Thursday, June 05, 2008

Shmoo Review: Deceptively Delicious

I'm sure you've all seen this little pink cookbook winking at you from store shelves everywhere. Deceptively Deliciousis so popular that even now, almost eight months after its publication, it is still a "7 Day Only" loan at our library. Well, this week I finally got a chance to check it out myself!

The basic idea here is that if you want to end the struggle over vegetables at mealtime, start sneaking vegetable purees into foods your kids love, like mac and cheese or brownies. Then sit back and smile to yourself as they eat their vegetables in blissful ignorance.

Vegetable subterfuge, you say? Well, bring it on! I've been using the magical blender to erase any hint of certain vegetables in my family's dinners for a long time, and so have a lot of my readers. In fact, last March I wrote "Let's Hear It For Sneaky Mommas!", a special post raving about my blender and asking for more sneaky ideas from you readers (My favorite was blending spinach into mashed potatoes and calling them "swamp potatoes". Genius.)

Eager for even more ideas, I looked through Deceptively Deliciousfor some vegan recipes I could start with. I found....Ketchup. That's right, the recipe for homemade Ketchup was vegan. Everything else would require at least some substitutions, mostly in the egg and dairy department. Even the recipes for avocado spread and salsa dip contained dairy!

Some of the recipes looked worth veganizing, though: I loved the idea of adding yellow squash puree to a simple dish of "Buttered" Noodles. I would substitute nondairy milk and some nutritional yeast in place of the milk and Parmesan. The recipe for Creamy Potato Soup with secret butternut squash and cauliflower sounded excellent. I would substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, nondairy milk and a splash of lemon juice for the buttermilk, and leave out the cheddar cheese.

Oddly enough I had more luck finding vegan options in the dessert section: Blueberry Oatmeal Bars, Chocolate Chip Cupcakes (without the frosting), Chocolate Fondue, and Fruit Punch were all vegan. Yum!

But on closer inspection, I really started to wonder about some of these "deceptive" dishes. For example, the Blueberry Oatmeal Bars contained 1/2 cup spinach puree. The recipe serves 12, so doing my math...that's about 2 teaspoons of spinach per serving.

Really? I mean, I know a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but all that effort -- cooking, pureeing, freezing, and thawing -- to get two teaspoons of spinach into the kids? Is it really worth it to sneak 2 teaspoons of spinach into an oatmeal bar, or, for another example, 1 teaspoon of cauliflower into the frosting on your child's chocolate cupcake?

Ultimately, I don't think a vegan could easily get their money's worth out of this one, and although I applaud the effort and the many helpful tips and ideas here, perhaps it's best to stick to just a few of the recipes that contain larger amounts of the vegetable purees. Add some cooked vegetables and a salad on the side and some fresh fruit for dessert. If you do this most nights you can probably skip the deception the rest of the time and let cupcakes be cupcakes.


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

I agree - if you keep hiding produce from kids, then they're not going to learn to appreciate the essence of real, wholesome foods - keep the baked goods for treats, and embrace the goodness of fruits & vegetables in their natural state!!

R.B. said...

I read another review of this somewhere, and the opinion was very negative. Reinforcing that vegetables are something your kid shouldn't want to eat (as evidenced by your hiding it from them) is a terrible idea. You might hide something they'd actually like! And the proportions are insane. Just start your kids eating veggies like it's no big deal before media and other spoiled children convince them it's cool to hate vegetables.

[Full disclosure: I didn't eat vegetables willingly until I was in college. My mom was a steamed-only kind of cook.]

Katie said...

I've heard about this book - my mom & I both agree (though we're not vegan) that it might backfire and assist in establishing unhealthy eating habits in the future. If you don't knowingly and willingly eat veggies as a kid, who's to say that you'll eat them as an adult?

Leslie said...

I kinda split the difference. We serve lots of veggies the kids and ask them to at least take a 'no-thank-you' bite, but I'm not above using the stick blender to 'homogenize' food that would otherwise be parted with a neurosurgeon's skill. (Making for a longer, and much less pleasant dinner.)

Ms. Sapp said...

My roommate bought this book, and the amount of work that went into it WAS rather silly. I'd never seen so much pureeing activity!

There are some decent vegan cookbooks on the market: Vegan Homestyle is one - has recipes for comfort foods - pretty easy to use in the kitchen too, and the ingredients are accessible.

Rachel said...

Another book along similar lines is "The Sneaky Chef"--in fact, I think the author may be suing Jessica Seinfeld for borrowing her idea. If I remember correctly, it's more vegan (or at least vegetarian) friendly. Still the same issues with lying to your children, though, which she tries hard to defend in her introduction. I don't buy it, but I plan to try some of the recipes.

Courtney Suzanne said...

I just got the latest Sneaky Chef book this week. It's aimed at making food for a man that doesn't like veggies. I live with one of those men, and it's not fun. He knows veggies are good for you, but he rarely enjoys eating them unless they are covered in cheese or ranch dressing. Ugh. I baked a batch of the brownies from the book, and he said he didn't really like them much.

I have to agree that there is a very low amount of fruit/veg per serving in any of these "sneaky" or "deceptive" dishes, and some of them have a lot of sugar or fat in them, which really doesn't make them all that much better for you. I'm willing to keep trying, however.


I nearly got divorced over broccoli. He never wanted to see broccoli again. I love broccoli! So ... into the food processor, with walnuts or pine nuts, a little olive oil, and lots of garlic ... it became pesto. He loves pesto! I just don't tell him it's broccoli. This is a 50 year old man, who never learned good eating habits. I agree with some of the others though, this has to be taught to children when they are young. Don't teach them to be sneaky. If they like the spinach muffins, all they are learning is that they like muffins. If they find out the truth, they are just learning that sneakiness is okay.

johnhenry said...

Funny, I was just talking about this book last night! I have a friend (very much on the SAD diet) who was raving about it for her little girl.

My daughter is a life-long veg*n and hates veggies, but she is MUCH healthier eating a sprouted tortilla with hummus or natural nut butters on whole grain bread for lunch than any of the foods in this book.

I do cut veggies very small and add them to tacos, sauces and soups whenever possible, and I think purees would be good, too. But when it comes to brownies in my house I think vegetables just have no place :)

Ariel said...

What Jessica Seinfeld (and many others in the U.S.) seems to have forgotten is that we have something like 260 taste buds and they are ALL trainable. I lived in East Asia for several years and children there looooove veg, rice, seaweed, tofu, warm soymilk, etc. Those are the foods they are raised on and many children there do not really care for Western foods (such as fast food) that much.

China is a perfect example of this principle: Over the last decade children were introduced to McDonalds, KFC, Dairy Queen, etc. and grew to like these foods. Their parents however, wouldn't touch those foods with a ten-foot pole! (I once saw some Chinese parents sitting in a Beijing McDonalds eating veg dumplings they had brought with them, while their children chowed down on burgers) The parents have remained thin but there is now a childhood obesity epidemic in China.

Teaching children how to eat is work and "sneaking" healthy foods in is sort of a disservice in my opinion. (e.g. I hated cooked collards and greens when I was a child but grew to LOVE them once I lived in Asia and had them cooked fresh each day.)

Phyllis Sommer said...

i noticed the same thing - what's the point of half a cup of spinach in the grand scheme of things? i don't mind making things like pancakes more healthy by replacing oil, etc, with applesauce, but i'm not sure i need to throw in extra veggies that have little point except to deceive...

Bianca said...

I'm so glad your blogging again! I used to be a lurker. And your blog was the inspiration for me to start my own...yours was the first vegan blog I'd ever read. But when you took a break awhile back, I got out of the habit of checking it.

Then I saw that you'd posted recently on a vegan blog tracker, and it looks like you've been back for some time. Yea! I'll check back often.

Also, I'm super excited about the new edition of the book. I missed out on the first batch. Asked for one for Xmas and my dad told me he wasn't able to order one b/c Amazon was out.

Unknown said...

I just read and reviewed that book myself...and I too thought it sounded like a whole lot of work. However, I am not beyond sneaking some spinach in a smoothie. :)

I have a whole series going on at my blog about getting kids to eat veggies. Stop on by!

Vegan Knitting said...

2 TB is a joke. Better to give your kid a vitamin and work on finding ways to help them enjoy eating veggies.

Also, a lot of people don't realize how many exposures to an "unliked" taste it sometimes takes before the taste buds get used to the flavor and the child/adult likes the food. I provide in-home therapy for children with big sensory issues and we work on trying new foods many many times before they will actually eat them. But if you have patience and plan it out, you can make it be so that a child likes all the new foods - even kids who when I started, only ate about 10 types of carbohydrates now eat green veggies, pizza, hummus, fruits, etc.

Beth Lemon said...

So glad you're back! I've missed your posts.

I didn't buy the book but after watching Jessica Seinfeld on Oprah one afternoon in my first trimester, I got the idea to start hiding beans in my own foods.

As a vegetarian who was is allergic to soy, I get sick of beans pretty quickly. My husband and I started blending beans into soups and other dishes to get more protein into our diet. It's helped a lot.

i'll close my eyes said...

An excellent review. Thank you.

Matt and Bobbie said...

I agree that for the amount of vegetables that end up in each serving of these recipes, it's kind of a waste of time. I would think most kids like veggies like squash, carrots, peas, and pretty much any fruit.

I also agree it's a good idea to encourage children to eat veggies in their whole state most of the time rather than hiding them in other foods like mac and cheese or cupcakes.

Bariatric Foodie said...

I don't like the Deceptively Delicious concept. When my children grow up and are out on their own, there will be nobody to sneak veggies in their favorite foods. I want them to learn to love veggies as they are so that they'll eat them for a lifetime.

Classic cook said...

I sometimes want to sneak veggies in my own food. Don't get me wrong, I eat a huge variety of them (celery is one of the only ones I don't like) and eat them on a regular basis. Still, sometimes I know I need more and am happy to get a little spinach as pesto rather than straight spinach. I agree, though, that for a small amount of veggies it isn't worth the effort it sounds like this book takes. Now some fiber filled black bean brownies, I'll take those any day!

limabean+4 said...

Mrs. Shmoo, glad to see you are back to blogging here! Thanks for checking this book out for us.

As a veggie eater myself, I have always presented and served veggies to my children, just the way they are. I have never NEEDED to disguise them to get the Little Blonde Ones to eat them right up. As for all of the newest "veggie disguised" chips, drinks and such, they tend to be loaded with sugar, therefore undoing all of the goodness parents are trying to do in the first place.

My oldest has never been picky about his veggies, but just planting a little garden when he was two really captivated his futher interest in veggies. He was even suspended from daycare when he was five for declining the Crunch-n-Munch and Kool-Aid, stating that his Mommie would be there any minute with a "nutritious snack anyways!"

Krista said...

I agree with Jessica's concept almost completely. I realize most people are wondering why it is worth the effort to puree all theese veggies for such a small amount per serving. However, if you add all those servings together in everthing you ate for the day, you equal a full serving or two especially for young children. Adults will need to add a side of veggies to equal the correct amount of servings for the day. I do believe that placing a side of veggies on your kids plate is a great idea to introduce healthy foods to them. The only thing I would add is to tell your children after a week of eating thier hidden veggies what really was in them. If they loved it before you told them, they will love it more. You can even add silly names to them to make eating them more fun. For instance, my mother would make escarole and bean soup with macaroni and call it "yucky green soup". I LOVED it. It si still one of my favs to this day and I still call it "yucky green soup".

red said...

thank you


incontrol said...

I guess not everyone got the same message I did from this book and that was when you follow the authors tips and suggestions and serve theses meals ALONG with a healthy portion of vegetables on the side you are still teaching your kids to learn to enjoy veggies. In many homes, mine included lately my child will take a bite or two of the veggies being offered for the evening and eat everything else on the plate…pasta, fruit, fish, beans…whatever. (Mind you my husband and I are both vegan and our daughter loves meat!) In cases like these you can rest assured that your little darlings are getting at least some goodness (even if it is in a small amount) from veggies even if you had to sneak it in.

Some people get very bitter when someone else has a good idea…just be glad this book in around for people who are not as educated about the wholesome goodness vegetables provide. I hope somewhere out there this book has found its way into the hands of a mother who has never really thought of this concept before and perhaps depends on prepackaged over processed foods or drive in windows to feed her family.

I appreciate the resource this book has provided and like many other things in life you need to filter through the information you do not agree with or already know to find something new.

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alberti7 said...

I beg to differe from some of the comments above. My 4 year old begs for vegetables - yeah! But my 6 year old balls his eyes out just at the sight of them. As everyone knows vegetable are an important source of needed nutrients. So to sum it up you do what you have to do. I still offer a side of vegetables that still needs to be tried. But at least I know they are still getting a serving. I hated brussel sprouts as a child and now love them, eventually kids come around.

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