Hide the Veggies and Other Fun Cooking Substitutions

 Written by Guest Blogger and Leap Academy Chef, Harley Dolson

I have been cooking at Leap Academy since the August of 2021; it is my first job cooking at a daycare and loving it so far! I went to Madison Area Technical College for three years right out of high school! Two of those years I was working towards an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts; the third year I was working towards an Associates Degree in Baking and Decorative Arts.


In those three years of college I learned everything from the basics to making food look like a work of art. Not once did I learn how to get a young child to eat their vegetables or anything they view as healthy. I don’t have kids of my own yet so when I started back in August it was definitely a learning curve to get the kids to try vegetables and actually enjoy them! It goes beyond just vegetables too; I never thought I would get a child to lick hummus off their plate because they like it so much. But yet every time we have chocolate hummus on the menu I witness at least one kid licking their plate clean and I love it.


Now you are probably thinking how is chocolate hummus really that healthy for our kids? But we alter recipes to make them as healthy as possible. The hummus is packed full of protein between the chickpeas and the sun butter and just sweet enough with the maple syrup and cocoa powder! And the best part is the kids don’t even realize it’s good for them!

One easy way to get kids to eat vegetables is to hide them. Whether it’s in a pizza or pasta sauce with another vegetable blended in the sauce so they don’t even notice that it’s more than tomato sauce! Another great way is in baked goods such as zucchini bread or carrot muffins. A good way to keep those baked goods as healthy as possible is to subsite out the granulated sugar for maple syrup. That way they are getting something sweet without processed sugars and a vegetable at the same time! 

One of the kids’ favorite lunches is the butternut squash mac and cheese, not only do they love it, it is super easy to make as well! 


Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Recipe

1 pound butternut squash

10 ounces elbow pasta

½ tsp. Onion powder

½ tsp. Garlic powder

2 ½ cups. Milk (or non-dairy alternative)

1 cup shredded cheese (or non-dairy alternative)

Salt and Pepper to taste

**To make vegan substitute milk out for an unsweetened alternative and use dairy free cheese**



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  2. Cut squash in half the long way – scoop out the seeds and guts
  3. Roast squash face down until tender – once cool peel off the skin 
  4. Start water to cook the noodles – cook according to the box
  5. While the noodles are cooking, heat together the squash and milk in a pot big enough for the sauce and noodles – once warm, blend together either using an immersion blender or a normal blender. (if using a normal blender transfer sauce back into the original pot once blended)
  6. Melt in the cheese to the sauce – once the cheese is melted add in the noodles a mix together
  7. ENJOY!

Leave a Comment