When you’re out grocery shopping and choosing the food your family eats, Cynthia Lair, author of “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children and their Parents” asks you to consider the following:
Can I imagine it growing?
How many ingredients does it have?
What’s been done to the food since it was harvested?
Is this product “part” of a food or the “whole” entity?
How long has this food been known to nourish human beings?
On it’s third edition, Lair’s cookbook for feeding the whole family is chock full of great information and inspiring recipes. Spanning the globe with influences from French, Greek, Thai and the American Northwest cuisines, Lair’s recipes are varied and easy and incorporate real, whole foods.
The first 55 pages are introductory, and truly, a joy to read. I found myself underlining points throughout and even learned a few tips and tricks! She quickly and efficiently explained the importance of certain cooking techniques, including soaking grains and legumes to increase their digestibility, while on the next page discuses the importance of sitting down for family meals. Her discussion on foods to eat when pregnant and breastfeeding, and how to later incorporate baby’s meals with what the family is eating was very helpful.
Most of the recipes include options for feeding babies and toddlers from the same familial pot, sometimes by removing certain ingredients mid-cooking to mash and serve separately before other spices are added, others by creating a “buffet” of sorts to make individualized plates once dinner is served with parents having the opportunity for more and spicier palates while younger children can still have a varied plate. She provides several tips for working with picky eaters (children and adults alike!) and offers great encouragement for raising healthy eaters.
One point I really appreciated and agree with is that though it is our job as parents to ensure healthy food for our children, “learning to bend rules, be flexible and let go are perhaps the most important lessons of parenting.” She explains that “forbidden” foods become irresistible to children because they take on “more power than they warrant. She instead encourages parents to relax around birthday parties and other occasions when junk food is present. Knowing that you are serving nutritionally sound food at home the majority of the time will allow you to bend the rules occasionally.
She tells parents to relax, that “children have good instincts. If they are being offered excellent foods, they will eat exactly what their body needs. Children create a balanced diet over many days rather than within one day.” So if your kid only wants to eat cheese and strawberries for lunch (as is often the case in our house), relax. It’s OK once in a while.
I had a difficult time trying to decide what recipes to try for this review; there were many that piqued my interest, which is always a good sign with a new cookbook! An entire chapter of recipes for “lively lunch box” foods made my mouth water; I could see everyone in my family enjoying something from the repertoire. We made the Pumpkin Pecan Muffins, Chicken Coconut Soup and Yakisoba. All were excellent and I would make them again (especially the chicken coconut soup – YUM!). I appreciated that the muffins, and all of the baked goods in the cookbook, are made with natural sweeteners like honey or molasses or maple syrup, and the techniques I learned for incorporating the natural (liquid) sweeteners in quick breads were worth the cost of the book itself!
Though not a specifically vegetarian cookbook, about half of the recipes are vegetarian or vegetarian friendly.
I have bookmarked several more recipes to try including Ben’s Friday pancakes, a gluten-free, whole grain pancake recipe, sesame rice balls, French Lentil Dijon Spread, Salmon Reuben Sandwiches and Thai Steak Salad over Soba. This cookbook won’t be getting dusty on my bookshelf.
As a foodie, and a busy mom, I really loved this cookbook. If you are looking for inspiring ways to incorporate more whole grains and legumes in your diet, want quick and tasty (and frugal!) meals that feed and satisfy the whole family, from babies to parents, and want to learn more about choosing and feeding your family wholesome, nourishing and nutritious food, “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children and their Parents” is one I’d highly recommend.
Still not quite ready to take the plunge? To see many of the recipes in this book (for free!), check out the Lair family’s cooking blog, Cookus Interruptus.