Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Veggie Toppings

These little toasts have a lot going for them, starting with their name. As if “crostini” weren’t inviting enough — roll that “r” and you’ll even sound Italian — few kids I know would pass up toast. And little toasts…well, I hardly have to say more.

Anyone who has ordered a bruschetta appetizer is familiar with this concept: toast up a slice of bread and top it with something yummy. True peasant fare, which is probably how these tidbits became popular in the first place. Economizing with meat or vegetables piled on leftover toasted bread in the absence of elaborate place settings. In the middle ages, after all, you were lucky if you owned a fork and knife, let alone a bowl or plate.

Suffice it to say that the concept of crostini have been around for a very long time. I, however, credit the Italians for elevating this dish by improving upon the toppings (see the afore-mentioned bruschetta as an example) and serving it, frequently enough, with a glass or two of wine.

Now, the kids in the house will have to substitute their favorite non-alcoholic beverage for that wine, but they can easily partake in both the crostini making and eating. And here’s an observation: you may even persuade a non-veggie eater to try something new if you pile it on top of toasted bread smeared with a healthy dollop of creamy ricotta cheese.

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

You can’t go wrong with ricotta! Keep reading for our recipe for Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Vegetables….

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Purple Cauliflower Purée

When encouraging kids to eat their vegetables there are only two methods you can employ: visible, or hidden. And right up front I’ve got to admit that I’m not a big fan of duplicity. It seems downright sneaky to me to trick any kid into eating healthy, though I’m down with some of the struggles parents go though. Every kid is different, and for those of you who think our Stout Sprouts line up in front of the produce drawer every night, I’m going to surprise you by sharing that our girls are no different than most children. Many veggies get a good going over before they make it past anybody’s lips, and I’m extremely cautious using any sort of herb (aka flavor!) in preparing our meals.

Yes, I’ve put baby spinach into smoothies before, but our Sprouts turned into tiny interrogators and I had to fess up. Guess those blueberries just didn’t camouflage the spinach well enough — either in taste or in color. So now I just cop to what I’m doing and hope it goes over well if they are willing to give it a try. Plus, I feel strongly about helping them make healthy food choices, which they are less likely to do on their own if they don’t know what they are eating.

What kid could turn down at least a taste of this cauliflower purée?

What kid could turn down at least a taste of this cauliflower purée?

All is not lost, however, if you’ve got a picky eater and you’re still committed to going the visible route. Sure, the veggies are right out there in plain sight, but it doesn’t mean you can’t employ a little sleight of hand and some creative marketing. (I am a marketer by profession, after all!) Veggie purées are one option. They are less intimidating to some youngsters — like graduating from baby food in teeny tiny steps — and still preserve the taste of the vegetable, which can be all-important in transitioning a child to the point when they accept a steamed vegetable, in all its glory, on their dinner plate.

But if you’re going to purée a vegetable, be adventurous. Puréed carrots will probably be embraced just as readily as steamed carrots. Save that veggie for a nice soup, with a hint of ginger when junior is ready. Instead, choose something that your child may not universally love. For instance: cauliflower.

Keep reading for our Purple Cauliflower Purée recipe – a real kid-pleaser!

Artichoke and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Call it what you will: hummus, hummous, hummos, or even حمّص بطحينة (that’s chickpeas with tahini, in Arabic, as translated by the wonderful contributors at Wikipedia). But whatever name you choose to embrace, this dish — with the addition of marinated artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers — is something you’ll want in your entertaining repertoire going forward. Trust me — we’ve made this once so far this season and have already been asked to share the recipe!

Keep reading for more about our Artichoke and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, including step by step directions for making it.