This afternoon, I spoke with The Sneaky Chef, Missy Chase Lapine, about her path to Sneaky Chef-hood–a journey centered around transforming children into healthier eaters. The bestselling author, named among the Top 20 Most Influential Moms in Food this year, has written over half a dozen books and worked as a cooking instructor at New York’s finest culinary schools. Lapine plays an integral role in Parenting Magazine‘s expert “Mom Squad” team and serves on the Family Advisory Council of New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital–where Sneaky Chef recipes are served to patients!
Her exclusive prepared foods, a growing segment of the Sneaky business, are also featured and sold at select Whole Foods Markets. Follow our conversation below to discover the “sneakiest” ingredients Lapine has ever infused into meals for her kids! Afterwards, I sampled (and thoroughly enjoyed) Sneaky tomato sauce, spaghetti, and no-nut butter!
Emily Giove: What inspired you to become “The Sneaky Chef?”
Missy Chase Lapine: I was totally inspired simply by being a mother. My second daughter had a lot of food allergies and some medical issues, so I had to get cleverer in the kitchen. I had to find a way to get the good stuff she needed inside the food she loved to eat. My method is based around sneaking vegetable purees into kids’ favorite meals. It’s a really simple way to make everything they already love to eat that much healthier.
EG: What were your first steps?
MCL: I was the publisher of Eating Well magazine, and then had my two children. I was just doing this for my daughter and then realized it could help millions of people and families. So, I started to put it all down on paper and wrote a book that became a New York Times bestseller…and then I wrote six more.
EG: What is your favorite part about being “The Sneaky Chef?”
MCL: My favorite part is that what I’m doing provides an instant solution to the whole healthy eating debacle. My products are a win-win for parents and children, everyone’s happy.
EG: Were YOU a picky eater growing up?
MCL: No, I don’t think so. We weren’t really allowed to be picky at my house. The choice was take it or leave it. Learning to love food and cook came later in life for me, though.
EG: If you hadn’t launched the Sneaky empire, what might you be doing instead?
MCL: I loved working in magazines and probably would’ve stayed with magazine publishing.
EG: Can you describe a typical workday?
MCL: I’ve written six cookbooks under the Sneaky Chef series. Over the past year, I’ve been launching a line of Sneaky Chef foods in grocery stores. What I spend most of my time doing now is creating and testing recipes for these products. I’m focused on getting my products onto the shelf to allow moms to feed children Sneaky Chef every day. I’m always doing recipe innovation, thinking ahead, corresponding a lot with my followers to hear what their needs are, what they would like to have next. There’s a lot of communication between us. I’m most focused on marketing and promotion of my food line.
EG: What component of your great success are you most proud of?
MCL: I’m very proud of helping America change the way it feeds its kids. We like to say “veggies tonight without a fight.” My objective is to allow families to have peaceful meals together—that are also healthier. Once that happens, you’ve won the battle.
EG: What do you cook most often at home?
MCL: We use a lot of our new Sneaky Chef pasta sauce, whether in pizza, baked ziti, or spaghetti. It’s a very versatile sauce. In my house, we probably go through a jar of that almost every day. The sauce has eight hidden veggies in it with no added sugar; it’s sweetened with sweet potatoes and carrots. Now that it’s summer, we’re doing a lot of breakfast ice cream: Greek yogurt with frozen bananas and other fruits. It’s like a soft-serve ice cream. A great anytime snack.
EG: What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
MCL: My favorite kitchen tool is a pair of kitchen scissors. I cut everything from grilled cheese to pizza to lettuce. They’re just extremely useful. A good pair of scissors is sometimes better than a knife.
EG: Any sneaky recipes you’ve attempted that didn’t work?
MCL: Of course, it’s all trial-and-error. I’ve had a lot of failures over the years. I have yet to find a way to sneak beets into anything; they’re really hard to hide.
EG: What’s the most outrageous ingredient you’ve successfully snuck into a dish?
MCL: My brainy brownies get a lot of attention. Putting spinach and blueberries—my “purple” puree—in a fudgy, delicious brownie is very exciting!
EG: What are your two daughters’ favorite Sneaky meals?
MCL: Sneaky baked ziti is always a favorite among my kids and their friends. They also love my brainy brownies.
EG: What’s your guilty pleasure, or ultimate comfort food?
MCL: Like everyone, I love mac n cheese, but I try not to indulge. The way I make it with my sneaky chef puree of sweet potato and carrot (to replace a lot of the high fat cheese), and with my veggie pasta (whole grain), then I feel really good about eating it!
EG: So Sneaky Chef is not just for kids?
MCL: It’s primarily designed to help kids by modifying their favorite foods, but Sneaky Chef products are great for the kid in all of us. Anyone of any age can eat his or her favorite comfort foods invisibly made healthier. You don’t miss out on any of the flavor or satisfaction, you just have it in a less fattening way. My method shaves off half the calories and fat. You can also use puree as a cleanse by eating it plain to kick-start any diet!
EG: What’s on the horizon for you and Sneaky Chef Foods now?
MCL: Sneaky Chef Foods are now on shelves across America in stores like Whole Foods, Mrs. Green’s, some Shop Rites, and DeCicco’s. We will eventually come out with better kids foods in almost every category. Right now, we have a peanut butter alternative, pasta sauces, etc. We intend to make all kids’ favorite foods healthier in a way that they’ll still love them.
EG: Lastly, what would be your final meal on earth?
MCL: A great, greasy, cheesy, chewy slice of pizza. I really love pizza.