Salaams (Peace) all,
I watched my children gulp down their pizza and hot dogs, our usual Saturday movie night meal. I realized there was not a vegetable on the plate. both of my kids are a healthy size and weight. However with a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and worst of all cancer, I knew I had to do better. How, was the only question I had. My five year old runs screaming from the sight of anything green on his plate.
Taking the advice of mom-cooks like Jessica Seinfield, (author of Deceptively Delicious), I decided to hide the vegetables in foods that they will eat. She assures moms that veggies like spinach and carrots can be successfully hidden in tomato sauces. Great! I thought, I’m going to try it! Without purchasing the book or reading the recipes I tried to figure it out.
Tomato based spaghetti is a staple in our house so that is where I started. I took a package of frozen spinach, I wasn’t ready to start raw, and zapped it in the microwave. I used a few carrots, (they don’t come frozen), and softened them in boiling water. Smiling and humming as I worked happily in the kitchen. I thought, what a great thing I’m doing for my kids. When the spinach thawed and the carrots softened I added both to the blender and pureed. My first inkling that I probably should have bought the book came when my puree ended up the consistency of baby food. The spinach completely took over the carrots and my mixture looked like a dark green mess! Undaunted I dumped it in the spaghetti sauce. The conquering spinach quickly took over that also! Now my sauce was this ugly dark green color. Oh no, that’s not hidden I thought. To hide the spinach I added another jar of sauce. No luck! Two more jars and a can of diced tomatoes later it was was a dark and muddy brown with a very slight tint of red. It tasted only mildly appealing to me as an adult. The look was so strange, I knew it would have to taste spectacular to get the kids to eat it. I started adding extra spices. I ended up with nearly two gallons of sauce! Sauce that was only barely appetizing.
I was determined we would eat it! It took some convincing along with a promise of dessert to get them to try it. They did finish what was on their plates but they didn’t ask for seconds. Seconds are my usual indicator of how much they liked something. Three experiments and another gallon of sauce later, it has gotten a little better. I’ve learned that you only need a quarter bag of frozen spinach if you are going to puree and hide it. But you can use a half bag if you don’t puree at all! The spinach wilts down while cooking in the sauce and it barely noticeable at all! One or two carrots pureed blend in nicely as well.
Once you have your sauce perfected its’ extremely versatile. I use the sauce to make our pizza from scratch and I feel good knowing that I served a healthy junk food that they love. ( I use a whole wheat pizza crust and I promise you cannot tell the difference!) The sauce is good for sloppy joe, pizza, spaghetti and even lasagna. They love it and always ask for seconds!