“I had begun to dread mealtime,” begins the introduction to Jessica Seinfeld’s new cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. She goes on to describe how her young children refused to eat any variety of vegetable, until one day, inspiration struck – in the form of pureed squash. The squash was intended as baby food, but when Seinfeld stirred it into the family’s mac-and-cheese, she discovered that it was virtually undetectable. From that day on, pureed vegetables and fruits became a staple of her cooking, and her family was getting a lot more vitamins with a lot less whining. Deceptively Delicious collects the favorite recipes of the Seinfeld family (six-year-old Sascha, four-year-old Julian, two-year-old Shepherd, and their father Jerry), including broccoli-spiked chicken nuggets, carrot-enhanced ketchup and “pink pancakes” (made with beet puree). Babble spoke to the author about her creative cooking methods, and how to stay sane around super-picky eaters. – Gwynne Watkins
You call your book Deceptively Delicious – have you ever told your family they’re eating hidden vegetables?
I don’t need to tell them, because they are so used to seeing purees on the counter as I cook. Over time, it’s just become a part of how we eat – to the point where they think all brownies are made with carrots and spinach.
I’m skeptical about stirring sweet potato puree into hot chocolate.
The smoothness and sweetness of the sweet potato puree makes for a rich, thick, chocolate treat. I tell all my favorite skeptics to try it and then let’s talk.
Are you and your husband adventurous eaters? Which of your eating habits have you passed onto your kids?
My husband and I have very different thresholds for food adventure. Jerry has a very low tolerance for the unusual when it comes to food. He is actually offended by fancy lettuces and elaborate, architectural concoctions. This makes him a dream to cook for.
I, on the other hand, love a good food adventure. It’s because of how I was raised, I think. My parents both worked, but somehow my mother always found a way to make wholesome meals. It was so much a part of our routine, my sisters and I never even thought about the fact that we were eating vegetables or fruit. It was just food. That’s what I hope to pass onto my kids.
If I have a kid who, say, only eats white foods, how do I get him out of that rut?
I would try to hide a light colored veggie, like cauliflower or yellow squash, somewhere in their diet. Another thing I do is put a very small portion of something I want my children to try on the side of their plate, and have zero expectations the first couple of times I serve it. It’s especially good to try this when their more adventurous friends are over. When their friend starts to eat it, nine times out of ten, mine will try it. Another tactic I try when presenting a new food is to say, “Do not bite it, only lick it.” Somehow the reverse psychology works. Lastly: hang in there. They will eventually be out of the current phase. I don’t know many grown ups who only eat Yo-Baby.
You offer some advice for managing mealtimes with three young children, like putting out vegetables to munch on beforehand so there’s less “I’m hungry!” whining. Any other advice for controlling the chaos?
No toys at the table and no phone calls during dinner. I think it’s important to sit and eat with my children as much as my crazy schedule allows. If they know I am paying attention to them, they will almost always sit calmly and enjoy mealtime.
Order Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food from Amazon.