January 12, 2011

What a difference a week makes. I had to hold the phone away from my ear for the first five minutes of my coaching call with Mary Lynn; as she laughing, screaming and shouting, “I couldn't believe it!” extolling the virtues of cauliflower.

Cauliflower?

Yep. That oft-maligned crucifer was responsible for a major shift in veggie consumption at Mary Lynn’s home. But let me back up a bit: Mary Lynn’s goal this week was to eat at least 5 servings of vegetables every day. She met that goal and typically exceeded it, and has found a new favorite snack: English cucumbers with sea salt. (And if you like that, I've gotta believe you'll love Cucumber Salad with sesame oil.)

The key to Mary Lynn's success was starting small. She didn’t make this a big new initiative for the whole family (including her husband, and daughters, ages 7 and 14), instead, she started small and said: “This is my week. I’m doing this for me."

Knowing full well that she was making "gourmet" vegetable-rich meals for her family, if her daughter's didn’t care for them, well, that’s why god invented cereal.

In the beginning of the week, she made Pasta Fagiole and her daughters made egg sandwiches. When she prepared Cobb Salad with Shrimp, her elder daughter made a plate of shrimp and strawberries. Instead of contesting their choices, Mary Lynn kept her mind on her goal: more vegetables on her plate. The kids were not going to starve, nor was she going to require they eat as she did. This vegetable thing was her agenda, full stop.

That said, her daughters could not help but be intrigued by the new scents, sounds, colors, and flavors coming out of the kitchen. By the end of the week, she tried this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Steaks, and created her own mashed cauliflower recipe as well (with garlic, cream cheese, horseradish, and almond milk). She loved it. Her husband loved it. Her elder daughter was crazy about the mash; her younger daughter took a few tiny bites of the roasted cauliflower straight out of the oven and said, “This is so good, are you going to make more?"

Which explains Mary Lynn’s carrying on about cauliflower. When your picky eater is asking for cauliflower, you've got to give yourself a pat on the back. And how did Mary Lynn do it?

1. She prepared new dishes that sounded really good to her.
2. She enjoyed them.
3. She didn’t pressure her kids to like them. They were always welcome to try a bite, or opt for something they could make themselves.

After we celebrated her success, Mary Lynn asked to focus some time on the following question: "Any ideas for 'sneaking' vegetables into other food for kids (e.g., grated carrots in spaghetti sauce)?"

I’ve only known Mary Lynn for a few weeks, but I could tell that there was something not-quite-right about this question. Mary Lynn wasn’t a sneaky kind of person; she was eager to develop a love of healthy food in her daughters.


When I pushed her on this point, she shared a food story: This summer, the family gathered blackberries. Mary Lynn made crisp after crisp (using our recipe for Blueberry Crisp a la Mode shown here), at first as a necessity, then at her daughters’ request. She felt good making it; they gobbled it up. She said, "I don't want to force them, I want them to be interested. When my daugher had the cauliflower and said, 'I want more,' that got me excited."

Blackberries are an easy win, and she wants to create that same affection for vegetables.

This week, she’s going to ask each of her daughters to pick two vegetable recipes, and let them have a kitchen date with mom. The recipes will be their choice; they’ll be able to get in the kitchen where mom has been creating those sounds, smells, colors, and flavors in the kitchen.

I can’t wait to hear how it goes.


As for Mary Lynn’s recipe homework, here are her five new recipes for the week:
- Pumpkin Soup (she has frozen pumpkin in her fridge from the fall)
- Kale Chips
- Honey Roasted Root Vegetables (pictured at right)
- Edamame Succotash
- Minestrone Soup. (I like to stir-in fresh basil pesto at the end, made with walnuts and pine nuts).

Feel free to share recipes if you’ve got some good ones; Mary Lynn loves to research recipes and improvise her own.

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