Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cooking with Seinfeld

In 2006, moms cheered as Jessica Seinfeld (wife of you-know-who) published a cookbook titled Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Foods. The premise is that moms can steam or roast and then puree vegetables and surreptitiously add them to familiar favorite foods, thereby injecting an added measure of nutrition into picky eaters’ diets.

Yet as I flip through the pages, I scratch my head. Scrambled eggs with cauliflower? Chili with carrots? Chocolate pudding with avocado? Can these recipes really fool people besides small ignorant children? How is the quality of taste affected by these added ingredients?

The Test
I decided to put Seinfeld’s methods to the test. I volunteer to bring a dessert to family home evening and experiment upon my siblings and parents. My siblings certainly qualify as picky eaters, turning their nose up at anything other than "white kid food" (read: pizza, hamburgers with no vegetable condiments, Caesar salad, artificially flavored meats and cheeses, and so forth). My dad is a fairly tough food critic in his own right.

The Plan
The recipe I chose: brownies - with spinach and carrots. I envision the deceit in my mind: To the naked eye, I imagined it will appear a nice chocolaty brownie, innocuous looking with its dark coloring, and so attractive with the powdered sugar I will sprinkle on top. Just in case the flavor is slightly off, I planned to serve it with some nice vanilla frozen yogurt.

The Prep
Monday night after work, I prepared the purees, steaming the carrots and wilting the spinach, then blending these until smooth in my food processor. I worried that it wasn’t quite smooth enough, but it was the best my machine could do. I melted the chocolate, then mixed in the purees, sugar, etc. In the end, the batter looked grainy. Concerned, I sprinkled some semisweet chocolate chips on top. I baked the brownies (they emerged from the over looking relatively normal), sprinkled with powdered sugar, and headed over to my family’s house, leaving the brownies in the car and hoping they would be cool by the time we finished decorating the Christmas tree. (Seinfeld warns that the spinach flavor will remain detectable while the brownies are yet warm.)

The Panic
The moment of truth arrives: My dad asks, "Didn’t you bring some dessert?" My husband runs out to fetch the pan of brownies from my car, but as he places the pan into my hands, I notice with chagrin - they’re still warm! Worse, my mom reveals that she thought I wanted plain vanilla yogurt, and they must be served alone. Panic strikes and my entire cooking life flashes before my eyes. A grim vision of the future looms before me, in which I am discovered, my reputation soiled, and no one in my family will henceforth partake of my baked goods without poking and prodding and questioning me to death.

The Results
I improvise with some whipped cream and chocolate sauce and serve the rather dense squares of brownie, holding my breath. Mom and dad both comment that the brownie is good (my dad even says, "Very good!"). Little sister and adult brother, no comment. The only suspicious one was my 15-year-old brother, who has some kind of nutritious sixth sense which protects him from consuming any substance which might be beneficial to his body.

"What’s in this brownie? What kind of chocolate is in this? Is there anything organic in it?" Finally, we put him to peace by assuring him that the air he’s breathing is organic and he finishes it in silence.

The Conclusion
The brownies with carrots and spinach were OK. I don’t know that anyone will ask for the recipe, but it packs loads of vitamins and fiber into a decent chocolate treat. In my opinion, Seinfeld’s book is most beneficial for parents with kids who refuse to eat vegetables and/or fruit and are still young and gullible enough to eat foods with textures and flavors that are slightly "off". It also may also benefit adults who are looking to eat foods that pack more of a nutritional punch.

But shhhhh... It’s our little secret!

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