So, I've been trying out a new cookbook that I got from Parent Bloggers Network. I should say that I love cookbooks more than I love cooking (and I do love cooking) and have dedicated the cupboard above the fridge to cookbooks. And the little cupboard next the fridge. And a space on the countertop. And a space on the bookshelf in the living room (that's where I keep my collection of literary cookbooks). While I don't actually use all the cookbooks, I love to look through them, especially if they have great pictures of food. In fact, I will rarely buy a cookbook unless it has great pictures of food.
But, back to this new cookbook...
My newest cookbook is Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfeld. Perhaps you've heard of it? Because if you haven't, you really should get out just a little bit more. It's a NYTimes bestseller. It's been on Oprah. It's been reviewed all over the Internet. Even our local newspaper had a review (albeit, somewhat unfavorable). Combine all that media attention with the advertisements for Jerry Seinfeld's new Bee Movie, and chances are you've heard of at least one Seinfeld family member this week. They're taking over the world with pureed food and sassy honey-loving bees (make that pureed honey, please).
This is both a how-to and concept book; specifically, how to get your kids to eat more veggies and fruit. The solution? Add pureed veggies and fruits to foods your kids are already eating. The book has a great section on how to puree foods (which I needed since I haven't exactly pureed foods before), as well as essential kitchen and pantry items. I should note--because you'll definitely find out if you read the message boards at Oprah or Amazon--the concept of adding purees to foods is not new. In fact, not all the recipes are even original with Jessica. Having not seen the other book that is generally compared with Deceptively Delicious, I can't say which one is better. But I can tell you what I do like about this one.
What I Like
- The design of the book is super cute. Lots of pink (we love pink!), and nifty cartoon illustrations of foods and kids. Also, it's spiral bound, a definite requirement for cookbooks.
- The full-page, glossy, full-color, please-eat-me, pictures of food. When I made the recipes I was able to get my food to look just like the ones in the picture, which is a testament to both the honesty of the photography and the simplicity of the recipes.
- The table-tips on getting kids to eat better. Jessica offers her own parenting advice on dealing with picky eaters, and shares stores from other moms.
- I had initially been skeptical to take nutritional advice from a celebrity. What qualified her to create healthy recipes? Fortunately, I saw that Jessica had help from a nutritional expert (Joy Bauer). Good to know.
- The index. One day I wanted to know what I could make with some cauliflower puree that I had, and rather than looking through the book for a recipe, I just turned to the index and saw that all the purees have been cross-referenced to their specific recipes. So handy.
- I admit that pureeing foods was not as exciting as I thought it would be. I didn't mind the steaming of the veggies, but I don't have a good blender to get the work down efficiently. Even my Magic Bullet wasn't very accommodating. I think if I had a food processor the job would have been lots easier.
- I found myself thinking, "Wouldn't it be great if the foods were already pureed? If someone already did the work for me, and I could just buy it in jars to add to the recipes?" Oh yeah, we call that baby food! True confession: I used jarred baby food for some of the recipes instead of pureeing the food. Definitely not cost-effective. Definitely easier than pureeing the food myself.
The Recipe Low-Down
- Our favorites were the recipes that called for pumpkin, not only because we're big fans of pumpkin but also because I can buy it already pureed in a can for cheap. We tried the pumpkin french toast (it was okay, but I had to add milk), the pumpkin oatmeal (we love it! Sydney asks for it specifically!), and the pumpkin yellow cake (it was good).
- I also tried several main dish recipes like the meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and they were both good. I added my own seasonings because the recipe doesn't call for any.
- The dessert section is no good for me.
- We made the chickpea chocolate chip cookies that seem to get rave reviews all over the Internet, but Sydney and I did not like them. Jason and Rebekah the nanny did like them. So, it's a toss-up. I'm the one who makes cookies though, and I won't make them again.
- The chocolate pudding with avocado. Hmm. It was good--Rebekah liked it the most of all of us--but since it doesn't have gelatin or milk then you don't get pudding skins. I make pudding just for the pudding skins, so I don't know if I'll make it again. It was pretty good though, even the next day reheated, but I had to eat every bite with a good dose of whipped cream because I'm so used to the milk quality of pudding.
- I tried a couple recipes without using the purees, and the consistency isn't exactly what it should be. Like the turkey chili was good, but because I didn't add the purees, then I needed to add extra cornmeal in order to get the chili thick enough.
- Sydney is a picky eater. Very picky. It's all well and good to add carrot puree to the meatloaf to make it healthier, but Sydney won't eat meatloaf. Or mashed potatoes. Or turkey chili. Or eggs. Or chocolate chip cookies with chickpeas. In fact, when we ate the meatloaf, I just gave her a plate of carrots and she ate that instead.
- The trick was finding foods that she would eat and then adding the purees to those, but of the foods she'd eat (spaghetti, quesadillas, muffins) she is just as likely to eat the added puree as a raw food. She eats carrots. She eats butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Going to the trouble of pureeing those foods just to add to other foods seemed like a lot of extra work for me. I'm sure the point is, however, when you add the purees then you make those foods more nutritious.
The Question Marks
- Some people have issue with the idea of tricking your kids to eat healthy foods. Sydney has no idea what goes in food anyway, so there's really no issue there.
- Jessica uses trans-fat-free soft tub margarine, which I don't (and won't). I love butter too much to get rid of it. I haven't tried enough of the baking recipes to determine if this is going to be a problem.
- Several recipes call for peanut butter (as the added health benefit), but that's no good for us because Jason is allergic to it. No sense in making food that only Syd and I can eat.
- I understand the idea of making desserts healthier--if a kid is going to eat a chocolate muffin anyway, how about a chocolate muffin with spinach? But truthfully, I won't eat a chocolate muffin with spinach, and so I won't end up making this recipe. I want my desserts to be desserts. I don't want to think that they might have health benefits because then you set yourself up for other bad eating habits, like eating dessert thinking that you're getting some nutritional wonderment out of it.
I think you have to really view the recipes more as a way to eat healthier. Putting carrot puree into foods is no substitute for getting your child to like to eat carrots. Kids should learn to eat healthy foods, and I think this book is more about complimenting that idea instead of replacing healthy eating habits. I'm going to keep it on the kitchen countertop because it's a great cookbook to have around. It has fabulous tips on mealtime habits and practices, and I'm sure I will refer back to it again and again as Sydney learns to eat other foods, like eggs and meatloaf.
However, our cookies will be real cookies.