The title of Shelley Gratzon’s new cookbook, Crouching Tofu, Hidden Zucchini: Vegetarian for Kids (and Grown-Ups) Who Don’t Like Vegetables, was enough to make me look and make me cook. To tell the truth, I don’t consider myself a great chef, so I was all the more delighted to find the recipes pretty simple and all the processes clearly explained.
But back to the title. These recipes are all about making eating healthy and fun. As the back cover says, “These sneaky recipes make the whole process of feeding your family simple, healthy, peaceful, and deliciously pleasurable, even for the fussiest palate.” Shelley, a confessed childhood picky eater who later turned vegetarian, was inspired to write the book after having a fussy little one of her own. The book is lacto-vegetarian, using dairy but no eggs, and it is 80 percent vegan friendly. Omnivores wanting to get more veggies into their diet can be happy here, too.
So what is there to chew on? She packs those stealthy veggies into kid favorites like spaghetti, burgers, pizza, tacos, and sloppy joes. As Shelley writes on the book’s website, SomaPress.com, “Combined with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and protein-rich legumes, cheese, and tofu, you have nutrients galore for variety and a balanced diet.”
Tofu gets star treatment as a protein-rich meat substitute in the tasty solo dish Crouching Tofu, as well as other delicious dishes. Shelley was fixated on making tofu quick and easy to prepare because people often don’t know what to do with it. You’ll also find a big focus on hiding dark leafy greens, like spinach, chard, and kale. Why? Because they are bitter and nobody likes them, yet they are the most nutrient dense of all foods.
Shelley has found enticing ways to hide veggies and other healthy ingredients in just about every dish you can think of, including breakfast items, soups, sauces, snacks, and desserts. One chapter features side dishes with vegetables that are fully visible but prepared with tons of flavor or camouflaged as a favorite food.
Another important mission for Shelley was using alternatives to refined white sugar. The desserts use more natural, low-processed sugars along with unrefined flour and other whole foods. By stabilizing blood sugar levels, fiber evens out moods and energy while enhancing memory and concentration. It basically keeps kids from bouncing off the walls!
A common theme of her foodie research on nutrition was the importance of variety and plant-based whole foods as key to providing a balanced diet with enough calories and nutrients for a child’s rapid growth needs. Blending (hiding) veggies, as well as legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, is a way to achieve these goals. A blender and food processor get a good workout!
This rookie cook has made the Spinach Artichoke Quiche twice now, and my guests loved it. The Apple Cookie Cobbler I made for my husband got rave reviews. The Red Lentil Soup is the easiest soup I have made, and the spices are spot on! The Tofu (or Panir) Veggie Burgers are loved by kids and adults, and they’re packed with hidden zucchini and carrot.
And then there are the vegetable jokes that sneak in for a few laughs:
Q: Why did the people dance to the vegetable band?
A: Because it had a good beet!
For more information, see SomaPress.com.