Before having Little Pea, my husband and I always vowed that we’d never order her food off the kids menu for her. But the reality is, sometimes the kids menu is nice—we don’t want to order an entire adult portion for her, but sometimes we want to order things at restaurants that we can’t share (oh, red wine reductions, how I miss you!).
Here’s the other reality about kids menus: there’s really not much for vegetarian kids and most of it involves lots of cheese, no veggies. Cheese pizza, mac & cheese, cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches. These are often served with fries on the side, nothing green (or any other color, for that matter) in sight. It bums me out that this is what restaurants think kids should be served and I think this kind of turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy—we feed our kids this stuff, then that’s what they get used to eating and what they ask for, then we believe they’ll only eat cheesy cheese with more cheese and don’t bother ordering or making anything else.
That said, Little Pea loves grilled cheese sandwiches, so when I make them at home, I add the veggies the restaurant version lacks. The key is to chop the added veggies into a manageable size for tiny toddler teeth. In this Pesto Zucchini Grilled Cheese recipe, julienned zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes are paired with pesto and Italian cheeses to make a grilled cheese that kids and adults will love.
A note about the bread: sourdough is my favorite bread for making grilled cheese, but the crust can be a little tough for younger toddlers. I often cut off the crust, but when Little Pea is teething, I leave it on so she can gnaw on it and ease some of that discomfort. Crusty bread is one of our favorite teethers. Feel free to substitute another bread in this recipe if you like.
Yields 4 sandwiches
Garlicky zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto add flavor and nutrition to this grilled cheese sandwich.
10 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
25 minTotal Time
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 cup julienned zucchini
- Salt, to taste (for adults and older kids)
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- 1/4 cup prepared pesto
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (if you're using dried instead of oil-packed, soak them in hot water for 10 minutes before chopping to soften them up)
- 3/4 to 1 cup shredded Italian blend or mozzarella cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook until it's fragrant, about 20 seconds. Stir in the zucchini and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often, until the zucchini is softened slightly, but not limp. Remove from heat and add salt to taste (if using).
- Place 4 slices of bread on a work surface and spread each with 1 tablespoon of pesto. Divide the zucchini and tomatoes onto the bread, then top with the cheese and the remaining bread. Butter the tops of the sandwiches with 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
- Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel and return it to medium heat. Flip the sandwiches over and place the buttered side in the skillet. Once all the sandwiches are in the skillet, butter the tops with the remaining butter. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown, watching closely to make sure the bread doesn't burn.
When serving grilled cheese to my daughter, I like to cut it into strips to make it easier for her to hold; with this particular recipe, you can even put a little marinara in a cup on the side for dipping.