By Maura Keating
Don’t put away the food processor and the ice cube trays yet. Jessica Seinfeld’s new book Deceptively Delicious is the answer to getting your kids to eat their veggies. The secret? Don’t tell your kids that they are eating their veggies. From brownies and pancakes to chicken nuggets and mozzarella sticks, Seinfeld manages to sneak vegetables into every kid’s favorite dish while making their parents feel OK about their nutrition and well-being.
The procedures outlined in the book will be simple for parents who already went through the stage of making their own baby food purees. The secret to sneaking veggies is to puree, then match vegetables that kids resist with flavors that kids like and that can mask the taste of the hidden nutritious stuff. For example, chocolaty brownies conceal spinach and carrots–I used the best quality chocolate that we had in the house with great results. The texture was a little off, but the taste was right on. A layer of blueberry in the Blueberry Oat Bars is mixed with spinach. My husband paired his bars with vanilla ice cream, even AFTER I told him the secret ingredient. When is the last time that you ate spinach with your ice cream? Carrots and broccoli lurk in a Spaghetti Pie with Meatballs. My pie was not as crunchy as the recipe and its corresponding picture suggested, but my son shoveled his dinner in with both hands anyway. Quesadillas are stuffed with butternut squash mixed with cheese, and pureed beans mixed with sour cream. This meal was everyone’s favorite. I don’t think I’ll ever make quesadillas without squash!
I practiced deception on my family for one week. My husband operated on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy after I told him that there was spinach and carrots in the brownies that he was consuming with such gusto. After sharing leftovers with neighbors and coworkers who lament about their kids’ pickiness, we received reports of great success. That said, I don’t think I’ll be trading in my old brownie recipe for good, but I will be using Seinfeld’s low-sugar cake recipe for our next family birthday party. The most successful recipes in the book were the savory dishes that hid the vegetables with dignity. While the sweet dishes were passable, they weren’t spectacular, and once you know the contents, it’s hard to not think about what you’re eating.
Seinfeld is big on low fat and low sugar. The beginning of the book includes a great nutritional overview from Joy Bauer, as well as a foreword by Dr. Roxana Mehran and Dr. Mehmet Oz. While I am on board with low sugar, I feel like Seinfeld might go overboard with low fat. Most recipes call for margarine spread and/or cooking spray. Since margarine and other processed foods sometimes scare me, I substituted butter with positive results. Some critics of the book are concerned that children should know that their meal includes vegetables in order to continue to make healthy choices. If your kid balks at the mere whisper of a vegetable, not to mention the sight, smell, or taste of one, it’s hard to follow that argument. I am in favor of moderation. I include some purees now, but I also serve vegetables on the side, and I always make sure that my husband and I are solid, vegetable-loving role models.
The book is packed with terrific ideas that I continue to use in new and old recipes. My freezer is overflowing with purees again. My son happily consumes his least favorite vegetable (spinach) tucked amidst other flavors I know that he likes (or at least tolerates). Cooking is an art that requires practice, creativity, style, and now … a bit of deception.
The Details: Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld, Steve Vance (illustrator), and Lisa Hubbard (photographer), published by HarperCollins, $24.95. Visit the Deceptively Delicious website to locate an independent bookseller near you.
Is there something that you’ve been eyeing? Let us try before you buy! Send ideas, questions, and comments to me at maura ( a t ) kidoinfo ( d o t ) com.