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Hidden Veggies: Stirring Up Lies in the Kitchen

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I have been obsessed with what my kid is eating/not eating for his entire life. First, it was how much milk he was drinking. Then, it was whether he was drinking too much milk and not eating enough food. And now, it’s all about food—what he’ll eat, what he won’t eat, when he eats. Is it the right food, the good-enough food, the maybe-okay food… And this is me having gotten better about it.

A year ago, I was living large. We skipped purees and did baby-led weaning with my son. I can’t recommend that highly enough, but it did not—as some proponents will claim—make my kid an adventurous eater. His love of zucchini, sweet potatoes, green beans, and hummus went away as soon as it actually mattered what he was eating. The kid hasn’t touched a vegetable in forever…that he knows about.

Yep. I’m a dirty, stinking liar. You can call it sneaky, cunning, sly—whatever. I call it LIES. My child thinks that cookies made with bananas and no sugar or flour are actual cookies. Those muffins he loves? Loaded with sweet potatoes, greek yogurt, and spinach. My husband suspects that our son’s concept of sugar has been forever damaged by my big, fat lies.

I’ve gotten better—mainly because he eats so little that I’m happy when he wants anything, even if it is a french fry or an actual cookie. Still—he’s never tasted cake, and he roundly rejected a popsicle just the other day. I don’t think it had enough flax seed in it for him.

There will come a time when my son finally understands that greek yogurt is not really sour cream, that ice cream is a thing that actually exists, that most desserts do not have bananas in them. That day will be a sad one—both for him and for his horrible genes. He’ll look at me with betrayal in his eyes and wonder what else I have lied to him about (too many lies to count by then, I’m sure). But until then, I will happily give him as many of my false “coo-ees” as he wants.

There are cookbooks out there that specialize in hiding good stuff in bad stuff, but that’s not really what I’m after. I like hiding good stuff in good stuff, then pretending it’s bad stuff. But my current lies will only be toddler-approved for so long, so if you’ve got your own favorite healthy not-quite-desserts to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Here are our current winners:

No Bake Awesome Balls (THESE ARE SO GOOD)

(adapted from Gimme Some Oven)

(Okay, these are really for me—a bit chewy for a not-quite-two year old. But he loves licking the spoon. These would be good for older kids though.)

  • 1 cup (dry) oatmeal
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional – BUT NOT REALLY)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional – these WILL get stuck in your teeth)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
  2. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  3. Makes about 20-25 balls.

Banana Cookies

(adapted from Calorie Count)

  • 3 ripe bananas
    We call them reindeer poop at Xmas

    We call them “reindeer poop” at Xmas

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we use dark chocolate cocoa powder)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon mint extract (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (dark chocolate on these too)
  • dash of cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mash 3 bananas, stir in applesauce, vanilla, mint, peanut butter and cocoa. Mix well.
  3. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  4. Let stand 20 minutes (I throw them in the refrigerator).
  5. Spoon onto cookie sheet in teaspoonfuls and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Refrigerate.

Veggie Muffins

(adapted from Homeketeers)

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cooked sweet potato, peeled
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup ground flax
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  1. Mix the spinach with the yogurt and blend until smooth in a vitamix or food processor. I throw the sweet potato and banana in too.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together. Add in dry ingredients, and mix until coated.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, and fill muffin cups ¾ of the way.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes. Ovens do vary, so make sure the muffin is cooked through by inserting a cake tester.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

(adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, via fellow contributor Megan who (mostly) cured her picky eaters)

(This is about as “bad” as we’ve gotten so far. And Mix would only eat these in muffin form.)

  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (I’m still trying to find just the right amount)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (Megan uses spelt flour)
  • 1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch process)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder (or 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder)
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Megan adds a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 9×5 (or 8×4) loaf pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Place the shredded zucchini on a couple of paper towels to absorb some (but not all!) of the moisture. Press a paper towel on top as well. Set aside until step 4.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, instant coffee, and chocolate chips together until combined. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla together until completely combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and lightly whisk until combined. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the zucchini. Pour/spoon batter into prepared baking pan, scraping up every last drop. Trust me, you want it all!
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My bread only took about 46 minutes, but do not be alarmed if yours takes longer. All ovens are different. Allow bread to cool completely in the pan and set on a wire rack. Slice and serve when bread has completely cooled. Store leftover bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
  6. Make ahead tip: Bread freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

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