The art of disguising vegetables

Susan learns a few quick tricks to hide vegetables in her kids' food.

Susan pulverizes carrots in the food processor before secretly adding them to family meals.

I made shepherd’s pie for dinner earlier this month. In fact, I made two shepherd’s pies, because once you’re making one, why not double the ingredients and throw one in the freezer so that life is that much easier? We’re huge fans of big-batch cooking around here, and equally huge fans of the chest freezer. One of these days, probably in the fall when casseroles once again feel more inviting, I’m going to try the whole “cook for a month” approach: I figure I can find a half-dozen freezer-friendly meals, prep four of each, and voilà! No cooking for all of October! These are the kinds of things I daydream about, especially at 5 p.m. on a weeknight where we’re scrambling eggs once again.
 
But. Shepherd’s pie. We went in with friends on a quarter cow from a local farmer back in the fall, which means that we’ve been eating a lot of ground beef these days. The kids love it in all its forms: tacos, burgers, meatballs, shepherd’s pie. I’m pretty happy too, as long as we make an effort to lighten up meat-centric meals with a lot of vegetables.
 
Rowan and Isaac are both pretty decent when it comes to eating veggies, but they prefer them raw and visible, not touching any other foods on their plates. I’m not complaining about that, but I also figure that any recipe that can be doctored to add more in the way of fibre and vitamins is never a bad thing. (“Double the vegetables,” was one of my mother’s hard and fast rules about cooking.) Also, once you’ve added a few cups of diced carrots and celery and onion and maybe some shredded zucchini or cabbage, that pound and a half of ground beef goes a lot further — as in, two dinners for nearly the price of one! Winning!
 
I’ve been getting a bit of pushback from Rowan in particular, though, about the issue of diced carrots in with the ground beef. He’s a pretty traditional, meat and potatoes, kind of guy, and hasn’t been particularly, shall we say, welcoming of the circles of carrots invading his meat, picking them out and leaving them in a little rejected pile on the side of his plate. My solution to the carrot situation was to go smaller: pulverizing a half-dozen carrots in the food processor before adding them to the mix. With a bit of tamari, you couldn’t really tell they were in there. Then, since I was already playing fast and loose, I got really crazy and mixed in yams with the regular old Yukon golds. “If they ask, let’s tell them we used orange food coloring in the potatoes,” I said to Rachel, who thought that was a fine idea.
 
And the reaction? Isaac wasn’t too pleased with the new colour of the “potatoes” — “You know I don’t like that one!” he wailed, and then tried to bargain with us: “I’ll eat that if you give me a chocolate Girl Guide cookie first.” (Since Rachel and I had earlier on demolished the remaining chocolate Girl Guide cookies, that wasn’t really an option.) But once we got to the table, he ate two helpings, nonstop. Rowan didn’t even question the yams. “Oh, good,” he said, poking at the meat, “no carrots.”
 
And Rachel and I just looked at each other and smiled. Because why ruin a good thing?
 
How do you get your kids to eat more vegetables? Do you ever “hide” veggies in your recipes? Tweet me at @MamaNonGrata.
 
 
 
 

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