I love to cook. Before having kids I used to eagerly await the New York Times’ weekly Dining & Wine section. But these days I’m seeking food inspiration that is a bit easier and more approachable for my family. Chronicle Books has published two new cookbooks that answered my call – both are specially- designed for families with young children. They sent us The Toddler Café and Time for Dinner to review.
Time for Dinner is written by the editors of Cookie Magazine. I was disappointed when Cookie Magazine stopped publishing so it is no surprise that this cookbook has become an instant new favorite for me. I used to love their monthly food feature that started with one simple kitchen ingredient, such as spinach, and then uses cool linear graphics to diagram three different meal paths you can follow, such as chicken saag, mini vegetable custards or warm spinach & orzo salad. I truly appreciate the simple ingredient lists for most of their recipes. I am among those guilty of collecting large amounts of rare spices or ingredients for a recipe that I only make once. The first recipe I made was for chicken cacciatore and it came out very tasty. With the exception of the red wine I had all the rest of the ingredients in my kitchen. It was quick, easy and inexpensive. Since I was cooking and watching a two and three year old at the same time I did make one error. I added the wine directly to the chicken rather than the sauce so my chicken turned an interesting shade of purple but that didn’t ultimately change the fantastic flavors. The second recipe I followed was for muffin-tin gorditas. Using my cupcake tins I whipped up canned cream corn, corn meal, and cheese to create crispy cornbread-type bowls which I then filled with shredded chicken, cheese and guacamole for a fun, easy meal.
The Toddler Café is written by chef, mom and food stylist Jennifer Carden. According to the author this book offers fast, healthy, and fun ways to feed even the pickiest eaters. The photography is extreme close-ups of kids enjoying the food and many of the recipes offer suggestions on how to include children in the preparation. I followed the Grab-and-Grow Granola recipe and was very happy with the result. It was easy to make and store. My husband and I are big fans of the sweet nuttiness of this recipe – lots of oats and pecans. After reading about some of the high sugars and bad fats in some of the boxed granolas, I was happy to find a recipe where I know exactly what I am serving. I found the recipe notes particularly helpful as it let me tailor the recipe to make it crispy versus chewy in texture. One word of caution from my experience – skip the parchment paper as suggested. I was picking shards of parchment paper off tiny bits of granola bits forever. The second recipe I made was for Creamy Cloud Dip. Really just a fancy name for sweetening your own yogurt, but me and my son are converts. Mixing together Greek-style yogurt, coconut, honey and vanilla created a perfect mildly sweet perfect way to begin our day. And again I like having the control over the sweetness and core ingredients. In all fairness, I can’t say these recipes transformed the eating habits of my kids. My toddlers are good eaters, but it takes several attempts before they will give new foods a real taste. I’ll be making this and more of their recipes to serve my family.
– That’s IT Mommy friends, Jill & family
Here is the Chicken Cacciatore recipe from Time for Dinner.
Begin with a 28-ounce can of peeled, whole plum tomatoes (we are partial to the San Marzano variety.) Squish them with your hands as you drop them, with their juices, into the pan.
1) Salt chicken pieces (any cuts, about 1 1/2 lbs total) and brown on all sides in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
2) In the same pan, saute a chopped onion, a handful of sliced mushrooms, and a chopped bell pepper (red or green) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about 8 minutes.
3) Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 cup of red wine. Cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes more.
4) Add the chicken back to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, turning the pieces once halfway through.
5) Remove the chicken, set aside. Increase heat to medium. Let the sauce reduce for 15 minutes, then remove it from heat. Add chopped basil, salt and pepper.
6) Serve the chicken over noodles (or rice) topped with the sauce.