Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Deceptively Delicious: A Book Review

A few years back I found a web site that had simple substitutions for eggs and oil in baking recipes, things like apple sauce and zucchini purees. Though I thought that this was a great idea, I soon realized the irony of trying to feed my family healthy foods this way, but only being able to find recipes on that site for the very things that are supposed to be eaten in moderation. Man cannot live by zucchini bread alone.

Then I found another site that proclaimed the many virtues of baby food. Good idea in theory, until you actually taste the stuff. Sure, I managed to hide Emma's unwanted green beans and squash in a few batches of spaghetti and chili, but using baby food for cooking just isn't cost effective. Baby food is quite expensive.

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to request another book to review for HarperCollins, and right away I went for this book: Deceptively Delicious- Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld. I had already toyed with the idea of secretly stashing veggies in our meals, and had even pulled it off a handful of times... so why not give this cookbook a whirl?

From the moment that I received this book, I was interested. For starters I LOVE the style and illustrations, it's very 50's. I'm diggin' it! The book also has lots of yummy photos of the prepared food, footnotes and reviews from Jessica's family (including her famous hubby, Jerry), AND tidbits of information from nutritionist Joy Bauer. Another thing that I loved about this book is that both the author and the nutritionist support not only sneaking in fruits and veggies when you can, but they both are aware that kids need to see actual fruits and veggies on their plate. Sneaking produce into your child's diet isn't a substitute for good eating habits but they do recommend it for kids who are reluctant to do so.

If you are like me, the thought of pureeing food may seem a little intimidating at first. What I loved about this cookbook is that the author tells you everything you will need to prepare the fruits and vegetables, and gives you tips on how to prepare them by various methods ( steaming on the stove, by steamer or rice cooker, or in the microwave, or baking/roasting in the oven).

The beauty of all of this is that you don't HAVE to do all the prep work of washing and chopping if you don't have the time or simply don't want to. If you are short on time, are willing to spend just a little more money, or just don't want the hassle of the first few stages of prep work- buy frozen fruits and veggies. These products are always picked at the height of ripeness and are flash frozen so that none of the nutritional values are lost, AND you don't have to worry about a drawer full of produce going bad because you didn't get around to it.

Jessica recommends that you put aside about an hour a week to get all of your pureeing done, that way you aren't swamped with the prep work when actually making meals. She then recommends separating the purees out into 1/2 cup portions into freezer bags so that you can pull out a bag at a time as needed.

I was able to steam broccoli and cauliflower in my microwave in 2 batches, and I pureed while the other batch was steaming. In the meantime I roasted fresh sweet potatoes in my oven. It was all pretty easy since I used frozen veggies, just cooking them in the microwave allowed them to steam themselves without any added water.

The true test? My household of picky eaters. Monday I made chicken nuggets that were battered in a coating of egg and broccoli puree, then bread crumbs and *flax seed meal*. Both of the girls enjoyed it, and Anna even said. "DELICIOUS mom!" Emma picked at it once it cooled off, but she had a healthy portion. They also loved the pan fried (more like sautéed, really) mozzarella sticks with cauliflower puree. For dessert they had non-fat frozen yogurt popsicles with pureed strawberries, cherries and raspberries. Both kids absolutely love these and want them all the time. Anna was happy to have all of this for dinner again Tuesday night!

I have to admit that I really enjoyed all of these recipes myself, but my favorite is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip (with non-fat cream cheese) for fruit, we all had that as a snack Tuesday. Oh dear Lord... scrumptious!

This cookbook isn't one of those books where it's full of fancy dishes you've never even heard of, it is full of American favorites, cover to cover. I'm looking forward to trying out her mac and cheese, meat loaf and brownies. Yes, that's right. I said BROWNIES.

I couldn't have gotten this book at a better time. Recently Anna has had BMI changes, and not for the good. Since John and I are both overweight, and since Anna is at the age now where eating habits are bad but changeable I am taking this very seriously. Anna is in the "at risk for being obese" BMI numbers, and that scares me. I'm not going to rely on the whole "she'll have a growth spurt and lose the chunk" school of thought. I don't want my child to struggle with weight issues her whole life because I didn't stress the importance of eating healthy. I'm man'ing up, so to speak and it feels good!

So, I'm also looking forward to feeling better about the choices our family makes at meal time. Getting joy out of sneaking in a few veggies doesn't hurt either. I get that victorious "muahahaha!" mom feeling, but in a good way. If you have issues with eating healthy in your family and are struggling to get the good stuff in, or just want to continue to give your family high quality food and need new recipes I highly recommend this book.

*Caution for first time flax seed/meal users- use smaller amounts than what the recipe requires at first. Since it is mostly fiber, it will have a laxative effect. I recommend using smaller quantities then building up to the recommended amount per recipe. *

*** All the book reviews done for HarperCollins or Collins Publishing (an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishing) are done with one stipulation- I receive the book for free and read it. If I like it, I review it on my blog. These are not paid reviews per se, except for receiving the book.***


Karen Lynch-Live the Power said...

Very cool!
I just ordered the book so I am
happy to see a fun review!

Christine said...

As I have a couple picky eaters myself, I'm looking forward to trying these recipes out.
Great review.

Csara said...

That is so funny. I just came home from my neighbor's house who called me over because she was so excited to show me her new cook book. This was it and it looks amazing! I am so happy to see your review and definitely plan on getting this one!

~Virginia~ said...

I love cookbooks, but I hate the actual cooking. Plus, there's no one to cook for with Jason in Dallas!

Carey said...

I have the book too. I cant wait to start using it.

Cheryl Lage said...

I was fortunate enough to get a review copy too, and I LOVE it!
The chocolate chip cookies ROCK!

There's an interview with Jessica Seinfeld on now too...she seems very down to earth.

Karmyn R said...

I have been very fortunate that both my children eat vegetables (except Zucchini and squash - but I can live with that).

I'll have to let my sister know about this book though! Her kids are VERY finicky.

Daddy Forever said...

Nice review. Cooking is too much work for me. I make meals from boxes and cans. I don't love my kids enough to make them real food.

Avery Gray said...

My son HATES vegetables. Always has. It's been a chore to find ways to hide them in other things, like his fruit smoothies. I used to but peas and carrots in them. Once he figured it out, he refused to drink any more smoothies. It's been a constant battle. I'll have to check this book out! Thanks for the recommendation!

H said...

The piece on Oprah about this book made me want to rush out and buy it and I usually stay far away from the kitchen!

Anonymous said...

I'm really interested in this cookbook, but I don't usually worry about my kids being the picky eaters - it's the husband! He's terrible. I can't even get him to eat zucchini bread.

The Yummy Mummy said...

Thanks for the balanced and fair review of this book!

I have to say that I really disliked it (and was so turned off by it that I ranted about it on my blog like a crazy woman) but I'm happy to read that it worked for you and I like your writing very much.

Although my opinion hasn't changed, I think I might put up a note asking my readers to come check out your post for "another perspective" - thanks!

momofthree said...

Just made the peanut butter and jelly muffins! wonderful! I used carrot baby food, I know it can be a bit more expensive, but until I became familiar with the book, I didn't want to puree up a bunch of vegetables. It worked out great and the plastic containers baby food come in are great for reusing and portioning out 1/2 cup purees.