Let me begin by stating something that's already obvious to some of you: I do not cook. My husband affectionately says that when I walk into a kitchen my IQ drops 40 points and my eyes glaze over; you know the same thing that happens to a man when he enters a gentleman's club. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but he's right. I've had more mishaps in the kitchen than the number of issues Bush has had in Iraq (so yeah, a LOT). Sure, I've been known to throw together the occasional quiche to take the burden off of my culinarily-skilled husband but doing that is barely cooking. Still, I'd like to be able to help him out by creating actual meals from time to time so he doesn't have to rush home from work every day and start crackin' in the kitchen. Learning to cook healthy meals would be a bonus too. So, when The Parent Bloggers Network asked me if I'd like to review, Deceptively Delicious, written by Jessica Seinfeld (yep, Jerry's wife!), I took it on as a challenge.
The premise of the book is that you can hide healthful, pureed vegetables and fruit in almost any recipe to ensure that your kids are getting proper nutrition. The good news for me? I'd pureed tons of fresh fruit and veggies for Delaney when she was starting solids so I had a little background using steamers, baking vegetables and whipping out our tiny Cuisinart food processor. But, as I thumbed through the book for the first time I felt out of my league. One of the reasons I don't cook is that recipes overwhelm me with their lengthy ingredient lists and complicated directions and I simply don't have the patience for all the stuff you have to do when you cook. Wash, peel, chop, mix, braise, roast. Ugh. Unlike how my husband enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes, it all seems so daunting and impossible to me and it causes me more way more stress than pleasure.
I figured I should start with something simple so I decided to tackle the Creamy Potato Soup from the dinner section on page 128. I thought that I could make it ahead of time so that when we needed something quick for supper I'd heat it up and pair it with a salad to make a complete meal. Imagine my shock and horror to find that Jessica wanted me to put cauliflower into this soup. I'll confess here that I have never, in my life, eaten cauliflower. It looks like broccoli's poor cousin, devoid of color or any redeeming qualities. But, I supposed she had a good reason for adding it to the recipe so I purchased my first head of the stuff.
The recipe called for pureeing cauliflower and butternut squash, a process that in and of itself took me more than an hour to do. In addition, I found that measuring and packaging the purees for future use, as described in the book, was a very messy process. Nevertheless I continued and finished preparing the soup. My finished product didn't look as white (or quite as lovely) as the photograph of it on page 129. Instead my soup had an orange tint (Did I use too much butternut squash? Or not enough potato? It's possible. I told you, I'm hopeless in the kitchen!) but tasted pretty good when I sampled it. The true taste test came when Delaney and Roger tried it. Delaney actually ate it, which surprised me as most new foods tend to put her off. Roger complained that it tasted too "vegetably" to him. As I ate more of it I had to agree with him. The flavors of cauliflower and squash seemed to overpower the potatoes. The Verdict? Overall the soup was OK and definitely edible but probably not something I'd make again.
The second recipe I tried was from the dessert section of the book: oatmeal cookies. The photo made me drool and Jessica's claim that these are Jerry's favorite cookies made me even more eager to try them. Imagine my disappointment when my cookies came out looking completely different from the photo in the book and they were nearly inedible. I followed the recipe religiously but no matter what I did I couldn't seem to get them to bake thoroughly. When they came out wet and limp after the recommended time in the oven I put them back in for longer than the recommended time thinking that my oven's temperature must not be properly calibrated. That didn't help. The recipe called for zucchini and cauliflower purees and my only guess about what went wrong was that the veggies contained too much moisture to hold together. The cookies fell apart into damp bits after just one bite and after storing them in a half-opened Ziplock bag overnight I couldn't remove them from the bag without having them completely fall apart. I hate to blame the recipe but I followed it with precision. The verdict? Definitely not something I'll make again.
Since I was 0 for 2 attempts I wanted to find a recipe in the book that was easy to follow and one that would hopefully yield better results. I tried the banana bread recipe from the breakfast section on page 54. It was simple and even, dare I say it, fun to follow (except for the part where I forgot to zip my Ziplock bag containing the dry ingredients and I sprayed them all over myself and the kitchen as I shook the bag to mix it all together. It was a total I Love Lucy moment!). The resulting banana bread tasted pretty good. It even contains cauliflower and I don't think you'd ever be able to taste it if you didn't already know it was in there. The verdict? I'd make this one again. The fact that this recipe turned out well gives me confidence to try some of the others in the book.
Deceptively Delicious is a colorful, pretty, whimsically-designed book featuring gorgeous food photography (which tends to sell me on any cook book) and illustrations of Jessica and her family that are reminiscent of the 50s. I like how the nutritional benefits of each fruit/vegetable were explained by nutritionist Joy Bauer so I understood why I was asked to add strange things like cauliflower to a cookie recipe.
If I could add anything to this book it would be tabs for the three main recipe sections, tips on cutting through butternut squash with a knife (I had lots of trouble with that!) and better suggestions for measuring and packaging the purees.
My husband originally told me that he thought the idea of this book was silly. He wanted to know why any parent worth their salt should try to hide fruits and vegetables in their kids' foods instead of teaching them to eat the foods themselves. I explained it to him this way: if I have a choice between feeding our daughter a processed, packaged cookie or a homemade brownie chock full of hidden veggie goodness? I'll chose the homemade brownie every time. And, once I explained it that way, he started to see the light.
Be sure to visit The Parent Bloggers Network for other reviews about Deceptively Delicious.