My mom always used lots of herbs and spices in her cooking so I grew accustom to my foods having a little extra "zip" in them. Since this is how I learned to cook, it was how I began to introduce meals to my own family. I have found that extra touch of spice has turned out to be a blessing in helping to get my family eating (and liking!) their veggies.
I took on my ready-made-family when my kids were 8 so they had already developed definite opinions about what they liked or didn’t. What made things more difficult was the fact that my mother-in-law didn’t really cook many vegetables, which meant the kids were able to avoid them for the most part. Most of their meals consisted of pasta, cheese and meat so initially I was at a loss as to how I was going to revamp their eating habits. I started with some basic stuff–cooking broccoli and adding a low fat cheese sauce or putting out baby carrots and grape tomatoes with low fat ranch dip for snacking. As I saw them warm up to these options I began to incorporate more veggies into the mix.
I would say the best thing I did when cooking veggies was to saute a variety of them in garlic and olive oil. The kids absolutely love it! I started off with onion, broccoli and zucchini, but soon began incorporating quartered Brussels sprouts, asparagus and mushrooms. The aroma and flavor of the garlic definitely put a different spin on many of the veggies the kids had previously avoided. My husband disliked any kind of greens (spinach, kale, collards) until I sauteed them in olive oil and garlic and served them with a bit of pasta–now he loves them.
I also try to use different herbs to enhance flavors. Fresh chopped cilantro is a great addition to home made guacamole–another fav in our house. In the summer I use fresh basil leaves on sliced tomato and red onion as a side dish. Just sprinkle a little black pepper, olive oil and red wine vinegar to complete the dish.
I encourage you to give my ideas a try or explore some other flavors you might enjoy like cinnamon on acorn squash or a little dill with zucchini. A recent Insider’s Viewpoint by Meredith Mensinger will provide you with more tasty ideas. Bottom line is to venture away from the basic salt and pepper combo and don’t be afraid to experiment!