Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Sneaky Mom! Feeding Your Child. - The Sneaky Chef Book Review.

I have to say that SO FAR (knocking on wood), Henry is a pretty good eater.  He at least tries everything.  He may try it and then spit it out and hand it back to me while making the face of disgust, but he tries it.

He also eats a nice variety of foods each meal.  We have tried very hard to make sure he eats as healthfully as possible while we still have influence and control over his eating.  We know someday he may become pickier, though we are hoping not!

He loves cheeses and even Parmesan cheese is one of his favorite cheeses.  He looooves broccoli, no really.  I buy frozen broccoli florets 2 bags at a time and steam batches of it for him every week and the boy just devours it.  Pasta and rice are probably his favorite foods and staples in our house.  Terry makes batches of brown rice every week and we mix that with veggies, turkey, or leave it by itself.  And mac and cheese or plain pasta with a little butter and Parmesan cheese or even pasta with sauce are weekly foods.  He also loves bananas and applesauce and has those every day.

BUT….so you are not rolling your eyes at me as I talk about what my child does eat, I have to say there are things he will not touch.  For example; potatoes.  He is NOT a fan of potatoes…mashed or otherwise.  (How can he be our child?!?!)  I made tater tots one time and he was just eh… with them.  And he wants to have nothing to do with mashed potatoes.  And sweet potatoes will also not find their way into his belly.  He loved them jarred, but I think it is a texture thing when they are mashed.  And speaking of textures, things that have a “skin/shell” on them like peas and beans are a no.  Well really, he just likes to push them into his tray with his finger instead of eating them.  While he does like pureed fruits, he is not a fan of sliced fruits like pears or peaches.  I think because they are slippery and he just wants to smash them.  Not sure when I can start feeding him apples as those are crunchy, but perhaps he will like those.

So while he does eat many things and there is a fairly wide range of foods he will eat and that are nutritious, he is still like every other kid out there and likes snack foods and/or will throw food over his high chair or refuse to eat something because it doesn’t feel right, look right, or because it is 1pm on a Wednesday and he has decided he doesn’t want to eat it.

(Henry figured out what I was doing!  heehee)

A couple weeks ago I bought the book “The SneakyChef”.  I thought perhaps there would be good suggestions on how to add some more nutrients to foods he already loves and even expand what he eats while letting him eat foods I may not normally feed him.

I was slightly skeptical about this book when I first read it…..yeah right a brownie is going to taste good with spinach in it!!!

The way the book works is there are 4 different healthy vegetable and/or fruit purées that you can make and store in your freezer and then as needed you can add to different kid friendly and influenced recipes in the book.  That is the sneaky part.  Each recipe tells you which puree/s you can add to it.  Most recipes are made from scratch but there are also some that can be combined with pre-packaged foods, like boxed mac and cheese.  None of the recipes are suppose to take long to make and all are influenced by what kids like to eat.

The first recipe I tested was something I knew Henry would love…..mac and cheese.  You had the option of taking boxed mac and cheese and adding a puree to it or making one from scratch.  I made mine from scratch, but as we do make boxed mac and cheese regularly this will be good to add.  I did adjust their recipe slightly because I didn’t want to bake mine and like my recipe, but the ingredients where the same.  I choose to add the orange puree to mine.  The orange puree consists of a sweet potato and three carrots chopped and boiled together until tender and then pureed with a little water and that is it (made 1 – 1 ½ cups).  I made the mac and cheese and added about ½ cup of the puree to the ¾ pound of mac and cheese.  I also added broccoli for even more of a nutritional boost.

Henry LOVED it.  He devoured it like he normally does.  I tried it and I thought it was delicious!  I couldn’t taste the carrots or sweet potatoes at all, though there were chunks because I used a blender instead of a food processor...I should use the food processor.  It tasted like my normal homemade mac and cheese and infact the puree made it slightly creamier and a hint sweeter.

 (This is the face he makes when he poses for pictures...silly boy)


Now I am assuming that many of the savory dishes may be easier to sneak in veggies, but what about sweets….how can those have fruits and veggies and still taste good?!

So enter test two, brownies.

The recipe calls for spinach and blueberries to be pureed with a bit of water and lemon juice.  I didn’t have lemon, so just water.  The puree smelled like fresh cut grass….I was skeptical.

You then make a batter with only a half a cup of sugar (compared to most homemade recipes that have a cup or more), some cocoa powder, ¾ cup chocolate chips, butter, flour (you are supposed to do a flour blend of reg. flour, wheat flour and wheat germ….I just used regular flour), vanilla, eggs, and ½ cup of the spinach puree.  You then bake for 30 minutes.

(Uh, this can't taste good....)

Folks, these actually tasted great!!  They tasted like chocolate brownies and I couldn’t taste the spinach or blueberries at all.  I was totally surprised.  

A couple notes: it suggested a 9x13 or 9x9 pan.  I used a 9x13 and these things do not rise very much so they are very thin brownies.  A great size for kids, but I would prefer them a little thicker and will try a 9x9 pan next time.  They taste better cold rather than warm, unlike most brownies.  You store them in the fridge and I tried them again later that evening after being in the fridge and they almost taste fudgy at that point.  They would be amazing with frosting or powdered sugar on top….and with spinach and half the fat and calories you could do that!  Finally, I have a small food processor so I don’t think my puree was chopped as fine as it should be.  I should have done it in batches to get a finer puree.  Terry thought they tasted good, but we both noticed a slight textural thing with the blueberries.  I tested one at work with a couple parents and they thought they tasted great and would defiantly pass kid pickiness! 

(No picture of Henry eating it as he usually doesn't get chocolate, I know mean parents, and he devoured his brownie!)


Overall, I am impressed and happy with the book.  I am not interested in all the recipes, but there are good ideas and tips and I will keep trying different recipes.  I am not sure how many nutrients stay when you boil your veggies, I may try steaming them.  However, I know the spinach as it was frozen and the fresh blueberries were packed with great nutrients!  

Only really complaint with the book so far: I really wish the book had nutritional information for each recipe so I could see how it compared and how much healthier they were.

I will also still be pushing to get Henry to try more foods, but if I can add an extra layer of nutrition to what he eats, especially to foods that may not be as nutritious then bring on the sneakiness!

If you are interested in any recipes, let me know :)

Any tips for getting your kids to eat healthfully?  Do you sneak foods?


  1. Great ideas, sneaky sneak! ;)

    Vincent LOVES anything green; especially broccoli. He devours it too. If you place anything green on his plate, he'll always eat that first. It's so funny! The girls were the same at this age...then someone or something sneaks into their brain around age 2 and tells them green things are 'yucky' and everything changes. Ha. Vincent will eat just about anything, but red meat (hates it) and plain chicken (it has to have something on it...breaded or some sauce), and he always spits out pears. I think it's a texture thing.

    We give V apples. Either cut in small squares or in slices. He likes the slices to chew on...I think it helps with teething. He's never had a problem.

    I'll have to try these sneaky recipes on the girls. Although, they eat fairly well too, they may not eat ALL the veges, but they have ones they love and ones they 'stomach'. :) We don't make a big deal about the rest...they'll learn to like them over time.

  2. Nice work! When my husband was my boyfriend, I had to hide the veggies for him when I cooked. He thought peas and corn were veggies. I would grate up carrots and add it to spaghetti sauce, chop up mushrooms and add it to chili, dice zucchini and add it to soups or pastas. Just adding a little bit of color can make dishes nicer too. I get that a lot of people are "texture" eaters and that is why they don't like veggies so having an immersion blender is WONDERFUL. Adding butternut squash or sweet potatoes is beautiful natural and healthy thickener for soups, stews, and sauces. Add it to beef stew next time and see what happens!

    I just also tried a recipe for turkey burgers that had sauteed onions, carrots, and APPLES in them. Huh! they were good! Turkey is SO bland and SO dry, these veggies really helped. Give it a whirl.

  3. Awesome!

    My girls are pretty good at eating healthy. Charlie, on the other hand, not so much.

    I tried Jerry Seinfeld's wife's book a few years back. I just found it to be a lot of work, you know? The pureeing, storing, etc. Maybe I"m just lazy? I think it's awesome that you are expanding Henry's diet in the way.

    How do we get Charlie to eat? You will sit here until you eat it. :)

    I learned something interesting in a class I took in grad school. Kids taste buds change ever 7 days. Crazy, isn't it? That means what they don't like this week, they may like next week. We encourage them to keep trying.

  4. Henry has a consistency issue? "...throw food over his high chair or refuse to eat something because it doesn’t feel right, look right,..." Well I wonder where the hell he got that from?! ;)

  5. I loved this post. Lila's an amazing eater Vivienne exemplifies that whole, "kids' taste buds change every 7 days" thing. She HATES most green things... She's a pain.

    This is a GREAT idea.

    Your mac and cheese looked amazing.

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