We were wary when we first saw Jessica "Mrs. Jerry" Seinfeld on Oprah last week, heralding the benefits of steaming and pureeing the shit out of vegetables and then "hiding" them in kid-friendly foods so that kids will stop throwing temper tantrums at the dinner table and actually eat their vegetables. Because if you steam and puree the shit out of a vegetable, does it have any nutritious value left in it? Especially when it's hidden in a brownie? We turned to Sarah Sliwa, a graduate student at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and all-around sassy chick, to help us unravel Seinfeld's "deception" and its potential for any and all deliciousness.
In the tepid throes of veganism, a friend of mine once tried to tell me that avocados were the same as cheese. I like avocado and I like cheese, but the two are not equivalent. Apparently, one man's bullshit is another's inspiration: Jessica Seinfeld has anchored her new cookbook Deceptively Delicious in precisely this school of culinary trickery: Broccoli puree and flaxmeal-coated chicken nuggets. Beet puree enriches chocolate cake. Spinach and chocolate get it on. Gross.
Picky eating is not unusual. Food jags — children's desire to eat only a few types of food — often set in around age two and can continue until a child is four or five. For this reason, experts recommend that parents introduce, and reintroduce and reintroduce, as many foods as possible when children are young, so that when the jags set in, odds are higher that children will fixate on at least some of the foods that parents want to be serving, which is why Seinfeld's approach of sneaking veggies into brownies doesn't sound quite right. Green, broccoli-coated chicken nuggets don't help kids like broccoli. They help kids eat green nuggets. This is exactly the point raised in a recent New York Times article about picky eaters.
Making healthier versions of popular foods isn't a bad idea. Substituting homemade foods for fast foods is appealing when the recipe is quick, involves few ingredients, and tastes good. But cooking vegetables to puree them in order to trick kids is less convenient. And there's something even more troublesome about using dessert, a meal accessory, as a vehicle for vegetables, a diet staple. If this is the point, Seinfeld's brownies are a Yugo at best: the half-cup of spinach and half-cup of carrots required for the recipe amount to a whopping 1/12 of a cup of vegetables per serving. When the recipe was analyzed using NutriCalc 2.0 it appears that each brownie yields 156 calories, 57% of which came from carbohydrates, 9% from protein, and 34% from fat. This is lower in fat and calories than a traditional brownie, but higher in both than most methods of preparing carrots or spinach. But does it taste like a brownie?
I had every intention of becoming an informed hater and make these terrifying brownies in the comfort of my own kitchen, but found myself without the time or energy to cook and puree. And I don't even have kids. God bless Oprah fans for having the time to roast, puree, bake, watch Oprah and post the results of their experiments in delicious deception on Oprah's website:
My 4yrold said the Brownies tasted like Dirt!
Brownies were awful... My family spit them out.
My brother (31) took one bite and practically gagged.
There is NO WAY these are the same brownies Oprah was eating on the show
. If the little Oprahs of tomorrow wouldn't eat them, why should we? Seinfeld herself recommends that we wait before we eat our brownies when they come out of the oven so that they don't taste like spinach. Why bother making them if you have to wait until they're cold? Isn't the whole point of baking burning your tongue and then not tasting anything for days? Furthermore, if you're progressive enough to think beet chocolate cake sounds like a good idea, consider the time it takes to
Leave the beets whole (trim any stems to 1 inch) and unpeeled.
Wrap in aluminum foil and roast at 400° for about 1 hour (they're done when they can be pierced with the tip of a sharp knife).
After peeling, place in a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes.
4) START MAKING THE STUPID CAKE, which I promise you, will taste, at best, a close approximation of a late-early 90s Snackwell.
The book's official website boasts that "Deceptively Delicious is a godsend for all parents who want healthy kids, peaceful family meals, and never again having to say, 'Eat your vegetables!'" Actually, the best way to get kids to hate beets is to keep telling them to eat them. I'm Polish. I heart beets. Beets are good. In soup. In a salad. With some goat cheese. Just keep them out of my cake.