This month we are going to cook up one of my favorite dishes with one of my favorite vegetables: broccoli.  I know broccoli is not always a kid favorite but sometimes when you pair this vegetable with others it creates a whole new flavor that can taste pretty awesome!

Giving healthy food a shot can be a lot of fun – especially if you learn to cook it yourself! And make the dish your own by mixing it up and adding some of your favorite flavors.

When I am hungry for a snack I have been known to grab a green or red bell pepper and devour it whole.  My little sister, Elizah, is a pretty picky eater….she doesn’t even like ketchup! Vegetables are not one of her favorites either….but she is gradually learning to like more of them.

I love to add vegetables to dishes because they taste great and add color to the dish. For instance, I mix carrots or cauliflower or broccoli in my macaroni and cheese. I also add a ton of different vegetables to my sloppy Joe’s like fresh tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, bell peppers, and more.

California produces 90% of broccoli in the USA.

I think it is really important kids are continually introduced to new foods…especially the healthy ones.  That’s why I think Sodexo’s “Fresh Pick” Program is so cool.  They introduce new veggies and fruits each month in their student nutrition programs all over the country. Posters of the vegetables or fruits are all over the cafeterias and they also highlight the nutritional benefits and sometimes they post fun food facts which I really love to read.

New recipes with the featured fruit or veggie are introduced as well. Sodexo makes food fun and interesting and this is a great way to get kids more interested in trying new foods.

Ok…let’s get cooking!  Today, I am featuring my “Oven Roasted Broccoli with Panko.”  This dish is so easy to make and it makes for beautiful presentation.  In this dish I added great flavor combinations. I have paired the broccoli with cherry tomatoes which tastes great but also adds rich color. A little bit of garlic adds great flavor too!  One of the best ingredients I use is Japanese bread crumbs called “Panko,” which add a really nice crunch to the dish.  This dish is so easy to put together and it would be great fun for kids to do it themselves. Just remember when kids get involved in any aspect of cooking, they are more likely to try it and…hopefully like it!

OK, now for some fun food facts: Did you know broccoli originated in Italy off the Mediterranean in Roman times?  Thomas Jefferson loved the vegetable so much he had seeds imported from Italy in 1767. While California produces 90% of broccoli in the US, it is really China that is the world’s #1 producer growing 8,000,000 tons per year.  Broccoli is high in vitamin C and contains “kaemferol” which fights cancer, heart disease and adult diabetes.  What’s really cool is our consumption of this great vegetable has increased over 900% in the last 25 years.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  I also hope you are inspired to play in the kitchen and enjoy some fun with food. I’ve always wanted to be a cook star, and you can be a cook star too!

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