After ten years+ working in child care as well as five and three year old boys I know how strongly some children feel about not eating vegetables. My five year old has decided he dislikes most “begetables” and of course the three year old has decided if his brother hates them then so does he. You would think we were trying to feed them poison. The death stares I would get if I dared to add onion to a meal. I was starting to think I would have to sleep with one eye open.
I feel like a bit of a genius hiding veggies in their meals without them realising. Sometimes I even mentally high five myself – I need a life I know. The Thermomix is worth it’s weight in gold for being able to chop veggies so fine that my two vegetable detectives, who can sniff a vegetable from a mile away, can barely tell they are scoffing down of a variety of the horrendous food item.
I’m going to bold this section as hidden veggies can sometimes cause an up roar: In saying all of that, I still think its extremely important that my children are offered visible pieces of vegetables on their plate and in their meals. Our expectation is they eat the vegetables they like and at least try the ones that apparently look like poison. Each to their own however.
They say it takes approximately 10 tries of an undesired food before a child may decide to like it or develop a taste for it. They obviously haven’t met my children. I think its about 30 tries!
We are all pretty good at sneaking in lots of fruit and veg to the kiddies diet but here are some of my tricks. Hopefully there is something that can help even with the fussiest of eaters:
When making pizzas I include veggies into the actual dough. I generally blitz two zucchinis or a bowl full of baby spinach leaves and herbs before adding the rest of the ingredients and kneading. If your children are suspicious of green specks in their dough try using white vegetables instead such as peeled zucchini, potato and cauliflower.
For the sauce I will make my own if I have enough time. This generally consists of tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs, carrot, capsicum and celery cooked and blitzed into a puree/sauce. You can add any vegetable though! Make a big batch of it and keep it in individual containers in the freezer.
Carbonara has become a firm favourite in this house and its such a quick meal. Again I add zucchinis and/or cauliflower to the onion and bacon mix and cook down before adding the rest of the ingredients. I did recently add spinach to the mix, blitzing it down very finely. It came out a green sauce. The boys were convinced it was “hulk” pasta and gobbled it all down much to my surprise.
My boys love meatballs. This is the easiest way to pack in lots of veggies. I fill the bowl with onion or leek, garlic, herbs, carrot, spinach, capsicum and celery. I blitz it until its very fine. I add the mince. Give it a mix and then shape into balls. I freeze these raw. When I need a quick dinner I pop a few of these in a dish, pour on a sauce similar to the pizza sauce and cook in the oven. You can use any veggie for this. I’ve been known to add broccoli or sweet potato. It’s great for using up odds and ends.
Chicken Sausage Rolls:
These are a new favourite in this house. As above I pile the bowl full of veg. Use whatever quantities you want. It’s all to taste. My fave combination is spinach, leek, garlic, carrot and zucchini. I blitz these until very fine. I add two chopped up chicken breast. Blitz for about 30 seconds in 10 second intervals until I reach the desired consistency. By the time you add this to puff pastry, top with sesame seeds and bake the kiddies won’t notice the vegetables inside. If they do, tomato sauce is your friend! This also make yummy meatballs too.
Quiche and Pies:
I blitz some zucchini and spinach before adding the rest of my ingredients. You can add anything though: leek, onion, asparagus, corn, potato, broccoli and even peas! Pies are a great way to hide vegetables as you can hide so many flavours with a tomato based sauce or gravy.
Hamburgers and Patties:
When my boys have burgers they are extremely plain and a tad boring. Bun, burger, cheese and sauce. So like the meatballs I blitz a heap of veg and add to mince.
Mum 1, Boys 0.
These are one of my boys fave. There are a few ways to add vegetables: instead of an egg mixture when crumbing use a vegetable purée such as cauliflower, sweet potato or pumpkin before rolling in breadcrumbs. I make my own bread crumbs and in it is chopped up spinach and herbs and a little Parmesan cheese.
Mince dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognese/Chilli Con Carne etc:
This is so easy to hide veg. Blitz your veggies of choice, cook down and then add your mince, tomatoes and herbs. I will generally use an equal amount of veg to mince. A tin of lentils added in the last five minutes of cooking is a great way to stretch the meal further too.
Scrolls and Breads:
Another fave in this house. Like the pizza dough I blitz some zucchinis or spinach an add the rest of the ingredients and knead. The boys barely notice and it makes the bread just that little bit softer and moist (in a good way!).
Apart from visible vegetables like spinach, asparagus and peas, blitzed zucchini and corn make great additions.
Tuna Mornay and similar:
Again blitzed zucchini and corn are great. I like to add onion/leek, garlic and spinach blitzed very finely.
These are a great one to hide veg in as the flavours are intense and the colour of the curry or tomatoes are strong so hides veggies quite well. Chopped down zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, potato, onions, leeks, herbs all work well.
Pies are a great way to sneak in extra veg when adding the vegetables in at the start as they turn into a puree and help build the sauce if chopped fine enough. You then off course can add extra whole veg to the mix too. Even if the kiddies pick them out they have still had their intake of veg in the meat and sauce.
Its easy to pack these with veggies. Cook them and blitz them! Very easy. Use your veggie packed soups as a pasta bake sauce!
White or Cheese sauce
When making cheesy macaroni or lasagna for example I sometimes use potato or cauliflower pureed down in my sauce. It gives a nice consistency. You can do this for any creamy sauce however. Pureed potato, cauliflower, broccoli work a treat.
Other veg can be added to this – cauliflower, parsnip, peeled zucchini. Something I do is mash a heap of veggies and put them in filo pastry. Roll them up into spring roll shapes and serve with sauce. This is a great way to use veggies they love and sneak in a few they don’t.
Scrambled Eggs and Omlette
Grated veg and puree veg work really well with eggs. Zucchini, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli all work well.
Making your own tomato sauce, pasta sauces etc means you can add heap of veg that the kiddies wouldn’t eat as is. For me that would be mushrooms, eggplant, capsicum, tomatoes and herbs. Dips are the same.
Grated Zucchini is a great addition to sweet muffins. Apple and Zucchini muffins are delicious. Grated carrots are also a yummy addition to sweet muffins.
You would be surprised what you can hide in biscuits. Grated zucchini or cauliflower for example. Pumpkin works well too.
Pureed pumpkin grated beetroot work really well in chocolate cakes and help bring out the flavours and sweetness. Grated Zucchini in brownies works well.
Fruit Based Cakes
When making the whole orange cake why not add some grated carrot to it as well? Zucchini is a great addition to carrot cakes. Squash is a great addition to lemon cakes. Get creative! Cauliflower, carrot or squash puree work well in banana bread and help keep it moist.
Avocados in choc mousse works really well! I’m yet to try it but friends rave about it.
Everyone knows how great smoothies are. Kiddies love them. These are a great way to sneak in some extra veg. Spinach and kale are great additions. Carrot as well.
Ok this sounds a little strange but zucchini grated into pancake mixture is quite yum! Once you top it with jam, lemon etc you cant even tell its there but give you some extra vitamins.
Peppermint cheesecake or ice cream
Why not add pureed spinach and mint to it?