Monday, January 21, 2008

the art of deception

My latest endeavor around here (and I need a new endeavor like I need a hole in my head) is healthier kid-food cooking experiments. I'm not into food and/or cooking really. Basically, I cook and eat so as not to starve. Unlike me, I have two mom friends who will claim that they are NOT foodies despite the fact that they have each started a food blog in addition to their regular family blogs. In conversations with them they talk about recipes and which stores have the best what and they experiment with dishes all the time. They are the ones everyone is glad to see when we have a potluck or cookie exchange party. So in essence, yes, they are foodies. And they don't lie well.

I really am a non-foodie, but I'll play one just for today in order to write this entry. I asked for that Seinfeld cook book on sneaking veggies into your kids' food that has been getting a lot of media attention, and John got it for me. The basic idea is you make lots of different veggie purees (fruit purees too but my kids already eat tons of fruit, so no problem there) and hide it in dishes they are most likely to eat.

There is also a lot of (stupid) criticism on the internet about this technique that goes something like "sneaking broccoli into brownies doesn't actually teach your kids to like broccoli." Yeah, no kidding, geniuses. The point, as I've taken it, isn't to substitute introducing and serving your kids traditionally prepared veggies by sneaking them other places, but to supplement those efforts. My kids aren't bad veggie eaters. They all eat carrots, peas, and green beans without any trouble. Erin and Kate love salad, Allison, not so much. Allison and Kate will munch on raw broccoli, Erin not so much. So, overall, for their age, not too bad I think. But they could stand to eat more and in fact we all could.

Some of my purees, separated into 1/2 cup servings in each bag and frozen, since that's what most of the recipes call for. I have beet, squash, sweet potato, spinach, carrot, and banana pictured.

The first recipe I tried was the Sloppy Joes, made with ground turkey and served on whole wheat hot dog buns, containing very finely chopped celery and carrot and red onion, and sweet potato and butternut squash purees (and some tomato paste and beef broth and seasonings). The girls never had Sloppy Joes before and thus had no basis for comparison, which works to my advantage. The dish turned out really well! I thought it was very, very tasty and ate two of them. All the girls were suspicious early on but they all finished their sandwiches and the only vegetable they detected was some of the carrot, which they like anyway.

I also tried making grilled cheese sandwiches (with sweet potato puree and grated cheese) which became a pretty gross oozy mess when cooked, not at all like a regular grilled cheese, and it totally flopped. No one would eat them. I sneaked pureed squash into a regular boxed mac n cheese mix for lunch which is the something the author did one day and gave her the idea to write this book. The color matches perfectly, easy success there.

Then I tried some baking: peanut butter & banana muffins (with cauliflower puree) and peanut butter and jelly muffins (with carrot puree). I don't like cauliflower and all I could smell while they baked was that. But after they cooled I couldn't taste any cauliflower, and neither could the kids. They each had muffins for breakfast yesterday morning, and later in the day as a snack too.

Then this morning I tried the pink pancake recipe (pink because of beet puree), served with raspberries on the side. The kids love pancakes and they all love pink, so I thought they would have fun with this:

The batter looks really chunky (and it was) because it has fresh grated apple in it. The girls were more hesitant to try the pancakes than I thought they'd be but once they took a bite they were all happy and everyone finished their plate. John thought it was quite good too. I thought the beet taste (another veggie I don't care for) was noticeable despite the apple and vanilla and some cinnamon in it but John said he couldn't taste any beets. Allison was just scarfing it down but stopped to say "cheese" for me, which makes it look like she wasn't enjoying it, but I assure you, she was. Another one I'll make again.

And for dinner tonight, since I have a sick husband and we had a lot of leftover chicken from last night, I decided to try the chicken soup recipe (with sweet potato and carrot puree). It called for alphabet pasta but I couldn't find any so I used "flower noodles" and "wheel noodles" which the kids already like. I was actually supposed to add cauliflower with sweet potato, but I thought it would work better with something milder so I substituted with carrot, which made the soup orangey but because the girls hadn't eaten chicken soup before, I didn't think it mattered.

They were really very hesitant to try this but as soon as K&A took one bite they pretty quickly finished a whole bowl and Kate asked for more. Erin kind of whined and fought her way through the meal but she had been whiny and testy before dinner already. She did end up eating most of it and John thought it was very good.

Overall I think that these recipes/this book is pretty great so far. I surely never would have thought to do any of this on my own. The foods from the book have been new but still a little familiar to the kids (pancakes, just a different color; hot dog buns, just different filling, but a filling that looks sorta like hamburger; muffins, but a new kind; their favorite noodles, in a new way). And Erin, who is our pickiest eater and traditionally the toughest to get anything past, hasn't had a clue that there were vegetables in anything.

There are a number of dessert recipes in the book (cookies, brownies, cakes) with hidden vegetables which I may try at some point but really the girls don't eat that kind of stuff on a regular basis, much to their disappointment. I'm fine with keeping chocolate cake just chocolate cake because it seems more worthwhile to me to have vegetable-enhanced options for things they can eat every day.


MamaB said...

My sister gave me this cookbook for Christmas though I haven't had much chance to try out the recipes. They sound really good though.

Karen said...

I have had the book since it came out and just love it. After awhile you will just start adding puree to everything!!!

mommieN. said...

I don't know...those of us who made all our baby food are pretty burnt out on puree'ing vegetables. But I might have to try some of these ideas -- who can resist pink pancakes? Maybe I can use some of the ideas to sneak fruit into my husband!