Today’s post features a vegetable that may be new to some of you: leeks. I picked one up in my most recent CSA bag. I found a great recipe from Fruits & Veggies More Matters that puts the leek on the main stage with spinach and tasty smoked sausage. The recipe also incorporates roasted red peppers and fresh basil. (Tips for cooking with fresh herbs: learn how to chiffanade basil.) I used whole wheat pasta and didn’t use quite as much spinach as called for since I was finishing up a bag I had on hand. It turned out delicious and was enjoyed by my family including my 3 and 1 year old children.
Leeks are part of the onion family but their taste is milder. This is great for kids because the strong flavor of onions can be a bit of a turn off for some children. Leeks can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be substituted for onion in any of your favorite recipes.
Leeks are in season now so consider trying them when you see them at the store or farmers market. When selecting leeks you should look for ones with as much white and light green portions as possible. The green tops are not eaten, so you want to maximize the amount of edible portion as possible. The leeks should be firm and avoid those with withered or yellowed tops.
Kid Friendly Serving Tip: Instead of pre-plating food for your young child, consider letting them scoop out the portion that he/she would like to eat. (Think family-style dining.) This gives them control and prevents us from giving them an over-sized adult portion. At our house we have a small kitchen table and it doesn’t leave much room for a big serving dish, so I often fill a small bowl with the main dish or toppings for my 3-year old daughter to use to scoop her own portion out of child-friendly dish. She can handle the small size, plus it isn’t too hot to handle. She is learning about serving spoons and how you can’t eat out of them. Plus, she is learning to share and often tells me, “Mom, I saved some for you.”
Leeks should be washed carefully as they have many layers which can trap soil and sand. Cut off the root and tops and then slice in half length-wise. Then run under cool water separating the layers with your fingers to remove any soil that may be trapped.
Kid Friendly Tip: Show your child the leek and talk about what he or she sees. Talk about the colors, the layers, the texture, the taste or whatever comes to the mind of your child. Ask, “Is it hard or soft? Bumpy or smooth?” Encourage them to explore with you especially if this is a new vegetable to your family. Young children can even help you wash the leeks. After you have cut the leeks the child can help pour them into the pan or mixing bowl depending on how you’re using them.
Nutrition Information about Leeks
Leeks provide and excellent source of Vitamin A which helps prevent night blindness and promotes healthy skin. They also are a good source of Vitamin C which boosts immunity and helps heal wounds. Leeks also provide folate which is the naturally occurring in foods; where as folic acid is found in dietary supplements or in fortified foods. Folate is mostly known as a nutrient needed for women of child-bearing age to prevent certain birth defects but folate also plays a role in heart health and may even help protect against certain cancers since it has a role in normal cell division and repairs DNA damage. Just like most fruits and vegetables, leeks are fat free, cholesterol free and very low in sodium.
Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Leeks from Fruits & Vegges More Matters
Sources: http://food.unl.edu/fnh/fresh-herbs, http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/leek, http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Fabulous_Folate.htm