My mother-in-law bought this book for me for Christmas. I thought at first that it was a cookbook for the kids because of the childlike figures scurrying from page to page chopping gigantic vegetables and using knives and spoons three times the size of their little bodies. The book never mentions kids or parents though, so I decided it was probably safe for any beginning cook no matter what their age. To test this theory out I committed to a week of doing the cooking and using only recipes from this book. Little did we all know what we were in for.
My first foray into the book was the smoothie recipe – read about that here. My girls have subsequently asked for “num num” , their word for smoothies, every day this week. I might add that they had certainly had smoothies before and always called them by their proper name. Score one for Mama and her book!
The second trial I conducted was the chicken stir-fry to mixed results. Part of the problem for me is the lack of meaningful size descriptions for cutting meat in the book. My chicken slices were huge and harder to cook. The author, Fiona Patchett, must not be used to the large breast size of West Coast chickens. I quickly found out that when she called for 3 chicken breasts, I should have only used 1 and 1/2. I also found her vegetable suggestions pretty boring. I’m used to a lot more veggies in my stir fry and yes Hubs, I know they were just suggestions and I could have put any veggies I wanted into the wok, but I was trying to do it just like the book said. I was rather fond of the cashews in this dish and it is one I would try again if for some reason I was alone with the girls at dinner time since they did at least pick at this one.
My third recipe was the Herby Falafels which I think turned out pretty well, but the girls wouldn’t even try. (Note: they both eat falafels normally, baked or fried.) Hubs was disappointed by the presentation, no hummus or feta. To be fair, there is a hummus recipe in the book but since the falafels were made using chickpeas I thought it redundant. Apparently I know nothing! Being primarily a baker who is used to reading recipes with estimated cooking times, I was caught unawares by the Tzatsiki which should have been started the night before. Overall this recipe was a bit lack luster.
The Chicken Fajita Wraps came out well. While Hubs was still disappointed with the lack of cheese, we were both pleasantly surprised by the sauteed carrots. Once again the girls weren’t having it and opted for more smoothies instead. They seemed particularly hard to please this week. Perhaps they just didn’t like seeing Mama in the kitchen instead of Dad. Next week, things will be back to normal so don’t fret that my girls will become walking smoothies. At least this is what I tell myself late at night.
Our last night with the Usborne Healthy Cookbook experiment ended on another mixed note. We tried the mini pizzas for our weekly Friday pizza and movie night with the girls. The dough was quite yummy, a whole wheat dough I made using Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat bread dough mix, but the sauce was pretty boring and this time I was the one disappointed by the lack of cheese. (I like extra cheese on mine, sometimes even some feta!) We didn’t go for all the crazy topping suggestions since I was really hoping to end the week with a recipe the girls would actually eat, settling instead with our usual red peppers, sweet italian pork sausage, and black kalamata olives. I’m not sure if it was OZ’s flying monkeys on the TV, the colds they are fighting or the pizza itself, but the poor little mini pizzas sat uneaten on the kids’ plates. They chose side salads and whole wheat bagels with cream cheese instead. (I stuck raisins in the bagel and sprinkled cinnamon on top after burning the only cinnamon raisin bagel in the house.)
Although the friendly layout and tutorial styling of the book is what initially drew me in, after a week of cooking from the Usborne Healthy Cookbook, I ultimately found the illustrations distracting. Perhaps if the recipe details included important details like estimated cooking times and what size ingredients should be cut it wouldn’t have been a problem. Nutritional information like calorie count and the importance of organic produce was also sadly missing. While my family found most of the food fairly bland, there were some notable exceptions: the cashews in the stir-fry, the sauteed carrots in the fajitas, and of course, say it with me people, the SMOOTHIE!