Ask The Sneaky Chef

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Hi, and welcome to the Ask The Sneaky Chef forum. In this forum over the past year, I have answered the questions of hundreds of readers and at-home sneaky chefs, and many of you have shared advice and resources with each other. It continues to be my pleasure to share all of my knowledge with each of you in your quest to make your family as healthy as they can be. Each week, I will publish in this forum one of the most informative questions I have received during the previous week. I look forward to hearing from you! –Missy

Polenta Fries

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From: Jay

Message: Do you have a recipe for a potato and veg mix that can be
shaped and cooked into 'french fries'?.  My boy needs the texture,
shape, and ease of chewing.  If it's in your book, which one?

Thanks

Dear Jay,

Last night when the day was done I was thinking about your request, and I thought you might also try the below recipe for polenta squares from my Men's Book. You could just as easily slice them into french fry strips.

Enjoy : )

Missy


Plenty of Polenta
Don’t let the word “polenta” scare you into thinking this is a difficult dish to make. In fact, it’s very simple to prepare. The only tricky part is to allow it to chill long enough before you attempt to slice and grill it—refrigerate it between four and twenty-four hours first.
 
Makes 4 servings
 
3⁄4 cup vegetable broth
1⁄4 cup instant polenta*
1⁄2 cup White Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe #4)
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
 
*Instant polenta is available at most grocery and natural food stores, sometimes under the name corn grits. If you can’t find it, substitute with the same amount of yellow cornmeal and cook for 15 minutes, or according to package directions.
Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with oil. Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom.
Pour the broth into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the polenta and reduce the heat to low; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the White Puree, salt, and cheese. Immediately transfer the polenta to the prepared baking pan, cover the pan with foil, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and as long as 24 hours.
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high, or heat an indoor grill pan to medium-high and spray it with oil. Cut the chilled polenta into squares and remove it from the pan. Lightly spray both sides of the polenta squares with oil and grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until grill marks appear on the polenta. Serve warm.
 
Pizza Polenta Variation
Follow the instructions for Plenty of Polenta, but cut the chilled polenta into triangle-shaped pieces instead of squares and top each piece with one tablespoon marinara sauce (or Mega Marinara Sauce, page 228) and one tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes.


Toddler & Husband

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From: Valerie Ringuette
To: Missy Chase
Subject: Love your book
 
Hi Missy,
 
First I just want to thank you for helping me to get my 23 month old toddler to eat some vegetables.  I've used your advice and techniques to put the puree's into my own recipes.  My daughter won't eat much...VERY picky.  She will eat the meatloaf and twice baked potatoes from your book though.  I still have not been able to get her to eat any chicken however.
 
My friends and husband think I'm nuts for making all these puree's and some juices, packaging them in 1/4 portions and freezing them.  It's worked out great.  There is no greater feeling then knowing I'm taking care of my family...whether they know it or not!  (-:  My husband has asked that I not tell him anymore when he has had green puree and wheat germ in his food.  LOL!
 
Thanks again!
 
Valerie Ringuette

Dear Valerie,

Your letter made my day!

Over and over I get the same feedback: "This really works!" That, to me, is the beauty of being a sneaky chef. Your family is really eating vegetables, and your health will only benefit from that.

I'm going to have an extra big grin on my face, thinking of your daughter eating super foods. And please tell your husband he gets a gold star for supporting your sneaky streak!

With healthiest regards,

Missy


High Protein Shake

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Dear Sneaky Chef
Every Morning as I am mixing my 4 1/2 year old son's "Milk Shake" I think about you and send you a huge Thank You! My son is a very picky eater!! He hates protein in all forms! He Loved your chocolate chip cookies (with white beans) so based on your White Bean Puree  and other recipes I have created my own form of a Breakfast Milk Shake:

He has a dairy problem so we use Rice Ice Cream , 1/4 cup pureed bean mixture , 1/4 cup spinach juice, frozen blueberries, and either orange puree (1/4 cup or I juice 2 carrots- That combined with some rice / or Almond Milk some really good quality Cocoa, a drizzle of a no preservative Chocolate Syrup and some vanilla all blended together makes a wonderful tasting Chocolate Milksahake- (sometimes we even add avacado) I make some taste tests-
sometimes I add more cocoa for a more chocolate taste and sometimes a little agave if I think it needs to be a little sweeter.

I know I have you to thank! That is the most nutrient dense meal he has all day! BUT HE DRINKS 90- 95% of it so I figure we are doing pretty well- I am sure you will see all of your various ingredient combo"s and recipes I pulled from to create this–I cannot stress enough how important this is because my son is a very high functioning Aspergers Child- As I am sure you know Nutrition is one of the many important aspects of helping him.

So Thank You!! I share my shake recipe with many parents combined with the statement that they "Must get the  Sneaky Chef Books for more great ideas!!" By the way I just ordered Your Book #3 from Amazon and am very excited to get it! Thank You Again! We really Love Your Books!!! Melissa

Dear Melissa,

You are really doing fantastic with this : ) I love to hear success stories like this. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to me hear that things are working out so well nutritionally for your child : )  Real nutrition can help with so much.

Keep up the great work, and enjoy in good health,

With fondest regards,

Missy


Step Parenting Made Easier

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Hi Missy,

I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your
work! I am a brand new stepmom to a 5 year old and a 4 year old, one
of which is a Picky eater and the other of which is a Majorly Picky
eater! Having not only no parenting experience, but zero
cooking-for-kids experience has made the road a bit bumpy for me...

Your book has truly been a godsend in our home---now that I know their
growing little bodies are getting some nutrients, I don't worry as
much about dinnertime and I can focus on the (MANY) other challenges
of stepmotherhood. You must get a thousand gushing messages like mine
every day, but I truly want you to know how grateful I am and my
husband is as well! We can't wait to get to Barnes and Noble to pick
up both of the more recent books!

Dear Wendy,

I am truly touched that my recipes are bringing peace and health to your table. Nothing brings me more pleasure than knowing I'm making a positive difference in many lives!

With healthiest regards and warmest wishes for a smooth road ahead,

Missy


Hi Missy,

I was at the Heathcote presentation last week.  It was great!  I
especially liked that there were so many things to sample.

I tried the blueberry muffins and liked them, but cannot find the
recipe in the book.  Where can I find the recipe for that??

Thanks
judy

PS - Made the corn tortilla chips when I got home.  They were a
complete hit!  Thanks for the great ideas!

Hi Judy,

Thanks for the nice note!  The blueberry muffins are from my 2nd
book for men here:  http://www.amazon.com/Sneaky-Chef-Kitchen-
Hiding-Healthy/dp/0762433205/ref=sr_1_1?
ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1198336967&sr=1-1

In the meantime, here's the recipe *you have the Flour Blend and
White Bean Puree recipes in kids' book:

Blockbuster Blueberry Muffins

These days, the average supersized muffin costs you half a day’s
calories and fat grams. The ones that taste good are no better than
cupcakes without the icing (and the ones that are whole grain and
low-fat taste just like the box they came in!). If you want the
best of both worlds—great taste and lower fat—these muffins may
become your family’s favorite morning staple. White Bean Puree
works overtime to cut the fat and provide fiber, and the oat bran
and wheat germ disappear behind the world’s healthiest berry.

Be sure to make extras and freeze them in a plastic bag.
When you’re ready to eat, simply pull one out and toast it!

Makes 6 large muffins
2 large eggs
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup almond or canola oil
1⁄2 cup White Bean Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe #9)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3⁄4 cup Flour Blend (see Make-Ahead Recipe #13)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 cup oat bran
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well
combined, then whisk in the oil, White Bean Puree, and vanilla. In
another bowl, whisk together the Flour Blend, baking powder,
cinnamon, oat bran, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the
wet, mixing until the flour is just moistened, then lightly mix in
the blueberries. Don’t overmix, or the muffins will be dense.
Fill each muffin cup to the top, spooning about 1⁄4 cup of batter
into each. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

Grilled Muffin Variation
Once cool, slice the muffins in half, butter each side very
lightly, and place buttered-side down on a hot indoor grill pan or
outdoor grill until toasted the muffin is toasted and grill marks
appear. Serve hot, with coffee.

My best,
Missy


Substituting Flax

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Dear Missy,

I am addicted to sneaky cooking now thanks to you! I love
using mixed flax seed, can I substitute that for wheat germ in all of
your recipes? I have used it in your flour blend recipe with great
results. 

Danielle

Dear Danielle,

Sneaky cooking is habit forming, isn't it! ; )

You can substitute flax for wheat germ, but you're going to have to do some experimentation. Flax tends to thicken up after it's been ground and moistened, whereas wheat germ will only soften but will not thicken. It sounds like you've got some experience with it, so I'd say give it a try. You'll get the results you're looking for in a batch or two : ) 

Keep up the creativity!

Missy


Substituting Pumpkin

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Hi Missy,

My daughter can't eat sweet potatoes. Would it be alright to
substitute pumpkin puree for the sweet potatoes in your orange puree?

Thanks, Davina

Dear Davina,

Absolutely! Good thinking. But keep in mind that pumpkin is not as sweet as sweet potatoes or yams, so you might want to increase the amount of sweetener in the recipe if it uses one.

With healthiest regards,

Missy


Meal Planner

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Hi Missy,
 
I am using your recipes for most of my cooking these days and I was
wondering if you had considered creating a computer program that could
do meal planning using your recipes? Something where one could pick
from your recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks and then it
would show/include nutritional info in an effort to create a
nutritionally balanced day, week, or month of meals. It could also
create shopping lists based on the planned week or month. Probably
even do more than I have thought of. Just an idea...?
 
Thanks for all the great recipes. I'm having fun trying them out and
discovering what my family likes.
 
Marnie

Hi Marnie,

Thanks for taking the time to write.  Glad my recipes have become a part of your family's everyday life.  Great news!  My new book includes a meal planner and full nutritional analysis for every recipe! 
 
This should help (sorry it’s not a computer program just yet!)
 
All my best,
Missy


Purple Pancakes

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Dear Missy,

I just wanted to tell you that whenever I use plain pancake
mix lately, I've been adding the Purple Puree, and my 2 and 3 year
old love it!!!  We call them "Purple Pancakes"!

Thanks!

Jen

Hi Jen,

Awesome...then you'll really love my new book that has a bunch of Quick Fixes to Boxed Pancake Mix!  Check it out!

Here's one example from the new book - similar to what you described:

Chocolate Pancakes:
1 large egg
¾ cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
½ cup Purple Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe #_, pg._)
1 cup boxed pancake mix
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup oat bran
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, optional
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, oil, and Purple Puree. Add boxed pancake mix, cocoa powder, and oat bran, and chocolate chips, if using, mixing just until combined (don't over mix - leave small lumps). If the batter is too thick, add a little more milk.

Thanks for writing and sharing the good "purple" news!! Enjoy.

Missy


Titles of Allergy-Free Recipes

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Dear Missy,

I am very interested in your new book. I was hoping that
amazon would have the look inside for at least the table of
contents.My son has 30 allergies including all of the top8. I am
wondering how many of the recipes are usable as is or with small
modifications. Is there a table of contents list available anywhere?
I would love to look over the titles of the recipes before ordering
it.
Thank you,

Karen

Hi Karen,

So sorry the "search inside" function isn't up yet on Amazon...so here is the table of contents for the allergy-free foods from my new book!

Chapter 7: Sneaky Chef for Food Allergies (15 total)
Gluten-Free Flour Blend
Gluten-Free Better Breading
Gluten-Free Pancakes
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
Gluten-Free Pizza
Gluten-Free Brownies
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders
Eggless and Nutless Chocolate Chip Cookies
Eggless Pancakes
Egg-Free, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Granola Bars
Egg-Free, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Grits Sticks
Eggless Banana Pancakes from Boxed Mix
Eggless Brainy Brownies


Hope that helps!
Missy


"College Brownies"

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Just had to tell you that I've used your brownie recipes
(both doctoring the boxed mix, and from scratch) for my college
daughter's care packages, and they've been devoured by her and her
friends, who she loved telling, after they ate them, about the hidden
ingredients.  Same thing with my 10th grader and 5th grader and their
friends!  I've made the brownies for their sports teams, college and
high school,  to eat before the game on a long bus-ride to an away
game, or after the game.  I've also devised  variations of an "Amish
Friendship Bread" recipe to include the purple  and white purees, and
your flour mix, and can't keep anyone away from them!  My picky
11-year old son never ate a green vegetable in his post-baby food life
until he ate your brownies!  Thank you so much!  Being from Maryland,
crab cakes are our favorite dish, and I just found your recipe, can\'t
wait to try it as I just bought fresh crab meat!  I THANK YOU for
posting that recipe, I\'m sure it will be a hit.  I may just have to
bring that up to the next college lacrosse game tailgate....
Thanks again!
~Mara

Dear Mara,

Let's face it, finding good recipes and sharing them is one of Life's pleasures! I'm so happy that sneak-enhanced brownies are spreading far and wide from your home base.

I'd love for you to share your Amish Bread recipe when we get a page up in the near future for the purpose of readers sharing and swapping their own sneaky creations.

You've won the Supportive Mom award! All the best to you and your athletes,

Missy


Weight Issues

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I have a 13yr. old son that is overweight, we share the same
concerns of his weight problem. However, he is so picky about foods. He
will only eat deepfried things such as chicken, pizzarolls, etc. He
likes pork & beans, mac & cheese and spaghetti w/meat. This is his
diet outside of school. I don\'t know how to change his eating habits
as he refuses to try other obtions!!! Please any help would be
appreciated. Thank you.

Dear April,

You are not alone. Thank goodness our nation's obesity problem is now receiving the attention and concern it merits. I am so relieved every time I get a letter like yours, because I know that once a parent seeks to solve this problem, my books can help.

Because of readers like you, I devoted a substantial part of my third book, "The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue," to low-calorie fare for kids (and adults) just like your son. I encourage you to explore these recipes. Start with those most similar to what he eats now, and then branch out a bit. Don't expect immediate and complete success. You might also be thinking ahead to summer vacation, when he will be eating at home for most meals. Perhaps you can instill a few eating habit goals, with a healthy bribe: if he reaches his goals, the entire family takes a fun trip, etc.

April, I'd love to hear back from you.

Wishing you all the best,

Missy


Stevia?

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Hi Missy! 

I can't tell you enough how much I LOVE both
your books and have placed my hold for your new one at Barnes and
Noble!  The meals I make from your books are our family staples each
night and my entire family LOVES them- even my pickiest eater, my
husband!  : )  I was wondering if you recommend stevia for children
and if so, can it be substituted in any of your recipes?  Thanks SO
MUCH for ALL you have done to make our family eat healthier each day
while loving every bite of it!  : )

Dear Andi,

What a sweet e-mail, literally and figuratively! Before I discuss the natural sugar substitute stevia, may I just say that I'm thrilled you're eating sneaky chef fare on a daily basis. All those nutritious purees will certainly buoy your family's health.

Now, back to stevia: I'm not a doctor or scientist, and as I'm sure you're aware, there has not been enough research on stevia for the FDA to give it a stamp of approval as a food. This is why it's available in health food stores as a supplement. You'll have to do your own research on the subject and come to your own conclusions. As for subbing in stevia, I can tell you that the results will be just as delicious. Just use the conversion charts on www.stevia.com to find out how much stevia to use.

With healthiest regards,

Missy


Peanut Butter Balls & BonBons

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My children love peanut butter balls and I have  recipe that
I currently use (it only has powdered milk, peanut butter, honey and
choc chips).  Do you have any suggestions on how I can "sneak" some
other nutrition into those little balls?
Thanks

Hi Judy,

You can add orange puree to your peanut butter balls, but of course it might take multiple experiments to get it just right. In my third book, "The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue," I've got a great healthy recipe called "sneaky bonbons" that is exactly what you're looking for. The book should be coming to your favorite bookstore in the next few weeks.

Enjoy!

Missy


The Consumate Refuser

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Dear Missy,

I want to thank you so much for your wonderful solutions.  I have a 6 year old who is the consumate refuser...  Of late, he's been subsisting on frozen waffles, cereal bars, rice, and the occasional apple.  So, I was thrilled when I found your cook book.  I made the Brainy Brownies last night after dinner.  My son danced and laughed at the same time telling me how delicious they were.  Since I work at a small school, he wanted me to take them to school for the principal and other teachers.  This morning he even made me pinkie promise to make them again for him.  I am shocked and so happy that he loves it so much and has no idea there is healthy things inside.  Even my oldest son loves them.  And, all the teachers absolutely loved them.  Many were going to our Book Fair today to get their own copy.  So, thanks again.  You have saved me from going crazy and loosing my "Mom Badge" because I'm not feeding enough veggies.

Best wishes from Baton Rouge, La.

Rayma K.

Dear Rayma,

I am so glad that your Refuser has been Defused ; )  And a pinky promise at that!  What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sending it. It made my day : )

Can't wait to hear your next success story!

With healthiest regards,

Missy


Underweight Child

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Dear Sneaky Chef,
I am very interested in using your brilliant ideas in my kitchen. By
I am wondering,  you creates various low calorie recipes, but I have
an 'underweight' 2  and half years old child. So, is it still
suitable to use a low calorie recipe? I like the idea of sneaking the
vegetables in the food though.

Dear Yossi,

There are many ways of introducing more calories to your child's diet while still enjoying the super-healthy recipes in my book. Many children respond well to small snacks throughout the day: a handful of nuts, rice cakes with nut butter or avocado topping, granola bars (I have a great recipe in my first book), yoghurt, etc.

You could let your child have a nutritiously enhanced snack such as my chocolate pudding with avocado, or "breakfast ice cream." Or you could supplement their diet with rich, yummy smoothies (many recipes in my books).

By exploring different snack options, you'll also pick up on what their palate is craving, and be able to strike off in a whole new culinary direction: perhaps she likes crunchy textures, or leans to savory dishes as opposed to sweet ones. I know you'll enjoy this discovery phase, and I am confident that you'll be off to fantastic start with the many recipes to choose from in my books!

With healthiest regards,

Missy


Vegan Needs

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Hi. I love the concept, but my son has severe peanut and
dairy allergies, and my daughter won't eat meat.  Do you have any
ideas on which recipes might convert best to a vegan need?

Thanks, Mary

Hi Mary,

One of my brothers is vegan, so I've had many enjoyable, savory meals with him over the years. I consulted with him in the development of many of the vegetarian recipes you'll find in each of my books, particularly in Book 3, To The Rescue. Each of the recipes is labeled with a "V" in a circle for vegetarian so you can spot them easily. He loves to use different grains to complement the entrée (quinoa, amaranth, and all sorts of different rice blends), which you might explore if your children like variety. But if that's still out of reach for now, you can just stick with the recipe as it's presented in the book and you'll have a sure winner : )

Regarding the dairy and peanut allergies, you can simply substitute soy or rice milk, and chopped walnuts or almonds in most of the recipes.

Keep up the great work!

With healthiest regards,

Missy


Storing Frozen Purées

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Hi Missy,

I was wondering how long the purees are good til when left
in the freezer.  I found myself making many of the meals in the book
and then I stopped.  I want to start up again but I am not sure if I
need to throw it all out and start over.  I have them in sealed
tupperward 1/4 cup individual containers.  I think they have been in
there 6 mths.  What should I do?
thanks!

Dear Corinne,

I'm glad to hear you're thinking sneaky again! I can understand how you want to use the frozen purees you have in the freezer: they represent time, effort and money! And there they are, ready to give a healthy makeover to so many of your family's favorite dishes!

Frozen fruits last 4 to 6 months, and veggies can go a bit longer--up to 8 months, assuming you've got them properly sealed in good containers. Check for any signs of freezer burn. Barring that, it sounds like you can make a big "bon voyage" meal using up your purees. Then whip up a new  batch and enjoy more adventures!

Healthiest regards,

Missy


ADHD

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Missy, I have a son that has ADHD, will the receipes in your
book be good for him?

Dear Rosa,

Good for you for exploring nutritional ways to help your son with ADHD. I am a firm believer in the effect that proper diet can have on our children's health in many regards, and particularly in their ability to focus and concentrate which is so much an issue when dealing with ADHD.

That said, there is more to ADHD then just the ability to concentrate, and proper diet alone is not likely to solve the problem, so I'd recommend that you see a nutritionist and have a conversation with your pediatrician about it as well. They'll both have good ideas about new foods to try and also how to properly monitor the effects that each food is having on your child. I've certainly had many parents share stories with me that their ADHD children have improved when switched to "sneaky" dishes with veggies and fruits in them, and there's also plenty of similar information available on the web. But again, I would definitely recommend speaking with a nutritionist and your pediatrician about it.

Keep up the great work!

With warmest regards,

Missy


Looking forward to GF Recipes

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Hi Missy,

Thanks so much for coming to Heathcote tonite.  It was a great
presentation and the samples were delish!  I am looking forward to
buying your new book, as 2 of my 3 kids have celiac disease and must
be on a GF diet.

Glad to see you doing well and look forward to making your recipes!!

Regards,
Michelle

Dear Michelle,

Thank you so much for your support, appreciation and encouragement! I love getting creative and sneaky in the kitchen, knowing that my dishes can help families such as yours (with special needs) feel good and eat well at the table. I really enjoyed my evening at Healthcote : )

Warmest regards,

Missy


The Sneaky Chef is available at fine booksellers everywhere: