Book review – Simple vegetarian family recipes
How do daily vegetarian meals look like for a family? As a mother of a 3-year-old toddler and a baby of 10 months, I am asking myself this question quite a lot.
Even though I am following dozens of food blogs and chefs on Instagram and keep myself informed about the latest food trends, I am constantly reaching the limits in my own kitchen. Anyone raising a kid can probably relate to hangry meltdowns and untouched plates and even if you like cooking as much as I do, you quickly realize that real life is not always friendly to it.
Whenever I ask my eldest daughter what she would like to eat for dinner, the answer is usually “pasta,” or ”ice cream” or both and I sincerely think that she would be the happiest kid living in Italy (but then again, who wouldn’t?)
More veggies, less greenhouse gases
We are not vegetarian but eat 90 percent plant-based meals at home with the occasional meat or fish dish, a flexitarian diet if you want to put a label on it. And although I don’t like to tell people how and what to eat, we can probably all agree that less meat and fish consumption does not only improve our health but helps us reduce our own carbon footprint. In fact, the latest UN climate report (IPCC report) calls for drastic changes in global land use, agriculture and human diets and The Guardian even goes so far to say that we have to stop eating fish altogether if we really want to make a difference and save our planet. Why? Well, to sum it up in a few sentences: huge amounts of water, land, food and energy are needed to raise animals for food. These animals produce manure that is often sprayed over fields and that pollutes our rivers and lakes. Land is needed to grow crops to feed those animals, which leads to a vast destruction of the Amazon rainforest, for example. The commercial fishing methods clear the oceans of life and kill so-called “bycatch,” animals like turtles, sharks and dolphins.
Raising your kid on a mainly vegetarian diet is not “dangerous” as many may think. You get plenty of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, oils, beans and lentils. In many school canteens here in Bordeaux you can now choose a vegetarian option for your child and at least one vegetarian dish per week is on the menu anyway. If you eat fish and meat, make sure to choose from organic and grass-fed animals and try to limit your fish and meat intake to one to two times a week.
But now to the book:
I had already been an avid reader of David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl’s colourful blog “Green Kitchen Stories” for a couple of years. The Swedish/Danish couple are bestselling authors and have already published four cookbooks, which have been published and translated into more than 15 languages. When I learned that they were writing a cookbook that focuses on children’s food, at first I was skeptical because I firmly believe that there is no such thing as children’s food and I do not cook separate meals for my kids. Yes, you can call me lazy but I do not make alternative options in case my daughter decides she doesn’t want to eat dinner, which totally in line with the German motto: “No one has ever starved in front of a full plate.” 😉
The past three years have taught me though that children do have different preferences when it comes to textures, colours and food combinations. It turns out it is exactly what Luise and David have experienced with their three kids, and in their fifth cookbook they show us how to make delicious everyday meals that everybody in the family will enjoy.
Here are some useful tips and tricks to feed your family more fruits and vegetables
The book starts with a very useful list of different tips and methods of how to help your kids try and eat more vegetables. Here are only some examples that also work for our daughter (in most cases):
- Boost food that you know they like with vegetables (for instance, mixing spinach or zucchini into pancake batter, adding lentils to pasta sauce, etc.).
- Use a blender to make soups and sauces as sometimes kids are doubtful about chunky textures.
- The no touching/mixing rule: A lot of kids prefer it if different foods aren’t mixed or don’t touch each other on the plate and I have noticed that our daughter always eats one thing at a time. A plate with different compartments can be useful, too.
- Same vegetable but different cooking technique: Just because your little fussy eater doesn’t like boiled broccoli doesn’t mean he or she won’t like them steamed or roasted. Different cooking techniques make food taste different.
- Be relaxed about table manners and have a good vibe around the table.
- Take your time and don’t stress if your kid doesn’t want to eat everything on the table. Don’t stop serving them food just because you think they don’t like it. If you present certain vegetables over and over again they will learn what it is, how you eat it and eventually also try it.
The book contains more than 70 recipes divided into everyday meals, party food, lunchbox favourites, snacks and drinks, condiments and upgrades, and baking and sweets.
A lot of the recipes suggest an upgrade for adults to make them spicier, greener or more complex in taste. This way, you cook only one meal, which you can amp up a little if you have a couple of minutes to spare.
I especially like the “helping hand” section in most of the recipes, in which the authors suggest how to involve the kids more in the cooking process (for example, chopping softer ingredients, stirring and decorating the food). Of course, the preparation time varies and depends on the recipes, but a lot of them, such as
- Smash and Tear Summer Pasta;
- Oat and Courgette Pang-Cakes;
- Portobello and Avocado Quesadillas; and
- Crispy Rice Paper Rolls;
only require 15 to 30 minutes from start to finish and are thus totally doable on a weeknight. And we all need more 15-to-30-minute dinner recipes in our lives, am I right?
There are also more elaborate weekend projects like the “Butternut Börek Snake”, which looks like a real snake on a bed of greens, or the “Rye Empanadas with Mushrooms and Raisins,” which will take a bit more than an hour to prepare and cook.
I really appreciate that a lot of the recipes leave enough room for adaptation, meaning you can swap a lot of vegetables to suit them to your and your kid’s taste and use whatever vegetables you have on hand or are in season.
Another thing I really like about the book is that the ingredient lists contain “normal” ingredients, meaning you can find them in a regular supermarket or health food store. The authors have a laid back approach to store-bought basics like tortellini, pita bread, vegetable patties, or tortillas because let’s be honest, who has the time and energy to prepare everything homemade?
All in all, the recipes are real eye-catchers, and it is a pleasure to flip through the book, look at all the mouthwatering pictures, and pick out a recipe together with your little one.
So, whether you want to reduce your meat and fish intake, introduce more veggies to your family meals, or are just looking for more vegetarian cooking inspo in general, the book is not going to disappoint you.
Little Green Kitchen
Published in 2019
Published by Hardie Grant London
English (UK, US, AUS)
Swedish, Danish, German, Dutch, Czech and French translation is released in August.
You can order the book in your language on: The Green Kitchen Blog
MARA // Bordeaux