Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cookbook Review - Deceptively Delicious

Okay, so this isn't the latest in slow food or Spanish nouvelle cuisine... but when I found Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to get your Kids Eating Good Food on sale at (c)Ross Dress-for-Less, I decided to get it. I was intrigued by the concept (vegetable purees artfully concealed in typical "kids' food" like brownies or spaghetti), and I saw it as a possible way to sneak more vegetables into my own diet as well as preparing for future arrivals (in whom pickiness will not be tolerated, but we'll see). A disclaimer: aside from PB&J sandwiches at lunch, my mother never fed me typical American kids' food, but I discovered it in high school when I first tried macaroni & cheese, and I've had a weakness for it ever since.

The basic concept behind this cookbook is that you make a bunch of purees out of steamed & roasted vegetables, store them in snack-size plastic baggies in the freezer, and whenever you need to add something to your food, you defrost in a bowl of water for 30 minutes or so. Then you follow the recipes, which range from souffles, muffins, and french toast for mornings, meatloaf, mozzarella sticks, spaghetti, burgers, and quesadillas for daytime fare, and brownies and cookies (made with garbanzo beans!) for dessert. I bought butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower to make purees, and those were relatively easy to do, so now my freezer is stocked. Then I tried some of the recipes.

In the "would make again" category: French toast (with sweet potato), macaroni & cheese (again w/butternut squash), chicken nuggets (a maybe), turkey chili, creamy potato soup. In the "disgusting disaster" category, spaghetti pie and oatmeal. To start with the spaghetti pie: the cookbook shows a picture of a cheesy, crunchy baked spaghetti topped with broccoli-infused meatballs. To be sure, the broccoli was subtle enough that you couldn't really taste it, but I was suspicious when I saw the recipe did not ask you to saute the meatballs before simply placing them, raw, on top of the spaghetti pie. I was also suspicious of two cups of tomato sauce for only three ounces of spaghetti. Even though I was using 93% lean ground beef, grease was still floating over everything, the noodles drowned in the tomato sauce, and despite my attempts to bail out the poor drowning meatballs by scooping out excess liquid, the dish never achieved its desired consistency. The morning oatmeal with sweet potato, milk and brown sugar was also a little too rich for breakfast, though I love oatmeal in general.

The real standouts so far have been the macaroni and cheese and the turkey chili. Who knew that butternut squash could add such a mellow, creamy sweetness to mac-and-cheese. Turkey chili was pretty decent too, especially with my new favorite recipe for sweet cornbread (below), which is almost like a decadent cake. Depicted here (or will be depicted here, as soon as Blogger uploads my photo) are the chicken nuggets with the aforementioned mac-and-cheese, and while in the chicken nuggets, the proportion of puree is WAY too high (you'll have more than you need to dip them in, and they'll turn out slightly soggy), the mac-and-cheese is perfect.

What I learned more than anything is that I can just throw vegetable purees into a number of the recipes I make regularly anyway, and that I may not need follow a special cookbook to do so.. all you do is steam or roast the vegetables, throw them in the blender or food processor, then store them in 1/2 cup size portions.

Macaroni & Cheese 1 (adapted slightly from Deceptively Delicious)

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 T olive oil
1 T flour
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 c. butternut squash OR cauliflower puree
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (my favorite addition to everything)
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. pepper

Boil macaroni until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, heat oil in large saucepan, add flour, and cook until you have a thick paste but mixture has not yet browned. Add milk slowly and cook until thick, 3-4 minutes. Add vegetable puree, cheeses, and seasonings, stir until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Mix with macaroni and serve warm.

And this cornbread recipe, which I found on, is out of this world if you like sweet, dense, cake-like cornbread:


1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 Tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8" square baking dish.

Combine flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil and butter in small bowl; mix well. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour batter into greased 8-inch-square baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. If you want muffins, bake for 18-20 minutes.

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