Making sure they get their veggies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I grew up eating vegetables. Not soaked in grease or topped with cheese or stewed beyond all recognition. Plain and simple vegetables. I probably, scratch that, definitely didn’t appreciate it then, but as an adult, and responsible eater, I’m thankful I know what a beet looks like, exactly how to eat an artichoke, and the sweet woody taste of crunchy fresh asparagus.
This vegetable eating was perfectly normal until I was old enough to stay over for dinner at my friends’ homes and noticed the lack of green or crunchy on their dinner plates. These same kids, now adults and set in their ways, tell me they don’t know what romaine is, or turn up their nose at the mere mention of kale.
I consider that a shame since I think they are truly missing one of the best parts of food. But more than that, I wonder what they are eating, how they could possibly be healthy, and finally how to sneak some veggie in their otherwise plant-free diet.
Whether by habit, lack of exposure, or true dislike, if you happen to have a picky eater at your table, it’s important to not lose the vitamins and minerals found in those cruciferous ingredients. Have you ever found yourself wondering how to sneak some extra green on the plate? This practice of hiding vegetables seemed a little counterproductive to me. I want children to appreciate vegetables for the delicious taste, and adults to appreciate vegetables for the nutritional benefit (and taste, too, of course). After researching stealthy ingredient recipes, I quickly realized that I could just as easily benefit from adding vegetable servings into my day whenever possible. After all, can you really have too much of a good thing?
There are several cooks and books that cover this topic: Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef ( are two popular ones. Here are a few of my favorite ways to add vegetables in unlikely places.
Cauliflower: This white vegetable has a bland appearance and mild flavor, so it is easy to cover up with better-loved ingredients. Cauliflower is high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate.
Secret Ingredient Mashed Potatoes
4-6 small Yukon Gold or
white potatoes, peeled
and cubed
[0xbd] head of cauliflower, cut
into small florets
[0xbc] c milk
1T olive oil based
garlic powder, salt, pepper
to taste
Boil cubed potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Steam florets until very tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain both and combine with milk, mayonnaise, and spices. Using a potato masher or mixer, mash all ingredients together and mix well before serving.
Baked Macaroni& Trees
1 head of cauliflower,
8 oz whole wheat pasta
[0xbd] c grated cheddar cheese
[0xbd] c grated muenster
[0xbe] c plain Greek yogurt (or
reduced fat sour cream)
1 T flour
garlic, salt, pepper to taste
non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400. Boil pasta according to directions on box, drain, and meanwhile, steam cauliflower until just tender (about 8 minutes). Loosely mix pasta and cauliflower in a bowl and fold in [0xbe] c cheese, yogurt, flour, and spices. Stir well. Coat a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and transfer mix to the dish. Top with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and remaining cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and top is golden and crispy, using broiler if necessary.
Carrots: That Bugs Bunny knew what he was talking about! Carrots are rich in antioxidants, beta carotene, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E. The naturally sweet flavor will enhance the taste of the following recipe by cutting the acidity of the tomatoes.
Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce
1 sweet yellow onion,
finely diced or grated
1-2 medium carrots, finely
diced or grated
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cans of crushed
[0xbd] c water (or more if you
want thinner sauce)
2 T basil (fresh or dried)
1 T oregano
1 t rosemary
1 t salt
1 t pepper
Heat oil in deep pan on medium-high. Add onion, carrot, and garlic and saute 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add tomatoes, water, and spices, mix well. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 15 minutes, adding water if needed to reach desired consistency.
Zucchini: As a vegetable that always seems to be in abundance this time of year, zucchini is rich in folate, potassium, and vitamin C, and has a very low calorie count. Why not make your dessert “healthy” with this stealthy addition?
Zucchini Chocolate Cake
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c white flour
[0xbd] c dark cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1 stick softened butter
(I use no-salt added)
[0xbe] c sugar
[0xbe] c egg substitute
(or 3 eggs)
1 T vanilla
2 T cooled black coffee
2 medium zucchini squash,
[0xbe] c chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375. Sift together first 6 ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat or mix the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and coffee. In a third bowl, combine [0xbc] the flour mix with the zucchini to coat gratings. Add the remaining dry mix to the wet ingredients. Fold the zucchini and chocolate chips into the batter. Transfer to a greased cake pan, and bake 45-50 minutes until middle is set.
Squash: If you are watching carbohydrate intake or looking for a gluten free alternative to pasta, give this stringy vegetable a try.
Spaghetti (Squash)& Meatballs
1 large spaghetti squash
4-6 c sauce (see carrot
recipe, or use prepared)
meatballs of choice,
Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400. Slice squash in half, length wise, remove seeds, and place with the open face side down on a cookie sheet. Add [0xbc] c water to the sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes until tender. Remove the squash and cool until you can touch it comfortably. Using a fork, gently scrape the inside of the squash from one end to the other, loosening the spaghetti-like flesh. Transfer a serving to each plate, top with sauce, add prepared meatballs. Garnish with a bit of Parmesan cheese.
Green Peas: A lighter take on traditional guacamole, green peas offer vitamin K and folic acid.
Green Pea Guacamole
[0xbc] c red onion, finely diced
1 T extra virgini olive oil
4 T fresh squeezed lime
2-3 T fresh cilantro leaves,
2 c green peas (thawed, but
cool, if frozen)
[0xbc] c tomato, chopped
Combine all ingredients except tomato and mash well, or roughly mix in food processor. The texture should be smooth, but with some chunks remaining. Gently fold in tomatoes. Serve as a dip with corn chips, or as a topping for tacos.
Avocado: Avocados are a nutrient-dense food because they are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins K and E, folate, potassium, and lutein. My favorite of the sneaky recipes, it sounds strange at first, since we are most familiar with avocados as guacamole or in savory dishes, but give it a try. I was skeptical at first, but trust me. Another dessert you can feel good about and it’s also vegan and gluten free.
Chocolate Pudding
1 ripe avocado, peeled and
cut into slices
2 T cocoa powder
2 T agave or honey*
1/4 c soy or almond milk (regular milk if preferred)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
tiny pinch of cinnamon
Combine all ingredients and mix or blend until creamy and no large lumps remain. Chill for 20-30 minutes and serve! Great for dipping strawberries and other fruit.
*I prefer a dark chocolate taste, but if you like sweeter, milk-chocolate flavor, increase the sweetener to 3 T
Sweet Potato: These tubers are the source of abundant beta-carotene and will store for up to two weeks in a cool dry location. In the first recipe, the vegetable is not hidden so much as presented in a familiar way that everyone loves!
Baked Sweet Potato “Fries”
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into strips, length-wise
2 T extra virgin olive oill
1 T cinnamon
1 [0xbd] t garlic powder
1 [0xbd] t pepper
1 t coarse salt
Pre-heat oven to 400. Place potatoes in a large bag or container. Drizzle oil over all potatoes and sprinkle in cinnamon, salt, garlic powder. Shake well to coat pieces. Transfer to a cookie sheet and arrange into a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once. Switch the oven to broil and watch carefully as “fries” begin to get crispy and brown. Remove promptly and serve with a side of ketchup.
Sweet Potato pancakes (adapted from
2 eggs or egg substitute
1 c milk or soy milk
2 T vegetable oil
1 c store-bought pancake mix*
1 t ground nutmeg
1 T cinnamon
[0xbd] t cardamon
1-2 c mashed sweet potato
In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, and oil. Stir in the pancake mix and spices, do not over mix. Fold in the sweet potato. If the batter seems too thick, add more milk until it reaches the desired consistency (it should be thick but still pourable). Heat a large flat pan over medium-high heat and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon 3-5 T of batter into piles and allow to flatten. Cook until bubbly throughout, 3-5 minutes, and then flip to cook the other side until golden, 1-2 more minutes. Serve with syrup, jam, or just warm butter!
*Choose a healthy, whole grain pancake mix with real, whole ingredients, and few or no additives.
Spinach: Somewhat of a powerhouse when it comes to leafy greens, one cup of cooked spinach has 377% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, in addition to being an excellent source for iron, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber. This recipe from Jessica Seinfield is a classic example of hiding extra vegetable servings in common meals. You can check out Deceptively Delicious at the Rowan County Public Library.
Chicken Nuggets (Jessica Seinfield via
1 c whole-wheat or white or panko
[0xbd] c flaxseed meal
1 T grated Parmesan
[0xbd] t paprika
[0xbd] t garlic powder
[0xbd] t onion powder
1 c spinach puree (steam 1-2 minutes, chop in a food processor until smooth & creamy)
1 large egg , lightly beaten
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders , rinsed, dried and cut into small chunks
[0xbd] t salt
1 T olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, flaxseed meal, Parmesan, paprika, garlic and onion powder on the paper or foil and mix well with your fingers.
In a shallow bowl, mix the vegetable puree and egg with a fork and set the bowl next to the breadcrumb mixture.
Sprinkle the chicken chunks with the salt. Dip the chunks into the egg mixture and then toss them in the breadcrumbs until completely coated.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. Place the chicken nuggets in the skillet in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan, and cook until crisp and golden on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Then turn and cook until the chicken is cooked through, golden brown and crisp all over, 4 to 5 minutes longer. (Cut through a piece to check that it’s cooked through.) Serve warm.