Cooking Up a Brand New Year: Good Cookbooks for Healthy Family Meals
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get your family eating better, read on. Here are some cookbooks, websites, and blogs that will help you do just that.
Healthy but Not Deprived
If you want to eat healthier but don’t want to feel deprived, try The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger. Krieger’s philosophy is that no food is off limits; she just creates recipes that are delicious, but also healthy. The book includes 200 recipes, a lot of photos, and nutritional information if you are trying to count calories. I like her Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo, am a big fan of the Pumpkin Pie Muffins, and am in love with the Carrot, Green Apple and Mint salad. On my list of things to try are her homemade and healthier Ranch dressing and the Pesto Potato Salad. These recipes may be too sophisticated for little kids, but with things like Steak Tacos with Cucumber Avocado Salsa, Crispy Chicken Fingers with a Honey Mustard Sauce, and a meatloaf made with ground turkey, you will be able to find some dishes that will work for the whole family.
Convenient Healthy and Homemade
If you don’t have time to cook every night but still want to eat healthy and homemade: try cooking on the weekends or on days when you do have a little time in the kitchen, putting meals in the freezer to eat later. A good cook book to check out is Cook and Freeze by Dana Jacobi. Jacobi’s book is not just a collection of recipes, it is a good primer how to freeze meals to eat later: the best way to package food for the freezer, how long foods will last when frozen, the best ways to defrost, what freezes well and what doesn’t. She also has a chapter on how to plan a cooking session where you cook several things for the freezer, with suggestions on what to cook, and how to organize it. As you would expect, there are casseroles, soups and stews, but you’ll also find appetizers, side dishes, and breakfast dishes like toaster waffles, breakfast burritos, and oatmeal banana bread. My family likes the Creamy Corn Pudding with Cheese and Broccoli, and the Southern Pork Chop Casserole.
The Slow Cooker
Another way to save time and cook ahead is by using a slow cooker. Take a look at a new cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen: Slow Cooker Revolution. They set out to revitalize old slow cooker standbys and to invent some new possibilities like risotto, enchiladas, and red beans and rice. To get around the need to sauté veggies for flavor, they have you microwave them in a tablespoon of oil and then add to the crock pot. It works, and it saves you from dirtying up another pot. There are also clever flavor booster and shortcuts. We love the Chicken Curry in a Hurry. I froze the leftovers and it was just as delicious the second time around.
Food for Family Time
If you are trying to get the whole family to eat together, take a look at a blog called Dinner: A Love Story. I now read this almost every day and have tried many of the recipes, but I also like the book suggestions for children, the ideas for birthday parties, and the theme that runs through everything: that it is important to eat together, and it’s fun to be a family — with the acknowledgement that it is also sometimes difficult and annoying to come up with a meal that everyone will like. This blog is rich with humor and coping strategies (including recipes for cocktails.) I have made the Porcupine Meatballs, the barbecued chicken, and the Pretzel Chicken (which we all LOVED,) and copied the idea of a Dunkin Doughnuts hole birthday cake. This blog just kind of keeps you company on many of the aspects of being a wife and mother.
Delicious Gluten Free
If you can’t eat wheat or are just trying to avoid it: Look at a blog called Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom which has menu plans as well as recipes. I made the gluten free Southern Cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving, and it was excellent — even if you aren’t trying to avoid wheat. Also check out Gluten Free Mommy, with a huge list of recipes, as well as a recipe swap and menu plans.
Quick Healthy Meals
If you want ideas for weeknight meal that come together quickly, a favorite of mine is Martha Stewart’s Great Food Fast, recipes from her Everyday Food magazine. I like the organization: by seasons– with each season having recipes for soups, salads, main dishes, pastas, sides, and desserts. I also like the fact that is it focused on family friendly meals, that each recipe has a prep time, and that nutritional info is included. The Pork Quesadillas are unusual and delicious. Also good in this area is Cooking Light’s Fresh Food Fast: Weeknight Meals, which promises five ingredient 15 minute recipes. It also includes nutritional info. My family loves the Whole Wheat Pita Pizzas with Spinach, Fontina and Onions.
Healthy Recipes for Picky Eaters
If you have picky eaters and want to try out “sneaky cuisine” smuggle in a copy of Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld or The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine. The idea behind both books is to make vegetable and fruit purees, and then conceal them in foods that your children like: butternut squash puree in mac and cheese, spinach puree hidden in chicken nuggets, carrot puree mixed in with the ground beef of a burger. A friend tried both and reports that she has had success with Deceptively Delicious. She recommends the twice baked potatoes with cauliflower puree, the peanut butter muffins, and says, “The girls also really like the rice cakes which have brown rice, chicken, sweet potatoes, and spinach. They are a real pain, but I make them because they always eat them up!”
Whatever it takes! Here’s to happy and healthy eating in the New Year.