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Review: Annabel Karmel’s Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes

Annabel Karmel, the saviour of many parents when it comes to feeding little ones, has a new recipe book coming out this week, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to try out her new recipes over the past month.

I know many mums (me included) who found Annabel’s ‘Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner’ a godsend during those initially challenging weaning months. So no surprise then that since it’s publication in 1991, it’s remained the number-one bestselling book on food for children. Her new recipe book, ‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’, is a great follow-on from it.

Annabel Karmel's Quick & Easy Toddler Recipes

‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ has the same look as Annabel’s other books with lots of lovely photographs of the recipes and also some cute drawings scattered throughout. It’s a lovely book to look at with an excellent index and useful chapters (Breakfasts and Snacks, Pasta, Fish, Poultry, Meat, Vegetables, and Fruit).

The recipes all have easy-to-follow instructions with ingredients either already in your cupboard or easily bought. The number of portions each recipe makes can be seen at a glance, although as the book’s aim is feeding the whole family with one recipe, adult serving sizes would be useful too.

‘Breakfasts and Snacks’ include buttermilk blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with tomato salsa, ideas for sandwich fillings and quick snack ideas (although the inclusion of popcorn as a toddler snack is a worry – see why here).

Annabel Karmel's buttermilk bluleberry pancakes

All the ‘Pasta’ recipes would be suitable for the whole family plus there are some quick sauce ideas. The recipes also include pasta bakes and pasta salads.

The ‘Fish’ chapter includes some pasta recipes as well as the tasty-sounding orange and soy sole, teriyaki salmon kebabs and lemon sole goujons.

Annabel Karmel's lemon sole goujons

‘Poultry’ recipes, the biggest chapter of the book, also has some pasta dishes, as welll as ideas for wrap fillings, soups and meatballs.

It’s great to see a veal recipe (schnitzel) in the ‘Meat’ chapter. There’s also sticky lamb chops, pork fillet stir-fry, and sweet and sour pork, just to name a few.

There are a couple of soup recipes in the ‘Vegetables’ section along with some risotto recipes, pasta recipes, fritters and a frittata recipe.

The most disappointing section for me is ‘Fruit’ and this is where I have to admit I have an issue with Annabel Karmel’s recipes. The one issue I have across all the recipes of hers I’ve tried and perused (and not just in her new book) is the lack of sugar-free sweet recipes. Every single recipe in the ‘Fruit’ chapter, as well as her fresh fruit salad in the opening ‘Breakfast’ chapter, has sugar. Every single one. And this worries me.

Scattered throughout the book are time-saving tips for hassled parents which is a nice addition. Advice includes buying ready-grated cheese, using just boiled water from the kettle to cook pasta, putting dinner leftovers in your little ones’ lunchboxes the following day and buying frozen vegetables (although this last one isn’t reflected in the recipes with several asking for just a couple of spoonfuls of tinned corn!). The suggestion to reorganise your kitchen so you have easy access to the equipment you use the most is good advice, but how many of us would actually do it?

My biggest gripe about this book, especially when it’s being marketed at busy mums and dads who need quick and healthy meals, is the lack of timings. There aren’t any cooking or preparation timse given for any of the recipes. Being able to see at a glance how long each recipe takes would be really helpful for hassled parents.

It’s also a shame there aren’t more suggestions or advice for getting toddlers to help you cook, in fact I can only see one which encourages them to blitz fruit. While you can certainly have your munchkin make her or his own wraps (although do you need a recipe for that?), it would’ve been good to have some recipes that just involved measuring and mixing to fully engage a toddler. For instance, the apple and sultana muffin recipe needs the butter and sugar to be creamed rather than including a muffin recipe where the butter is melted and cooled then all the remaining ingredients just mixed in, which is very do-able for a toddler.

It states there are “tips and tricks to encourage fussy eaters” which I was very enthusiastic to read considering my recent confession to you, but I found no real advice for frustrated parents. Reading the book from cover to cover deciding which recipes I’d try out first, I dismissed many thinking Nicholas would just pick out the vegetables or just not want to try them because of the size of the chunks of vegetables. Yes, you can dice up vegetables so the pieces are tiny and keep your fingers and toes crossed as you serve it up, but I think exasperated parents would welcome even the simplest practical advice to be explained.

However, for the many mums and dads out there who are stressed, tired, often catering for the multiple culinary demands of their family, battling to get their little ones to eat, and in need of help, Annabel’s new book will definitely inspire. There are plenty of easy recipes that can be quickly whipped up (130 to be exact!), saving many of us tearing our hair out not knowing what to feed our family this evening.

Look out for some of Annabel’s new toddler recipes over the next few weeks as I share some of my ‘tests’ with you!

‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ will be published by Ebury Press on 20 June 2013 (RRP £9.99).

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of Annabel Karmel’s ‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ to review. My opinions are honest and my own.