The lure of the purple puree.
I have a love/hate relationship with the books that have recipes that sneak healthy foods into less healthy ones. On the one hand, they go against so much of what I believe about food. There are not “good” and “bad” foods–all real food is good food, we just want to eat a balanced diet overall. And something about the idea that healthy options–like greens and beans–need to be hidden at all just rankles.
Plus, I find that these books tend to make nutritional changes that are not what I would choose. The emphasis often seems to be on reducing fat, or trading out saturated fat for polyunsaturated fats like canola oil. Personally, I like to increase the amount of healthy fat in snacks–and I include grass-fed butter and egg yolks on my list of healthy fats. And sometimes it seems to me that a lot of the recipes still have an awful lot of (usually refined white) sugar.
That being said, it is hard for me to resist the idea of taking a food and boosting its nutritional value. Especially lately, when Anna has really whittled down the list of foods that she will reliably eat. So I can’t help wondering if there are ways to create foods that she will always say yes to (like a piece of cake) that can also get some good calories and nutrients into her.
I’ve had mixed luck with my experiments. I made the Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies from “Deceptively Delicious“–altering the recipe a bit to include whole eggs and real butter. These were pretty good, although the chickpeas definitely shorten the shelf life. (One of the things I’m often trying to figure out is how to boost the protein in snacks–given her druthers, it sometimes seems like Anna might choose to live on simple carbs alone. At least when she’s not devouring steak. Sigh.) These inspired me to try the Sneaky Chef’s Brilliant Blondies, which were less successful–the texture was a little weird, and they definitely tasted beany. I think I’d like to try a bar cookie version of the chickpea cookies, which might be a nice compromise between the two.
One of the more interesting recipes I tried was a cupcake that includes the Sneaky Chef’s “purple puree,” a mix of spinach and blueberries. I used the recipe here, and they were okay. Certainly good enough that the kids ate them up, but they didn’t make me jump up and down. But when I got ready yesterday to make my favorite Zucchini Chocolate Cake, I wondered if I could boost its nutrition by adding a little purple puree. Which led to some other modifications of the recipe, too, like reducing the sugar.
It seems like a good sign that the cake was halfway gone before I managed to snap a picture of it. Or even get it onto a plate, for that matter.
Here’s the recipe. I think I might still tweak it a little (more puree? ditch the wheat germ?), but this version is pretty good.
Zucchini Chocolate Cake (version #2)
- 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup spinach leaves (I used frozen but I’d guess that fresh would work just fine)
- 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/3 cup flax meal
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 2/3 cup chocolate chips (optional but tasty!)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup Sucanat or other whole cane sugar
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 2 cups shredded zucchini
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 convection). Grease and flour a bundt pan.
Cook the blueberries and spinach until very soft. I put them both in a heatproof glass bowl and microwaved them for 4 minutes. Let them cool a little, and then puree until smooth (an immersion blender helps reduce the number of dishes to wash at the end). Grease and flour a bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, flax meal, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside. Beat eggs together with the sugars, vanilla, and butter; stir in the zucchini and blueberry/spinach puree. Mix dry and wet ingredients lightly and pour into pan. Bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
I posted about this recipe on Facebook, and the consensus was that you can definitely eat chocolate cake for breakfast if it has this many vegetables in it. Enjoy!