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The Toddler Café

Great Cookbooks for Families
Reviewed by Katy Killilea

Toddler Cafe CoverThere’s no shortage of cookbooks for families and kids, but the actually useful ones are rare. Jennnifer Carden’s The Toddler Café (2008, Chronicle Books) is definitely one of the good ones.

What makes it so good: the food is nutritious and geared toward a kid palate, instead of just being cute to look at. Every recipe is simple, but not so simple that you’ve already thought them all up yourself already. The results are yummy for adults and kids alike. Illustrative photographs, as lovely as Martha Stewart would have them, show–instead of pristinely composed food on a plate–a messy bowl of beans or a child’s hands digging into a bowl of soup and smearing it over her shirt. These are real recipes for real life.

Divided into useful categories like, “Sandwiches,” “Snack Attack,” and “Protein,” a busy parent can easily find something that fits the bill. Many of the recipes use ingredients that you’re likely to already have on hand. There is more than one recipe that uses up the last bits or cereal or the undesirable crushed cracker pieces no one will eat but you haven’t yet tossed. And because the recipes are so simple, it is easy to have a child join in the preparation.Bowl Of Beans

Minty Pea Pops, Lilypad Pancakes, Rainbow Rice Balls, and Waffle Grilled Cheese all use unexpected ingredients in unexpected ways. New favorites at our house are the Twistin’ Chicken, a terrific upgrade for parents who depend mightily on the Bell & Evans chicken-in-a-box, and Confetti de Fruta, a fruit salsa served with sweet tortilla chips. And if you have just gone berry picking, you’re already halfway there.

Confetti de Fruta
From The Toddler Café ‘By Jennifer Carden

  • 1 cup diced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup diced peaches (about one peach)
  • 1/4 cup diced apple or jicama
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large flour tortillas
  • 2 T butter, melted
  • cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the fruits and vinegar in a medium bowl and mix gently with a spoon.

While the fruit is macerating, make the chips. Brush the tortillas with the butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Allow them to cool, then break them into manageable pieces.

Serve with the fruit salsa.

Serves one adult and one or two kids.

Photo Credit: Matthew Carden (The Toddler Café)

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