Thursday, September 6, 2012

Stealth Spaghetti

  What do you do when your kids don't like vegetables? Well, if you're a parent, you present an assortment of vegetables served various ways on a regular basis in hopes your child's palate will develop and he'll find at least a few vegetables he can enjoy. If you're a grandparent you can be excused for leaving this battle to their parents.
~ But if you are a "Special Ops" parent or grandparent you'll use stealth technology. I am a member of an elite team of Special Ops moms who earned promotion to Seal Team Grandma. One of my skills is getting kids to eat their veggies. Let me show you one of my favorite ways...

I start with the following rations: ground beef, shredded vegetable salad blend, garden style spaghetti sauce, and spaghetti noodles.

 (usually I choose SmartTaste pasta blend for its nutritional advantage, but this day I didn't have any on hand.)

I put 2 pounds of lean ground beef and 2 cups of shredded salad mix in a fry pan and browned the meat over medium heat, stirring to break up the meat and to make sure the veggies cooked thoroughly. The salad mix I used this time is called "Rainbow Salad Mix". It has a mixture of carrots, broccoli, and cabbage. Sometimes I use a package called "Broccoli Slaw" which is very similar. The main idea is to have finely shredded assorted veggies. When my garden is ready to harvest I use zucchini, onions, peppers, carrots, beans, and/or broccoli. When I use fresh veggies I usually run them through the food processor to get the pieces as small as possible. 

I continue to cook this mixture, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned and the veggies are very tender. The day I made this batch  I used a big fork to "mash" up the veggies until the pieces were almost undetectable. When I use the food processor method of cutting the veggies that step is unnecessary. When everything is browned and the veggies are very tender it is time to drain off the fat. 

After the mixture has been drained. It is time to add the garden style spaghetti sauce. We like Ragu Chunky Garden Style. Oddly enough, after all that hiding of the veggies the spaghetti sauce has chunks of veggies too. I like to let the sauce simmer for about 1/2 hour or even more. That breaks down some of the veggies.  

This is what it looked like just before I put it on the table to serve my little veggie malcontents.

This is an up-close view of the sauce. Only the most experienced veggie rebel would even look twice. And if they like Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top...well, all the better...nah-ah-ah

This is the official Stealth Spaghetti Recipe:
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 cups finely shredded vegetables (carrots, onions, broccoli, zucchini, cabbage, etc)
2 small jars, or 1 large jar Ragu Chunky Garden Style pasta sauce
1 pound spaghetti noodles
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Brown ground beef and cook shredded vegetables in a large fry pan over medium heat until beef is brown and the vegetables are very tender. Break up the vegetables until they are hard to see. Drain fat. Add the pasta sauce and simmer for additional 30 minutes to allow the vegetables to continue to break down in the sauce. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles and top with shredded Parmesan cheese. 

What was the taste tester's bottom line?

These little tester's mom told me they won't eat ANY vegetables. This spaghetti earned 2-thumbs-up (actually Jordan gave it a thumbs-up, Brayden gave it an index-finger-up...that whole thumb/finger thing is hard to figure out when you're 3). Jordan had three helpings, but to be totally honest although Brayden told me "this is the best sketty ever", he changed his mind and decided he didn't like it when he was told he had to finish his dinner before he could have a second glass of chocolate milk. He never did finish his plate of "sketty" ~ but Seal Team Grandma didn't cave in and give him any more chocolate milk...sometimes you have to remember you want all parties to live to fight another day.

The bottom line: This has been a long-fought war. I have many many "wins" on my side. Every once in a while a veggie insurgent will get past me, but I just take that as a challenge. I've hidden veggies in chili - regular chili and chili for hot dogs, in sloppy joes, in muffins and cakes, in soups, and in gravies. I even made "zucchini crisp" that tasted just like apple crisp, and one time a friend and I canned zucchini chunks with pineapple flavor that my son liked better than canned pineapple! These days you can buy juice that has a serving of veggies. Sometimes a grandma's gotta do what a grandma's gotta do.

What ideas have you used to get your veggie rebels to eat their veggies?