Remember Jessica Seinfeld’s 2008 book, Deceptively Delicious? It’s a recipe book that includes all sorts of ways to sneak veggies into your kids’ food, basically through purees that can be frozen in batches, then added to various dishes, even brownies! The book received mixed reviews. There were definitely plenty of people who called foul, saying that parents shouldn’t fool their kids into eating vegetables, meaning that those “yucky green things” should just be presented in their whole and unadulterated form at every opportunity, I guess…
Me, I guess I come down somewhere in the middle. Someone gave me the Seinfeld book a couple years after it was published, so I have perused it a few times. I made a couple of recipes, then passed it along. The first one I tried was the recipe for “green eggs” (basically pureeing spinach with your eggs, then scrambling the whole thing up). My family was less than impressed with that one. And even I asked myself, as I choked down the last green bites of the 8 eggs I’d scrambled, what would make a person do this terrible thing to the naturally delicious egg?
So, that’s the real issue I have about sneaking veggies in… The veggies should “do no harm” or — setting our hopes high — actually make the dish more delicious. It’s a bit sad to think about the poor old frozen cauliflower puree just doing its best to blend in and not arouse the suspicions of the child.
I wondered whether many of the things I do qualify as “deceptive.” But I don’t think so… When we make green smoothies with kale, spinach, and/or cucumber along with some fruit, the kids chop and add everything to the blender. The kids can clearly taste the featured vegetable in a pureed soup (butternut squash, beet, greens, broccoli, etc.) very clearly, but the cooking techniques help the veggie to be less bitter, creamy, smooth, and warming. Dishes like smothered chicken thighs, braised short ribs, or lentil-barley soup can include lots of onions, carrots, celery, and herbs, but the veggies end up so well cooked (and the meat/beans so savory) that it’s hard to imagine anyone refusing to eat these dishes.
But there is at least one Seinfeld-based dish I do make, and pretty often at that: Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. My kids ask for it every week (although I try to keep it to every other week) and they actually prefer it to any other kind of mac and cheese, especially ones that are “too cheesy,” in their words. (I, on the other hand, have no idea what they are talking about as I could happily slurp melted cheese all day long and not get tired of it.) Anyway, the recipe I eventually tweaked into submission was reportedly a Michelle Obama recipe. Here’s the recipe I started with — http://www.popsugar.com/food/Michelle-Obama-Cauliflower-Mac-Cheese-Recipe-23243043 — and what follows is the one I use now, with twice the cauliflower and less cheese. Also, the whole thing is doubled, because we love the leftovers for lunches the next day or two!
2 pounds whole wheat pasta (elbows, penne, etc.)
2 cups milk
1-1.5 pounds shredded cheddar cheese (or a mixture of your favorite melting cheeses)
2 heads cauliflower, quartered
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (if on hand)
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (more or less or none, whatever you have)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
- Steam the cauliflower with just a little water in the bottom of the pot until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer cauliflower and steaming liquid to a blender and puree.
- Pour hot cauliflower puree over pasta. Add the milk, both cheeses, and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into a giant casserole dish (if your family likes leftovers!). (If not, half the recipe and use a 9×12 baking dish.)
- Sprinkle breadcrumbs across the top of the pasta mixture, then place the dish in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until the top is crispy and the sauce is bubbling.
By the way, Jessica, your alternative “Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese”? Again, not OK. Might even be worse than your Green Eggs. Butternut squash is delicious in so many ways, roasted, pureed soup, steamed as a side for a rich saucy beef dish, etc. But pureed in mac and cheese? No, Jessica. Just no.