Getting Sneaky with Your Veggies

Christmas is just about upon us. A time for cookies and carols, eggnog and earrings (diamond ones, we hope). A time to gather round with loved ones and enjoy the company. And gorge ourselves. Again. As with Thanksgiving, a mere month behind, Christmas dinner and holiday parties can be somewhat lacking in the veggie department. The theme is usually all about cookies and candies and pies and hot chocolate, and comfort food to give us the warm fuzzies. Besides the cream of mushroom-smothered green bean casserole (covered in deep fried onions), how many vegetable sides can you name that you’ll be eating on the Big Day? Candied yams? Actually…. That’s all I can really think of. Sure, there are probably a few chunks of celery floating around in some stuffing somewhere, maybe even a sad little salad off to the side, but with all the other crazy-good vittles, are you going to be getting your 5 servings? A better question may be- Are the kids getting theirs?

The battle between children and anything green is epic. It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between the two. And on Christmas Eve it can be even harder to convince them they won’t die if they eat a veggie. As with any other day of the year, you’re probably going to have to get sneaky.

My favorite trick to use any time I can is baby food. Yes, my daughter is 4 and has long since given up the Gerber jars, but other than being marketed to the diaper set, it’s really just pureed vegetables. You can even go organic if you like (I like Beechnut). The two flavors I use the most are carrot and squash, respectively. The carrot I use in pretty much everything- soups, pasta sauce, it can really go anywhere. If you use a lot it will indeed give you a carrot-y flavor, but it generally just makes the dish a bit sweet. The squash I always use in home made macaroni and cheese. I’ve used it with the boxed variety, but I don’t like it as much. The squash flavor doesn’t blend well with the orange cheese powder taste. But used in the cheese sauce of a yummy home made mac & cheese, preferably oven baked, it is oh-so good. And I promise the kiddoes won’t even notice. You can use any flavor you think will mesh well with your dish. I tried the peas mixed in a green chile soup once and didn’t care for it. But then, I’m not a big fan of peas, and Idid know that I put it in there. I also like to use the fruit purees, especially mango, in things like smoothies, slushes and breads.
I also like to use the fruit purees, especially mango, in things like smoothies, slushes and breads.
Something my mom has been doing for years is putting spinach in her cornbread dressing. It is totally fantastic. So good, in fact, we make her make it for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. She just makes her dressing (no, you cannot have my Mama’s top secret dressing recipe, but I’m sure you can find one almost as magical online) and adds in one package (depending on pan size) of thawed, drained, chopped frozen spinach. Other than the lovely dark green streaking through, you hardly notice it’s there.
Of course, this is just the beginning of tricking your unsuspecting children into eating something good for them. Add cooked carrots to sweet potatoes (yes, even the caramelized sugar-covered kind) before mashing. Slip some cauliflower into the regular mashed potatoes (or replace them all together! I’ve heard it’s awesome). And don’t forget those desserts. Apple sauce in place of oil in brownies and cakes, all-fruit spread in place of sugary jam in the filled-type cookies. Maybe some zucchini bread? Get creative! Tis’ the season to enjoy ourselves, and trick the kids a little (we all know who’s really eating those cookies left on the mantle….).

~AnnA

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