Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sneaky Chef

Book Review: The Sneaky Chef

My mom gave my sister-in-law and I this for Christmas.  Well, one of my sisters-in-law.  The one sister-in-law I had at the time, as one of my other brothers married since that time and now I have TWO awesome sisters-in-law which for someone who grew up with only brothers is pretty fantastic.  Anyhow, back to the book review.

The concept of the book is hiding nutritious things in food.  My mom did this to us- we have family jokes about the things that she added wheat germ and chicken broth into that normally wouldn’t have had those things.  She really tried to convince us that wheat germ was a great ice cream topping, but we rebelled against that.  I was a little skeptical about the book going in, though.  I want my children to eat their vegetables KNOWING that they are eating veggies.  We had joked with one of our other friends as her husband won’t eat veggies that maybe this was a way to help him.

J, however, is a picky eater.  Not picky in the sense that there are certain foods he likes and certain ones he doesn’t.  Picky in the sense that he will like something one day and refuse to eat it the next time we serve it or that he sometimes refuses to eat altogether.  Dinner has been a very frustrating experience numerous times and it felt like we were getting to the point that it was always a battle just to get him to eat anything.  So, we started trying out some of the recipes from here- on the belief that if I could only get him to eat 3 bites at dinner, I wanted those to be the 3 most nutritious bites possible.

I have been pleasantly surprised by how well the additions have gone over.  Hands down favorite?  The Orange puree.  The book’s recipe calls for carrots and sweet potatoes to be steamed and pureed together.  We usually add butternut squash as well.  We also don’t worry too much about the stated amounts in the recipe, instead we just get a bunch of all 3 veggies and have at it.  Then we freeze it in various portion sizes (this last time I did portions of about 1 cup) to use in recipes as needed.  The puree works really well in anything tomato based and thickens sauces very nicely.  J likes the puree so much  that he will eat it by itself.

We’ve also tried the “white” puree- cauliflower and peeled zucchini.  This one comes out a very light green instead of white, but does mix in well with light colored sauces.  It doesn’t add much flavor to the sauce, so I use this in cream based sauces and soups and it works very well for that.  J will eat it plain, but isn’t nearly as keen on it as the orange.

The Green puree- spinach, broccoli and peas.  We haven’t used this one as much- as it is REALLY green and has a strong flavor.  So, I have to use it in things where the flavor will work, and that I don’t mind being obviously green.  I’ve put it in tuna casserole- which gave it a funny color, but the tuna flavor was strong enough to work with the veggies- and J liked it.  I’ve also put small amounts in spaghetti sauce and that sort of thing.  I’m going to try it in a ham quiche- probably tonight and will let you know how that works out.  Maybe I can make an omelet for “green eggs” and ham. 

I tried the white bean puree and that didn’t go over as well.  It gave a very “beany” flavor to things and J wasn’t thrilled by that.

The purple puree.   This is a mix of blueberries and spinach. My brother and sister-in-law tried this in the author’s recipe for chocolate cookies and raved about the results.  I tried it as “quick fix” for brownie mix (along with the recommended wheat germ- my mother would be so proud!)  The results were pretty ok.  Flavor was fine- no spinach taste at all- maybe a slight hint of fruitiness from the blueberries- although I may have been looking for it since I knew it was there.  The texture wasn’t as unnoticeable, however.  There was a slight graininess, whether from the blueberry seeds or the wheat germ is unclear.  Very edible, and I don’t think J will really notice or care since he is not yet a brownie connoisseur.

Altogether?  I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars.  Some great stuff and some ok stuff.  I think I will also try her other book which focuses on quick fixes for things.

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