While I was on home leave in December, I found a book full of great ideas for getting children to eat their veggies. Yes, there is help for those of you with children who would love the t-shirt our son got for Christmas one year. It said, “Vegetables are UGLY!” Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, Dr. Seuss books, and stuffed toys were on sale for $5.00 each. I couldn’t resist! I could get $5.00 worth of good ideas out of any cookbook. But this one is worth a lot more to me and moms who can’t get their kids to eat their vegetables.
Jessica starts her book with, “I had tried everything, and yet all my efforts to feed my family were being undermined by a powerful force: vegetables. Mealtimes were reduced to a constant pushing and pulling, with me forever begging my kids to eat their vegetables, and them protesting unhappily. Instead of laughing and having fun with my family, I was irritated and stressed as I labored to coerce them to eat food they found ‘disgusting.’ I couldn’t take it any more. I just wanted a little peace around the dinner table.”
If this sounds familiar to you, this method and some of the recipes in this book may restore peace to your dinner table too.
She goes on to say, “Then, one evening while I was cooking dinner, pureeing butternut squash for the baby and making mac and cheese for the rest of us, I had the crazy idea of stirring a little of the puree into the macaroni. And so I did. The colors matched–you couldn’t really see the squash in there–and the texture was perfect. So I stirred a little more, tasting to make sure the flavor of the squash didn’t overpower the cheese. Feeling only a little guilty that I was tricking my children, I stirred in enough of the squash to feel satisfied that I was giving them a respectable portion of vegetables.
“And then I held my breath.
“It worked! The kids, entirely innocent of my deceit, plowed happily through their dinners. I was beside myself with joy. I couldn’t stop smiling at the knowledge that my kids had eaten vegetables without a word from me. My husband, Jerry, was dying to know what all my smiling was about. It was the first meal in a very long time during which I hadn’t said, ‘Eat your vegetables,’ even once. And that was pure pleasure.”
It is best not to force kids to eat foods they hate as that only reinforces their distaste. So if you want your kids to associate mealtimes with happiness and conversation, not power struggles and strife, a little loving deception may be in order.
You begin by making purees, a few at a time. Divide each into potions and freeze them for use in the recipes.
For apples, berries, cantaloupe, cherries and pineapple, just wash, cut the fruit and puree in a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes. (Instead of fresh berries, cherries, or pineapple, you can use frozen or canned without syrup.)
For avocados and bananas, all that is necessary to make the purees is to mash them well until they are smooth and then puree in a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes.
For beets, leave them whole, wrap them in foil and roast at 400°F (200°C) for 1 hour or until they can be pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Peel and puree in a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes.
Sweet potatoes can be prepared just like beets or steamed. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, bell peppers, spinach and zucchini and summer squash can all be steamed too. Prepare each of these veggies as listed below and steam them for the appropriate length of time. When cooked, puree them in a food processor or blender for 2 minutes or until smooth and creamy (add a few teaspoons of water if necessary to get the right texture).
- Cut broccoli in florets and steam for 6-7 minutes, only until bright green (olive green is over-cooked).
- Cut cauliflower into florets and discard the core. Steam for 8-10 minutes.
- Peel, trim, and cut carrots into 3 inch (7.5cm) chunks and steam for 10-12 minutes.
- Just steam frozen peas for 2 minutes and only 1/2-1 minute for thawed peas.
- Cut bell peppers in half, remove the stem, seeds, and white membrane. Steam for 10-12 minutes.
- For baby spinach there is no preparation needed before steaming. For mature spinach, fold the leaves in half lengthwise with the stem outside. Then strip the stem off the leaf. Steam for 30-40 seconds, or cook in a skillet with 1 tablespoon (15 cc) of water for about 90 seconds, or just until wilted.
- Zucchini and summer squash just need the ends trimmed off and cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces. Steam for 6-8 minutes.
All of these veggies can be cooked in a microwave oven with a little water and covered loosely with microwave-safe plastic wrap or lid or waxed paper. Since every microwave is different, you will need to experiment with the length of time for cooking each vegetable.
Let the warm purees cool and package them in either 1/4 cup (60cc) or 1/2 cup (120cc) portions. These can be refrigerated in small sandwich bags to use within a few days or frozen in freezer bags for longer storage. Be sure to label each bag with the fruit or vegetable, the amount, and the date. Use the oldest first.
When ready to use, thaw frozen purees in a microwave or bowl of hot water until soft. Snip the corner of the bag and squeeze out this instant nutrition boost to any of these recipes or to store-bought sauces.
So here are couple of my favorite recipe ideas:
Ingredients: 4 large eggs, 2 Tablespoons (30cc) banana, pineapple, sweet potato, carrot, butternut squash or pumpkin puree, and 4 slices of whole-wheat bread.
Directions: Whisk the eggs, puree, and ground cinnamon to taste. Add the bread slices and turn them over in the mixture to soak for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Spray or very lightly oil a griddle or skillet and set over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add 2 teaspoons (10cc) of soft margarine. When the margarine sizzles, add the soaked bread slices and cook until golden brown on the outside, 2-3 minutes per side. Serve warm with syrup, confectioners’ sugar or fruit.
Ingredients: 1 cup (240cc) sauteed or roasted chicken or turkey cubed or pureed, 1/2 cup (120cc) cheese, 1/2 cup (120cc) each of yellow squash and carrot purees, 4 ounces (110gm) cream cheese, 6 large whole wheat tortillas. (Note: if tortillas are not readily available in your area, there is a recipe for Flour Tortillas at: Peter’s Wife. Whole wheat flour can be substituted for white flour for more nutrition.)
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C. Line baking sheets with foil or parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together the chicken or turkey, cheese, squash and carrot purees, cream cheese, and garlic powder and salt to taste. Cut the tortillas in half. Place one half on the work surface with the straight edge facing you. Spread about 2 Tablespoons (30cc) of the filling along that edge from one side to the other. Starting at the edge, roll the tortilla into a cigar shape, completely enclosing the filling. Place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Stuff and roll the rest of the tortillas the same way. Bake until the tortillas begin to brown, 4-5 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
From time to time I will add another recipe to these newsletters and to our web site. If you would like to buy Deliciously Deceptive it is available at Amazon for around $7.50.
Please remember to recommend First Steps bulletins to your friends, family, and colleagues who have babies and small children. They can email me or you can send their email address and I will correspond with them to determine the appropriate copy to send for their child’s age and sex. There is no cost or obligation and their name and address will NEVER be shared with others.
If you have questions you would like reliable answer to, email me and I’ll research dependable sources and answer you personally.