Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nutrition Hide and Seek - Score One for Mom!

Both of my children have always been good eaters. Adventurous, even (no food is too spicy for Cade and he is a big fan of sushi!). Drew has pretty much been a vegetarian since he started solids, but because his diet was varied and he eats with gusto, I wasn't too worried. Suddenly, in recent months they have become so picky that they are subsisting on little more than air. And peanut butter. And Cheez-It's (have to be the kind in the red box). Not that I don't OFFER healthy alternatives - I cook a real dinner every night and offer three square meals a day with the appropriate portions of protein/carbs/fruits/veggies. They just aren't interested. And you definitely cannot put one past my kids. Whipping parsnips so they look like mashed potatoes and making sweet potato "fries" (as recommended by leading parenting magazines) does not fool my children. And they are not impressed by food cut and arranged in the shapes of flowers, animals, or houses. It is a tough crowd.

My latest battle has been fruits and vegetables. With the exception of fruit leather, the occasional banana and "salad" (lettuce slathered in so much dressing that the vegetable part of it is unrecognizable), I cannot sneak a vegetable past their lips and fruit is even becoming difficult.

A few weeks ago, I made banana bread, which I classify as a baked good and not a fruit. But since the kids were all over the banana bread, I wondered if I might be onto something. Last week I made zucchini bread. Big hit! They're eating vegetables and they don't even know it!!! It occurred to me that if next time I substitute applesauce for the oil, as recommended in many low-fat recipes, I might even be getting close to a food with nutritional value!

A few days later, I discovered another neato trick. They will eat a variety of fruits if I cut them up, serve them in a small cup, and give them toothpicks to "spear" the fruit. Now before I get flamed for allowing my children to eat with a lethal weapon, I would just like to issue the disclaimer that they are now 2 and 3 and consuming mini-fruit shishkabobs in this manner under the extreme supervision of their hyper vigilant mother. I am not endorsing this tactic as appropriate for children of all ages (or even all children), just offering it up as a successful tip that has worked for me.

Thought I would post the one other dish I have that is a great vehicle for Stealth Vegetables - it sneaks in tomato, carrot, and spinach! Can also easily be made into a vegetarian version by omitting the sausage and ground beef. Anyone else out there have ideas to share?!?!

three-cheese lasagna with italian sausage

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 ounces lean ground beef
6 ounces spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

15 lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces)
2 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry
2 large eggs
4 3/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 1/4 pounds)

FOR SAUCE: Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic; sauté until softened, about 12 minutes. Add beef and sausages to pan; sauté until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until flavors blend and sauce measures about 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool.
FOR LASAGNA: Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; cover with cold water.
Combine ricotta and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.

Drain pasta and pat dry. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of 13x9-inch glass baking dish. Place 5 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit. Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture. Spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick). Repeat layering with 5 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups sauce. Arrange remaining 5 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake lasagna 40 minutes; uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

1 comment:

Linda Kerr said...

My kids love eating the fruit with toothpicks too. As long as they're not throwing them at each other, I figure it's fine.