by ANNE McGREGOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & ho would have thought a picky child could mar the familial bliss of Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld? Oh the horror. It seems one of her three children wouldn't eat vegetables and it was ruining every family dinner. So Jessica Seinfeld came up with the not-entirely-original idea of incorporating disguised vegetables into the children's food -- pureed squash could be slipped into macaroni and cheese with no one the wiser! How about some pureed spinach in those brownies? Cauliflower in your scrambled eggs! Sweet potato in your hot cocoa! Armed with this insight, she created a cookbook, Deceptively Delicious.
You may have heard what happened next; she landed a spot on Oprah (couldn't have hurt that Oprah had just voiced a character for her hubby's Bee Movie) and her book shot to the top of the bestseller list. Jessica Seinfeld thanked Oprah with 21 pairs of $1,000-per-pair Christian Louboutins shoes, while moms across America wondered if this faux 1950s Better Homes and Gardens-style cookbook might just change their lives. It is fun to look at, and even better, it seems like it just might work. Maybe my picky 8-year-old would soon be stuffing his face with sweet potato encrusted chicken nuggets just like her kids.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he book recommends that by spending just an hour or so a week steaming or roasting vegetables, then pureeing them and freezing the purees, the family chef can proceed to slip these nutrient-laden blends into all sorts of foods. Children will then happily, and unwittingly, consume all variety of deep yellow and leafy green vegetables. Even better, all this steaming and pureeing is to be done on Sunday evenings, after the kids go to bed, so that, like Jerry and his missus, my husband and I will have time to go over the schedule for the coming week and just enjoy each other's company as the food processor whirs.
But, frankly, when Sunday night rolls around, I am not in the mood to puree at 8 pm. (Maybe the Seinfeld kids go to bed around 5 pm.) Nonetheless, I get out the steamer and start on the spinach. I need a half-cup of spinach puree to make the brownies. I wash, spin, wash and spin the spinach to remove the last traces of dirt, then trim out the stems as directed. Then I place it in batches in the steamer for the prescribed 40 seconds, and whirl it in the food processor till it's creamy. One whole bunch of spinach scarcely makes a half-cup of puree.
Next come carrots, then some cauliflower and a sweet potato. Portioned into half-cup servings and placed in ziplock bags, the purees look just like the picture in the cookbook. It is now 10:30. My husband seems to have vanished upstairs as I finish cleaning up the food processor, steamer, cutting boards, measuring cups and spatulas.
Hmmm... if I had millions of dollars, would I spend every Sunday night pureeing vegetables?
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & found that most of the entr & eacute;e recipes won't work for me, because they assume that your child will eat foods of color, such as spaghetti sauce or homemade macaroni and cheese. But the chicken nugget recipe looks promising.
So I begin dredging the chicken chunks first in a sweet potato puree/egg mixture, then in breadcrumbs mixed with flax seed meal. Frying up the nuggets yielded a deep brown exterior, and that won't do. How does McDonald's achieve the perfect golden coating? I probably don't want to know, but I press on, trying to ensure that the chicken is cooked all the way through, while taking care not to dislodge the precious half-teaspoon of sweet potato lurking under the breading.
An hour or so and three different pans later, I casually place the nuggets in front of the kids, saying it is a recipe my best friend gave me for homemade nuggets.
"YUK!" exclaims my 6-year-old.
"I don't like the outside!" says the 4-year-old, who will eat anything and everything.
"I don't like it," states my picky 8-year-old.
"Well, you at least tried it," I say gamely, knowing that brownies incorporating spinach and carrot purees are on the menu for dessert.
The brownies were relatively easy to make, aside from the apprehension I felt about being caught slipping the purees into the batter. ("Go outside!" I kept telling the kids.) But now the veggies appear well-hidden. Already, my 4-year-old has tried to scale the cabinets to get himself a square. I can hardly contain my excitement.
"I think you put too much milk in these brownies," says the 6-year-old.
"I don't really like them," says 8-year-old.
The 4-year-old eats his without complaint.
A small victory occurs the next morning when the 6-year-old seems to have a change of heart and actually requests a brownie for his lunchbox.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he next day I phone a dietician with Spokane Public Schools. Thanks to truth-in-menus regulations, the schools won't be serving spinach brownies any time soon.
"We don't sneak stuff into our food. We cannot say we're going to put beets into our chocolate cake," says Jody Walker, a registered dietician with the district's nutrition program. Plus, recooking the vegetable purees into baked goods would cause some of the nutrients in the vegetables to be lost, she says. But, "you are getting some fruits and vegetables into the kids, and any way you can get them in is good. And you are getting some great fiber."
Instead of tricking kids into eating their veggies, says Walker, school lunch menus try to incorporate healthy but acceptable items such as whole grain rolls, and once a month there's a table tasting, where kids can taste something they might not have tried before. November features figs.
Later that night, I try cooking a gold nugget squash, calling it a "tiny pumpkin," and serving it up with a topping of brown sugar and maple syrup. For 50 & cent; and a milkshake, my 6-year-old agrees to try a bite.