I’ve heard there are some three-year-olds who love to eat salad, and happily snack on a variety of veggies. The parents of those children either know something I don’t or they are just blessed with healthful (albeit unusual) children.

My three-year-old has a very narrow range of vegetables he deems acceptable to eat.  He’ll eat raw carrots (heaven forbid I put “squishy”–a.k.a. cooked–carrots in anything), cucumbers, and corn.  He recently decided he likes broccoli, too, but so far that one’s more theory than practice.

From time to time I get really good about cooking with vegetable purees, to try and sneak in a few of the veggies he would not otherwise eat.

We all know this trick has been around forever; my mom used to blend peas into spaghetti sauce because I refused to eat them. Jessica Seinfeld has an entire cookbook on this topic, Deceptively Delicious. I have this book.  I haven’t made a ton of the recipes from the book, but I like to use it as a reference (there’s lots of good info at the beginning about what nutrients are in each fruit/veggie, and how to prepare the purees) and sometimes for a little inspiration, as I often prefer to incorporate purees into my usual recipes.

Today I will go over some of the basics of preparing and storing veggie purees, and from time to time I will add some recipes to the blog that I’ve made that are full of sneaky veggies!

Preparing and Storing Veggie Purees

Step 1: Wash and chop your veggies.  You don’t have to chop them super fine, just into chunks to fit into your pot/food processor. See the photo above to get an idea of how I usually chop my cauliflower. If you’re using frozen veggies, rather than fresh, you can obviously skip this step.

Step 2: Steam veggies.  I don’t have a fancy steamer or steaming tray. I almost always steam my veggies by putting them in a saucepan with about an inch of water, covering the pot with a lid, and cooking on high/med-high until veggies are tender. Don’t overcook, as this causes the veggies to lose some of their nutritional value (which is, of course, the whole reason you are bothering sneaking them in, right?).

Step 3:  Puree veggies. Place cooked veggies in a food processor (or blender).  Process for about 2 minutes to get a smooth consistency.  If you need to add a little water to the puree, I recommend using the water you steamed the veggies in.  I’ve heard that any nutrients lost in cooking will have leached out into the water, so this is a better option that just using tap water. That’s what I do anyway.

I have a tiny food processor, so when I cook a whole head of cauliflower, for example, I have to puree it in batches. So after each batch I empty my processor into a bowl, so I have a lovely bowl of nutritious mush when I’m done!

Step 4: Divide puree into portions.  I like to fold my baggies over before adding the puree, so that any mess that happens ends up on the inside of the bag, instead of all over the zipper/outside of the bag.  I usually divide mine into half cup portions.  I realize that 1/2 cup of veggie puree in a dinner isn’t going to make a giant difference in a kid’s diet, but I kind of figure that any little bit counts.  Sometimes I use multiple purees in one dinner.  You could do that, or up the amount of a single puree, or just stick with the 1/2 cup and be happy if your kids are getting any extra veggies at all!

Tip: If you flatten the puree out in the bag, it takes up less room in your freezer!

Step 5: Freeze! I didn’t do it in this picture, but you can put your individual bags into a gallon freezer bag to help keep them fresh longer.  It’s also a good idea to label your bags with the date and what type of puree they are. This way you can keep track of what you’ve got and how long it’s been in there!

Note: I make purees for most veggies this way, but when I do sweet potatoes, I bake them instead of steaming, before pureeing.  Other vegetables might be better baked as well, like winter squashes, for example.

Step 6: Thaw and incorporate into your favorite meal!

Here are a few examples of things I’ve done with purees before:

  • Alphabet soup with cauliflower puree
  • Lasagna with cauliflower puree (mix into the ricotta/cottage cheese before layering)
  • Spaghetti sauce with red bell pepper and broccoli purees
  • Chili with sweet potato puree
  • Sweet and sour chicken with sweet potato puree

Have you cooked with veggie purees before? I would love to hear your tips and recipes!