A few months ago I was comparing toddler stories with a friend of mine. Our boys are about 20 months apart, so she often asks about stages her little guy is going through so she can brace for what’s coming. Her son was a little shy of two at the time and she was struggling to get him to eat. He’s kind of small for his age and often eats a bite or two at each meal, but then wants to graze all day. The worst part for her, is that though he was a champion veggie eater when they were all coming in puree form, now that he could see them and taste their textures, he wasn’t a huge fan.
When she was working at a book store to pick up some extra holiday cash a few years ago, she grabbed a copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook. Although her son wasn’t even a real thought yet, she and her husband also aren’t big veggie eaters, so she was hoping the cookbook might force her to get all the good stuff veggies provide without the actual need to eat veggies.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cookbook (which came out back in 2007), the concept is simple: hide vegetable and fruit purees in foods kids love and “trick” them in to eating their veggies. There was quite a to do when the book first hit shelves since several people blasted Seinfeld for intellectual plagiarism of sorts. Seinfeld fired back, making it very clear she never claimed she invented the concept of hiding veggies in other foods, but rather just tasted some recipes she thought other mother’s would like.
My friend had only tried the pita pizzas, but she was impressed. She admitted she was very hesitant about putting spinach in her blender and then spreading it underneat pizza sauce. She figured she’d have to take one for the team and gag it down in front of her son so that he would get a healthy dose of veggies. Turns out, she and her husband both really liked them. When I expressed interest in the book, she brought it in for me to look over.
After thumbing through it, the concept was simple. I’d actually heard of it before, but had never bothered to try it. My son, is not in Seinfeld’s target audience. The only two vegetables he’s ever refused to eat are brussel sprouts (which he told my dad were “dirty”) and spinach (which sadly happen to be my favorite vegetable of all time). And I get it. I sure as heck didn’t like brussel sprouts when I was a kid. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties I even thought of trying one and only then when it was doused in butter and salt. Spinach I think I always loved, but I know it is the nemisis to many a child, so as long as he tried a bite, I let it slide. So these two veggies aside, put a plate with broccoli or carrots or corn or green beans or peas in front of my son and they were usually gone with minimal coaxing.
Me on the other hand, I was having trouble. It’s not that I don’t like veggies. I do. In fact, I really like most of the “troublesome” ones. I adore spinach, asparagus, artichokes and brussel sprouts. About the only veggie I won’t eat is a lima bean and to quote my son, that’s cuz they are “dirty.” My problem, however, is that I was drowning them in butter and spices. I’m not so sure it was the veggies I loved so much as the fatty goodness I sauted them in.
So, I figured I too would snag a copy of Seinfeld’s book and get cracking. Since this is supposed to be a chocolate blog, I’ll save my adventures into breakfasts and meals for another blog*. One of the things I LOVED about this book was the last section: Desserts. Now, I was skeptical. Afterall, how could brownies with spinach in them or oatmeal cookies with zucchini in them possibly be good? The thought of putting avocado in my chocolate cupcakes wierded me out a bit.
But, in a rather new found spirit of kitchen adventure, I threw caution to the wind and said, “what the heck!” I pureed me some avocadoes and started mixing. The cake batter itself was easy to make. There were hardly any more steps than making them from a box mix and I’ll admit, I felt pretty good about myself making cake batter from scratch. I’d never done that before. Even when I went through my super fancy cake decorating phase, I’d always used boxed mixes.
The batter was nice and thick and when I took a little lick off the beater, I think my eyes must have raised in shock. It was good…really good. I called my son over and let him lick a beater too. His eyes got wide and all he said was, “YUM!” Then, for the next 20 minutes while they baked, he kept asking me if they were done yet. He was disappointed when he had to wait even longer for them to cool so I could spread the cream cheese based frosting (with cauliflower puree) on them.
After they’d cooled and dinner was eaten, I handed out the cupcakes. Here was the moment of truth. The frosting, which still seemed a bit runny was ok. I wasn’t a huge fan. It was just a bit too sweet for me. I think if I make it again, I might cut down on the amount of powdered sugar I use. The cake, however, was AMAZING! It was super chocolatey and extremely moist. The cake was rather dense and after eating one I felt very full, which thrilled me since each one only has about 225 calories.
I was in a bit of a shock. Here was a cake, every bit as good as any I’d had at fancy cupcake shops, that completely satisfied the chocolate monster within, took just about the same amount of time to make as it would have to drive and go get one, and it had far fewer calories and a partial serving of vegetables to boot? I wasn’t sure how it was possible, but I double checked my math…only 5 grams of fat and 2.3 grams of fiber.
I know, I know, it sounds odd to put avocado in anything chocolate. Several of my relatives refuse to believe it’s true and have mocked me for the effort. They figure it’s some sort of “silly health kick” I’m on. But let me be clear here. I do try to eat healthy, but my downfall is chocolate and I am pretty darn picky about my chocolate. I can’t pick up subtle hints of raspberry, oak and lavender in wine. I can’t even tell you what hops taste like, much less identify where they come from in beers. Unless I’m being overwhelmed by spice, I cannot usually pick out the individual ones used in a dish. And if you blindfold me, I’m not sure I could tell Coke and Pepsi apart, but do the same taste tests with chocolate, and I am your girl. I can pick out subtle hints of orange peel and corriandar. I can tell Godiva from Lindt from Ghyslain without being able to see or touch the truffles. And, I can say with 100% honesty, that these are darn good cupcakes. I made 8 and ended up eating 4 1/2. I was thrilled each time my son picked a yogurt pop and left me a cupcake. They may have veggies in them, but they are the real chocolatey deal.