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Picky eaters won’t detect the veggies in these recipes

Brownies, mac and cheese, and muffins with healthful ingredients.

Naturally red velvety brownies. Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty/Jim Scherer

Back in the day, you couldn’t have your sweets until you finished your beets. Now, thanks to today’s turbocharged blenders, your beets can be pulverized and stealthily folded into brownies, your sweet potatoes used to sweeten up muffins, and your cauliflower buzzed into mac and cheese. As a bonus, the blender mixes all the wet ingredients together, so there are no additional dirty dishes. For picky eaters (both small and large), these recipes each sneak in two vegetables and are a great way to add nutrients to fan favorites, using dominant flavors like chocolate, coconut, or cheese to throw your crowd off the healthful veggie scent. After they eat and enjoy, it’s fun to play the “guess the mystery ingredient” game . . . or maybe keep this your little secret.

Naturally Red Velvety Brownies


Makes 16 2-inch square brownies

For a more nutritious brownie, substitute oat flour for half the amount of all-purpose flour, use 3 tablespoons of canola oil in place of the 4 tablespoons of butter, and reduce the confectioners’ sugar in the icing.

Nonstick cooking spray

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1¼ cups bittersweet chocolate chips (60 percent cacao)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large eggs

1½ cups roasted and peeled diced beets

2/3 cup cooked black beans, packed (rinsed well if canned)

1 cup granulated sugar


8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Kosher salt

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

With the rack in the center position, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-by-8-inch nonreactive pan with nonstick spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour and cocoa powder and set aside.

In the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water, heat the chocolate chips and 4 tablespoons butter until melted, about 5 minutes. This can also be done in a heat-proof container in the microwave using 20-second bursts, stirring in between bursts. Set aside.


TIP: To ease the task of peeling beets, roast trimmed, washed, foil-wrapped medium-sized beets in a 400-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. One at a time, unwrap and transfer to a double layer of paper towel, root end up. With paper towel under your thumb, rub from root end to top, removing skin. Use a paring knife for any remaining resistant peel, especially near the top. Repeat with remaining beets.Mark Schou

In the canister of a blender, combine the eggs, beets, and beans, starting on low speed, then gradually increasing to the highest speed until finely pureed. Scrape down the sides with a flexible spatula as necessary. Time varies widely depending on the blender. Add the granulated sugar, pulsing to combine. Add the melted chocolate mixture, blending until the mixture is homogeneous. Add the contents of the blender to the dry ingredients, in 3 additions, mixing with a flexible spatula until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan and a skewer comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the icing. With a hand-held or standing mixer on medium then high speed, cream the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons butter until fluffy, scraping down the sides as necessary, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add vanilla, a pinch of salt, and confectioners’ sugar, 1/3 cup at a time. Mix until combined.

Using an offset spatula, frost the brownies just before serving. (If they are allowed to sit frosted overnight, a thin layer of frosting will turn pink. Uncut brownies in plastic-wrapped pan may be refrigerated for up to 3 days.) Cut into 2-by-2-inch squares and, using a small offset spatula, remove them from the pan and serve.


Sweet Potato-Coconut Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Toss foil-wrapped sweet potatoes in a 400-degree oven while you are making dinner, allowing the potatoes to bake about an hour. No need to peel them immediately — it’ll be even easier after a night in the refrigerator.

Nonstick cooking spray

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

Kosher salt

¾ cup toasted sweetened coconut flakes

1 cup roasted and peeled sweet potato

½ cup cooked cannellini beans (rinsed well if canned)

6 tablespoons canola oil

3 large eggs

½ cup whole milk

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup raw sweetened coconut flakes

With the rack in the center position, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, and toasted coconut flakes, and set aside.

In the canister of a blender, add the sweet potato, cannellini, oil, eggs, milk, and brown sugar, blending until the mixture is finely pureed, scraping down the sides as necessary with a flexible spatula. Start on low and increase to the highest speed. Time varies widely depending on the blender. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in 3 additions, and mix with a flexible spatula until they are just combined. Transfer the batter to the muffin tins, filling each cavity full. Top with the raw coconut flakes. Bake until the tops are light golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 24 to 28 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan. Transfer the muffins to a rack to finish cooling, then serve or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


White Mac and Cheese

Makes 4 to 6 large servings

If you want to add more dietary fiber to this dish, but your crowd isn’t crazy about darker whole-wheat pasta, try a high-fiber white pasta.

12 ounces uncooked pasta, small shells or elbow macaroni (about 28 ounces cooked)

4 cups small cauliflower florets

2 cups peeled, roughly chopped parsnips

2 1/3 cups whole milk

1¼ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt

Cook pasta following package directions until al dente. Rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside.

Steam the cauliflower and parsnips until softened, about 10 minutes, and add to the canister of a blender. Add 2 cups of milk and blend on high speed until finely pureed, scraping down the sides as necessary. Time varies widely depending on the blender. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large pot. Heat over low heat, stirring continuously and being careful to avoid creating shooting steam bubbles. When the mixture is steaming, after 5 to 7 minutes, add the cheeses and stir until they melt, about 2 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add the remaining milk. Season with salt if necessary (depending on saltiness of the cheese). Add the reserved pasta to the pot and combine. Warm slightly and serve.


Denise Drower Swidey is a frequent Globe Magazine contributor. Send comments to cooking@globe.com.