Tasty Tuesday: Smuggling Vegetables

…or, as we refer to them….Stealth Veggies.

Most moms I know are looking for ways to sneak vegetables into the family diet. In fact, lately I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials by a certain spaghetti-product company, advertising that their kid-friendly spaghetti-product contains a full serving of vegetables in every serving of spaghetti-product. So I checked out the ingredients on several of these spaghetti-products and guess what I found. I found MSG, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fats, and 600-900 mg. of sodium per serving. Yikes! a single serving of vegetables hardly seems worth it!

That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s really not hard to hide a lot of vegetables in a lot of different foods and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

Let’s start with soup as a harbor for secretive veggies. Obviously, a vegetable soup has, well, vegetables. But for many reluctant vegetable-eaters, the texture and the appearance of vegetables is the biggest problem. Solution: run leftover roasted vegetables through the food processor with some extra water, stock, or milk. Add this to thicken the soup and to add sneaky vegetables. If you have reluctant onion eaters, pureeing the onions before putting them in the soup will give you the flavor without the texture. This technique also works well for tomatoes in soup.

Many of the summer squashes can go undercover in a variety of foods. Shred zucchini, patty pan, crookneck and other summer squash to add to pasta dishes like spaghetti or lasagna. You can hide a couple of shredded crookneck squash completely in a lasagna; it’s amazing! Because squash is a pretty bland vegetable, it takes on the flavors of whatever food is escorting it.

Several different vegetables lend themselves to breads. Fresh beets or sweet potatoes can be cooked, pureed, and incorporated into homemade breads. We also love to use spinach in homemade bread. It needs to be cooked before it goes into the dough. Check out theTomato Turmeric Twists for some more how-to on incorporating vegetables into bread. You can also use sweet potatoes or summer squash in sweet cake-type breads. You should be warned though…if you show up at a potluck with some of these colorful, vegetable-packed yeast breads as your contribution, people will be talking about your bread for years!

In the last week I’ve been experimenting with kale. I must confess that I’ve always loathed kale and have come to being a kale-user with a certain amount of kicking and screaming. This summer, one of my sons is doing an internship at Watauga River Farms, an organic farm in Valle Crucis. Twice now, at the end of the day, he’s brought home bags of washed, organic kale. I’ve been on a learning curve about kale, making sure that I don’t let these green gifts go to waste.

The first thing we tried was putting 2 cups of finely chopped kale in my chicken curry. When I was sauteing the onions and spices, I dumped the kale into the skillet and quickly cooked that up as well. I stirred the whole skillet-ful of spicy onions and kale into the chicken and coconut milk. It turned out beautifully.

Kale, if you munch on it like lettuce, is pretty fibrous and tough. It also has a fairly strong flavor–a bit like broccoli. If you add cooked kale to foods with fairly strong flavors, it turns out that kale is one of those adaptive veggies. It takes on the flavors of the foods in which it hides. So my curry did NOT taste like kale. Rather, the kale ending up tasting a lot like curry!

My next kale experiment was in meatloaf. We put two cups of kale in the food processor and whirred it into submission. Then we worked it into the meatloaf mixture. The end result was extremely tasty and it really worked. The meatloaf did end up taking on a dark green tinge from the kale (and I’m guessing that spinach would do the same thing), but that didn’t bother anyone in my household.

So now I’m on the hunt for ways to use kale in foods I already cook. Anyone have any ideas for me?

Last, but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention vegetable stock. Homemade vegetable stock is a great way to use veggies that are past their prime or perhaps simply not appreciated by your family. It’s a great base ingredient to keep on hand in your freezer for making soups, sauces, chilis, casseroles, etc.

I must admit that at this point, my kids eat any and all vegetables without complaint; my interest in sneaking vegetables into dishes comes from my desire to pack in as many nutrients as I can.

These are just a couple of ways that vegetables go undercover at my house. I’d love to hear ideas from you all as well. Anything you do to incorporate the season’s bounty into your daily cooking?



  1. Amy Robertson says

    I puree spinach with my spagetti sauce or cut up in small pieces and add to pasta salad. Works great, no one is the wiser.