Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair

"Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair really is for the WHOLE family - and that includes infants and young children. Lair, a certified Health and Nutrition Counselor, devotes a whole chapter on starting your baby on solid foods. From there, she gives practical tips and advice on how to attract your children to healthy food. Lair also discusses the importance of whole, organic foods and well-balanced meals.

And then it's on to the recipes. A cool feature is that almost all of the recipes give suggestions for how it can be prepared for a baby. Many also include variations to make the dish more appealing to children. The cookbook includes the following sections:

Basic Grain and Bean Cookery: A good reference for basic cooking of whole grains, pastas, and beans.
Bustling Breakfasts: Recipes include Whole Grain Baby Cereal, 5-Grain Morning Cereal, Nut and Seed Granola, Buttermilk Banana Pancakes, Tofu Vegetable Breakfast Burrito, and Tempeh Bacon - no eggs here!
Lively Lunchboxes: This section has great ideas for kids lunches. We loved the Sesame Noodles and I am looking foward to trying the Tempeh Avocado Sushi Rolls, Mad Dog Rice Salad, Quick Lemon and Garlic Quinoa Salad, and Apple Miso Almond Butter Sandwich.
Soothing Soups: We loved the Red Lentil Soup with East Indian Spices, Split Pea Soup with Fresh Peas and Potatoes, Creamy Broccoli Soup. I still want to try the Thick Potato Cauliflower and Dulse Soup.
Substantial Suppers: The Pan-Fried Tofu and Greesn with Almond Ginger Drizzle was a huge hit with my family. Still on my list to try is Polenta Pizza, Black Bean Tostados, Nut Burgers, Seitan and Shiitake Mushrooms in Cashew Mirin Sauce. This section does contain some non-vegetarian recipes for salmon, shrimp, rainbow trout, and chicken.
Vital Vegetables: There are lots of recipes for greens as well as many salads. Our favorite so far is Susan's Succulent Supper Salad. The dressing is so good - actually it has become my staple dressing.
Fresh Breads and Muffins: I just made the Homemade Whole Grain Bread yesterday and that's when I knew I had to get this review written. It was probably the best bread I have ever made - soft, light but still hearty. It rose perfectly and tasted great. I did alter the recipe slightly, so here are the details of my bread experience.

First I made the starter. I pureed cooked brown rice with water and added whole wheat flour, salt, yeast, and some oil. The recipe says to let it sit at room temp. for 12 - 24 hours until "dough is fermented." Now that was a little confusing - I kept checking it, expecting it to get a sourdough type smell but after 24 hours, it hadn't. It was bubbly though so at that point I figured it was done. (A description of what to expect would have been helpful.)

I was not ready to bake the bread at that eim so I stuck it in the refrigerator (the recipe says you can refrigerate up to a week.) The next morning, I took it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Then I proceeded to step 2. I added the sweetener (I only used 1/8 cup rather than 1/4 because I don't like sweet bread.) I also used all whole wheat flour although the recipe suggested a mix of white and wheat. I kneaded it for 12 minutes and then set it to rise.

1 1/2 hours later, it had risen wonderfully, I punched it down and formed the loaves using the folding and rolling method outlined in the book. I put the loaves in the pans for final rise - but oh no - I had to pick up my daughter and take her to piano lesson and I would be gone 1 1/2 hours - this rise was only supposed to be 45 minutes. Now I know from experience what happens to bread that over rises - it deflates when baked - so I covered the loaves with a damp towel and stuck them in the refrigerator. When I returned home, I immediately took them out and preheated my oven. The loaves had risen even in the refrigerator but I was hoping it would work. Well, like I said above - they were perfect well risen, yummy loaves. I will definitely use this bread recipe again.

Oh - one more thing - they have one other step before baking the bread. The recipe says to make a syrup of water, sweetener, oil and salt. I omitted that step and the bread was fine.

There are also some recipes for muffins and pizza dough.

Sauces and Stuff: Recipes for sauces, gravy, dressing, marinade, ghee and curry paste.
Wholesome Desserts: Lair gives an explanation of alternative sweeteners, plus tips for replace eggs and white flour in baked goods. The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies were great - crispy and delicious. I'm dying to try the Blueberry-Strawberry Tart but the kids keep eating the berries before I get around to making this. There are lots of cookie and cake recipes. The frostings are kind of unusual - I haven't tried any yet.
Natural Drinks and Brews: Teas, nut milks, cold and hot drinks.

As you can see, this a very comprehensive cookbook- full of helpful information and delicious recipes. Though it is mostly vegetarian, there are a few meat recipes - so this cookbook is great for anyone wanting to eat a whole foods diet.