Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Delicious Deception: A foray into puree

Our ward's cooking group recently had an activity I was lucky to attend. We covered the basics of Deceptively Delicious, which involves sneaking vegetables (and fruits) into your meals so that picky kids will still get all the goodness of vitamins, antioxidants, and probably loads of fiber. (Evidence suggests.)

I like the concept just because I think it's clever, provident, and advisable to up the nutritional value of our foods, no matter what our kids' (or our) tastes are. My kids do like vegetables, actually--most of the time. But I like the concept of using purees, because it's more cost-effective for me. I can't store salad in my fridge for longer than five days without it going bad, so I often feel like we eat great produce for the first few days after I go grocery shopping, and then our menu goes down a notch because everything has gone bad or run out. With the purees, you freeze them. So they can last for quite a while and be quickly thawed to include in a meal.

I actually bought the Deceptively Delicious book when it first came out. I was feeling ambitious, totally excited, and ready to make our meals a bit better. I read the first section. I looked through the recipes. I became overwhelmed. I gave the cookbook to my little sister.

Well, the cooking group was useful in that it showed how easy it really is to do this kind of thing. My main concern was that I'd have to use the D.D. recipes for each of my meals. I had this vision of having to throw out every favorite meal we had, and using only hers for the rest of our lives. Not very fun, right? But I've learned that the whole concept is really quite flexible! Many of the purees are interchangeable, and many of the things I make could use a puree that hides easily.

So I thought I'd share what I've discovered!

The kids and I often eat ravioli for lunch. We buy frozen ravioli--the Western Family or Great Value brand in the freezer section. I usually put Great Value (Wal-mart's generic brand, in case you need reminding) traditional-flavor spaghetti sauce on the ravioli, and a sprinkling of parmesan or mozzarella. (It's yummy.)

I discovered: You can hide 1/2 C carrot puree in 1/2-whole bottle of the sauce. It actually takes away some of the acidity of the tomato, which I think is nice. I think it actually tastes better with the carrot.

Using this discovery, I made a sort of twist on chicken parmigiana. ('A twist' means I looked at the recipe in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and decided I was too lazy to follow it.)

Lazy Rae's Health-Conscious Chicken Parmigiana

In a half-size casserole dish (I guess full works, too), combine 1/2 to 1 bottle Great Value traditional spaghetti sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, and 1/2 C carrot puree.

Dip four tenderized chicken breasts in Italian-style bread crumbs. (I didn't dip them in egg white first; I figured they were already wet.) Lay the breasts in the dish, all cozy and squished next to each other. (It's really okay if they touch.) Spread about 1/2 C parmesan on top.

Bake in the oven at 350 for 55 minutes. Then turn the breasts over and cook for 10-15 more minutes. Test for done-ness--mine would have still been pink if I had taken them out only 5 minutes earlier, so just bake them to your desired consistency. Ours were incredibly tender.

It makes a sweet, tomatoey, cheesy chicken that is soooo good. We sprinkled a bit of mozzarella on top, and served a salad with it. We were actually perfectly sated!


I have used the D.D. recipe for scrambled eggs--it uses cauliflower puree--and it is DIVINE. No joke. The best scrambled eggs I've ever had! I've also done them with yellow squash puree. Still good--not as good.

One thing we did in the cooking group was brownies. My favorite, after some experimentation, was to do this:

2 boxes Family Style (note--not Family SIZE--Family Style) Duncan Hines brownies
1/2 C oil
however many eggs are called for from each box (I added one more than it asked. Just seemed to need it.)
1/2 C spinach puree
1/2 C carrot puree
no water

Mix all together, then bake. I would suggest baking longer than the time asked for. Just watch and check.

I have used the D.D. recipe for tuna salad--cauliflower puree--and it was good, though a little more liquidy than I like my tuna salad to be. The taste was right on, though, and the consistency didn't bug me at all once it was between bread. I've also made tuna salad with yellow squash puree because I ran out of the cauli. I like them equally.

Today: I made D.D.'s recipe for sweet potato pancakes, though I used yams instead of sweet potatoes. (Couldn't find any at the store.) They were really good. Really moist, fluffy, and light. Really good flavor.

I used the D.D. recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese (cauli puree), and I think next time, I will just use my own recipe and add in the puree. Her recipe calls for cream cheese, along with the cheddar and cauli. It threw me off with the flavor. It was yummy--just not ideal. I'm anxious to try it again with my normal recipe. (We did eat some at the cooking group that was made with cauli puree, cheddar, and without cream cheese. It was VERY good.)

As a dividend of these renewed efforts at nutritious cooking, my kids' moods seem to be more even. No noticeable sugar crashes, and actually, they seem more hungry and more anxious to eat what I put in front of them. Oddly enough. :) Reed did ask me, because he overheard me hinting on the phone, "What did you put in these brownies, Mom? What is the secret ingredient?" I decided to be completely honest and said, "Spinach and carrots." It had the desired effect--he laughed and said with total disbelief, "No...." So then I said, "Vitamins." Now he's anxious to share the secret with anyone. "My mom put vitamins in these. That's why they're so good." (Makes me feel like strutting like a peacock when he brags about my food!)

In general, I just feel better. I'm excited that the transition has been nearly seamless--I did have quite the puree session, but other than that, I don't feel like this has turned our schedules topsy-turvy. So--so far, a success!


Sarah said...

Very nice Rae! Thanks for sharing what you have tried. I made the mac and cheese we had at the "class" and my kids ate all I put in front of them.

Glad it's all working so well for you!!

Kendra said...

I have tried a few of the recipes and liked the angel food muffins with carrot and yellow squash. I don't think I let my kids try them. F.Y.I. only good the first day, they don't store well.
I am glad it is going well for you!!!!!

leslie the licorice stick lady said...

Wow! that's fun! I remember my mom told me she used to hide pureed cooked beans in Spaghetti sauce when I was little because she couldn't afford meat! We still got our protein I guess. :)

Bridget said...

Haha! I can just picture Reed's face as you told him there were spinach and carrots! How funny! My mom and sister make a great tomato sauce that's great with everything but takes the puree thing even one step further!

In a sauce pan, put olive oil with cut up onions, celery, and carrots. That's the base for your sauce. Saute them until the onions and celery are translucent. Then add in a large can of crushed tomatoes and what ever spices you like. I like red pepper flakes! But once the sauce simmers for 30 minutes, take an immersion blender and blend everything together. If you don't have one, put batches of the sauce in a regular blender and blend it all up. This sauce is FULL of veggies and the kids won't even know it. AND, it is SO good!

Lara said...

Very interesting concept! I'll have to look into that book.

Kelly said...

How weird, I was just doing some research on D.D. recipes. And I am glad to get your tips. I felt the same way you did about having to do the exact recipes--exasperated! Being sneaky with the meals that we love and are used to making is awesome! I stocked up on vegetable baby food, and I figure the extra 41 cents is worth the extra vitamins and half the fat.

Yay for Super Moms!

Anna said...


Qait said...

And maybe it's evil of me, but I will cling to my DD book FOREVER--even though I haven't been able to try it yet! (Darnedly expensive produce). Is that mean?
I still remember your little text answer when I asked if you miss it. Your little "yes" seemed quiet and sad. I felt really bad.

But this is how evil I am: not bad enough to give it back.
And I feel a little better seeing that you're doing all the stuff anyway without the book (and a little jealous).
I love you! I've been catching up with your blog, and I loved every single post!

Kate said...

Interesting. I will have to check it out also.

mandy said...

My sis in law gave me the book for Christmas and it has been on the shelf. You have inspired me to get it out and start using it!!

carajean said...

"Lazy Rae's" that's funny. It sounds like "sweet baby rae's BBQ chicken" or something.

One time, my mom bought me a cook book called "Ruby Jean Anne's down home trailer home cooking". My mom is the queen of random sometimes hilarious sometimes completely startling gifts. I never used it.

Can I start calling you Sweet Baby Rae?

Pam (Haslem) Dana said...

I totally loved her cookbook (I saw her on Oprah), but I was just prego at the time and thought "it will be a while before I am having to sneak healthy foods into my kids dinners." BUT, you have made realize that I can just go ahead and sneak them right into me and Scott's dinners! haha :)