The Motherload Guide: Cookbooks for Parents

Feed them fishfingers? I scoffed at the thought. My children would never dine on frozen, convenience foods. They would eagerly gobble up only healthy, home-made grub before beaming with gratitude, holding up empty bowls and asking for seconds. I admit now it was a half-baked idea, cooked up before actually having kids.

I had no idea how grumpy and tired we would all be by teatime. I didn’t realise they would have that annoying habit of happily tucking into certain foods then deciding at random for no reason they hate the taste. I now feel no guilt whatsoever reaching into the freezer or serving up pasta and pesto or beans on toast, again.

Mealtimes can be fraught when you have young children and it is utterly demoralising to make something from scratch then watch it being spat out, pushed away or hurled to the floor. As frustrating as it is though when perfectly edible food is rejected, I am spurred on by the smug sense of satisfaction I still get when a plateful is polished off, especially if I’ve actually put some extra effort in or managed to sneak in some bonus veg.

My 4 year old daughter loves putting her apron on to help me in the kitchen; having a go at measuring and mixing seems to make her much more likely to actually eat the finished product. She even likes washing up so long may that last.

Family meals, fussy eaters and weaning are all popular talking points on the Motherload’s Facebook group so I asked the MOLOs for their recommendations of cookbooks aimed at parents. There are so many on the market to choose from but here are five that went down well…

Annabel Karmel’s New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner

This is an absolute classic, first published in 1991 with the 25th Anniversary edition now on sale. Annabel Karmel is something of a baby food guru with her own brand of products in the supermarket. This book includes purees for first-stage weaning, finger foods and family dishes. A friend once told me her baby couldn’t get enough of the Popeye Pasta which is packed with spinach but when Granny had to change a nappy full of deep green poo, she declared it off the menu on the days she was in charge! One MOLO said: “My kids still request her meals and they are now 21, 17, 15 and 7! They have always enjoyed the beefburgers (which include a grated apple) and the chicken gougons (covered with crushed cornflakes). I like the simple ingredients and the easy methods to follow.”

Buy Annabel Karmel’s New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner here

The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett

If you decide to go down the BLW route, this popular book is packed with recipes to give you new ideas and flavour combinations you may not have thought of. If you’re stuck in a sandwich rut at lunch-time, there are alternatives to pick up like muffins and savoury flapjacks or tuna croquettes. One MOLO joked that she should be on commission the number of times she has recommended this book to other parents: “My babies especially like eating the ratatouille and the oven-baked courgette and aubergine risotto and I get to feel all virtuous saying that!”

Buy The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett here

The Tickle Fingers Toddler Cookbook by Annabel Woolmer

This is all about allowing under 4’s into the kitchen to get stuck into squishing, tearing, squeezing and pouring. Annabel Woolmer is a mum who runs cookery classes for toddlers and she reckons we need to learn to let go: “If you are relaxed and give your children independence, they may surprise you with how much they can do by themselves. If it’s a case of something looking a bit wonky, having a small spill or taking five times as long to complete, it doesn’t matter.” From chocolate biscuits to salmon fishcakes; there are lots of lovely, easy recipes to try and step-by-step instructions on how to get your little helpers involved in making a meal not just a mess.

Buy The Tickle Fingers Toddler Cookbook by Annabel Woolmer here

The 7 Secrets of Raising Happy Eaters by Karen Le Billon

Written by the author of “French Kids Eat Everything”, this is a practical guide to taste-training children with tips, games and experiments. “It’s more than just a recipe book, it’s a philosophy for dealing with fussy eaters,” said one MOLO whose daughter usually avoids vegetables but loves eating the Pistou sauce made with broccoli and sunflower seeds. It’s easy to be cynical and say it will never work on your kids but if you face daily battles at the dinner table, it has to be worth a shot and maybe you’ll eat your words!

Buy The 7 Secrets of Raising Happy Eaters by Karen Le Billon here

Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

This is one to buy if you’re planning a birthday party with a Gruffalo theme or just looking for activities to do on a rainy day. The idea is to have fun with your child as you create snacks and treats with a link to the story, from Scrambled Snake and Poisonous Warts to Roasted Fox and Owl Ice Cream. Turn a slice of ham into a frog’s tongue and a handful of pine nuts into toenails. “Don’t play with your food” is definitely a rule to be broken here.

Buy Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler here

So there you go, five cookbooks aimed at parents to whet your appetite but we know there are many more so let us know your recommendations in the comments below…

About Jill Misson

Mum of two girls who fortunately likes the colour pink. Jill works in radio, producing and presenting programmes which basically means she gets paid to talk. Loves baking and eating cakes but no longer gets to lick the spoon now she has little helpers. You can follow Jill on Twitter and Facebook

Image credit: Jill Misson

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