Nutrition tips: sneaking vegetables past your family
Have you ever vowed to cook healthier food and more balanced nutrition only to find that your children, and maybe even your husband or wife, will not eat vegetables? I was once that child, and I can certainly relate to the Fox Trot cartoon strip, where one of the running jokes is the mother's constant battle to get the family to eat her tofu creations.
My mother always served canned vegetables. Her mother was about a day's drive away, so we only visited once a year. Grandma had a garden and always grew Kentucky Wonder green beans. Alas, she cooked them most of the day, so they were even grayer and mushier than canned beans by the time they got to the table. My parents constantly battled to get me to eat vegetables.
To this day, I won't eat canned vegetables, but when I learned that you can cook vegetables only a little while, so they still maintain color and texture, I began to like quite a few of them. But what of families that balk at vegetables even when they're not cooked to death? Disguise them!
We saw my other grandmother, who lived much closer, nearly every week. She made milkshakes that included raw eggs. That might not seem healthy now, but it did years ago. Some time after I learned the secret and liked the milkshakes anyway, I asked my little brother if he wanted Grandma to put a raw egg in his. He reacted just as I hoped. Now that I think of it, I wonder what she snuck past me?
Even vegetable haters usually like the tomato sauce for spaghetti or pizza. And what is it? Pureed tomatoes with seasoning. Cook up some carrots, broccoli, peppers, and whatever other vegetables you want to serve, puree them, and add them to the sauce. No one will ever know. The spices will disguise anything.
By the same token, chili disguises vegetables just as well as spaghetti sauce. You can also add vegetable puree to the stock you use for other soups, stews, and gravy. It will thicken a broth-based soup, which, in turn, will probably make it more filling.
Unless you stick to light colored vegetables like cauliflower or parsnips, the puree might do unattractive things to a milk-based gravy. Probably anything will look okay in a darker gravy.
It is only necessary to puree vegetables as a disguise if you need or want to hide the fact that you're serving them at all. Sometimes chopping them into small pieces will overcome any objections to their taste or texture. I despise green peppers, for example, but use diced peppers in recipes all the time.
I found an article with a suggestion that requires more work than I would ordinarily go to, but it must make an elegant looking meal: Pound a pork tenderloin until it's flat. Top it with chopped vegetables and plenty of cheese. Roll it up, and cook it. The recipe doesn't specify just how. Roasting would seem appropriate.
From a nutritional standpoint, that recipe has one significant problem. The cheese makes it excessively fatty. Blending the vegetables with mashed potatoes and any suitable herbs and spices would accomplish the same thing. Of course, using beef, turkey, or chicken would work just as well as pork.
If you want to go to the effort of pounding the meat, you can make the dish with nearly infinite combinations of meat and vegetables. Try mashing rutabagas or turnips instead of potatoes to be extra sneaky!
Here's an article about tofu Andy Fox should know about--except, of course, that would ruin a good standing joke. It concerns cooking tofu and has only a few paragraphs on disguising it. (The link goes to a full page of a newspaper. You will need to move the little purple box in the upper right-hand part of the screen--very carefully--in order to read it.)
You can puree tofu, too. Use it in salad dressings, dips, spreads, and sauces. It makes a good substitute for eggs in cake recipes. I have long known that you can substitute apple sauce measure-for-measure for the oil in anything I bake; apparently whipped tofu can serve the same purpose. (I also use soy milk for baking; I can't make myself drink anything that gray.)
The article even mentions making banana pudding, Key lime pie, and cheesecake with tofu, although it gives a recipe only for the latter. Here's the recipe for the cupcake at right.
Imagine that! Sneaking vegetable nutrition into dessert! What will become of overweight if that ever catches on?