Meatless Mondays: Kids Love Vegetables

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The kids love their veggies and will eat them up without creating a scene, but you will have to show them how. Five years ago, Chez Panisse Foundation, Center for Ecoliteracy, and Berkeley Unified School District launched the School Lunch Initiative, an integrated approach to develop lifelong healthy eating habits. Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, University of California at Berkeley, followed 238 elementary and middle school children at highly developed School Lunch Initiative components to students at schools with lesser developed School Lunch Initiative components for three years. The goal of the study was to find out if the School Lunch Initiative is making a difference in childrens’ behavior towards food.

The results:
–  Students in the highly developed programs increased their fruit and vegetable intake by 1.5 servings/day
-Students in the less developed programs decreased their fruit and vegetable intake by nearly a quarter serving/day
42% of parents in highly developed programs said school changed their child’s attitudes about food
19% of parents in less developed programs said school changed their child’s attitudes about food
– Overall, the students in the highly developed programs had better eating habits, increased knowledge about food and nutrition,  and preferred green leafy vegetables (chard, kale, spinach) with their meals.

The Implications:
– According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 3 children will have diabetes at some point in life, due to our obesity epidemic.
– A plant-based diet, consisting of an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit and limited in calories, will greatly the reduce chance of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
-Many children consume at least half of their daily calories at school. The type of food offered at schools will have an impact on children’s lives.

Green Macaroni and Cheese Cupcakes

I’ve used seasonal vegetables, you can try swapping out a veggie for what you have available. Serve two cupcakes per person, with the addition of a hearty salad or soup for a complete meal.

8 ounces Fusilli (or any other macaroni pasta)
8 ounces half and half milk
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped**
2 tablespoon dried basil**
1/4 cup Padron peppers, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup Watercress pesto** (recipe follows/optional)
1/2 cup brightly colored bell pepper, chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup zucchini, chopped smaller than the size of the pasta
1 cup summer squash, chopped smaller than the size of the pasta
1.5 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1.5 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper
fresh basil, chopped, for garnishing

1. Place a large pot of water over high heat to cook the pasta. When the water is boiling, salt it well and drop in the pasta. Cook to al dente,  meaning that the pasta will still be firm when biting into it. Drain the pasta and reserve.

Cook the for about 3 minutes less than it says on the package.

2. Meanwhile, place a medium pot over medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook the until very soft, about 5 minutes. (You may need to add 1-2 teaspoons of water, to prevent the onions from burning.) Add the peppers and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir frequently.

Sautee onions and garlic until translucent.

3. Add remaining oil, squash and zucchini to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, until all of the vegetables are soft. Stir frequently. Add the spinach and cook until the leaves are soft. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and reserve.

Let the vegetables cook slowly on medium heat, until soft.

Let the vegetables cook slowly on medium heat, until soft.

4. In the same pot used to cook the vegetables, bring the half and half milk up to a bubble. Add the dried basil, salt and pepper, veggies some salt and pepper to the milk and simmer  for 2-3 minutes. Add the Cheddar cheese and 1 cup Parmesan cheese to the sauce and stir until melted. Add in the pesto and stir until well mixed (optional). Remove from the stove top.

Add the cooked vegetables to the pot of half and half milk and gently stir.

Add grated cheese to the sauce, stir gently until the cheese melts.

5. Pour the Macaroni into the sauce and stir until well mixed.

6. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Ladle macaroni mixture into cupcake pan. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over each cupcake and bake for 20 minutes.

If you don't have a cupcake tray, just line the cupcake liners on a flat baking tray.

Bake until the tops are golden brown.

7. Cool slightly before garnishing with chopped basil. Serve.

It will be hard to stop at just one cupcake. 😉

**If using the Watercress pesto, skip the dried basil and garlic.

Watercress Pesto


1 cup fresh watercress, stems on, rinsed well
1/2 cup cilantro,  stems on, rinsed well
1/2 cup walnuts
2 clove garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt to taste


Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it forms a thick paste and no large pieces remain.

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2 thoughts on “Meatless Mondays: Kids Love Vegetables

  1. Pingback: An Econista Baby Shower « Club Dine In!

  2. What a clever way to get kids to eat vegetables! Cupcakes make everything more fun, don’t they?

    I host a Meatless Monday flickr group and Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays blog carnival. I would love to have your Meatless Monday photos added to the group and welcome you to link your Meatless Monday blog posts to the carnival. The first carnival starts on October 4. Hope you will join and help spread the Meatless Monday movement!

    ♥ Rebecca Jean
    Midnight Maniac

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