BOOK REVIEW: The Toddler Cafe: Jennifer Carden

This is the book I had with me in the traffic jam yesterday.

I bought this book after it got favourable-ish reviews on Lunch in a box. I was having concerns about Spider becoming a picky eater, I’ve since realised from watching the Teenager’s appetite develop over the last 6 years I’ve known him, that he’s not, children take time to develop an interest and taste for food – I just have to be patient.

This book may work for some parents but it doesn’t work for me, because my boy is not the type of kid who will be persuaded to eat something, he has to choose to eat it and no amount of trying to make food fun is going to help.  He’s a very determined boy, when he decides he’s going to do something he usually does, which is why he was dry at night by the age of 3 because he decided he wasn’t going to wear a nappy at night and he  wasn’t going to wet the bed either !

The intro to the book is good, in fact its great, having just read it again I am really fired up to try and make mealtimes fun, to ensure that Spider gets home made good food and to introduce him to new tastes.

There are also in this book some very helpful suggestions about shopping, the essential pantry (with some useful photocopeable shopping lists), recommended utensils and how to make food and eating a fun activity for all. Additionally, throughout the book there are useful hints and suggestions about using leftovers or substitute ingredients (such as making greek yoghurt out of ordinary yoghurt).

The recipes themselves are a bit of a mixture. Some are just serving suggestions (admittedly instant apple sauce is one that I do use but was kinda doing already), or fun ways of playing with food (polka dots: spaghetti and a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Some of it, surprisingly for a book about cooking proper food rather than convenience food, is a bit “Delia’s How to Cheat at cooking”. The rest, although there are some interesting recipes, are not much different from what you can get from an Annabel Karmel book.

Recipes of note:

  • minty pea pops/corn pops – interesting but not to everyone’s taste
  • lily pad pancakes – a hit with Spider but without the need to pretend to be a frog
  • popcorn soup – variation on the “people soup” from my childhood
  • rainbow rice balls – good way of introducing kids to onigiri (and beetroot)
  • knock knock gnocci – gnocci from instant mash !
  • soup ghosts
  • I heart tofu
  • peanut butter globe globs – protein packed toddler truffles from the store cupboard

I’m going to try going through the book again and getting Spider to choose what we cook, but if he shows no interest then I’ll list it for sale on Amazon.

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