Today, April shares a review (and some amazing results!) from Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Easy, Organic Snacks, Beverages, and Party Foods for Kids of All Ages:
“What to have for snack? It's the eternal culinary question for a parent who wants choices that are fun, tasty, and reasonably healthy. What about lunch, little gatherings, and festive moments that call for creative bites, drinks, and goodies? It's easy to run out of ideas and get stuck in a rut of cheese sticks, juice boxes, and yogurt tubes.
Lisa Barnes, who wrote The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler is back with Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Easy, Organic Snacks, Beverages, and Party Foods for Kids of All Ages. This cookbook is focused on those little meals, gatherings, and ‘everyday holidays.’ You'll get kicked out of the routine with a collection of ideas that include lunch roll-up sandwiches, crunchy snack foods, sparkly beverages, and special celebration foods to mark things like the first day of snow.
Honestly, the idea of feeding a play group, adding something fun to a meal, or celebrating something almost ordinary (Cinco de Mayo? Losing a first tooth?) can make any parent retreat to manufactured snacks that are wanting in nutritional value—not to mention variety.
Barnes talks about food choices (organic vs. not, eating seasonally, ‘green’ habits, etc.), but does it in a friendly tone, which is so important. She offers up information and point of view the way an informed friend might when you're talking about issues that affect our families and our food. Because of that, the book is a good overview of some food issues, like refined sugars, outside food influences, and instilling good eating habits. She also talks about ways to make food eco-friendly, tasty, packable (for lunch boxes and potlucks), and coveted by everyone nearby who wants a snack.
The recipes are true snack foods, and mighty tasty. Barnes splits the book up into sections like drinks (by kind: juicy, frosty, warmers, etc.), snacks (by texture: crunchy, chewy, salty, etc.), and celebrations (by type: birthdays, holidays, everyday celebrations). For each recipe, she offers nutrition facts, like you'd see on the side of a package—making it all the better to compare a snack made chez vous to one found in aisle 7. We all buy some snacks from the store, but it's a great reminder that each serving has a potential for good and not-so-good. Just seeing the difference in fat and fiber content is interesting. She labels each recipe with icons that make it easy browsing for parents who need allergen-free foods or lunchbox-friendly snacks. But don't get too concerned about "healthy" snack food. In this case I mean "healthy" as opposed to chemical-laden packaged foods that we sometimes feel are the only option.
I like creative snacks, and I never would have figured out how to make chewy granola before reading Barnes' book. Had I tried from another book, I wouldn't have been sure if it was healthier in terms of sugar or fat content than the store-bought kind. I did make it (page 73; see my personal photos below) and it was stellar. Everyone loved it. Everyone. It's so good. Instead of refined sugars and high fat content, she uses brown rice syrup and turbinado sugar—ingredients that enhance the recipe flavors and needs. I changed her recipe a bit—dried cranberries weren't going to fly with some designated eaters, so I used dried cherries and freeze dried raspberries along with her candied ginger. I also found that it needed a bit more liquid than the recipe called for, so I adapted that on the fly. That might be my only quasi-criticism: The recipe ideas and flavors are excellent, but you might need to tweak them a bit, perhaps based on the ingredient brands and humidity differences. So get cooking, but keep an eye on how it you think it should look, keep tasting it, and play with it along the way—it's not hard.
I also made ginger ale from the beverage section. My daughter sees other kids her age drinking soda, and it's not something we give her. But I made Barnes' ginger-agave syrup with fresh ginger. Just add some soda water to make a spicy and perfect drink. It was so good that I think my husband and I drank most of it, but our daughter clamored for it. The book is full of ideas that are new, as well as foods that remake and revise the standard store-bought options.
I like my daughter to take part in wonderful tastes—and I would like it if she craves foods and flavors that are made from real ingredients. To make that happen, we have to give her tasty foods that are, in fact, made that way. Cakes and cookies are no problem, but snacky, chewy, crunchy foods have been a bit of a challenge up until now. Barnes just made it a lot easier. Snack time is exciting, tasty, and a lot better than mass-produced.”
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Awesome granola photography courtesy of April Paffrath. For more foodie awesomeness from April, check out her blog Wicked Tasty Harvest.