The audience for this book opens up discussions on issues associated with food but not directly related to cooking.
One-Handed Cooks is a website which provides recipes and nutritional advice specifically targeted to families with babies and toddlers. In 2016 the team released their first cookbook, One-Handed Cooks: How to Raise a Happy, Healthy Eater focussed on families with babies through to school-aged children. This second book expands on the first with a particular focus on “making the most of every family mealtime”.
The specified audience for this fine cookbook opens the introductory pages up to issues associated with food but not directly related to cooking – child behaviour, relationships with food, mealtime discipline, role modelling, and so on. It’s all valuable and accurate child-rearing information that is often overlooked but so important in helping to teach a child the value of good nutrition and healthy eating habits.
This targeted information is accompanied by nutritional facts and other useful sections on how to read a nutritional panel on packaging, the importance of homemade over processed convenience meals, allergies and intolerances, serving sizes, and a breakdown in understanding levels of fat, sodium (salt), sugar and fibre.
The thirteen colour-coded sections of the book come with their own multi-page introduction with topics including Baby Food, Making the Most of Breakfast, Snack Times Matter, Family Meals, Vegetarian Family Meals, Nourishing Sweet Foods, Lunchbox and Sensory Play. The latter section is devoted more to a child’s pre-meal routine which may help their ability to sit, eat and engage at the dinner table and includes five recipes to make shake bottles, playdough, sensory bags, calming bottles, and coloured pasta to play with.
Each recipe is clearly flagged if gluten-free, wheat-free, freezable, dairy-free, egg-free or vegetarian, with some recipes including suggestions for ingredient substitutes for other allergies. Also, of particular use at the base of most of these simple recipes, are suggestions to “Boost Your Basics”, storage information, and other tips.
With no young children of my own, the two recipes I opted to sample were to satisfy my own adult tastes but would be equally palatable for school-aged children.
Honey Tumeric Chicken Skewers (page 126)
This easy recipe fits all categories except vegetarian. It’s fast to make – only 10 minutes prep and an equal amount of cooking time, but the meat does need to be marinated for a minimum of 3 hours. I left mine overnight in the fridge. For babies under 12 months, it is recommended to swap the honey for pure maple syrup, which is what I did. The turmeric, combined with lemon juice, cumin and garlic gives this chicken a slightly tangy taste but served with rice and a nice salad, the balance of flavours on the plate make these basic chicken skewers a bliss bomb of flavour. This is one I will happily make again, particularly if in a hurry as I’m sure the sauce will still provide a good flavour if poured over the cooking chicken without letting the meat marinate first.
Naturally, the meat does not need to be skewered but the authors explain in this recipe about the benefit of tactile foods for young children, along with when it’s generally safe to begin adding mild spices to your child’s diet.
Lamb Riblets (page 131)
Oddly enough, I could not find lamb riblets in the supermarket or at my local butcher, so I made the bad choice of opting for lamb ribs instead. The anticipated flavour was spot on and wonderful, but it was a poor choice for myself as I tend to avoid both fatty and thick slabs of meat. When I do by thick cuts of meat, it’s always for the slow cooker or oven. This dish is cooked on the BBQ or in a fry pan and, as you’ll see from the photo, my meat ended up being overcooked on the outside in order to have it just pink on the inside. It actually wasn’t as bad as it looks but it’s fiascoes like this where my own son would laugh disapprovingly then order pizza for dinner.
That said, the marinate comprising garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and more, gives the meat a light flavour that is as tasty as it is subtle. I served it up with a side of sweet potato mash. I’d like to try this again with thinner strips of lamb because, with just 1 hour required to marinate the meat, it’s easy to prepare early enough for dinner.
Tips for children on this recipe include ideas for when your child refuses to eat meat, and what to do with left overs. As with other similar tips throughout the book, they are practical and obvious once pointed out.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: March 2019