From the looks of this cake you’d never guess that a full two cups of raw vegetables go into the batter. From the taste of it you’d never suspect the presence of beets and zucchini either. But grated raw vegetables aren’t reason enough to bake this cake; it’s more a nutritious perk. Do it because it’s fun to bake a bundt cake and because displaying it on your countertop in all its glossy gorgeousness will make you feel like the proud mama you are. Oh, and because it tastes delicious.
The recipe is from Jennie Schacht’s inspiring cookbook Farmers’ Market Desserts. The vegetables lend moisture and sturdiness to the cake while helping to maintain a tender crumb. I suspect back in the day, vegetables went into cake batter when there was a surplus in the garden. I can’t think of a more decadent way to use up the overgrown zucchini teaming in my vegetable boxes at the moment.
When I served the cake to my kids, I didn’t tell them about the beets and zucchini, at least until they’d gobbled it down and asked for seconds. There’s a lot of debate about the pros and cons of sneaking vegetables into kids’ food. I know some moms who’ve given up the notion of getting a vegetable into their offspring unless it’s in disguise. Entire books are devoted to the subject such as Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious and Missy Chase Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef. Both authors suggest going to great lengths to work vegetables into dishes so they go undetected. On the flip side are plenty of moms and food experts vehemently opposed to such practices, saying vegetables need to be up front and center, otherwise kids will never learn to develop a taste for them.
Although I’ve been known to stir pureed carrots into my mac cheese and lord knows have worked chopped kale anonymously into more dishes than I can count, I tend to be a more ‘up front and center’ kind of a cook. I wonder what kind of a message it sends if healthy foods need to be camouflaged. Plus, it’s tough to get in adequate quantities when they must disappear within another dish.
That all said, there’s no harm in a little of both. Have the bowl of veggies and the green salad on the table, but toss those dark leafies into the chili when the kids aren’t looking.
On the “serve ‘em naked” end of the spectrum, here are a few tips that may help:
• Provide options -- Try for at least a couple of vegetable dishes at meals, it will up the chances that they will at least opt for one of them.
• Let them choose – Take kids to the market and let them have a say in what vegetables you are going to make that day or week.
• Get them cooking – Give them jobs in the kitchen related to the salad or vegetables: Making a dressing, grating cheese over broccoli, and so on.
• Serve veggies first - I'm always surprised by how quickly the kids can down a plate of vegetables set out before dinner, when they are good and hungry.
• Garden – Growing and harvesting a couple of vegetables is a great way to up the interest.
• Eat them yourself – Let your kids see you eating and loving a variety of vegetables.
• Don’t push it – Put the food out there, encourage them to try it, then leave it alone.
• Be patient – Some kids take time (a long time) to adopt new foods. There is an excellent article by Charity Ferreira in the September issue of Yoga Journal about one mom’s trial (and triumph) with her picky son.
Now, I’m off to the garden....I've got a cake to bake.
For the recipe, go to Mom's Kitchen Handbook.
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