washington County Health Department and mother of two, offered two guidelines for getting kids to eat broccoli or other vegetables. For one thing, parents need to eat their veggies, too.

"The first rule of thumb is that children are not going to do anything their parents aren't going to do," she said. "They'll see Mom and Dad eating their food, not being concerned with whether the kids eat it. The key thing is to just enjoy it."

The other guideline is repetition without pressure. Thornton said it can take children 10 to 12 times seeing a new food served before they try it.

"But also, offer no pressure. If your child knows you want them to eat it, they're not going to," she said. "Don't make eating stressful. Coming to the table should be anything but stressful."

If a child objects to the appearance, taste or texture of a  vegetable, there are ways to address that in cooking. Raw broccoli stalks are crisp and the florets are densely leafy — perfect for dipping in a thick salad dressing or spicy yogurt. Shredded raw broccoli can replace some or all the cabbage in coleslaw.

Or steam broccoli for 5 to 7 minutes over boiling water, and it becomes bright green and crisp-tender. Serve as a side dish with a creamy salad dressing, a cheese sauce or soy sauce.

Another option: Stir-fry broccoli florets or over high heat with oil and soy sauce to bring out an earthy flavor profile. Add chunks of chicken or vegetables such as carrots, ginger or garlic.

Frias likes cheese as a handy solution for people who object to broccoli.

"Pureeing it and covering the taste with cheese are little tricks that seem to work," she said.

Kid-Friendly Broccoli Cheese Soup

2 tablespoon butter from grass-fed, pastured cows

2 tablespoon sprouted flour

1 cup 40-percent butterfat cream

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 stalks broccoli, cut into small florets (about 2 cups)

1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper

1 tablespoon arrowroot

1/2 lb shredded sharp cheese (see cook's note)

Juice of half a lime, optional

Start by making a roux. Over medium-high heat, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour. Next, slowly whisk in cream. (Don't add cream too quickly or you will get lumps).

Add chicken stock and bring to a slight boil (really just slightly bubbly), stirring constantly.

Once bubbly, turn down to medium heat and whisk in arrowroot. Add broccoli, and season with salt and pepper. Let broccoli cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring so it doesn't burn.

Use a hand blender or transfer soup to a blender or food processor, and blend until broccoli is reduced to small bits of green. (I actually leave a couple of chunks, but this is a personal choice.)

If the cheese taste is a little too strong, add a squeeze of lime.

Cook's notes: Jennifer Frias uses raw longhorn cheese.

Serves 4.

— Courtesy of Jennifer Frias of Hagerstown, a food blogger at

Four-flavors pizza

This is a strongly flavored pizza. For a milder flavor profile, substitute red bell peppers, shredded carrots, shredded zucchini or chopped cauliflower for onion and olives.

Unbaked pizza dough for one pie (see cook's note)

24-ounce jar pasta sauce (see cook's note)

4-ounce package sliced pepperoni

1 crown broccoli, cut into small florets

1 small onion, chopped

4 ounces black or green pitted olives, sliced (see cook's note)

8-ounce bag shredded Italian cheese blend

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Roll out pizza dough in 16-inch, circular pizza pan. Spread 3 or 4 tablespoons of pasta sauce; add more or less as you prefer.

Lay pepperoni slices around pizza so slices nearly touch. Spread pieces of broccoli, onion and olive thickly on pepperoni.

Spread cheese over pizza; adjust amount of cheese to your taste but place enough to hold pizza ingredients in place after baking.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool for 3 or 4 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Cook's note: We make pizza dough in our bread maker; we set it to mix and rise the dough but not bake it. Store-bought, prebaked pizza crust may be substituted for unbaked pizza crust. We use flavorful pasta sauces on pizza, such as Classico's Fire-Roasted Tomato and Garlic. We prefer fresh olives from serve-yourself olive bars in area grocery stores.

— Chris Copley, Lifestyle assistant editor with The Herald-Mail

Broccoli cashew salad

1 large head of broccoli (about 1 pound)

1/4 cup real bacon bits

1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

1 small red onion, chopped

1 1/2 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing

1 cup cashew halves or pieces

Thoroughly wash broccoli, drain and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Combine broccoli with bacon bits, dried fruit, red onion and salad dressing. Chill for several hours.

Just before serving, add cashews.

Cook's note: This relatively high-fat salad pairs nicely with a low-fat entree such as broiled fish.

- Courtesy of Ellyn Satter, author of "Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family"


Editor's note: This is the second in a monthly series of articles on getting kids to eat or at least taste vegetables.

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