Being sneaky when cooking healthy

Several years ago Vicki Lansky authored a couple cookbooks to help young mothers make nutritious foods for their children such as yogurt popsicles (which were very yummy, by the way).  Back in the 90’s, fat was replaced by pureed fruit in an effort to reduce fat in baked goods.  More recently, Jessica Seinfeld has published cookbooks with recipes packed with hidden vegetables.  Are these behaviors faddish, sneaky, or do they have creative merit?

While some may prefer to serve foods whole and not pureed or mixed in a casserole,  I think of such additions as fortifying recipes and worthy of a try.  Fruit and vegetable consumption has been associated with decreased risks of cancer and heart disease. Increasing one’s intake by finding ways to add fruit and veggies to already familiar dishes is a good thing in my view.

If you are game for some creative activity in the kitchen, read on.

  • Children often prefer smooth textures.  My mom used a fork or potato masher to render foods easy to swallow. That said, blenders, processors, and ricers are useful tools to have on hand to get rid of chunks and smooth things out.  Hand blenders work well in both small and large pots. 
  • Tomato sauce is easily fortified with finely grated carrots.  The carrots also thicken the sauce, so thin according to taste.
  • Mashed cauliflower is a tasty addition to mashed potatoes, or use cauliflower as a base for a healthy mac and cheese. Rachel Ray offers a recipe for this dish, and Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian with Blue Cross Blue Shield recommends this recipe      for mashed potatoes.
  • Sweet potatoes are also healthy additions to recipes.  Make a few extra for dinner.  Then try one cup of leftover, mashed sweet potatoes in your favorite pancake or waffle recipe. Add a little cinnamon and nutmeg for a real treat.
  • Pureed prunes (yes, prunes) or those found in the baby food aisle work well in brownies and chocolate cake.  One can also reduce the fat by an amount equal to the pureed fruit. Or, just cut up the prunes and add them to a favorite muffin recipe.  So easy.
  • Beans are another food that can be mashed or pureed and added to many recipes such as mac and cheese, brownies, and cookies. Keep canned beans on hand for quick additions.
  • Beans also make great homemade veggie burgers.  Moreover, just about any vegetable can be added to make tasty burgers.
  • The more adventurous among you might want to try veggies in your cake, another recipe courtesy of Grace Derocha.
  • And don’t forget about yogurt. Yogurt has all kinds of uses.  One of my favorites is to substitute plain yogurt for mayonnaise in a waldorf-type salad.  To the apples and walnuts, add enough yogurt to cover the fruit.  By the way, raisins, dried cranberries, dates, and dried cherries are other tasty additions to this dish.

Get creative and add something extra to your recipes.

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