Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Update: Deceptively Delicious Review

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.


crumbs said...

Fun to read your experiences.

I tell you - skip the puree work and buy baby food. It's easier and cheaper in the long run (since you probably end up throwing out all the extra pureed goop).

Kimberly said...

I'm no longer looking forward to my book.

Lisa said...

I had the exact same experience you did with the chicken nuggets. I am going to try to make them in the oven next. How long did you cook them in the oven and at what temperature?

I also made the mashed potatoes, but I added real butter instead of trans-fat-free margarine. I also discovered that they were very very bland and I had to add a lot of salt. Once I did that, I thought it wasn't bad and my husband thought they were really good and couldn't taste the cauliflower at all. I'm off to try the yellow cake and I will steer clear of the brownies and cheese sticks. Thanks for your review!!

bbrown said...

I was very excited about getting the new Jessica Seinfeld book Deceptively Delicious and immediately ran out to the grocery store to buy out the store of their veggies so I could start pureeing. I am very sad to report that I have been very disappointed by all the recipes I have tried. The chicken nuggets looked nothing like the picture and was very gloopy(for lack of a better word). The puree mixture and bread crumb mixtures did not stick to the chicken and therefore completely fell apart as it was frying. It actually did not taste to bad but my kids (for whom all this work was for) would not touch it with a ten foot pole because of its appearance. The macaroni and cheese also turned out to be one big glob, not at all creamy the way the picture depicted. The chocolate chip cookies were very cakey although not too bad. The burgers were impossible to keep together in the pan and turned out to be more of a sloppy joe. I really like Jessica Seinfeld and have been very disappointed with the book so far.

Anonymous said...

I also recommend using premade baby food for the purees whenever possible. I had no problem with the chicken nuggets glopping when I used baby food squash and egg, as long as I did each nugget separately. I did them in the oven for 30 minutes at 375, and they turned out pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I made the chicken nuggets yesterday and they were amazing! I changed only a few things- I added 2 whole eggs to a cup of broccoli puree, yolks included (lots of nutrition is in those yolks- I didn't want to miss out on that!) I used whole wheat flour instead of flaxseed meal (same amount as recipe called for.) I skipped the parmesan cheese to keep the texture even, and just added an extra pinch of salt instead. I highly recommend using panko breadcrumbs, as they give the crispest coating. My very, very picky 2.5 year old was thrilled with these, and so were my husbsnd and I.. will make again!

The chickpea cookies were also very good. Again, I used a whole egg, not omitting the yolk. I also did a good chop on the chickpeas in the blender (not pureed, but almost) so they blended in. We are all eating these like crazy, they are pretty darned yummy. I can't wait to try all of these recipes- they look great. I can say that adding as little water as possible to purees helps with results for the recipes I've tried.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the Oprah episode yesterday and was super excited to try these recipes. If anyone out there saw it, Oprah and Jerry Seinfeld went on and on about the brownies. They stated that they were "last meal" worthy. To say that that is an understatement, well, is an understatement. They were NASTY. I waited until they cooled too, but what I tasted did not taste like brownie. Oh well. Glad to hear some of the recipes were winners, I'll have to try those next.

Anonymous said...

To the user whose kids turned their noses up at everything...it sounds like they were picky eaters to begin with. You can't expect to put something new and healthy in front of them and have them gobble it right up. I'd try it again. What did Dr. Oz say on Oprah? Kids have to try new things like 10 times before they actually realize they like it - due to the amount of taste buds in the mouth of a child.

Anonymous said...

Don't try the Ranch dressing either, unless you want to throw it out. It wasn't thick like the photo- very runny. Needless to say, I'm disappointed too. A fun one to try is adding one can of pumpkin to a devil's food cake mix- that's it- no oil, etc... Wonderful. Thanks for your review. I'm not going to try the brownies either.

Anonymous said...

Just a general comment that I'm not convinced that the amount of veg you get per serving is worth all the effort. I guess some is better than none. It seems like you could bribe them with some candy to eat more veggies since most of the recipes add sugar or sweet flavors to hide the veggies anyway. Recipe comments: Brownies - nasty! I even tried frosting them and the frosting literally slid off after day 2 of not being eaten. But I do have to say, you couldn't taste the spinach. The Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins were really good (I used caulif). My kids like deviled eggs and liked this recipe, but my husband said they seemed to be lacking in favor. Maybe the caulif deluted the yolk flavor? (My kids are actually pretty good with veggies, I bought the book more for him!) I added dry mustard, too, and he still said there was something lacking. The Lemon Raspberry cupcakes were also good. Is the book worth it... if you don't mind spending a lot of time in the kitchen and like experimenting, then I guess, so. Jessica made it seem like a hour on a Sun was enough, but not sure she included clean up time. If you're not a big cook, wait and see if paperback is an option or just copy the "good" recipes from your friends! I like the baby food option, but maybe too runny? A trick I used when I used to puree my baby food was to freeze the purees in icecube trays (idea from the Super Baby Food book).

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Um. You do realize that the children have officially taken over the world. After I read (Other) Moms Know Best and 'Saying No Artfuly'....I put the book down and started to imagine what these kids are going to be like in 5 years. If kids learn that making people uncomfortable or stressed is the ticket to getting what they want...yikes. And we are only talking veggies here. If you can't win this battle...what battle can you expect to win?
My mom said, "It all starts with the ice cream truck." Just say no. And when they start to whine and create a scene and say "but why, why, why!!!" The appropriate response is, "because I'm your mother and I said no." Long live broccoli and spinach in their natural forms! Power to the moms and dads who understand that empathizing with their child's feelings means setting limits and making the choices because we are the adults. (p.s. if people look at you funny when you and your little ones are out to eat because they are yelling or tossing food...tell the people that your THREE year old has not quite mastered table manners but is working on it. I mean what do these people expect?! Half the time those people are chewing with their mouths open or using the super grip on the knife and fork so they can just mind their own beeswax.)

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Jodi Michael Horner said...

I got the book at a discount store and I now know why--but I'm still very glad I got it! It got me to start trying all the recipes (I've completed 24 so far) and I've got tons of puree left to keep using. There are a few recipes thus far that definitely need modification--too much puree in the grilled cheese sandwiches" so I will use about half. Same for her tortilla cigars. The pastries tend to work out great--but are definitely on the dry side. I made the choc chip cookies and when fresh from the oven the garbonzo beans (chick peas) are just fine, but once they cool they taste like walnut shells or some hard thing! Not sure what's up with that. I am still on the mission to do more. For me, the bottom line is a few of these things will work on-goingly and most of the pastries will be much better to dole out to the kids rather than graham crackers and junk pastries.

Sherry said...

Hi, I am so glad I read your awesome review. You had e cracking up the whole way through. i have since decided that I might not purchase this book but instead I'm on my way to check out the reviews for Sneaky Chef :)
Thanks for your advice and a moment of giggles.