Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Secret Ingredient

My kiddos are pretty good veggie eaters.  However, I am always aiming to make the food they eat even healthier, to make up for the times when the most nutritious option is a hot dog and fries. 

I especially hold onto this notion when we bake something not so healthy, like brownies or cookies.

Taking a page from Jerry Seinfled's wife and a website called, I recently transformed my cooking a bit.

We all know the trick of adding applesauce or pumpkin in place of oil, but that usually changes the texture and flavor of the food, so in my book, that is a fail.  My goal is to make the food healthier, but keeping the healthy part a secret.

I have hidden cauliflower in chicken and cheese quesadillas, peas in brownies, butternut squash (and or) carrots in cake and brussel sprouts in lasagna.  All with 100% success, meaning no one knew (until I told them) and the kids came back for round two and three, willingly.

Here are the basics behind what I do:
Step 1: Boil whatever veggie you have until it is soft.  A fork should easily push thru the food.  I know you hear about boiling out the vitamins, but you will need the water to help blend the veggie into a smooth substance.  Win-win!

Step 2: Blend the veggie.  I use a Ninja upright blender.

I have found the broccoli, spinach and peas all sort of stay lumpy. They will also change the color of whatever you are making.  To mask these issues, I only put these veggies in brownies or something chocolate and add a handful of chopped chocolate chips.  They really help disguise the texture.

Step 3: Once the veggie is blended to as smooth a consistence as possible, scoop out the puree in half cup or one cup proportions into a freezer bag.  I do it in one cup proportions so they take up less space, but I break it in half before I use it, so I only use a half cup at a time.

This is a messy process, but you really only have to do it about once every 4-6 weeks.

Step 4: Once you have a freezer full or puree, dig out your favorite bread, muffin, cookie, brownie (bakables) recipe and get cooking.

What I have learned:
1. When adding pureed veggies to a bakable you can eliminate the oil and even, usually, cut down on the butter required.  However, I do not recommend taking these ingredients out altogether.  That will alter the flavor and texture of the final result too much.  I usually still add a tablespoon or so of oil if the original recipe calls for some.

2. For every wet ingredient you add, you need to add a dry.  So if you put 1/2 a cup of butternut squash puree in your cinnamon muffins, you will also need to add a bit more *oat flour, or wheat germ or flax seed.  If you want to add in all three of those dries, you need to add in some more wet, like an extra egg white or two.
Too much wet= dense, wet-like, final product
Too much dry= crumbly, messy, final product
The batter of what you are making should look about the same as it usually does.  Add new ingredients in a bit at a time until you get what you are looking for consistency-wise.

3. Almond flour is great (buy a big bag of dry roasted, no salt, raw almonds and throw them in the blender).  What you are left with is sort of a malleable flour.  So it is a wet/dry that never really gets completely smooth, but adds great flavor, texture, and protein.

4. *To make oat flour, it is the same process, buy oatmeal, the kind in the cardboard container, and pour it into your blender.  You will end up with something very similar to wheat flour.  I have found oat flour to be a little more absorbante than regular flour, but more or less it is the same.

5. Pureed beans can also be hidden in half cup portions in many foods to add protein or richness to otherwise brothy soups.

I have used these techniques in "from scratch" recipes and in box mixes with pretty much similar success.

Even if your kids are great veggie eaters, why not sneak in a few extras?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scientific Theory vs. Dr. Seuss

The other day The P's and I were watching "Wall-E".

Out of no where Pman says, "We aren't real."

Lately he has been asking about what is real and what is not.  We have had lots of conversations about fiction and nonfiction books and stories.

About how some authors use things that really happen, like an event in history, but blend it with something that did not actually happen.

So when he said, "We aren't real." I thought he was talking about the movie were were watching with begins with the destruction of Earth, sort of in a junk yard like state.

I explained that we are real.  I am really here.  He was really eating a snack.  BL was really picking her nose.

He kind of dropped it, but I could tell he was still thinking. He is always still thinking.  I asked him what he meant exactly.

This is what he said, "We aren't real.  We are just part of a show.  When one persons turns off the show, we just pop up somewhere else. On a different TV."

For the record he says" the show" is funny, BL says it is scary.

After this epiphany, he directed his attention back to the robot on the movie, and I sat on the couch across from him. Stunned.

I sent a group message to two people; my sister who is a research junkie and my sister in law who is an high school science teacher.  Both of them immediately responded by telling me there is a theory that supports what he, my FIVE YEAR OLD, said.  It's called Multiverse Superstring Theory.  There several are TED talks that explain what it's all about- the continuum of existence and our place on the spectrum.

Here I was flashing to "Horton Hears a Who", which he has never read either, so still pretty remarkable.

What is in store for you Pman?  I hope I can keep up.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


When I was pregnant the second time and found out I was having a girl, I figured the beginning of a gender identification/difference conversation was right around the corner. 

I figured Pman was going to wonder why she looked different than him.

My parents were very honest about all thing sex and gender with us.  Nothing inapproriate, but they were not cutesy or coy.  If we had a question, they gave us the answer without making us feel ashamed or embarrassed.

When my mom was pregnant with my younger sister, she bought us a "How Babies are Born" type of book, complete with graphics of various stages of puberty.

My older brother, sister and I LOVED that book.

I have taken the same approach to educating my children about sex and the like. I answer questions honestly and appropriately for their age.  No need to discuss fallopian tubes with a 3 year old.

Surprisingly, it never happened.  All he wanted to know is when she was going to grow hair/stop crying/ be able to play/ talk.

Every time I changed BL's diaper or gave her a bath with Pman around, I would sort brace myself and watch him.  I was sure the questions were on the tip of his tongue.


I always joked that he must of thought her penis had not grown yet or something.

Eventually they started taking baths together, something they still love to do.  BL was the first one to acknowledge the outward biological difference.  She would scrutanize poor Pman like his body was some sort of UFO (unidentified floating object).

We had several quick, but serious conversation about what a private area is and that you can touch your own body, but you cannot touch someone else's and they cannot touch you.  I did not get into technical names and they did not really ask.  "Private area" seemed to satisfy their minimal curosity.

On Sunday I was getting BL dressed and Pman was hanging out in her room.  She patted her Pull- Up (we are in semi-potty training mode) and said, "This is mine.  It's private."

I told her she was right and "it" was actually called a vagina, then keeping all things equal, told them both that boys have a penis.

I started in on my whole lecture about private area, no touching or looking and telling mommy or daddy if someone makes them do something uncomfortable. The usual, but important, aspects of private areas.

Pman sat in the rocking chair.  I could see him thinking.

I asked him if he had any questions and he said, "What is BL penis called again?"

Back to the drawing board...hey a drawing board....