Review summary: A delight for the taste buds and a feast for the eyes, Organically Raised has many perks and just a few cons.
Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies and Toddlers by Anni Daulter, with Shante Lanay and photography by Gina Sabatella; published by Rodale (2010). The forward, worth noting, is by Dr. Alan Greene.
The Organically Raised Cookbook, according to author Anni is, “A hip, holistic guide that allows parents to create delicious, healthy, and organic meals for children ages 6 months to 3 years old.”
The publisher notes, “A cookbook with a conscience, Organically Raised shows parents how to replace bland processed shelf staples with flavorful, pesticide-free meals that babies will love, laying the groundwork for a lifetime of good nutrition and enthusiastic eating. Organically Raised shows families how easy it is to make safe, wholesome food at home and create lasting family mealtime rituals. The simple, seasonal purées for new babies and inventive recipes from around the world for toddlers and young children provide parents with all of the tools they need to raise adventurous eaters.”
What’s covered in Organically Raised:
Organically Raised has a major focus on recipes, but that’s not all that’s covered in this lovely cookbook. The book kicks off with a nice, simple organic introduction – perfect for newbies to green eating. Anni doesn’t go into massive scary details about pesticides, she just points out some basic great reasons to go organic.
- Organic food shopping tips.
- Breastfeeding tips including: breast milk nutritional aspects; scheduling; and alternatives to breast milk.
- Advice about how to create a conscious kitchen, including a basic pantry list, food storage tips and an excellent list of inexpensive kitchen supplies you’ll need in order to prepare healthy, yummy green meals.
- A chapter on all the questions new parents may have about feeding their little ones – from babyhood onward.
- There’s an action packed section on starting solids. By action packed I mean not ho-hum at all. There are lovely examples of “Rainbow eating” and a killer seasonal food list (great if you’re not used to eating seasonally).
The recipes themselves are broken into age-easy sections: 6-9 mos; 8-12 mos; toddlers + preschoolers + big kiddos; and sweets for all. Among the recipes are small sections with tips and tricks such as…
- How to make basic baby food.
- Expanding your baby’s diet passed purees, then later expanding the diet even more for older, more adventurous eaters.
- Veggie and vegan diets, plus some special diet considerations related to gluten-free and allergies.
What I loved:
The photography, by Gina Sabatella, which I’ve scattered throughout this post for you to see, is AMAZING. My friend who had zero interest in cooking organic meals for her tot was so drawn into this book via the images that she was hooked on making some of the recipes – that’s great imagery. The pictures are charming, soothing and represent super healthy kids and meals. My whole family and my pals loved browsing this beautifully designed book.
The sweets section was excellent. Most healthy-minded, organic cookbooks discuss very few sweet options, while this book doesn’t avoid the issue – everyone likes a sweet now and then. Organically Raised talks about allowing some sweets AND tells you how to create great tasting, non-processed alternatives that could make your kids forget about processed sweets altogether. There’s a list full of healthy treat ideas, ideas for alternative sweeteners, cool “Nature’s candy” tips, plus of course sweet recipes.
Anni discusses two things that most cookbooks for children forget – healthy mix-ins (page 57) and fresh herbs (page 96). I think people forget to mention flavor when talking about food for kids; not this book though. I was really glad to see these sections. I was adding spices and herbs to Cedar’s homemade baby food way back – nine years ago, but had no guide to help me do so. I’m an okay cook, so I did fine, but this cookbook would have been great to have back then.
Recipes for everyone! I loved that this cookbook has recipes that all family members can eat. This is not just a book of purees and mashes. There are real, full-on ideas that you can cook for babies, toddlers, kids AND parents. I like this because one, it encourages eating as a family and two it’s a cost effective way to eat organic.
Some lovely images from the book below…
Were there any negatives?:
DHA – Yikes!: As noted the book has a cool breastfeeding section. However, Anni tells parents to choose a DHA-enriched formula if you don’t/can’t breastfeed. DHA and ARA in baby formula is a huge issue for a much longer post, but what I can tell you in short is that it’s not eco-friendly, not organic and not, in my opinion a safe choice at all for green families. There are some serious health arguments against feeding your baby fake DHA and ARA. To learn more about the possible cons read The Cornucopia Institute’s Replacing Mother – Infant Formula Report.
Agave issue: this book contains a ton of recipes using agave as the sweetener and I’m torn about Agave nectar. Agave is vegan so that’s a perk for vegans obviously. Also, USDA-certified organic nectar is available. However, it’s not exactly an amazing sugar alternative IMO. There are debates about just how natural agave nectar is. Agave has a very high fructose content (in some cases 90%) which means if you’re trying to avoid high fructose levels in high-fructose corn syrup this may not be the sweetener for you.
You also have to know what you’re looking for because not all agave has a low glycemic index (a main reason many people recommend it). Additionally, Dr. Andrew Weil points out that agave has, in some studies been shown to contain steroids that could lead to miscarriage (NOTE – if you’re preggers and reading this, PLEASE don’t freak if you’ve eaten agave; Weil also notes that he thinks the risk is low).
I think that if someone recommends an ingredient that not everyone is aware of they need to explain it better AND offer pros and cons along with substitution amounts for real sugar. For example, my best friend, who has a three-year-old was VERY into this book. She doesn’t know much about cooking organic for tots and said she learned a lot from this book, but she also said she was confused by all the recipes with agave in them. She was like, “What’s agave? Where do I get it? Is it safe? How much is it?” If my friend had questions, I’m guessing other parents will too.
Printing issue: I doubt this book was printed on recycled paper. It’s lovely, but slick and very not recycled looking. Plus, there’s not an official recycled content statement, other than a blip by Rodale stating, “Rodale Inc., makes every effort to use acid-free, recycled paper.” I’m really irked at Rodale for this comment, but that has nothing to do with the book, so moving on…
4 out of 5 little trees! I took 1/2 point off because this book may or may not have used recycled content paper according to the publisher. I took another 1/2 point off because I don’t think there was enough information about agave, at least not enough so that parents can make an informed decision. Note – this book clearly states that nothing in it should be taken as medical advice (I liked that disclaimer).
From a purely cookbook for green families standpoint, this book is a clear winner though and I’m going to recommend it. I think it would make an outstanding gift for new green parents. Beyond healthy meal choices, this book invites you in, wins you over with lovely images and makes you aware that a wonderful organic lifestyle is not only a smart and healthy choice, but a possible choice as well. It’s not preachy or in your face – simply a great introduction to easy organic recipes and greener kitchen overall.
- Purchase Organically Raised
- Visit the Organically Raised website
- Visit Anni’s site Conscious Family Living
- Follow Organically Raised on Twitter
- Join Organically Raised at Facebook