Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann, Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook . I love my slow cooker! And this is the book that has really helped me to explore what it can do. Good, basic recipes as well as more experimental ones.
A great website for recipes is Skinnytaste. Don’t be fooled by the title – this is not bland diet food! Just healthy, yummy recipes for every family. My little Monkey gobbles up her low fat peanut butter banana muffins, and so do the other mamas and kids I have made them for!
Cooking for Kids
Tanya Wenman Steel and Tracey Seaman, Real Food for Healthy Kids. A great collection of easy, budget-friendly recipes that are healthy without being too, well, weird for kids (and parents) to eat. Also check out their website. The blog isn’t updated regularly, but it mainly follows legislation related to child nutrition.
Another great site for family-friendly recipes is Simple Bites. Elegant food that is still practical for busy parents to whip up.
I have also recently discovered Once A Month Cooking. The great thing about this site is that you can use it on whatever level fits your needs: If you are like me, you can just sample some of the great recipes for adults and kids (including many recipes for baby food). Or you can try using their adjusted proportions to make larger batches and freeze meals ahead (thus “once a month cooking”!) Or if you are really ambitious, you can follow the full program, which lets you plan an entire month’s worth of meals, including a downloadable worksheet to create a shopping list fit to your family size. Even better? You can choose menus for specific age groups or dietary needs. Also a great resource if you have questions about how to freeze particular dishes.
If you’re looking for recipes and ideas specifically for babies and toddlers, try those two wonderful books: Simply Natural Baby Food by Cathe Olson has great healthy, easy recipes for each stage of development, from just starting solids to toddlerhood. But the real gem is Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron, as mentioned by a reader in the comments section of this post. This thick book is jammed pack with all sorts of fun, creative ideas for feeding your little one – from basic, healthy recipes to tips for picky eaters to ideas for parties!
Cooking with Kids
I am a big believer in bringing kids into the kitchen while they are young. Of course, it is pretty hard to keep them out, most of the time! My little Monkey and I have passed some of our favorite afternoons together cooking in the kitchen. He really loves it, plus it’s a good way to introduce him to whole foods and to get him to try new things.
Also – following Waldorf philosophy – it is important to give even young children meaningful tasks in the household. Besides teaching them important skills, it builds their sense of participating in family life and contributing to the work of the home. Toddlers especially learn by imitation and so love getting to do things they see their parents do, like cooking and cleaning.
Thanks in large part to my parents, my little Monkey has his very own apron, rolling pin, potato masher, and dustpan. He also has full access to items like our mixing bowls and other utensils. He is a great little helper, although when cooking with your child, make sure to allow plenty of extra time! But don’t worry, it is worth it. Just make sure to save it for a time when you are feeling particular patient and don’t mind having to clean up extra spills.
Some ideas for tasks that toddlers can help with: mashing potatoes or beans, stirring, sprinkling in condiments and spices (with lots of supervision!), pouring, measuring, opening and closing containers, carrying containers to and from the pantry and refrigerator, and so on.
And if you need little hands to be occupied while you do some of the grown-up tasks around the kitchen, try giving them dry beans or uncooked rice to sort and pour. This can keep my little Monkey occupied for a long time!