Parents commonly grapple with getting their children to try new foods and nosh on nutritional bites. To help in that arena, Annabel Karmel, maven of children's meals, gives sound nutritional principles in her latest offering, the Canadianized version of the British First Meals: Your Questions Answered.
Its 50 new recipes adapted for Canucks (did someone say Maple-Oat Clusters?), Q&As tackling common eating issues and helpful info boxes encourage parents to guide their children - from infants to three-year-olds - to be interested in an array of healthy eating choices.
For families dealing with more restrictive diets, Karmel acknowledges these sensitivities with sections such as "Babies on Special Diets," including tips for vegetarians, and "Understanding Allergies," an imperative addition as food allergies are indeed on the rise. Here, parents will find information on moderate, delayed and severe symptoms (anaphylaxis), and clues to help figure out if your baby has a food allergy.
Most refreshing is Karmel's balance in her quest to tempt children's taste buds.
I'll single out the Funny-Face Hamburgers served with a smile, and the irresistible Cupcake Caterpillar, a fun and effortless treat recipe I had much fun creating with my children (the massive mess was well worth it).
Other options do involve sneaking good nutrition into your child, such as the Apple-Bran Muffins (I added extra wheat germ and bran for good measure) and Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie.
One recipe we all love to eat occasionally is homemade, baked fries. Although the Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Wedges are in the nine-to-12-month age section of the book, they were a hit with our kids, even though they first resisted trying them.
Perhaps the book's most versatile recipe is the Hidden Vegetable Tomato Sauce, a great time-saver to keep in a freezer to use with pasta, chicken, fish, or on pizzas. Pasta is a staple in our household, and I found this pureed recipe was easily spiced up for the adult plates.
Another favourite our kids love for lunch is chicken noodle soup. Karmel's Mommy's Chicken Soup packs a much healthier punch than mine, with an abundance of herbs (thyme, parsley and bay leaves, oh my!).
3/4 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup (175 ml) sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml) vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) self-rising flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) softened unsalted butter
2 cups (500 ml) icing sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) vanilla extract
Red, dark green, light green, and yellow food colouring
Thin black licorice lace
1 black licorice ball
1 mini marshmallow
2 silver balls
6-8 mini chocolate cake rolls
Coloured candies and jelly beans
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Line 12 small muffin or cupcake pans with paper baking cups.
To make the cupcakes, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until just combined. Divide among the paper baking cups. Bake until risen and golden and the centre springs back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pans briefly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the buttercream, beat the butter until pale, then beat in the sugar a little at a time, followed by the vanilla. Add 1-2 tablespoon milk if needed. Scoop a rounded tablespoon of the frosting into a small bowl and colour it red. Colour half of the remaining frosting dark green and the rest light green.
To make the head, frost one of the cupcakes with the red buttercream. Cut two antennae from the licorice lace and a nose from the licorice ball. For the eyes, cut a mini marshmallow in half and colour the cut side with a toothpick dipped in yellow food colouring. Add a silver ball to the centre. Position the antennae, nose, and eyes on the head and add a mouth in licorice lace. Leave to set.
Frost half of the remaining cupcakes with dark green buttercream and half with light green buttercream. Put a line of chocolate cake rolls along the bottom of a large board (such as a cutting board covered in foil) to make a tree branch. Position the cupcakes to resemble a caterpillar waffling along the branch. Make markings on the caterpillar's back with coloured candies, jelly beans, or thin strips of licorice, sticking them into the buttercream at angles.