Sneaky-Veggie Pasta Sauce (for the kid in all of us)

So, maybe I'm one of the last people you'd expect to dole out tips on (a) hiding vegetables rather than embracing them with all of the love in the world and (b) getting children to eat healthier, since let's face it, I'm just barely out of childhood myself. Ahem. However, one of my nutrition-related passions is pediatric nutrition, and I think that ups my credibility just a little bit (the fact that I study it, not just that I care a lot about it). Regardless of age, there is an overwhelming percentage of the population who just doesn't get enough fruits and vegetables, and you try telling the majority of them to just buckle down and eat some raw carrots. It ain't happenin'. I developed this "recipe" for a class project aimed at helping parents encourage healthy eating amongst their children, but it works for anyone.

I put recipe in quotes because this is really as simple as pureeing some veggies and throwing them into a premade sauce. Yes, you can use a homemade sauce - of course, that's always the ideal. However, there are some pretty solid jarred varieties out there: fairly low in sodium, high in vitamins, and moderate in sugars. So, this can literally take less than the time it takes for pasta to cook to put together, making it a fantastic option for busy people (which is just about everyone, right?).

Sneaky-Veggie Pasta Sauce
Yield: A lot? 1 jar's worth of sauce, about 32oz.
The Ingredients
1 jar (or homemade batch) of marinara/tomato sauce
4oz. mushrooms, sauteed in 1tsp. olive oil
heaping 1/4C coarsely chopped yellow bell pepper
1/4C steamed + coarsely chopped carrot
handful of spinach

The Method
1. Pour the sauce into a sauce pan over low heat to start to warm up.
2. Add all of the veggies to a food processor and blend until it reaches the desired consistency - this can be as chunky or as smooth as you like (or your child demands). The smoother you want it to be, the more necessary it may be to add a little bit of olive oil to help it along.
3. Add the vegetables to the sauce pan, increase the heat to medium, and cook until warmed through.

Do you see what I mean about this not really being an actual recipe? Plus, there are tons of "recipes" like this out on the World Wide Web, so you don't have to use mushrooms, yellow pepper, carrots, and spinach. You could use hot peppers, zucchini, onion, kale, parsnips, avocado - anything. It's quick, easy, and results in the most vibrant tomato sauce you can imagine. There are flecks of color strewn throughout and an incredible flavor. It's such a simple way to spruce up a meal or cover up your veggies, that I plan to do it the next time I make a tomato sauce from scratch. With something this fast, the question isn't "why bother?" It's: "Why not??"

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