Over the years, my parents have suckered me into eating mushy peas, onions, and garlic. Even now, I can almost tolerate bleu cheese, though at one time, the taste was enough to turn my face inside out, much to my loving parents’ amusement. However, there are some foods that kids will never eat.
For example, I can’t stand mushrooms. My father used to put chopped mushrooms in the meatloaf, but I was too smart for him; I’d pick the little chunks out when the slice was placed on my plate. Then my father got smarter and chopped them so small that I could not see it, but I’d know it was there. He also was smarter than my sister.
My sister does not like carrots. Yet Dad managed to get her to try (and like) carrot cake by offering her a piece and not telling her what it was. While I realize that carrot cake is more sugar and flavoring than actual carrots, and not in anyway healthy, my point is that I’m a firm believer in tricking your kids into eating foods that they didn’t think they would like, like spinach and tofu.
Flipping through a recipe book I received from my vegan best friend, I came across a healthy Mushroom and Spinach Strata. As I perused the measures and means of cooking it, I could imagine taking a big bite of something delicious, though I’d never had strata of any kind before. But the mushrooms were problematic, since neither I, nor my boyfriend (for whom I cook) like mushrooms at all.
Now, don’t freak when I tell you this, but I thought the best substitute would be bananas. Bananas have the same approximate texture, and are about as soft as mushrooms. So why not, right? I promise you, it’s sweet and makes a good, healthy, filling meal for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Plus, it gives you a chance to do something with your stale bread other than attract squirrels and birds to your yard.
Here it is:
Banana and Spinach Strata
6 slices stale bread (broil the slices to a light toast if you don’t have any stale)
1 1/2 Cups thinly sliced shallots (onions work too)
3 Tbsps olive oil
3 1/2 Cups thinly sliced bananas
3 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsps fresh thyme
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
5 pinches of ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
10 ounces chopped spinach
1 lb. soft tofu
2 Tbsps lemon juice
2 tsps yellow mustard
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 Cup water
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350? F.
Saute the shallots in 2 Tbsps of olive oil for 3 minutes on medium in a large, oven-safe skillet. Add the bananas and sauté for another 7 minutes.
In a blender, food processor, or bowl with mixer, combine all the custard ingredients, crumbling the tofu as you add it. Puree the mix until it’s completely smooth. Set aside.
Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, peppers, and salt to the sauté pan. Mix in a handful of spinach with tongs. Continue adding the spinach the same way, waiting until the last handful wilts enough to make room for more. It should take about 5 minutes for all of your spinach to be mixed in.
Turn off the heat and move the ingredients to the side of the pan. Add the last Tbsp of olive oil, and toss in the stale (or toasted) bread and mix it with the other ingredients.
Pour the tofu custard onto the bread mix using a spatula to mush the tofu into the bread – you’ll want everything to be well coated without actually mixing it.
Place the pan in the preheated oven for an hour; the strata should be firm and light brown. Let it cool for 10 minutes before slicing it into eight portions and serving.
While it may sound odd, the bananas caramelize for a delicious, healthy, and animal-friendly meal. So, if your kids think they don’t like spinach or tofu, this might be a good one to trick them into. Even if they don’t like it, at least they tried it. They can make an educated decision on what their taste buds will tolerate.
*Note: This recipe is based on Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Mushroom and Spinach Strata in their book Veganomicaon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.
Harmony Brush is a current Lesley University graduate student living in Rochester, NY. She loves people and writing.