Contributor post written by Renee from Raising Generation Nourished.
This is the best time of year to explore new veggies with kids.
I know it, even my kids, who are pretty good eaters, back away from something that is new on their plate.
If you were visiting a far off country, and your hosts gave you a plate of something completely foreign that you had never seen before, you would be hesitant too, right? Just like our kids are hesitant to new foods, including the v word: vegetables!
But if your hosts had first taken you down to their little village market and you got to see the fresh, vibrant colors, meet the farmers that grew the meat or vegetable(s), pick the produce out with your own hands, and then watch or assist (while tasting along the way) your host in making the dish, now that would be a different story. The difference is all in the involvement and the investment.
Which is why I say that this is the best time of year to introduce new veggies to kids.
While some folks have the space to have little kitchen gardens, or have the access to community gardens or CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), those are not always available in every city. There is no better time than summer and fall to meet your local farmers at the markets, and let your kids see firsthand what vegetables are all about. Most farmers are so happy to talk about their produce – especially with children. Let your kids ask the farmers about how the vegetables grow and their favorite ways to eat them. I’ve gotten some really good recipe ideas from the farmers that grow our food.
Plan a family trip to the local farmer’s market this week and bring along a list of vegetables in today’s recipe, Summer Vegetable Casserole, and let the kids pick out the vegetables themselves. Then, when you’re ready to prepare this simple dish, let the kids help you slice the fresh vegetables and layer them in. Yes, it’s always going to take a little bit longer when the kids are involved, but this extra time is always, always worth it when they eat their creation. And here’s the beauty of this plan. The next time you make this Summer Vegetable Casserole, it will be familiar and they won’t bat an eye at giving it a try.
This flavorful veggie casserole is not only loaded with summer vegetables, it also tastes really, really good. Roasting the vegetables down in olive oil brings out so much sweetness and richness in this dish. It’s truly a kid-friendly meal.
We tend to eat a bit lighter for dinner in the summertime, so this is a full meal with some seasonal fruit on the side. You could certainly add some leftover chicken to it, or serve it as a side dish with grilled fish. Recently, I topped the leftovers with a fried egg the next morning for breakfast, and it was so amazing!
Summer Vegetable Casserole
- 1 medium eggplant sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
- 1 red bell pepper cut into strips and then 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 medium carrots peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 cup fresh basil finely chopped
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil divided
- 3-4 tsp coarse sea salt divided
- 1-2 tsp black pepper divided
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese divided
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs of choice, divided
- 1 medium onion peeled and sliced into rings
- 1 medium zucchini sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
- 1 medium yellow summer squash sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
- 2 medium tomatoes sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
- Preheat the oven to 400F, and butter a 13x9 inch baking dish.
- Put the eggplant, bell pepper, carrot, garlic, and basil in a medium mixing bowl and toss together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some sea salt and pepper. Spread the veggies over the bottom of the baking dish - no fancy pattern needed! Just toss it in, and spread it out in the baking dish!
- In a small mixing bowl, mix the parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs, and sprinkle a little less than half of this over the veggies in the pan.
- Put the rings of onion over the breadcrumb mixture.
- Toss the zucchini and yellow squash in the medium mixing bowl with 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and more sea salt and pepper. Layer the coated summer squash and zucchini over the onion.
- Lay the sliced tomatoes over the zucchini and summer squash layer, and sprinkle the rest of the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the casserole.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the veggies are tender.
- Serve warm.
For the breadcrumbs, I dry out the ends of our loaves of gluten-free bread so I always have bread to blend up for crumbs. Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Ian brand also make good store-bought breadcrumbs.
I used a white onion in this recipe, but a red/purple onion is amazing, too. For the bell pepper, yellow or orange bell peppers work, too. If you don’t have any fresh basil on hand, add a few teaspoons of dried basil.
More kid-friendly recipes to get the kids excited about summer produce