Delicious, healthy, and kid-friendly are not terms that go together naturally. Throw a family gathering and a major holiday into the mix and things get even more difficult. With Thanksgiving looming, and lots of parties on the December calendar, many parents are wracking their brains to figure out how to sneak some veggies into the festivities. Poring over cookbooks and scouring Internet recipe sites turns up plenty of healthy or delicious or kid-friendly options, but dishes that combine all three elements are elusive.
Fortunately, this season's produce provides plenty of natural sweetness and hearty richness to satisfy everyone at your holiday table. Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are packed with enough natural sugar and flavor to perk up salads, soups, side dishes, and even desserts. Our creamy pumpkin apple soup, mashed sweet potatoes, and pumpkin créme caramel tweak traditional fare just enough to be healthier but still hearty in a soul-satisfying, comfort-foody way. Buttered nuts make steamed broccoli infinitely more appealing. Pecans, apples, and cranberries mix it up for a satisfyingly warm and sweet crisp just begging for a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.
Feeding the clan during the holidays doesn't have to be a trial by fire. Here are seven kid-tested, parent-approved recipes that we're certain will fit the bill. Rest assured, this holiday season, you can please everyone – at least at the dinner table.
Butternut Squash, Roasted Garlic and Goat Cheese Spread
This dish is super easy to prepare if you buy diced butternut squash. You can roast the garlic and squash up to 2 days ahead and keep covered in the refrigerator. Just throw everything into a food processor the morning of your event.
4 cups diced butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Olive oil spray
1 whole head of garlic, top cut off
2 teaspoons olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 (5-ounce) package goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 large baguette, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Spray baking sheet with olive oil. Spread the squash out on a baking sheet in a single layer and spray with olive oil. Place the whole garlic head on a square of foil, drizzle the 2 teaspons of olive oil over it, and wrap tightly in the foil. Place the foil-wrapped garlic on the pan with the squash and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until squash and garlic are tender. Cool slightly. Place squash into a food processor. Squeeze garlic cloves into processor. Add lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and cheese and process until smooth. Spoon mixture into a bowl, and sprinkle evenly with pecans and serve with baguette slices.
Pumpkin Apple Soup
Low-fat evaporated milk gives this soup a rich, creamy texture without a lot of added fat. Make this soup up to 2 days ahead, leaving out the milk. Add the milk and heat the soup just before serving time.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 crisp green apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 cans pure pumpkin puree
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, apples, and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree, broth, apple juice, salt and ground ginger. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.
Puree the soup in batches in a food processor (allow to cool slightly first) or using a hand blender. Return mixture to the pot and stir in the evaporated milk. Heat soup over medium heat just until heated through. Be careful not to boil the soup after the milk has been added. Serve hot.
Nutritious broccoli is dressed up with rich, toasty nuts. This recipe is easily doubled.
1 large bunch fresh broccoli
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Cut the broccoli, including the stems, into chunks. Steam broccoli in a steamer over boiling water until crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.
While broccoli is steaming, combine butter and pecans in a small skillet and cook, stirring, over medium heat just until the pecans begin to turn golden brown.
Place broccoli on serving platter and pour nuts over the top. Serve immediately.
Roasted Garlic and Maple Sweet Potatoes
We've said this before, but it bears repeating. Sweet potatoes are the nutrition powerhouses of the root vegetable world. The fact that they're delectably sweet and flavorful is icing on the cake.
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1/4 cup butter, divided
1/3 cup maple syrup, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a large baking dish with butter or vegetable oil spray.
On a baking sheet roasting pan, combine sweet potatoes and garlic cloves, cover tightly with foil and bake until potatoes are tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. Transfer puree to the prepared baking dish, forming an even layer. Dice the remaining butter and dot the top of the puree with it. Drizzle the remaining maple syrup over the top. Bake until the top begins to brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.
This dish can be assembled up to 24 hours ahead, but save the baking until just before serving. Store unbaked casserole covered in the refrigerator overnight and bring to room temperature before baking.
Cranberry Apple Crisp
This simple crisp is full of fruit and topped with healthy oats. Make it up to 2 days ahead and store it, covered, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and bake, uncovered, in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until hot.
6 large tart green apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and sliced
4 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, combine apples, cranberries, lemon juice, apple juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Place mixture in a 10" x 8" baking dish.
Mix rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, melted butter, and syrup. Spread over apple mixture. Cover dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, and bake until apples are soft, about 40 minutes more. Serve warm topped with vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream.
Pumpkin Crème Caramel
This lighter stand-in for the traditional pumpkin pie is so rich and satisfying, you won't miss the buttery crust.
For the caramel:
3/4 cup super fine sugar
3 tablespoons water
For the custard:
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 12-ounce can lowfat evaporated milk
3 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup super fine sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a heavy saucepan, melt the sugar with water over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved, let the mixture boil without stirring until the liquid turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour sugar syrup into a 9-inch, straight-sided round baking pan.
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, and salt and mix to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Place the baking dish in a larger pan and pour hot water into the larger pan until the water comes halfway up the edge of the baking dish.
Bake for 1 hour or until the custard is set. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours before serving.
To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the flan and invert it onto a platter making sure that the caramel runs down the sides. Slice into wedges.
Serves 8 to 10.