When I was growing up, my parents used to joke about serving a whole meal consisting of different dishes made with zucchini as an ingredient. I was horrified by this. Zucchini was not one of my favorite foods. Little did I realize that years later, as a budget-minded, gardening parent of constantly-hungry boys, I would attempt much the same thing. Sneaking veggies into food became a secret pursuit. I wanted to stretch the family budget and provide healthy meals. Vegetables were the answer. In my household of meat-loving men, the challenge was including a heap of veggies without being obvious. Here are some of my favorite strategies.
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Sneaking Veggies Into Food Strategy #1: Relentless Shredding
My prime theory about sneaking veggies into food is this : The smaller the veggie, the less likely it is to be detected. That’s why I like to shred zucchini using my trusty food processor. I used to be afraid of my food processor (such sharp blades), but now it’s one of my most-used kitchen assets.
Not only is shredding zucchini an effective technique for making zucchini bread (which I wrote about in a previous post), but it is useful in other recipes as well. If you have a recipe that calls for shredded hash browns, for example, perhaps a bit of shredded zucchini will go unnoticed. This technique also works well with soups, marinara sauces, smothies, and casseroles. It’s not that my family members are a bunch of vegetable-haters. I just believe the more veggies I can get my family to eat, the better.
Sneaking Veggies Into Food Strategy #2: Disguising in Meat
As I noted in the introductory paragraph, I live in a house of meat-loving men. Although one son is now married and the other is soon to leave the nest, the remaining male, my dear husband, is very firm in his meat-loving convictions. I make him quite nervous when we eat out and I try a veggie burger. So my next strategy is to mix the veggies with meat. My favorite way is to brown ground beef with onions, celery and peppers to create a make-ahead meat mix which I described in detail in this previous post. The mix may be used in any recipe that calls for cooked ground beef. Another way to sneak veggies into meat is by including them (finely chopped) in meatloaf.
Sneaking Veggies Into Food Strategy #3: Top Secret Tip
So, with the first two strategies listed above, I have to admit, the veggies were noticed. Although they were noticed, they were generally liked, so that’s a win. The one exception was the chopped zucchini I added to my favorite lasagna recipe. It made the lasagna a little soupy, and that did not go over well.
This third strategy for sneaking veggies into food is very devious, but I guarantee you it will not be detected. If you know my family, please keep this a secret. Should you ever decide to try this, I promise I will not tell your family. Here is my top-secret tip: Dried kale. Now, I’m not talking about kale smoothies or anything. That would be too obvious. I’m referring to kale that has been dried in a food dehydrator, stored in plastic zipped bags and frozen.
When the dried kale is frozen in a bag, it can be scrunched and crunched into very fine crumbs. It will then look like innocent little parsley or oregano flakes. Please understand, if any of my family members ever asked me, “Hey, is that dried kale?” I would of course admit the truth. No one ever asks, though. Meanwhile, I continue sprinkling dried kale with reckless abandon into and onto a variety of dishes. Shhhhh! Don’t tell.
What Are Your Favorite Sneaky Veggie Strategies?
I know there are a lot more sneaky veggie strategists out there. Do you have any sneaky veggie strategies to share? Any tips are most welcome, sneaky or otherwise. You may have a favorite delicious way to fix vegetables that everyone loves. I’d enjoy reading about those ideas as well, if you would like to share them. Thanks for reading about my sneaky veggie strategies.
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