You probably have at least one child who’s a picky eater. And no matter how often you make fruit faces on his favourite plate or ants on a log with celery, peanut butter and raisins, if he doesn’t like it, he simply won’t eat it. There is a way your kids can get the benefits of nutritious fruits and vegetables without them knowing but you have to be stealth about it. The secret way to build any meal into a nutritional winner is with purees!
I once read that adding some previously-frozen chopped spinach to brownie batter was a good way to redeem some health value but despite my best efforts, my daughters spotted the leafy bits in the baked brownies and refused to eat them. Determined to pull the wool over their eyes some other way, I experimented with adding pureed vegetables and am pleased to report that I had some success.
Pureeing almost any kind of fruit or vegetable takes the lumpiness away (for texture sensitive kids) and makes them easy to add into almost any recipe. In fact, I got so used to throwing in a serving of pureed veggies or fruits to whatever I was cooking that it became second nature and almost no meal was served without them.
Purees are quick to whip up and freeze in ice cube trays. While you’re cooking, simply drop a cube or two into the pot and the puree will covertly dissolve and mix in with whatever you’re fixing for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
What Vegetables Work Best
Carrots, cauliflower, squashes and yams tend to be not so easily detected by sensitive palates. Broccoli and spinach purees have a stronger taste. Preparation is simple – peel, wash and cut vegetables into one-inch cubes and cook.
Steaming is the way to go
One of the best ways to cook vegetables and retain most of their nutrients and flavour is to steam them. A metal steamer basket is inexpensive and will quickly become your go-to for cooking all your veggies if it’s not already.
Fill a pot with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil. Place the steamer basket into the pot so the water just peeks through the holes. Add your chopped vegetables and cover loosely with a lid. Turn down the temperature so water is at a low boil and check every few minutes to make sure there’s still enough water in the pot. Vegetables are done when very soft when pierced with a fork. Spinach takes less time and appears soft and wilted when done.
Roasting Works too
I like to roast sweet potatoes and beets in the oven. Keeping the skin on, wash, then poke the veggies with a fork. Rub coconut oil (makes for a soft, moist vegetable inside) all over the outside and place on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. While you’re at it, why not halve a butternut squash and add it to the mix? Place flesh-side down on the same baking sheet and roast the vegetables all together at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until soft. When done, let cool, remove the skins and chop the insides into small pieces for pureeing.
Cut fruits into small cubes and steam just like the veggies. Some popular fruits to puree and hide in meals are apples, pears, peaches and apricots. Other fruits like avocado, mango and banana don’t need cooking. Simply mash with a fork when ripe and add to dishes.
Getting it Smooth
The whole point of pureeing is to get the fruits and vegetables as smooth as you can so they won’t be detected. Any telltale lump will make picky eaters avoid that particular dish for a long time and maybe never eat again! Remember to let cooked foods cool before you puree them. Hot foods in a blender cause pressure to build inside the jar and the lid to go flying along with the hot food inside, causing potential burns.
Add a small amount of water, organic chicken or vegetable broth to your veggies before you blend. Once you’ve hit the puree switch and your veggies aren’t as smooth as you like, add a bit more liquid. I find that my mini blender I use for smoothies works best. The smaller jars give me better results.
Once you’re satisfied that your secret ingredient purees are as lump-free as you can get them, divide the contents of your blender into ice cube trays and freeze. Cubes will stay fresh for about a month.
Different pureed fruits and vegetables work better in some recipes than others. The trick is to not try to change the colour or texture of already familiar foods. Here are some basic combination ideas. Feel free to experiment and come up with your own!
Pureed Yams, carrots and squash
Great when added to spaghetti sauce, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, pizza sauce, pancake and muffin batter and cookie dough
Pretty much undetectable when mixed in with mashed potatoes, spaghetti and pizza sauces and scrambled eggs. Works in brownie, muffin and cake batters, too
Pureed Broccoli, spinach and beets
Hides great in sauces and carrot muffins and anything with a dark batter like chocolate cake or brownies
Pureed Apples, Pears and Avocados
These are fairly light tasting and can be added to a variety of foods to enhance or replace the sweetness or oils in healthy loaves, cookies and in your child’s morning hot cereal. Adding avocado to your Orange Naturals ND Shake for Kids (Chocolate Flavour), masks the green of the avocado and gives the shake a fluffy consistency. Add half a banana too, while you’re at it. Serve in a mug with a spoon!
Pureed Apricots, Peaches and Mango
Spread on whole grain toast for a naturally sweet treat. Add to Orange Naturals ND Shake (Vanilla Flavour) for a tropical taste or spoon over freshly baked apple, peach or blueberry cobbler. You can even use pureed fruits as dips for other fruits like apple or pear slices!