Hiding Vegetables

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Advice on sneaking healthful vegetables into your kid's diet.

Key tips/ takeaways

  • veggies in ravioli

  • mixing broccoli into mac and cheese (both in "tree" form and minced)

  • hiding pureed spinach under cheese in pizza

  • making vegetable "French fries" by cutting shoestring carrots, tossing with olive oil and salt and baking (this worked for a bit but wasn't my answer to green veggies).

  • dipping (yogurt dip, salad dressing, hummus, guacamole)

  • covering with cheese sauce

  • mixing into scrambled eggs

  • broccoli cheese cornbread

  • Dr. Praeger's spinach cakes

  • Avocado

  • Fruit and veggie squeeze paks that taste just like fruit.

  • Baby food veggie mush

 

Other suggestions:

 

"The one that has worked for me is a reduced-sugar version of zucchini/pumpkin/carrot bread (but with no dark green veggies).  I also plan to try the smoothies idea, spinach pesto, mini pea sandwiches (adding, perhaps, tofu cream cheese), honeyed or maple syruped vegetables, edamame (though I don't think I will get him to even try these since he can see that they are a vegetable), spinach pie, lentil salad, and the fritters."

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“Getting Frances Boswell's new cookbook for babies called Food Adventures:  Knowing Good Food from the Start and Anabel Karmel's cookbook.”

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“What about fresh-squeezed spinach, carrot, beet, etc. juices from the health food store?  I know you don't get as much fiber, but at least you get the nutrients.”

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 “What about making fun food like lettuce rolls with cheese and turkey or ham?  Or tortilla pinwheels with veggies stirred into the tofu substitute for cream cheese... and maybe something to dip them in, like a good salad dressing that he likes?  Smoothies are also good, topped with toasted wheat germ.  I bet you could sneak some carrot juice into a strawberry smoothie with either tofu or yogurt.  Or how about kiwi with spinach?”

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“Spinach and cheese ravioli are great.  Costco makes yummy ones, and Fratelli Ravioli on Court Street has spinach and ricotta stuffed rigatoni.  I also recommend edamame which can be bought shelled in most supermarkets' frozen food sections.  If nothing works, I'd frankly just let it go for a while (a couple of weeks) and see if he comes around.”

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“Here are a few suggestions: Mix peas and chicken in mac and cheese. Puree spinach and add to tomato sauce. Add pureed spinach to eggs. Spinach pie from Sahadi's. Lentil and rice salad from Sahadi's. Cook zucchini coins in water with a little olive oil and a little salt.  Cook until they are falling apart. Serve veggies with a cheese sauce. Ratatouille. Spinach and cheese ravioli. Add spinach to lasagna.Vegetable soup.”

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“My younger daughter is six years old, and the only cooked vegetable she will eat is broccoli, steamed only for about 20 seconds that she dips in a separate bowl of only the best olive oil and salt. She will eat raw sugar snap peas, sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes (but only certain batches of them), and raw sweet carrots.  She also likes raw spring onion (but not cut up--it has to be in a bunch!), chives in a bunch, and pasta with fresh pesto (I guess raw basil counts as a vegetable).  It's important that whatever you serve tastes really good (cucumber and carrots can be bitter sometimes, and then she'll refuse to eat them for a while)"

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:I don't know if this is helpful at all--none of her friends like olive oil, for example--but I just thought I'd share this anyway.  I guess as your son gets older, you could try letting him dip raw vegetables in some kind of dip, maybe honey or ketchup.  It's a very personal thing, I guess.  My older daughter loved eggplant and fresh bunches of parsley straight from the garden when she was three, so I've had a bit of a hard time getting used to my little one's picky tastes.”

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“I'd give the Fratelli stuffed rigatoni a try.  The spinach is virtually undetectable.  There's probably not a lot in there, but still.... Also, my 2-year-old likes salad with spinach and romaine lettuce if the dressing is on the sweet side.  I make a sweet balsamic vinaigrette.  You could also try to add more fruits to sub for the veggies; frozen blueberries are a big hit here! But I also wouldn't sweat it, and I wouldn't push it either.  It sounds like your son eats other healthful stuff, and that's what's most important.  Good luck!”

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"Dipping is aces for us. A really good salad dressing, or the fancy white Balsamic vinegar from Fairway (it's amazing stuff), and a pile of broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and our 2.5yo will dip away. My husband gives her carrots with peanut butter to dip -- I can't stand it, but she will eat it."

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Also, any mac n' cheese in our house -- including the box kind -- we toss a few handfuls of your standard frozen veggies in it. I honestly think our kid just assumes peas and carrots are part of mac n' cheese at this point, and that's fine by us."

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"I am a working single parent of two boys and have always made time to make their foods at least 5 nights a week. I keep things really simple, I purée carrots and put them in tomato sauce and meatballs. Blend spinach in their yogurt smoothies. Some veggies you cannot hide, like broccoli, cauliflower or peppers. I agree you need to put it on the plate an are what happens. I would also set an example and eat with your child. You eat, you child eats. My boys also tend not to eat raw veggies, I put a little water in a saucepan and cut up broccoli and heat for 3 minutes, drain excess water, add olive oil and a little garlic and salt. Remember that tomato sauce counts as veggie and a fruit. Don't forget potato and sweet potato. My kids also do not like stinky veggies, like cauliflower or overcooked broccoli. My boys are 5 and 8 and now tend to eat mostly green veggies. I just got them to eat green and red pepper in homemade home fries for breakfast. I would stick with simple veggies and not sweat it. Your child will eventually eat them.

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"Just cut up some carrots, grape tomatoes and cucumbers while making your own salad. I'm telling you, both my kids eventually relented and now even enjoy that part of every meal. I call it "deconstructed salad." (And many nights my babysitter prepares this -- not me!)"

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"The other veggies they like are indeed organic frozen ones -- but I don't do the pancake-ey things, just because I can't handle the high salt content in a lot of that stuff. I use the microwave like crazy -- a bag of cascadian farm organic green beans, peas, broccoli or cauliflower, eight minutes in a glass casserole with a lid, drain the water, and that's it. No seasoning at all. Throw it on the table with a slotted spoon to catch the water you're too time-strapped to drain."

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"I always buy LOTS of short cuts from Fresh Direct -- cut up melon, mangoes, pineapples and the like. And -- gasp! -- I buy pre-made mashed potatoes from FD as a very special treat for my children, who cheer when they get them."

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"My kid is crazy for these little veggie/fruit leather things at Whole Foods. The name is Veggie-Go's. They are in the same aisle as Annie's fruit gummies, licorice, gum, etc. Unlike fruit leather, they have low sugar content. They come in 4" strips."

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"We played Abby Caddaby brocolli youtube during dinner for a while while she ate distractedly.  At some point she went back to being a reliable brocolli and tomato eater (and rarely other veggies)."

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"We've had lots of success with roasted broccoli (olive oil, salt at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes in the oven). You can make a large batch on a sunday and offer throughout the week. Also, sauteed asparagus and sauteed chard has been going over well lately. Butter + veggies +bit of salt is fairly popular with Hazel at the moment."

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"I'm currently reading "Getting to Yum", which is the follow-up how-to book from the author of "French Kids Eat Everything". It's basically a laundry list of games and strategies to get your kids to eat veggies (and fish and farro and everything else). If you have commuting time to read it, I'd highly recommend it. It all sort of goes with the philosophy of teaching your kids to actually like their veggies, rather than trying to trick them into eating them - which I do think is a better long term strategy. BUT, in the interim, here are our two favorite veggie treats where you can't actually taste the veggies (very much):
- green smoothie: lightly steamed spinach/kale/etc, avocado, pineapple (or mango), mint, coconut water, flax meal - toss in blender with ice. Serve with colorful straw!
- veggie pancakes: take whatever leftover steamed/roasted/sautéed veggies you have from last night's dinner, throw in blender with 1 whole egg, a cup (or so) of flour of your choice (spelt, buckwheat, etc), a teaspoon of baking powder, and water until you get the right consistency. Serve like regular pancakes. We've done beet (red pancakes!!), carrot, green bean, zucchini (don't use as much water), broccoli, kale... They're delicious!"

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"You can throw vegetables in big soups, always different. You can mash the veggies, forget the Cuisinart but with a simple immersion blender, super quick to clean and you can mash the stuff directly in the plate."

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"Spinach smoothies re big in my house too"

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"Another thing that has worked for us is dipping the steamed veggies into something they like...my older one likes spicy stuff, so spicy dips are the solution for him. My younger one is still only 3, so sometimes he wants to dip broccoli in peanut butter, but you know, it's not the end of the world, he is a creative kid!!!!!! The other thing that works well also is veggies in quiches. I make 2 on Sunday evening, usually, throw in all the veggies I collected at the Farmer's market, and it takes 20 minutes top, and they last all week. A slice of quiche with salad or an apple is usually their lunch in school.

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"We love meatballs and meat loaf as it freezes well and I travel a lot for work. I put two cups of frozen spinach in my pork or beef meatballs all the time now, she doesn't notice a difference. And I add puréed sweet potato and carrots into the chicken meatballs, and sometimes kale too. And I always add a few carrots and peppers into the spaghetti sauce when making the sauce and once it's all cooked and puréed even my husband doesn't know:) And sauce freezes well and might take an hour and a half every two months.

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"When she turned two we started to focus on colors when we eat, and I always ask her to pick three colors for every meal. And then we go to the fridge and find something in each color and she helps me prep and then is more engaged to eat. And we talk about everything green as we eat asparagus, and all the things we can think of that are yellow as she eats zucchini or corn etc. She finds it fun."

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"My daughter loves lime on veggies. I give it to her and she basically soaks her broccoli with it and then eats it all. I also use a micro plain and zest manchego over the veggies as it gives a nice flavor. I just steam her veggies normally. She also loves dipping into the whole foods brand 365 miso glaze. It's to the left of the fish section. I also put that glaze on salmon and broccoli and just bake it 12-25 mins at 375 and it's great! And fast. We all like it."

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"I also make a lot of frittatas which she loves. I put in spinach, leaks, sweet potato, squash blossoms, asparagus, broccoli, different squashes, and then add ricotta or Parmesan. I don't put all the veggies at once (!) And it is nice if you make a large one, you can cut and freeze some."

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I like making shepherd pie and chicken pot pie - always easy to add peas, carrots, corn etc and the sauce can be fun if you stir in puréed carrot or spinach. She really likes it, and since I do not cook separately for her, the whole family eats the same thing.

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She loves quinoa cakes - here's a super easy recipe and I double the spinach, add shredded carrot, squash or whatever you like. I cut them up and she loves them with pasta sauce over top. My husband and I prefer them as an appetizer with a mango pico de gallo that I make. Recipe: http://yummysupper.blogspot.ca/2012/09/quinoa-kale-patties.html?m=1

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I make a lot of smoothies for breakfast too. They are for me and she helps me fill the blender. For the past few months now she says they're for mommy and Cora, so she gets her glass as well. I make them with almond milk as a base (only because I can't eat much dairy) and then spinach or kale, plus banana and pineapple. A spoon of almond or peanut butter, flax and 3-4 dates. I'll vary and add kale sometimes too. And rotate 4-5 different smoothies I like. If I make one without greens, now she often gives it back and says she wants a green one - I think she just likes the color. 

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"I use the vitamix as well to make frozen fruit 'ice cream'. It's really just frozen fruit, and I add spinach or other vegetables that mix in well flavor wise (cook/cool the veggies). Sometimes coconut milk for creamy texture. It scoops like a sorbet. It sounds disgusting but you wouldn't know if i didn't tell you. And then top it with whip cream, chocolate, sauce, cut fruit etc. Or eat it plain. I make popsicles much the same way too. Oh and for snacks I use small cookie cutters for fun and punch out carrot and cucumber and pepper shapes that she finds entertaining and then tells us what she ate. And definitely agree on the raw veggies sticks and a bunch of dips."

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"I do recommend the magic bullet for smoothies. Not the best blender per se but you can toss things ahead of time into the cups and add the top and keep for days in the fridge so it is a working parent's dream that way. We are in a csa so the greens go in ahead of time, and almond milk or pieces of coconut and leftover apple, and banana, maybe some plain yogurt or peanut butter or ricotta - then I just add frozen fruit the morning of. i wish my son would have them but at least I'm showing him one way to eat that he can consider later. I smoothie up most mornings.--My go-to is pancakes. Due to being forced to avoid gluten, I have to cook grains like millet and quinoa for the week, and then I mix a cup with 2 eggs, 1-2 tbsp of millet flour (any flour ) and some salt and garlic salt, and then throw in veggies (any consistency). Then, butter in the pan, small pancakes, and USUALLY they get eaten."

 

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"I had the same problem with my son, for  while. We put a small salad with raw vegetables in front of him every night (that's what we eat) and whatever else we were eating. He never ate it. One night I started playing this game with him, where we pretended to be Alvin and the Chipmunks. And I would say in a funny voice, "I'm Alvin, I'm a spinach eating chipmunk" and he would grab his broccoli and say "I'm Theodore, I'm a broccoli eating chipmunk" and he would eat his whole salad like this. It was right around two years old.

“My son is younger than yours but already he loves to DIP.  Any chance you could give your son veggie sticks with a bowl of dip so he could "play" with them? My toddler girls wouldn't eat most veggies for almost one whole year (from age one to two)!  They did eat avocados, which I fed them often.  I also made Anabel Karmel's Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce, which is basically a tomato sauce with pureed carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini mixed in.  They loved veggie soup, but only if it was pureed.  I tried many, many different kinds of veggies for a long time and they pretty much refused all of my attempts.  Then I basically gave up (except for the above), concentrating on making sure they had a good variety of fruit, which they like.  My pediatrician also told me not to worry.  Then, lo and behold, they turned two and started eating salad all of a sudden—small pieces of tomato, cucumber, and lettuce with dressing.  My husband and I often have salad with our meal, and they started pointing to it and asking to try it.  The other night they even tried some broccoli.  We've been giving them veggie pizza and spinach pies, which they also like.  I really thought they would never eat vegetables and they still don't eat a lot, but now I feel like it's a start.  So, my advice is to try some things pureed; sneak veggies into muffins, breads, and pasta sauce; offer varieties of fruit, and then try not to worry about it too much.  Like my girls, your son might one day ask you for a salad with balsamic vinaigrette!”

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“The worrying is the hardest part.  I really, really fretted over my kids not eating veggies, especially when all of my friends' children were happily gulping down peas, carrots, etc.  Also, I'm a huge vegetable fan and mostly vegetarian, so it was very disappointing to have toddlers refuse vegetables.  Eventually, I got past it.  Now I can proudly say that the girls like a side salad for dinner.  The pickiness will pass in time.  Keep trying, and he will eventually eat them in some shape or form.”

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“I hide spinach inside of cheese omelettes.  I cook the spinach separately and then when the omelette is almost finished, I put in the spinach so it really can't be seen from the outside.  I also do this with finely-chopped broccoli (which my daughter refuses to eat otherwise).  The other thing I do to get her to eat/try veggies by themselves is put a little honey on them.  For instance, when I first started her on carrots, I would steam them and then baste them with a little honey.  I told her they were candy carrots, and she ate them up.  Each time I served them, I would reduce the amount of honey until she was eating them without any at all.  This has worked with carrots, green beans, and peas.  She now eats all of them either by themselves or with a little spray butter.”

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“I feel your pain.  My 18-month-old won't eat vegetables unless they are completely disguised.  To get around this issue, I puree fresh veggies into tomato sauce and serve with pasta.  (I know people who also buy the organic vegetable baby foods and do the same thing.)  Other options if you haven't already tried them are baked sweet potatoes and butternut squash baked with a small pat of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.  My son has no idea these are veggies and gobbles up these dishes. I have also found many successes with the recipes in First Meals by Annabel Karmel.  There are many pasta dishes with tomato-based and cheesy sauces as well as fried and disguised veggie fritters.”

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“Green smoothies! My 17-month-old drinks one every day.  Here is what's in it:

2 bananas, 2 tsp spirulina, handful of chopped, de-stemmed kale, handful of washed, chopped spinach or dandelion or other greens, 1 mango

It's sweet and it's a fun color and he adores it.  You can also add your child's favorite fruit to it.  Sometimes I add pears, apple, or grapes, and I change up the greens depending on the season, too.  I also drink them; they have lots of calcium and iron.  Occasionally I'll add in a tbsp of almond butter.  You can vary it almost endlessly.”

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“I went through the same thing a few months ago with my youngest, too.  This too shall pass!  But I know it's soooooo frustrating. My suggestion:  fritters.  Corn, zucchini, spinach, broccoli...you name it.  Stick the veggies in a food processor.  Add a couple of eggs or egg substitute, cheese, and a little Bisquick (or regular flour, whole wheat flour, or even wheat germ).  Mix it up and fry it in a pan. Voila!  I'm pretty sure I got the idea off of some toddler nutrition website.  I think I googled "toddler recipes. Also try Robert's Veggie Booty.  It has lots of vitamin A in it. 

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“My sitter used to give my son mini-veggie sandwiches.  Stick a single pea between two small squares of whole wheat bread, and squish the edges together.  He never saw those peas coming.  AND a lot of the Earth's Best snacks and cookies are fortified.  I found that Fresh Direct sells them the cheapest.

This may seem like a copout, but you can always do baby food veggies again.  Just for a month until the phase passes.  I found it wasn't worth the stress everyday, so I gave in and fed him these.  Hope this helps!! It really is just a phase, I promise!”

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“I'm not sure if this was already mentioned, but I puree cooked veggies and add them to pasta sauce.”

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“I guess I gave up on veggies early on, and then they snuck back into his diet somehow. So I think letting go is a good idea.  I don't think not eating veggies now means kids will never eat them.  But after not serving them for a while, I noticed that my son will eat raw veggies when he sees us doing it, such as when he's hungry before dinner.  He is more inclined to do so when he sees me cutting them or when he is involved in the dinner preparation. He also loves to dip, so we do carrots with hummus and broccoli with ranch dressing.  And he will always eat heavily-salted edamame which comes frozen and is totally yummy.

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“I found that if I make pasta sauce with meat and puree vegetables (like carrots and broccoli) and mix them in, neither my 3-year-old nor my vegetable-averse husband notice."

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“I make a tomato sauce that is filled with various vegetables, and my son is none the wiser because the sauce is pureed and tastes mainly of tomatoes.  All I do is saute onions, garlic, broccoli, peppers, and any other vegetable I have on hand and then add herbs, seasoning, tomato paste, tomatoes, and canned tomatoes.  Then, when cooked through, I puree the sauce.  It basically looks and tastes like tomato sauce--aside from some small flecks of green--and I use it on pasta with cheese, as a pizza sauce, as a dip, etc.

 My son also drinks watered-down Bolthouse Farms "Green Goddess" juice which he loves; it has both fruit and vegetables.”

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“Do you know the book Green Eggs and Ham?  I have leftover pureed kale and broccoli from my son's pureed food stage, so now when I make him eggs, I add a little bit of pureed greens.  If your child knows and likes the book, try giving him green scrambled eggs after she's read a page or two, and hopefully he will be tickled by the idea that he, too, has green eggs.”

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“I have no recipes, but I found that giving foods "alternative" names really worked for us at that phase to get our daughter to try things.  For example, she wouldn't try cauliflower even though she loves broccoli.  I started calling cauliflower "white broccoli," and she tried it and ended up liking it.  This happened over and over again with a lot of fruits and veggies; for example, she liked oranges but wouldn't try papaya until we called it "orange papaya," and then she loved it.  It just worked for us.  (She did, however, draw the line at "princess cheese," a.k.a. tofu.) If he likes scrambled eggs, you can hide veggies in there.  Finely chop (or food-process after cooking) broccoli, red pepper, or onion, for instance.  Just stir in with the scrambled eggs.

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"If your little one likes rice and cheese, there is a recipe for a rice casserole with spinach, brown rice, tofu, and cheese that I used to make my daughter before she became allergic to dairy and soy.  You can probably find a recipe online, but here's one as well.  (You can hide all kinds of veggies in it.  I can't vouch for it because I've never made this one, but give it a try!) http://southernfood.about.com/library/rec03/bl30222g.htm

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“Pureeing veggies is the best, but I recently sliced up carrots and celery into stick sizes, placed a dab of ranch dressing on the plate, and called it "appetizers."  He ate them!  The next day, I made pizza cookies:  I sliced zucchini into circles, sauteed it, and melted some cheese and tomato sauce on top.  It's all in the naming these days.... My neighbor blends vegetables into tomato sauce.  Kids think they are eating regular lasagna, ziti, etc., when they are actually eating carrots, spinach, kale....whatever she can fit into the blender.”

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"I just adapted a gourmet recipe for pumpkin walnut muffins that are really tasty which incorporates a green pea, green bean, and spinach puree.  I realize this isn't the ideal way to get our children to eat their vegetables but at least this is another way to sneak them in if you can't get them to eat green vegetables on their own.  Plus, the walnuts add protein, and the prunes add fiber.  I plan to try to add more of the pea/bean/spinach mixture later (or substitute only spinach or maybe spinach and kale, which would offer even more vitamins), but this is a start.  If I do that (or you decide to try that), I think you would have to decrease the amount of pumpkin accordingly:

Recipe:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup Super Greens (this is an organic frozen puree of peas, beans and spinach and is made by Plum.  I found it in the freezer section at Fairway, and it is made for babies six months and up)
1/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tbsp unsulfured molasses (I only had 1 tbsp. of this, so I used it and then substituted with 2 tbsp. honey)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped pitted dates (about 4 ounces).  (Here again, I substituted:  I used chopped prunes instead because my son gets constipated often.)
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (about 3 ounces)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and grease twelve 1/2-cup muffin cups.  Melt the butter and cool slightly.  In a bowl, whisk together the butter, pumpkin, super greens, buttermilk, eggs, molasses (and honey if you decide to use it), and vanilla.  Into a large bowl sift the flours, baking powder, spices, salt, and baking soda all together and whisk in brown sugar.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add pumpkin mixture, stirring just until combined.  Stir in dates (or prunes) and the finely chopped walnuts and divide the batter among cups.  Bake muffins in the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until puffed and the tester comes out clean.  Cool muffins in cups for 5 minutes and turn out onto a rack. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 muffins."