Is there anything that can spark a more impassioned debate than children and nutrition? Probably, but as soon as I discovered I was pregnant food became so important — was I eating enough of the “right” things? Being a vegetarian didn’t help matters because people seem to think you live off love when you don’t eat meat. Seriously. So by the time my daughter came along I felt like it was time to focus my energy on what her relationship with food was going to be. I wanted her to be able to try a variety of foods and understand the link between what makes us feel good and be at our best. I also wanted her to be able to enjoy the time we spend around the dinner table as a family. There aren’t (to my knowledge) many (if any) cookbooks about vegetarianism and family cooking. My search began and I started to seek outcookbooks that focused on family meals. I looked for books that had interesting and versatile recipes — ones that I could easily modify to fit our vegetarian lifestyle (at least we’re all vegs, so I only needed to make one meal).
The only book that really fit my criteria was Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh’s How to Feed a Family (click here for my review of that book). They’re the creators of the wildly popular site Sweet Potato Chronicles and their newest book, The School Year Survival Cookbook, seeks to provide families with a solid game plan — full of healthy food and useful strategies — to get them through the fast-paced run from September to June. I appreciate that they really advocate for a practical and flexible way to feed a family. Since they don’t follow a strict meat-and-potatoes model I am able to find recipes that are either vegetarian or can easily be made vegetarian (or vegan! You’d be surprised how many dairy and egg allergies there are out there, so I sometimes adapt recipes to help my other mom pals out).
Strategies — Laura and Ceri know that having healthy recipes is only part of the battle! So their strategies — stocking and organizing your pantry, getting the right gear (what kids are carrying to school for lunches can make all the difference), and meal planning — are clearly explained in the beginning of the book so that you can prepare for success. Since my daughter is only 3, the most relevant strategy for me is stocking and organizing my pantry (I find that with cookbook reviewing that I’m cooking so many different recipes that I don’t always sit down to formally meal plan ahead of time. But speaking to other parents I know that meal-planning is the only thing that keeps their families happily well-fed). Breakfast always happens so fast! This is why their Whole Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix (pictured above) is so brilliant! I love that I have it pre-made and ready to go in my pantry so on those mornings when people want pancakes/waffles I’m all-raring to go.
Healthy Recipes — Speaking about breakfast, another strategy they employ is over-night prep (or Make Ahead — they helpfully list recipes that you can pull together ahead of time). Take this Chocolate Avocado Chia Pudding (pictured below) — with a handful of ingredients and about ten minutes of prep will have you waking up to a beautiful and healthy breakfast pudding! Kids will feel that rush of mischievousness from thinking they’re having dessert at breakfast and you’ll feel great that you’ve packed them full of avocado!
But if the food doesn’t taste great then you’re in trouble — the Sweet Potatoes totally understand this, which is why all of their food tastes delicious. All of the recipes I’ve tried from their newest book have gotten 100% approval from my family. The book is organized by meal — Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks/Treats — making it easy to find the recipes and plan. To see what I’ve been up to check out my special Instagram hashtag #shipshapeschoolyearsurvial or my dedicated School Year Survival Facebook post. I really appreciate the playful spin they put on classic dishes — take this Pancake Taco. Even Taco Tuesday can get a bit tired but make it a breakfast for dinner proposition and voila!
Some people may look at this book and feel like it may not be for them because they don’t have kids but as soon as I started trying recipes I felt like this cookbook would be great for anyone who has a busy schedule that’s looking to cook easy, healthy meals. The first person I thought to recommend this book to is my younger sister who finds it challenging to work full time and find time to eat healthy meals. When I made the Baked Oatmeal Cups I thought they would be perfect for her because she could make them ahead of time and throw them in her bag to take to work — I think it’s helpful to be able to turn to something healthy and homemade and not to the sweet treats at the local coffee shop. These cups are also easy to bake up egg-free if you just used mashed banana as a substitute for the eggs.
I’m also aware that it’s the middle of summer and not many people want to think about the school year just yet but here’s my tip: if you get this book now and try it out then you’ll be all ready for that 2017-18 school year. I’ve found a few recipes that have been the perfect antidote for lack of desire to cook induced by warm weather. Take this Penne w/ Sun-Dried Tomato & Spinach — by using chickpea flour pasta this dish turns into a hearty, quick, and extremely delicious meal that uses only a few ingredients. Since my husband doesn’t eat fish, I threw together my own version of Umami Paste (equal parts tomato paste & barley miso with tamari, EVOO, and garlic powder — next time I’ll make sure I have some crushed olives to add-in too) — I think it honored that “explosive taste” that the original paste delivers to this dish.
Since it’s summertime and the freshest ingredients are available I thought I’d give their Sweet Corn & Zucchini Fritters a try considering my daughter has a love for corn that borders on obsessive. It was my first time ever making fritters and I love that they are batch-cooked (another thing I learned early on from SPC — a truly genius strategy!) so that I made them once and then had lunch locked down for the next few days. Another fav here that can be batch-cooked are their Broccoli & Cheese Patties. Both the fritters and the patties can be frozen for up to 3 months which can be helpful to have on hand.
I really feel like The School Year Survival Cookbook helps to take the mealtime struggles away by providing busy families with a way to be prepared to eat healthy, home-cooked meals. Let Laura and Ceri inspire you with their delicious recipes and helpful strategies.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Laura Keogh, Ceri Marsh, and Appetite by Random House for providing me with a free copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.