Friday, September 9, 2011

September: Deceptively Delicious; hiding healthy fruits, vegetables, and beans in meals for picky kids and husbands

There was a whole lot of deception at Sarah’s house tonight, and ALL of it was delicious. We had a great time sampling all of the food, declaring it amazing, and then learning the shocking truth of what was actually in it. From pureed cauliflower to tofu, from kidney beans to liquefied yellow squash, the different dishes all met the two most important criteria for family food: healthy and tasty.

Some sisters brought recipes from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious, or from Missy Chase Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef, while others improvised culinary artifice. If you’d like to know more about the idea of hiding healthy purees in your family’s meals, you can check out the above books, or talk with Gabby Gordon, who has been doing it with great success with her kids.


Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Secret, sneaky ingredients: yellow squash puree, pumpkin puree



Fluffy, flavorful, and with decadent icing, these would be great for a birthday party or with brunch.

Cupcake Batter

1 C pumpkin puree

1/2 C yellow squash puree

1/2 C brown sugar

1/2 C water

1/3 C canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 C all-purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C chocolate chips



1 8-oz. pkg reduced fat cream cheese

1/3 C pure maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper cups.

In large bowl, mix purees with brown sugar, water, oil, and vanilla, beat until well blended.

Add flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips; mix until incorporated. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until lightly browned, 20-25 minutes. Turn cupcakes out onto cooling racks and cool completely before frosting.

For frosting: beat all ingredients until smooth. Spread over cupcakes.

Store in airtight container for up to two days, or freeze up to one month.

Fried “Cheese”

Secret, sneaky ingredients: tofu, spinach puree



We loved these! Crispy, salty, flavorful, delicious! Kathy mixed some into scrambled eggs at home, while others thought they would be great in place of chicken or eggplant in a parmigiana-style dish

1 14-oz pkg extra firm tofu, drained, dried, and cubed

1 C bread crumbs

1 Tbs parmesan cheese

1 Tbs ground flax seed meal

1/2 C spinach puree

1 egg


Whisk together egg and spinach in small bowl. In separate bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese, and flax. Heat oil of your choice in a saute pan over medium heat. Dip the tofu cubes into the spinach mixture, roll in the bread crumbs, then fry until golden.

Orange Cookies (with or without pecans)

Secret, sneaky ingredient: carrot puree

IMG_0684 IMG_0685


These have a wonderful texture and a super citrusy bite to the frosting—very easy to JUST KEEP EATING THEM!

3/4 C Shortening
1 C sugar
1  egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbs Orange juice (I used concentrate)
1/2 tsp salt
1 C cooked pureed carrots (you can use baby food carrots that have no extras in them for convenience sake)
2 C flour
1 C nuts chopped (I used pecans for half of my batter)


Cream shortening and sugar, add egg and mix well. Add remainder of ingredients and mix well.  The batter will  be like a thick cake-like batter. Drop by spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet (I use parchment liners so I dont know how desperately you need it greased)
Bake @ 375 for 6-12 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies, and I like my cookies blond, so I just check to make sure they are not moist looking before pulling them out which was about 7 minutes).


1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbs orange juice concentrate
zest of one whole orange
dash or two of salt.

Combine ingredients and spoon over cooled cookies.

Baked Ziti

Secret, sneaky ingredients: tofu, orange puree


Perfect for kids with “texture” issues, this sauce turns out wonderfully homogenous, yet packs a nutritional punch thanks to the tofu and orange. Yummy and simple.


1 lb rigatoni noodles

1 C firm tofu, mashed well or pureed

2 1/2 – 3 1/2 C tomato sauce (store-bought or homemade)

1 C orange puree

1/2 C grated parmesan

3 C shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray glass 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray or oil. Cook pasta to al dente; drain and place in baking dish. Mix tofu tomato sauce, and orange puree. Toss with pasta and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Top pasta with remaining mozzarella and the parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes until top is lightly browned. The orange puree can also be replaced with or accompanied by white bean puree.


“Meat and Cheese Only” Lasagna

Secret, sneaky ingredients: carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, tofu


This looks like mom’s classic lasagna that wouldn’t offend the most vegiphobic among us, but is packed full of goodness and is not short on flavor.


12 lasagna noodles (uncooked)

1 1/2 lb lean ground turkey

1 C shredded pepper jack cheese, divided

Cheese filling

1 14-oz. container firm tofu

1 lb ricotta cheese

1 1/2 C fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided

1 tsp garlic powder


Tomato sauce

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

2 C baby carrots or 4-5 large carrots

1 pkg sliced mushrooms

1 medium zucchini

2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes

1 15-oz. can tomato sauce

1 4-oz can tomato paste


1/4 – 1/2 C each fresh basil and fresh oregano



Begin sauce: set your food processor on grate, and grate the onion, garlic, carrot, and zucchini. (If you don’t have a food processor, just chop them). Sauté them all together over medium heat with a little oil. When they begin to get soft, add the mushrooms. In the meantime, brown the ground turkey in a separate pan, seasoning with a little salt, pepper, and sage.

When the mushrooms have released their juices, add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste to the vegetables; cover and simmer 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, make the cheese filling: mash the tofu with your hands in a large bowl until no large chunks remain. Stir in the ricotta cheese and one cup of the parmesan cheese. Season with a little garlic powder and salt/pepper.

Back to the sauce: season sauce with salt and pepper, then add fresh herbs. Puree in batches in your food processor or blender. Return sauce to the pan and add the browned meat. Let it warm back up before assembling your lasagna.

Assembly: Ladle some of the sauce into your 9x13-in pan. Top with four (uncooked) lasagna noodles. Spread some of the ricotta-tofu mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle 1/3 C of the pepper jack over the top. Top with sauce, and repeat twice: noodles, ricotta-tofu, pepper jack, sauce. You should have three full layers. Sprinkle the top of the lasagna with the remaining 1/2 C fresh parmesan.

Cover with heavy foil and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.



Moist and Soft Chocolate Cake

Secret, sneaky ingredients: beets, kidney beans


This is a moist, delicious chocolate cake by any standard—NO ONE will guess what’s in it! Kidney beans are a great substitute for fat (they replace half of the oil in this cake) because they are starchy and light, slightly sweet, and don’t have a strong bean flavor.


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 can (15 oz.) whole or quartered beets, drained (reserve liquid)

1 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup juice from beets (I prefer to use milk or soymilk here)

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, measure flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

Puree drained beets in a food processor or heavy-duty blender. Pour into large mixing bowl. Puree beans in food processor. Press the puree through a sieve to remove the bits of bean skin. Add to the beae puree. Stir in sugar, vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup reserved beet juice (or milk) to the purees and mix on medium speed until combined. Add eggs and vanilla extract, blending until completely incorporated.

Add the flour mixture, beating on medium speed until combined, at least two minutes, scraping down sides often. Add melted unsweetened chocolate and mix until combined. The batter will be a beautiful, if slightly hallucinogenic, fuchsia color!

Pour into baking pan. Distribute chocolate chips evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over-bake or it will become dry. Let cool to room temperature.

This cake is moist and delicious without any topping. However, if you would like to dress it up, you may sift powdered sugar over the top or frost with your favorite icing.

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