I have some experience in that department. My son balked at vegetables from the time he was old enough to eat baby food. He tightened his little lips and turned his head away from plastic feeding spoons full of pureed peas, green beans, carrots, beets, squash. You name the vegetable—he refused to eat it. Right from the get-go I had to find ways to sneak vegetables past his lips.
I started by steaming broccoli and carrots and pureeing them in my food processor. I added the puree to my spaghetti sauce and thoroughly coated the noodles with it. He gobbled down every last bite and pounded the highchair tray for more. Success with my first foray into food espionage emboldened me to branch out into meats.
At first I stuck with my laced spaghetti sauce and simply ladled it over small pieces of meatballs. It worked! After a while I grew tired of scrubbing tomato sauce spots out of his clothing and took an inventory of his favorite foods. I had spaghetti and ground beef covered, but I knew he also loved macaroni, French fries, and scrambled eggs. I decided to match the colors of those foods with vegetables.
Boxed macaroni wore an orange sauce. I decided to forgo the boxed version with reconstituted orange powder and make my own so I could control all of its ingredients. I created the quick Mac and Cheese recipe that appears in both Easy Weekly Meals for College Students and EWM for Moms on the Go. But I made one addition. I pureed steamed carrots and added them to the sauce. My son was never the wiser. I’d found another way to sneak some veggies into his system.
French fries resembled slices of peeled eggplant. I fried and seasoned them as I would potato slices and had another culinary hit on my hands. Scrambled eggs presented my biggest challenge. I played with a few veggies. Cooked and mashed turnips proved to be too pungent. Zucchini made the eggs too runny. Finally I tried baked and mashed spaghetti squash. Its yellow color blended perfectly with the beaten eggs and its addition didn’t alter the eggs’ texture.
As my kids grew I played around with unmasking vegetables by connecting them to something that had caught their attention. When they first studied fossils they helped me make fossilized vegetable slices. Today, I still see fossils when I make Baked Eggplant and Arugula Slices*.
I thought I’d pulled off the switcheroo of the century when my entire family ate every bite of my Zucchini Cannelloni*. In this dish, the “cannelloni” noodles are actually peeled and hollowed out zucchini. My son, now a man, said, “You really made that zucchini taste good, Mom.” Busted! But I’m very pleased that he ate it, and liked it.
If you’ve got picky eaters of any age try some of my culinary trickery. Think outside the box. Experiment with your own favorite dishes and find vegetable substitutions or additions for them.
Happy World Vegetarian Day!
Note: Asterisked (*) recipes can be found in Easy Weekly Meals for Moms on the Go available in November, 2012.