5 Recipes With Hidden Vegetables

Barbara Rolek
Cauliflower crust pizza
Cauliflower crust pizza

Everyone knows that vegetables are good for them. Sometimes, though, it's hard to get past that shapeless green blob on your plate someone told you is spinach. Sometimes, it's the taste that's off-putting. Kids and adults alike can have the best of both worlds when veggies go undercover in these good-for-you, delicious, hidden-vegetable recipes.

Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza Recipe

Using cauliflower in nontraditional ways is a great tactic for sneaking nutrients into a meal and, in the case of this pizza, a terrific substitute for a wheat-flour crust that might be off limits for carb-watchers or gluten-avoiders.

Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C with vitamins B and K bringing up the rear along with other beneficial nutrients.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, washed and stalk removed
  • 1 large lightly beaten egg
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup homemade, canned or jarred pizza sauce
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Optional toppings of choice (cooked sausage, ham or ground beef, peppers, onions, mushrooms)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12-inch pizza pan with a circle of parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Grate the cauliflower by hand or in a food processor. Place the grated cauliflower in a large microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 7 to 8 minutes or until soft. Turn cauliflower out onto a clean kitchen towel and wring to remove any excess moisture. Wring again in another clean, dry kitchen towel. Wringing twice is critical for a crisp crust. Open the towel and let the cauliflower cool.
  3. Transfer the cooled cauliflower back to the large bowl used in step 2, above, and mix in the egg, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt and black pepper to taste until thoroughly combined.
  4. Pat this cauliflower mixture onto the prepared pan. Mist lightly with cooking spray and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven.
  5. Top with pizza sauce, minced garlic, optional red pepper flakes, any additional toppings you like, and remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and bake until bubbly, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven. Wait 5 minutes and then slice and serve.

Hidden-Vegetable Meatloaf or Meatballs Recipe

Southern meatloaf

Meatloaf and meatballs are the perfect vehicle for upping the nutrition ante on foods that are generally well tolerated by most. Puréeing or mincing the veggies finely before adding them to the meat mixture makes them indistinguishable to picky eaters. Vary the shape -- loaf or meatballs -- for a change of pace. Sweet potatoes are easily slipped into the mix.

Nutritionally, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A, fiber and potassium, and have fewer calories than regular white potatoes.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 pound ground beef chuck or turkey
  • 1 cup peeled, cooked, mashed, and cooled sweet potatoes
  • 1 finely chopped medium onion
  • 1 finely chopped celery rib
  • 1 minced clove garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs or more as needed
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet or soy sauce to darken the mixture if it's too light (optional)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. If making a meatloaf, lightly coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. If making meatballs, coat a cookie sheet that has a rim to catch any cooking juices. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef chuck or turkey, prepared sweet potatoes, onion, celery, garlic, egg, salt (if using Kitchen Bouquet or soy sauce, decrease the salt from 1 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon), pepper to taste, and 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs. If the mixture is too moist, add more bread crumbs.
  3. To make sure the mixture has enough salt and is dark enough in color, fry a very small patty of meat and taste. Adjust seasonings and add Kitchen Bouquet or soy sauce as necessary.
  4. For the meatloaf: Pat mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes and then brush on optional 1/4 cup ketchup and bake another 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F. for ground beef or 165 degrees F. for ground turkey. Drain any excess grease and invert onto a platter. Serve with your favorite sides like macaroni and cheese (slip more puréed veggies into the cheese sauce) or mashed potatoes and gravy and a green vegetable.
  5. For the meatballs: Using your hands or a cookie scoop, shape mixture into 1 tablespoon- or 2 tablespoon-sized meatballs. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 degrees F. for ground beef or 165 degrees F. for ground turkey. Remove meatballs from the baking sheet and drain on paper towels. Reheat the drained meatballs in your favorite sauce like the Hidden-Vegetable Pasta Sauce Recipe, below, and serve over your favorite cooked pasta with a side of garlic bread if desired.

Hidden-Vegetable Pasta Sauce Recipe

Spaghetty pasta

A velvety tomato-based pasta sauce is a natural for disguising veggies since the sauce is puréed and no recognizable vegetable bits remain. If you pair this sauce with Hidden-Vegetable Meatballs from the recipe, above, you've doubled the nutrition quotient of the meal.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin)
  • 2 medium peeled and chopped onions
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch black pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 medium peeled and shredded carrots
  • 1 red or yellow or orange washed, stemmed, seeded, and chopped bell pepper
  • 6 medium cleaned and chopped cremini or white-button mushrooms
  • 1 medium shredded skin-on zucchini
  • 2 handfuls washed, stemmed, and chopped baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add onions and garlic and sauté until they soften and begin to caramelize.
  2. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the skillet along with the salt, black pepper or red pepper flakes, oregano, carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Stir in the spinach. It will only take a minute or two to wilt and be heated through.
  3. Use an immersion blender to purée the sauce directly in the pot or carefully transfer it to a blender or food processor and purée until velvety smooth.
  4. If you puréed the sauce in a blender or food processor, transfer it back to the cooking pot to reheat it. Mix in an optional tablespoon of butter to enrich the sauce. Combine with your favorite pasta and serve with Hidden-Vegetable Meatballs (recipe above) and garlic bread if desired.

Beet Pancakes Recipe

Pancake with Beets

Red beets are what give these pancakes their brilliant magenta-pink color (golden beets will yield a typical pancake color). They have a natural sweetness which means you can reduce the amount of sugar used in the batter. What fairy princess, or prince, for that matter, could resist this colorful meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

Beets are healthy because they are rich in folate, antioxidants, vitamin B, have zero cholesterol and only about 43 calories per 100-gram serving. And for the king and queens at your table, beets have blood pressure-lowering and anti-dementia qualities.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 medium red or golden beets, roasted, peeled and puréed (about 3/4 cup) or puréed canned beets
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt until thoroughly combined and no lumps are visible.
  2. In a separate large bowl, place beet purée, milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla and whisk until completely incorporated.
  3. Add the dry ingredients from step 1 to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Don't over mix the batter. Some lumps may remain and that is OK.
  4. Lightly coat a nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium. Portion as many 1/4 cup-batter pancakes as will comfortably fit onto the prepared pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more cooking spray as necessary.
  5. Serve with butter, syrup, honey, fruit purée or any other accompaniment desired. You can even top with whipped cream for a special indulgence.

Note: To make beet waffles, reduce the milk in this recipe to 1 cup to make a batter suitable for a waffle iron.

Hidden-Vegetables Muffins Recipe

Muffins with vegies

This muffin recipe lends itself to so many variations. The main ingredients are sweet potatoes, spinach and cheddar cheese.

The spinach is left chopped for color contrast but it can be puréed to lessen the ick factor for those in the anti-greens camp. Butternut squash can be swapped out for the sweet potatoes and the cheese can be anything you and your family likes. If strong cheeses like feta are your thing, go for it. If spinach is an absolute deal breaker, try diced ham or another ingredient.

Ingredients

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 2 medium peeled and cubed sweet potatoes or 1 (14-ounce) can drained sweet potatoes
  • 2 large room-temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh, finely chopped spinach
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin/cupcake tin with baking papers or coat with cooking spray in place of papers. Set aside.
  2. Cook fresh sweet potato cubes in a tablespoon of water in a loosely covered heatproof dish in the microwave until tender. Drain any accumulated liquid, mash and cool completely. If using canned sweet potatoes, drain them and mash. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, butter, and milk.
  4. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients from step 3 and mix until the dry ingredients are completely moistened.
  5. Stir in the reserved sweet potatoes, spinach, and cheese until the ingredients are well distributed. Pour batter into prepared muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick tests clean.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out and serving while still warm.

Note: For a sweeter muffin, increase the amount of brown sugar used and sprinkle coarse sugar on top of the batter before baking. For a savory muffin, decrease the amount of brown sugar used and sprinkle the top of the batter with extra cheese before baking.

Anything Goes

Except for the Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza and Beet Pancakes, the vegetables used in the other recipes are not set in stone. Try experimenting with broccoli, fennel, squash, parsnips, cabbage, rutabaga, jicama, or anything that can be cut small enough to be unrecognizable or simmered until soft and then puréed. You might end up developing a full repertoire of hidden-vegetable recipes that will fool even the most discriminating diner.

5 Recipes With Hidden Vegetables