Monday, October 22, 2007

Eating Healthy Without Complaints

Cordy loves food. Loves it like it might someday disappear and she doesn't want to pass up that last chance at a taste. She gets that from me - I love food, too. Looking at how much food is consumed in our house each day, you'd think we had a teenage son, not a preschooler and a breastfeeding mama.

But while we're great at eating our breads, dairy and fruits, we're not so good with veggies. I like veggies, but most of the time I'll be the only one eating them, so I don't bother to make them. Aaron will eat veggies, too, but only a few specific varieties, and only if prepared in certain ways. Sadly, Cordy's vegetable intake is embarrassing.

I received a copy of Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfeld, from the Parent Bloggers Network. When first asked, I said, "Are you serious? I can't cook." Honestly, if it doesn't come from a box, I usually screw it up. Julie reassured me that there were plenty of recipes in this book that I could handle, so I nervously agreed.

Jessica Seinfeld (wife of Jerry Seinfeld, in case you were wondering) put this cookbook together to provide ways to sneak in good nutrition for your family's meals. Most recipes use fruit or vegetable purees to add a healthy boost to old favorites, like mini-pizzas, chicken nuggets, pancakes, muffins, brownies, and even pudding.

Deceptive? Absolutely. But let's face it, many kids don't like fruits or veggies, and if they get the nutrition they need by hiding it in their favorite foods, why not? And if you really feel guilty about it, tell them after they eat it. You won't necessarily be raising a child who will never eat vegetables - I'm proof of that. I wouldn't eat any veggies as a kid, or a teen, and now I love them. Many kids simply don't have the taste for veggies yet, but they can benefit from the fiber, vitamins and minerals found in them.

So back to my lack of cooking skill. The puree part is pretty easy. I have a mini food processor that did the job well, and Jessica walks you through all the steps. But as I browsed the recipes, I wasn't sure which to try. Some looked intimidating to a person who can't cook, but others didn't look bad at all. And there were some baking recipes, too - I'm a much better baker.

I decided to try the grilled cheese recipe - it was only a few ingredients, and Cordy just happened to ask for grilled cheese that day. The recipe uses either sweet potato or butternut squash puree - I used sweet potato for this trial. The sweet potato gave the cheese an even darker yellow-orange color, but Cordy didn't mind. When it was time for the taste test? She ate the whole thing, not once noticing anything different with her sandwich. I tried a bite, and while I could taste something different - just a hint of sweet potato, really - it wasn't a strong difference, and I thought it tasted better than a standard grilled cheese.

I also highly recommend the chocolate pudding recipe - yum! (Although you may like it enough you don't want to share with the kids. That's OK, there's plenty of desserts for them, too.)

While there are several recipes in this book I will probably never attempt, anyone with a hint of cooking ability could manage them without difficulty. And there are plenty for the cooking-impaired, like myself. My next attempt will be the Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins - two of Cordy's favorite foods in a muffin, with cauliflower puree thrown in for an extra boost.

As a side benefit, I now know how to properly puree fruits and veggies. Since Mira has just started solids, I can save money by making my own baby food.

If your kids refuse to eat fruits or vegetables, Deceptively Delicious could be a good addition to your kitchen. (Works on picky spouses, too.) Then you can feel good about pizza for dinner, especially knowing that there is spinach puree hiding out under the sauce.

(PS - Want to try out a few recipes before you buy? Oprah posted a few of them here.)

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