Q. In your experimentation in school kitchens, what vegetables/veggie dishes have you found to be most popular with kids? Is the answer different based on grade level?

A. Here in the Boulder Valley School District we have found that many of our Mexican-style entrees easily translate into vegetarian options. These include our delicious home-made bean burritos that we roll ourselves in a whole wheat tortilla and bean topped nachos and tacos.

"Renegade lunch lady" Ann Cooper with elementary age girls at a school salad bar.Our pastas all come in vegetarian form, and our elementary students especially love the cheesy garlic pasta and the penne marinara.

One of our most favored dishes in the district, which was actually our PTA Iron Chef Contest winner last year, is the Broccoli Cheese Potato. These seem to fly off the hot lunch line!

For the older students, who have more experience and confidence with the salad bars, creating a full vegetarian meal from the salad bar is an easy task. Each day we offer a grain on the bar (such as taboule), a vegetarian protein (such as cottage cheese), and a variety of seasonal fruits and veggies, which can be used to create a rounded, nutritious, and delicious meal.

Schools can apply for salad bar grants beginning Jan. 1, 2011. Click here for more information.

We encourage younger students to create balanced salads by asking them to choose a variety of colors.

Cheesy Broccoli Potato Boats

Submitted by Callie Palen-Lowrie, Fireside Elementary in Louisville

  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 cup lowfat cottage cheese
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chopped broccoli

Preheat the oven to 400. Thoroughly clean and scrub the potatoes. Place on baking sheet and bake until tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the potatoes and let cool until you can handle them. Cut the potatoes in half, lengthwise. Scoop out most of the flesh, being careful to keep the skins intact. You should have little “boats” of potato skins with a small layer of potato flesh.

In a large bowl, mash the potato flesh with the butter, cottage cheese, and cheddar and a pinch or two of salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the broccoli and then stuff each potato boat with an equal amount of the mixture. Place evenly on baking sheet and return to the 400 oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until hot and lightly golden brown.

Makes 8 servings. Serve one potato boat with salad, whole grain roll, fruit and milk.

Note: The potatoes can be baked the day ahead and refrigerated overnight, which will make scooping them out easier because the potatoes will be firm. You can then proceed with the recipe. However, the second bake time may increase by about 10 minutes.