Deceptively Delicious arrived on my doorstep on Saturday. I immediately began pureeing veggies in high hopes that this was going to be my ticket to getting healthy eaters! So what's my verdict? Unfortunately, not so good.
First up, the Brownies with spinach and carrots. The biggest trick, she says, is letting the brownies cool off all the way before serving them otherwise the spinach taste may still be detected. Fine, sounds easy enough. I jumped through all the proper hoops, (even separating an egg, something I have never attempted before...I'm not exactly a legend in the kitchen.) but when taste time finally came, I was very disappointed. The brownies were very dense. Flat. So dang heavy! I put them in front of the kids whose eyes lit up and squeals of "You made brownies!" rang through my kitchen. My husband took a bite and had to leave the room. I took a bite and immediately felt the need to apologize to my kids. They ate half a brownie each but I think they only ate that much because it took them a few bites in for their taste buds to catch up with their excitement. Even my 4-year-old who will eat anything sweet had a look on his face that I can't quite put into words. So what happened? I have no idea. My best guess is that I had to use semi-sweet baking chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder and no (zero!) white sugar. There was a bit of brown sugar involved but nothing quite replaces the good 'ol white stuff I guess. They had that fake chocolate taste to them. In other words, it wasn't the carrots or spinach, those were totally hidden in both site and taste, it was the basic brownie recipe that failed. My husband, when he was finally able to join us again, asked the most simple question, "Why can't you just put the veggies in a boxed brownie mix and call it a day?" My man is smart like that. So that is what I am going to do today, wish me luck.
Second attempt: chicken nuggets with spinach puree. This one actually tasted really good but it was a bit tricky to make. I used chicken tenders for this one. Basically, you mix spinach puree with an egg, coat the chicken in all that green goop (and I am here to tell you, goop is a nice way of putting it!) then coat it in a mixture of flax seed meal, panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan and some seasonings. The first problem was that the spinach goop would not stick to the chicken so it was just kind of glopped around on parts of the tender, (somehow I don't think I'll ever get a job writing reviews for cookbooks with words like 'goop' and 'glop' but you get the point) then I tossed it in the dry mixture and began the cooking process. You cook these on the stove top in a bit of olive oil. Lesson learned here: flax seed meal cooks very, very quickly. I had smoke! I had burning smells! I quickly yanked them off the pan and put them in the oven to finish cooking. They were not pretty when they came out so I naturally assumed no one would touch them, especially since they were still shaking from the brownie experience. But, much to my surprise, they both ate it. It was good too! You could see the spinach and the coating kept falling off but they ate it and no one said "what's that green stuff?" Next time, I think I'll cook them in the oven and skip the stove all together.
Feeling pretty sure of myself because I was 1 for 1, I decided to give another recipe a go: Yellow Cake. This starts with a boxed yellow cake mix so I figured I couldn't fail. Sure enough, this was a huge hit. It calls for 1 cup of canned pumpkin and 6 ounces of nonfat yogurt, I used vanilla. It was rich, very moist and sweet. Very delicious. This one I will for sure make again. The kids loved it.
With all that confidence, I began to puree again yesterday. I made the macaroni and cheese with 1/2 cup butternut squash puree and the mozzarella sticks with 1/2 cup cauliflower puree. The mac and cheese was really good, very creamy. My 7-year-old liked it but my 4-year-old was a bit harder to please. He is very easily swayed by how things look and this simply didn't look like his favorite boxed mac and cheese so he was a real stinker about it. I managed to get 3 bites in him, hoping to change his mind, but he wasn't budging. On to the mozzarella sticks. What to say about the cheese sticks.....gross, nasty, too good for the trash can, smelly, just plain disgusting....that about sums it up. This used 1/2 cup cauliflower puree. First of all, have you ever pureed cauliflower? It isn't fun. And it stinks. You take that cauliflower and mix it with mozzarella cheese. Then you form it into "logs" and dredge it in whole-wheat breadcrumbs and flax seed meal. Again, the coating just kept falling off so I was left with a cheesy-cauliflower mess of a log. The boys were very excited about the idea of having cheese sticks in the middle of the afternoon so again, trusting me, they dug in. Again, the silence. Again, those faces and again, that overwhelming felling of the need to apologize. Into the trash with the brownies they go.
So basically, I tried 5 recipes and had success with 2. I wouldn't be upset about those numbers if it were not for all the work that goes into these recipes. So what's next? Refusing to give up, I am going to put pureed spinach in a boxed brownie mix today and then I'm going to check out The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine whose book was out before Seinfeld's and who simplifies these ideas by adding purees to boxed food. I think this may be the way to go. So it's back to the kitchen I go. I'll let you know how those brownies turn out!
Oh, and in case you want to know what some nutritionist think about Deceptively Delicious, check out this article from the Washington Post today.