In Fanae Aaron's new cookbook, What Chefs Feed Their Kids, you won't find any meals comprised of dino nuggets, bland pasta with butter, or other "white food" favorites for that matter (though there is a quick and easy recipe for homemade ranch dressing!). This well-thought-out collection of recipes and stories from famous chefs across the country is not only jam-packed with expert tips and tricks for helping your kids have an adventurous palate from infancy on, but it also offers a variety of recipes that parents will enjoy just as much at the dinner table.
When Aaron's son Cody was first beginning to eat solid foods, she had an epiphany while sharing some mashed avocado and sweet potato with him. He liked it -- and she liked the fact that they could sit down and eat a meal together and explore the same flavors, even though he was still very young. Armed with only basic cooking skills, Aaron knew that she wanted to use this meal as a basis for the future, but was perplexed by how to add variety.... Or if she even should.
"I wondered: Would a child raised by chefs enjoy eating even vegetables, which most kids detest and refuse?" Aaron writes. "What kinds of things do chefs do to introduce their children to eating, and are they able to stimulate curiosity about new foods? Do their kids pick out the smallest speck of parsley and call foods 'icky' and 'gross,' just like other children do?"
This simple question alone is an inspiring one. When you want to know about your child's teething, or if you need potty training advice, you ask an expert. So when it comes to engaging our kids with food and helping them develop healthy and happy appetites, why wouldn't we check in with those who work and think and dream about food all day long? (Frankly, it's all kind of genius.)
Plenty of children's cookbooks pass across my coffee table without a vegetable in sight (unless you're counting potatoes, pizza, or ketchup). It's depressing -- and it's hard not to "harumph." So, to see a book filled with 75 recipes that I would also make for an adult-only dinner, such as spring pea risotto with barley or braised chicken with farro, tuscan kale, tomatoes, and parmigiana reggiano -- it's refreshing, to say the least! It really goes to show that kids can come to love their veggies, appreciate seasonings, and have a passion for a wide variety of foods, just as their parents do.
Even if you're not a master in the kitchen, you'll find a bevy of new recipe ideas that are all simple to make and can be prepared for quick and easy weeknight meals. (Such as the penne with bacon, peas and lemon, which Aaron says will be finished in only the time that it takes to boil pasta!) Another thing we absolutely love: all of the included recipes only require around 5-10 ingredients on average -- keeping it simple is always a top priority in our home!
And though the recipes, gorgeous photography, and chef features alone would have been absolutely enough for this stylish cookbook, Aaron takes it a step farther, providing a variety of fantastic ideas and tips from experts for helping all age groups abstain from picky eating habits and have an overall appreciation for flavor. With topics such as "Avoiding Food Wars," "How Chefs Make Food an Adventure for Their Kids," and "'Yucky,' 'I Don't Like It,' 'I'm Full,' and How to Change the Game," you're bound to find plenty to work with -- and walk away with a reclaimed sense of confidence in the kitchen.
Cauliflower and Parmesan Macaroni
From What Chefs Feed Their Kids
Aaron recommends making this creamy and decadent dish in a muffin tin for smaller portion sizes, or adding a milder cheese for children who don't like Parmesan's strong flavor.
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
2 cups elbow macaroni (preferably whole wheat or high fiber)
1 large head cauliflower, core removed, brown spots, if any, scraped off, and florets separated
1 cup half-and-half (more if necessary)
2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, and when the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook until just tender. Meanwhile, place the cauliflower florets in a colander set atop pasta water and cover to steam. Turn the heat down a bit to keep the water boiling but not boiling over.
2. When the cauliflower is tender, remove it from the colander and pour it into a food processor. When the pasta is tender, drain and transfer to a bowl.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
4. Puree the cauliflower with the half-and-half until smooth, then blend in 1 3/4 cups Parmesan cheese till smooth and thick, saving 1/4 cup to sprinkle on the top before baking. Adjust seasonings as necessary with sea salt.
5. Pour the cauliflower and cheese mixture into the bowl with the pasta and fold until thoroughly combined. Adjust the texture to be slightly wet as necessary with a little additional half-and-half.
6. Pour into a casserole dish and dust the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes or so, until browned on top.