It's rare when I jump to a recommendation without weeks of scrutiny, but Tyler Florence's Start Fresh cookbook won me over as soon as I started reading it.
Jim, This Is Just To Say*
I have eaten
that were in
you definitely meant
they were delicious
and so warm.
I'm too lazy for most celebrity chef cookbooks. The recipes seem designed to occupy hours shopping for hard-to-find ingredients, doing abundant prep work, and then obsessively observing every stage of cooking. What I need now, with my household of five, is simplicity, clarity, and health.
A mom who was making her baby all-organic baby food recommended the book to me, and I thought, "Lady, you're insane." Every time I cracked the cover of a baby cookbook, I spent at least an hour preparing something that NO ONE in the family wanted to eat (though Jim would very kindly feign enthusiasm for the disgustingly soft, unbelievable bland horror that I dished up). My friends grew an organic garden and made mountains of baby food for their first child, only to have it summarily rejected. I was too smart to do this again (note: with every new Jones baby I buy an expensive sling I hate and a stack of labyrinthine baby/kid cookbooks). Not this time (for the cookbooks, I already gave up on a Moby wrap).
And then came the line that landed the sales pitch, "You make one meal for the whole family and just puree some of it for the baby."
I dream of only making one meal that everyone eats. Somehow, I have become that short-order mom who everyone thinks they won't be. My kids eat fruit, breads, peanut butter, crackers, and cheese. It's like being stuck at a w(h)ine and cheese buffet for life. Jim and I still love the variety and flavors offered through menu planning service Relish! (we've subscribed since '08). So I've been making two meals and feeding the baby from jars and containers.
When (Tyler Florence's) Sprout baby food went on sale at the grocery, I bought a couple packs. If the baby would reject them like the other kids' did another leading organic baby food brand, I could cast out the lingering book recommendation faster than she spits out peas.
The baby all but wept for joy at the first taste. Her joyful face soon turned cynical as I swear she thought, "What else are you holding out on?" Then she banged her fists until she ate every bit. About 10 bags later, I bought the book.
Start Fresh is a pragmatist's cookbook. Recipes call for simple ingredients that are roasted or steamed (techniques that are cheap and easy). Jim has some great 13 gauge baking sheets which are perfect for roasting.
Last night the baby ate pureed roasted broccoli with Paremsan while we tossed the broccoli with some random pasta, Parmesan, and olive oil. It was outstanding. Even Ranger ate the letters in his name (which is something for a 6 year old who doesn't eat pasta). Jim was gleeful when I packed the leftovers for his lunch.
And then he forgot them. (And Jim, should you still be reading this, I actually saved half for you.)
Start Fresh: Your Child's Jump Start to Lifelong Healthy Eating is currently an Amazon bargain book ($7.79). The first part of the book is purees while the second half is family meals with simple adaptations. About half the recipes are vegetarian (including great foods like beets, quinoa, eggplant, butternut squash). Only four dessert recipes are included- which is a refreshing change from most kids' cookbooks. The included desserts look healthier than average while still sounding sumptuous (e.g. baked pumpkin with peaches, strawberry-stuffed muffins).
While the book has some fancy-pants moments like making your own almond milk, it has parallel slacker instructions for us less motivated readers.
*My deepest apologies to William Carlos Williams, his red wheelbarrow, the white chickens, and the rain.
***Baby Toolkit is one Midwestern couple's approach to geek living with kids. Our opinions and judgement may be questionable, but they are entirely our own. We have no relationship with Tyler Florence or Rodale books. We are however Amazon affiliates, so a small percentage of purchases made through our links helps support this blog (thanks!).