Deceptively Delicious, a cookbook recently released by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, that Seinfeld), has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. I first learned about the book when Oprah featured it on her show in early October. As we all know, what Oprah touches turns to gold. Just think Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, and every Oprah Book Club selection since its inception. The cookbook's concept is that by pureeing various vegetables (and some fruits), parents can "hide" them in a variety of foods (like brownies) in order to get their kids to eat nutritiously. It was no big surprise when Deceptively Delicious became the best selling book in the country before it even physically hit the bookstore shelves (thanks to "pre-ordering" and online retailers).
Enter controversy number one: another book, The Sneaky Chef, by Missy Chase Lapine, with the exact premise, had already been released six months prior. If Oprah thought it was such a fantastic idea, why didn't we ever see this book featured on the show? My guess is that it was not on too many radar screens until Deceptively Delicious was released. Did Jessica rip-off the entire concept and use her famous last name and connections to outsell and outshine Miss Missy?
And now, enter controversy number two: should we even be "hiding" vegetables from our children? Shouldn't we be teaching them to WANT veggies, instead of tricking them into eating them?
We're not talking global warming, the war in Iraq, or the 2008 presidential election here, but I'm quite certain most parents have thought about how to get veggies into kids at one point or another.
The book itself is well organized, attractive, and full of cute drawings and full-color photographs. The spiral binding is reminiscent of my mom's Betty Crocker cookbook from the 60's, and gives the book a bit of a "retro" feel. It is actually a useful feature, and allows the open book to lie flat on the counter, without the pages flipping while you're trying to follow the recipe.
But what about the concept of the book? Well, first of all, I admit that my very first thought was "Damn! Why didn't I think of that?!?" My next thought was that I wanted to try it out on my kids to see if they really wouldn't detect the veggies (they are expert veggie-detectors). So, after I got over my outrage that Jessica Seinfeld got a cookbook published simply because she's famous, and I successfully folded a cupful of butternut squash into my kids' mac and cheese (which actually made it taste MUCH better), I thought more about this whole concept, and whether I wanted to make it part of my routine.
I wholeheartedly agree with those who believe this "deception" is wrong, and we are not teaching our kids good nutritional habits. Kids need to eat veggies, knowing they are veggies, and learn to like them, even if it takes many, many attempts to do so. Child cannot survive on breaded mystery meat alone. HOWEVER, I also think Jessica (and Miss Missy) are really on to something. As long as my kids are eating fresh vegetables every day, in their original form (as opposed to pureed and hidden), I'm perfectly fine with adding a few extra nutrients here and there through the use of purees. I don't call it "sneaky"----I prefer to think of it as "nutritional enhancement".
However, I do take issue with the amounts of pureed veggies in each dish featured in Deceptively Delicious. Most include only a half cup or less in the list of ingredients. When you divide that by the number of servings in each recipe, it hardly seems worth the effort of steaming, processing, and storing all those purees. I'd rather just give my kid a carrot.
In conclusion, I'm not disappointed I spent $15.00 on this book. It has some good ideas, and I will definitely use some of the recipes (the brownies with spinach have me particularly curious). I'm not going to speculate on whether or not this concept was entirely Jessica's, or whether or not she personally developed the recipes. I will say, that for what it's worth, I doubt The Sneaky Chef would be #8 on the New York Times best seller list without all this controversy!
Below is my quicker version of one of Jessica's ideas (or was it Missy's?). All kids love boxed macaroni and cheese, but by using an organic version with whole wheat pasta and a mashed sweet potato, you can feel better about serving this convenience food. Dark yellow and orange veggies are loaded with beta carotene, and sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 (Wikipedia). You may even find yourself dipping in for a few spoonfuls as well!
Mac & Cheese with Sweet Potato Puree
Serves 4 kids
1 box organic mac & cheese (preferably one with whole wheat pasta)
1 t. salt
1/4 cup lowfat or skim milk
1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed and pierced all over with a fork
Place the sweet potato on a plate in the microwave for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until softened. Remove from microwave and allow to cool enough so it can be handled.
Slice potato in half lengthwise and scoop out flesh. Mash with a fork and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
Add pasta, and cook until al dente (approximately 7-10 minutes).
Drain, return to pot and add cheese packet, 1/4 cup of milk, and sweet potato. Stir to combine.