Remember the never ending summer days of playing in the backyard on the swing set with a clan of ripped jean, t-shirt stained friends where Kool-Aid mustaches lined the rims of lips and blisters dotted everyone’s hands from the countless hours swinging from the bars? These were the days of childhood freedom where imaginations ran wild and the grass around the house was an uninhabited jungle waiting to be explored. An intrepid journey until the mom’s called, “Dinner Time!” from their wooden porch steps and each kid sluggishly made his/her way home. Why, I ask, should the fun stop there? Shouldn’t dinner time also be a place of adventure and discovery?
Food doesn’t have to be boring nor a chore to get your kids eating a healthy dose of vegetables. Take these broccoli and kale twice baked potatoes, for example. Moored on top of a blue tablecloth, it would be hard for any kid to resist an edible sailboat or a tortilla island with a zucchini, avocado and olive palm tree. Meal time just got fun.
During the dinner lead your children on an educational discovery of geographical locations you can reach by sea, the kind of boats you can find on the water and keep them interested with a few real pirate facts. Take turns creating an imaginative story in between bites of good wholesome food. Build special, creative moments your children will remember throughout their adult days. Plus, it’s a lot more fun then pulling out your hair trying to get them to eat their broccoli!
- 2 cups datterini or grape tomatoes, diced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tablespoon course salt
- 6 potatoes
- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Course salt, as needed
- 3 cups (115g) chopped kale leaves
- 2½ cups (220g) finely chopped broccoli
- 1 cup (230g) ricotta
- ½ cup (35g) Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, grated
- 1 handful parsley, chopped
- 2 pinches fine salt
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
- Arrange the diced tomatoes in one layer on top of the baking sheet. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tomatoes are roasted, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn.
- Wash and dry the potatoes then cover them with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of course salt. Set them on top of another baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.
- In the meantime, sauté the kale and broccoli in a medium pan over medium heat, adding 1-2 spoonfuls of water or vegetable broth at a time until the vegetables are soft and the liquid has absorbed.
- Transfer the cooked vegetable into a medium bowl and add the ricotta, parmigiano reggiano cheese, parsley and two pinches of fine salt. Stir well and store in the refrigerator until the potatoes are done.
- When the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven and cool. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the potato flesh making sure not to rip the skin.
- Add the potato flesh to the bowl of vegetables and cheeses. Mix well and fill each potato skin with the mixture.
- Put the potatoes in the oven for another 20-25 minutes. Top with the roasted tomatoes and serve warm.
- Note: If you want to conserve the twice baked potatoes in the freezer, cover each one with aluminum foil and pop them in the freezer. When you are ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), remove the aluminum foil, put the potatoes on top of a baking sheet, set the aluminum foil loosely on top and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes.
- Sailboat option: Cut a piece of cheese in a triangle and fix it on top of the twice baked potato with a toothpick supporting it from the backside.
- Edible Palm Tree: Cut off the top and bottom of a small zucchini, cucumber, or carrot. Break a wooden skewer in half and insert it on the top side of the vegetable. Add a few slices of avocado. Break a tooth pick in half and fix a few black olives to the front side of the avocado. If the palm tree is starting to lean and fall, use the other half of the skewer to support it from the back. Set the palm trees on a warmed tortilla to create a little island.