Growing up, our vegetables were typically a rotation of corn, carrots and green beans. Brussels sprouts rarely made it onto our plates, and on the rare occasion they did pop up, they were cooked beyond mushiness. I was well into my 30s before I finally met a Brussels sprout that I could tolerate. Now, it has become my favorite vegetable, and it ranks high on my sons' lists as well.
Unfortunately, Brussels sprouts consistently rank high on "top hated vegetable" lists, and they definitely don't make the "kid friendly" portion of most menus. But they deserve a second chance for two reasons. First, Brussels sprouts are little powerhouses of nutrition – they belong to the family of vegetables known as cruciferous (just like cabbage, kale and cauliflower), which have been linked to protecting us from cancer and chronic inflammation. Second, they can taste completely different depending on how they're prepared. With the right recipe, they can even make that "kid approved" list! Here are four Brussels sprouts recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters:
Brussels sprout sauté: This is the go-to recipe in our house, and it frequently results in requests for seconds from my youngest son, a notoriously picky eater. We also had an 8-year-old guest at our table recently who insisted he hated Brussels sprouts – only to have him later request the recipe for his mom.
Take a pound of fresh Brussels sprouts, cut off the woody bottom and then cut each one in half. Heat some olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan, then add the sprouts. Toss to coat, and let the sprouts sizzle for a few minutes, sprinkling with some salt if desired. Then add about a quarter cup of a liquid (such as chicken broth or white wine), cover and let steam for 10 minutes, adding a bit more liquid if needed. Once the sprouts are fork tender, remove the lid to let the extra liquid evaporate, then sprinkle with some bread crumbs and shredded Parmesan cheese.
Brussels sprout slaw: Chef Stephanie Green, who's also a registered dietitian, knows a thing or two about taking the bitter out of a Brussels sprout. Try this recipe as an alternative to a tossed salad one night – kids will love the touch of creamy and touch of sweet.
Trim Brussels sprouts, and toss them in a food processor to shred. Transfer shredded sprouts to a bowl, then at your discretion (depending on the pickiness level at your table), throw in some chopped celery, diced red onions and feta cheese. Toss in dried cranberries and sliced almonds, and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Toss the mixture with this creamy dressing that you whip up in your blender: 2 tablespoons roasted garlic olive oil, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 cup reduced fat Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons agave nectar or honey, 2 tablespoons onion, a few cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of mustard greens and stems (trust her, she's a chef!), 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and mustard powder, and 1/4 teaspoon each of ground coriander, red pepper flakes and white pepper.
Brussels sprout hash: This dish, provided by registered dietitian Kate Scarlata, is devoured by her kids. It's also a nice recipe to get rid of some leftover cornbread!
Trim Brussels sprouts, place them on a cookie sheet, drizzle with some oil, then roast in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, until fork tender. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil with butter in a pan, then toss in about 1 and 1/2 cups of cornbread bite-size pieces; sprinkle with Bell's seasoning (or poultry seasoning of your choice), and cook until cornbread starts to turn brown, about 3 minutes. Fold the cornbread into the cooked sprouts, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Brussels sprout chips: A bit more decadent, to be sure, but these were served at a neighborhood restaurant and I witnessed the children at the table go ga-ga for Brussels sprouts! This recipe comes from Chef Ehren Litzenberger at BLD Restaurant in Chandler, Ariz.
Peel the leaves of the Brussels sprouts, then flash fry them in hot oil for about 30 seconds. Season with garlic salt, and serve with a spicy aioli dressing.
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Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, is the Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics and lecturer for the Nutrition Program at Arizona State University, and a Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Follow her on Twitter @MelindaRD.