I haven’t always been a fan of the bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits. A long-time arbiter of a spoon and a can of pasta rings in tomato sauce, it wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I even gave a second glance to spinach, let alone cauliflower, broccoli, peaches and avocados.
I am a super-taster. What this means is this: Grab your pickiest child. Now eliminate soy, wheat and most nightshades, with only limited eggs and cheese. Chances are, I still might not eat it. For me to give my stamp of approval on anything is almost an act of God.
So how did I become a fan of fresh, colorful produce after years of avoiding the stuff? I hide it. I hide it, and I like it. And, given the chance, so will you and those you prepare meals for.
Cauliflower Pizza Crust: recipe here This recipe was one of the very first I developed on a wet, cold afternoon when I had to solve the problem of what to make for dinner and how to use the lifeless, frozen cauliflower in the freezer. More than four years later, the recipe is such a success that it’s appeared everywhere from network television to some of the most popular women’s sites on the internet. Pictured here, I even rolled the edges of the gluten-free crust over and stuffed the crust with string cheese for a gooey, cheese-in-the-crust experience.
The secret: Fennel. This spice covers up the pungency of the vegetable, making this dish one that readily accept tomato sauce and your favorite cheese and toppings.
Zucchini Taco Bowls: recipe here Crisp and luscious, there’s something about zucchini as the hidden vegetable base of these corn-free bowls that accepts the rich flavors of Mexican dishes without competing. Whether sweet or savory components hit these crispy bowls, you’re going to be satisfied–And what a way to use up those zukes overloading your garden.
The secret: Squeeze the liquids out of the zucchini. It’s pretty moist, so it’s important to drain off as many of the liquids as possible to ensure a non-sloppy result.
Carrot Cake: recipe here. Don’t like carrots? If my personal experience means anything, you really don’t have to. I don’t even like carrots, and I love this moist, delicious sugar-free dessert topped with a light cream cheese frosting. What’s more, those pickier eaters than even me in the household (read: my children)dig the stuff. The entire dessert disappeared in a single afternoon. What a way to enjoy some beta carotene.
The secret: A combination of flax seed meal and almond meal create a texture that doesn’t make the carrots an obvious addition in terms of flavor or color.
Crock Pot Lasagna: recipe here Want the goodness of lasagna, the ease of a crock pot, and the variety of fresh vegetables available right now? Combine spinach with tomato, onion, peppers, and a bevy of beautiful cheeses and proteins for a delicious dish that’s not only easy to throw together; it’s perfect for leftovers and for freezing.
The secret: The cooking process melds the flavors together, creating the perfect storm of rich, delicious, and hearty–but without all of the tell-tale signs of vegetables that send kids running.
Crispy Celeriac Chips: recipe here The kids miss potato chips, but you don’t want to keep potatoes in the house. This nightshade alternative in the form of a celeriac root is the perfect solution to those picnics or game nights when a little crunching and munching is in order. You can find them in the produce aisle with the other roots.
The secret: Celeriac has a nice, mild flavor and remains light, crisp and airy, even with deep fat frying. Add a little sea salt and cracked pepper to cooling chips for a fresh tasty zip.
Mexican Meatloaf: recipe here With vegetables hiding in plain sight, you’d think this fun loaf of happiness might raise a few eyebrows, but the kids dig it. What’s not to like? It looks like a taco, but it’s covered with all of the things you want to incorporate into your family’s lifestyle. Of course, a little sour cream and a few black olives don’t hurt, either.
The secret: The resemblance to their favorite tacos. Let kids pick their own toppings by setting up a taco bar; you’ll get greater buy-in and participation when kids get to choose their own vegetables. You can even play a game of “whose plate has the most colorful stuff on it?”
Cauliflower Breadsticks: recipe here On the heels of the famous cauliflower pizza recipe came a bread stick so delicious that it, too, became a runaway hit. The premise is simple: Just use the cauliflower pizza dough, press it into a bread pan, bake twice, and your kids think they’re eating bread sticks. In fact, my kids love these so much that if I don’t make a double batch, I’m the one out in the cold.
The secret: The cheese, baked twice, takes on a bready texture reminiscent of those crusty, bready bread sticks from pizza joints.
Loaded Broccoli: recipe here It might not sound very sexy, but the truth of the matter is this: If you thought you loved loaded baked potatoes, you’re missing out if you haven’t tried the same thing with cooked broccoli. Loaded with sour cream, chives, onion, cheese, butter and bacon, your regret might honestly be the monster you’re creating. For a month after I served this side to skeptical onlookers, I had moans and whines about me making this again. Like every day.
The secret: The soft, delicious florets allow the toppings to seep in between for flavor in every forkful.
Macho Nachos: recipe here Yea who walk through the valley of death every time you think of a salad, look here. Nobody said you had to stick your tongue out at bits of lettuce, tomato and spinach. Why not melt cheese on it, add your favorite proteins and go to town? Inspired by my favorite pizza joint when I first asked for nachos without the chips but on a bed of lettuce instead, this quick broiler-friendly appetizer is hefty enough for the main course.
The secret: Lettuce doesn’t have time to wilt in the broiler so the bottom stays crisp and fresh and the top is melty and cheesy and gooey and…oh, you’ll just have to try it to see what I mean.
Loaded Taco Pizza with a Zucchini Pizza Crust: recipe here I love pizza, but I also love the color and the sass of Mexican foods. Thankfully, I could combine everything I wanted into a single, simple dish based on zucchini. The mild flavor of the summer squash means even the sweet and savory flavors of taco sauce and seasonings have the chance to shine. Top with fresh veggies in the form of lettuce and tomato, and the kids won’t ever even think to ask what’s in the crust. To boot, this crust freezes well, so you can make ahead, top and bake on a busy weeknight.
The secret: Pizza + tacos = winning for harried, hurried meals.
I have the feeling you see a pattern emerging. From one veggie non-fan to another, make the effort to mask those vegetables and smile with pride when your kids, your spouse (or even that voice in your head) says, “Well done. I want you to make this again.” What are some of the ways you mask vegetables in your foods? Share your tips, tricks and ideas below!
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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by GE via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of GE.