I was given the opportunity to review How to Feed a Family, the Sweet Potato Chronicles Cookbook, by Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh. I had originally watched the Sweet Potato Chronicles’ segments on the television show CityLine and always thought they came up with interesting and nutritious meals for families. I was pretty excited to learn they had published a cookbook and that I could have a copy to try out.
When I got the book in the mail, I was immediately drawn to the vivid photos associated with most of the recipes. I’m a true believer that cookbooks should have photos and these ones are so inviting. The introduction of the book discusses helpful hints about feeding children and also explains some neat features in the book. Each recipe has small icons shown that represent a meal that is meatless, “kids can help,” fast, minimal mess, entertaining or make ahead.
The chapters are divided by meal, so there is a chapter on Breakfast which features a lot of interesting pancakes; Lunch; Snacks; Dinner and Desserts. There are also special features that discuss whole grains, baking with kids; meatless dishes, picky eaters, among others.
To be honest, I’m not much of a breakfast person but Nina and I love oatmeal so I gave their Slow Cooker Oatmeal with Coconut, Banana and Almonds a go. It included coconut milk which is quite a change from the usual slow cooker oatmeals I’d tried. It tasted pretty good, Nina enjoyed it, but I did find the consistency a bit…gummy. Perhaps less cooking time was needed. I did like that this was made in the slow cooker overnight so you wake up to the wonderful smell of oatmeal in the morning. While I was tempted to try the pancake recipes, I haven’t yet, as I found that the ingredient list often included some rare item, such as spelt flour, that I did not have kicking around and that was either difficult to find, or expensive. Some of the recipes would have been more accessible if they gave alternatives to these ingredients, however, I also realize that the cookbook is trying to feature healthy recipes and I am also aware that many families have those types of ingredients available in their kitchen.
I also made their Turkey, White Bean and Barley Chili, however, I made it vegetarian, based on their suggestion in the introduction of the recipe. I really appreciated that they seemed to promote meatless meals, given I’m also trying to reduce my meat intake. This recipe was incredibly filling with the barley. It did seem to lack the chili taste I’m used to, perhaps because I omitted the turkey, but it was still very tasty and Nina enjoyed it too.
My favourite dish was the Rock Star Pasta e Fagioli. This is a dish that I have eaten before but more as a soup, while this seemed a bit thicker. It contains loads of veggies, small pastas and beans. It is so hearty, comforting, easy to make and delicious. I decided to add a bit more broth to make it soupier the first night and I knew the next day it would get a bit thicker. Nina and I gobbled it up and both had seconds. It is such a versatile dish that I think even picky eaters would enjoy because it includes mini pastas and can be topped with Parmesan cheese. The recipe can be found below.
I’m looking forward to trying more of the recipes. Most of them are easy enough for busy families to do, but also interesting enough to make for guests.
- glug of olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 or 3 stalks of celery chopped (I didn't have it on hand but it really should be in this dish)
- 3 medium carrots sliced thinly
- 1 yellow or green zucchini, halved and then sliced into half moons
- 6 or so mushrooms cleaned and sliced (not too thin)
- 1 14 oz. can of cannelini beans
- 2 cups vegetable stock (please use low sodium!)
- 1 28 oz. can of drained plum tomatoes
- 1 cup whole wheat tubetti pasta
- thyme and rosemary
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- Sautee the onion, garlic and celery in olive oil until it starts to smell great and the onion starts to soften.
- Add the carrots and stir together. Let that sautee for a couple of minutes before adding the zucchini and mushrooms. Again, stir and let the vegetables soften just a bit before adding the stock.
- Drain the can of cannelini beans and scoop out about a third of a cup. Put the third of a cup of cannelini beans and roughly mash them with a potato masher. It doesn't have to be perfect, the mashed beans are just going to give the soup a thicker, silkier feel. Put all of the beans — mashed an unmashed into the pot with the stock and the vegetables. Cover and simmer for five minutes.
- Drain the tomatoes and add them, breaking them up with your spoon. Cover and simmer again for five minutes.
- Add the cup of tubetti and stir it around. Add a good pinch of thyme and rosemary (and if you're Martha, just use thyme!). Cover and simmer for ten minutes, stirring every little bit. Taste to check the pasta for done-ness (don't let the pasta get too soft as it will keep going and get mushy by the time it's on the table!) and the broth for seasoning. Add some salt and pepper after tasting.
- Serve with a good bit of grated parmesan.
Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product to review. All opinions are honest and my own.
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