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updated: 10/8/2012 3:44 PM

High heat brings children and vegetables together

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  • High heat and mild spices make these carrots a kid-friendly side dish.

      High heat and mild spices make these carrots a kid-friendly side dish.
    Associated Press

  • Roasting sweetens vegetables, like these cherry tomatoes, and makes a kid-friendly side dish.

      Roasting sweetens vegetables, like these cherry tomatoes, and makes a kid-friendly side dish.
    Associated Press

  • High heat and mild spices make these carrots a kid-friendly side dish.

      High heat and mild spices make these carrots a kid-friendly side dish.
    Associated Press

  • Roasted Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes

      Roasted Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes
    Associated Press

 
By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press

For two weeks this summer I made it my mission to improve my 8-year-old son's tolerance of vegetables.

I called it "veggie boot camp." He called it torture.

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My approach was simple. Every lunch and dinner I prepared at least three vegetables. Of those, he needed to select and consume two of them.

His approach was simple, too. Every lunch and dinner he moaned and complained and ate everything else on his plate first, leaving the dreaded vegetables for last. He'd then painfully and slowly force himself to eat them, often while threatening to mutiny.

Which gives the impression that my son is a horrible eater. Actually, he's just the opposite. The kid devours sushi, chimichurri, mole ... basically anything with gobs of flavor. He's an adventurous eater who generally will try nearly anything. He most definitely is not your plain pasta and chicken nugget sort of kid.

Except when it comes to vegetables. For the past year or so, he has tended to get most of his produce in the form of fruit. I lived with it for a while, but this summer decided the easy living was over.

While the vegetable boot camp was hardly a pleasant experience for anyone involved, it did result in real progress. After two weeks, my son now regularly eats vegetables at every lunch and dinner. He doesn't do it enthusiastically, but he does it. At this point in our lives, I'm good with that.

Early in the process, I found that roasting just about any vegetable dramatically improved my son's response to it. This makes sense. Roasting concentrates flavors and caramelizes the natural sugars in produce. So to help other parents with veg-averse children, here are two of my son's favorite (by which, of course, I mean most likely to be gagged down) roasted vegetables.

If you'd like to make both of these vegetables at once, you can roast the tomatoes at 500 degrees (the same temperature as the carrots) rather than use the broiler. They will take slightly longer than if you broiled them. Put them in the stove right after flipping the carrots.

Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter @JM--Hirsch or email him at jhirsch@ap.org.

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