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How Can I Get My Kids to Eat Broccoli?

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.

Homemade broccoli pizza

Homemade broccoli pizza

Broccoli is an extremely nutritious vegetable, and when it is prepared and cooked properly, it is also very tasty. Unfortunately, it equally happens to be one of those vegetables that is traditionally very unpopular with children, and many parents know endless frustrations trying to persuade or even force their offspring to eat it when it is served on their plates. The good news is that there are a great many ways in which the problem can be addressed, and this article is devoted to looking at different ways to prepare, cook, and serve broccoli to help children of all ages see it in a whole new light and both appreciate its taste and benefit from its health giving properties.

Simmering broccoli florets in salted water

Simmering broccoli florets in salted water

What's the Biggest Mistake Made When Cooking Broccoli?

There can be little doubt that the single most common reason for anyone not liking broccoli is that it is served to them grossly overcooked. The most popular way of cooking it is probably to break it in to florets and simmer it in salted water. While on the face of it this is a perfectly acceptable cooking method and can lead to it being delicious, there are a couple of important points of which you should take careful note.

The first point is to be careful that when you are preparing the broccoli, you make sure all the pieces are of roughly similar size. Not all florets are of similar size on a head, so you may have to chop some of the bigger ones in half.

Broccoli chopped for cooking

Broccoli chopped for cooking

Should Broccoli Be Added to Cold or Boiling Water?

There is an old adage about cooking vegetables and whether they should be added to initially cold or already boiling water. It states simply that vegetables which grow beneath the ground (eg potatoes, carrots and parsnips) should be added to cold water which is then brought to a simmer, while vegetables like broccoli which grow above the ground should be added to already boiling (slightly salted) water.

Use a large slotted spoon to lower the broccoli in to the water for safety purposes. Simmer only until the florets are just softened and no more. It should be a bit like pasta (al dente) and not cooked away to mush as is so often the case. Overcooking also allows many of the nutrients to escape the broccoli in to the water. Depending upon the size of the florets, they should take at the very most around six minutes to cook by simmering.

Why Not Try Steaming Broccoli for Even Better Results?

Steaming broccoli rather than boiling/poaching it in water has considerable advantages. It is likely to be served more nutritious, it retains its texture to a far greater extent and if anything it actually cooks slightly more quickly. Four or five minutes maximum, depending upon the size of the florets, and it is done.

The recipes on this page are extremely varied. They begin with some nice simple but effective ways of serving broccoli to kids and progress to some more imaginative and especially tasty creations. Note that it is important to adjust the serving quantities as required. This is for the simple reason that kids of different ages will of course have appetites of different sizes. You will also find that most of the recipes can easily be tweaked to suit individual tastes and preferences.

Broccoli and bacon cheese toastie with simple side salad

Broccoli and bacon cheese toastie with simple side salad

Broccoli and Bacon Cheese Toastie

Who doesn't like a cheese toastie? Vegans and people who don't like cheese aside, most people in all age groups will surely like a cheese toastie in at least one of its endlessly possible forms. This simple idea is a great way to get kids to eat broccoli as it is combined with another great food favourite—bacon!

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 10 min

Ready in: 20 min

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Yields: One serving

Ingredients

  • 3 medium broccoli florets
  • Salt
  • 2 slices bacon*
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely grated/shredded cheese such as cheddar
  • Black pepper
  • Small portion of mixed salad to serve

*The bacon used here is what is standard bacon in US but known as smoked streaky bacon in UK. If using British back bacon, one rasher should be sufficient.

Instructions

  1. Boil or steam the broccoli until just softened. If appropriate, drain.
  2. While the broccoli is cooking, fry the bacon in a little vegetable oil for a couple of minutes each side or until cooked as you like it. Lift it from the pan to a chopping board.
  3. Toast one side of one slice of bread under your grill/broiler while you carefully roughly chop the bacon and broccoli.
  4. Mix the bacon and broccoli together, seasoning optionally with some black pepper and arrange over the untoasted side of the bread.
  5. Scatter the cheese evenly over the broccoli and bacon, lightly pressing down on it to help it stay in place when you lift it to the grilling/broiling tray.
  6. Melt the cheese under your heat source, toasting one side only of the second slice of bread as you do so.
  7. Lift the two items to a chopping board and lay the untoasted side of the second slice of bread down on the melted cheese. Again, press down lightly as you cut it in half.
  8. Serve the toastie with the washed and shaken dry salad.
Simply cooked broccoli is served with mini sausages and mashed potato and broccoli stalk

Simply cooked broccoli is served with mini sausages and mashed potato and broccoli stalk

Sausages, Mash and Broccoli

This is a very simple recipe but it includes a tasty little twist which is not immediately obvious...

When you remove the florets from a head of broccoli, what do you normally do with the stalk? Throw it away? Probably 99% of people do this very thing but did you know it is also entirely edible and works very well in mash with potatoes? Give it a go and hopefully you'll be very pleasantly surprised.

These little sausages are a classic kids' favourite in Scotland but they are also eaten as cocktail sausages by all adults at parties. If you can't get mini sausages like these, you can use larger sausages cut in to two or three pieces after they are cooked.

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 30 min

Ready in: 40 min

Yields: Two servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium floury/starchy potatoes
  • Stalks/stems from two heads of broccoli (or only one if preferred)
  • Salt
  • 10 mini cocktail sausages
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Florets from one head of broccoli
  • Bit of butter for mashing potatoes/broccoli stalk
  • White pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped chives