Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food
By Jessica Seinfeld
208 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0061251344
Review by Prescott Carlson
First let me say I don't know what the fuss over Deceptively Delicious is all about. One camp feels sneaking vegetable purees into kids' food is somehow lying to them and morally wrong, as if you were offering a vegetarian ground beef and calling it tofu. But in our household the kids already don't know what the hell I put in my spaghetti sauce, so who cares if now I start putting in some carrot puree? The other argument is that there is too much pandering to children's tastes with these recipes. I don't know who these people are that are eating things like Muscovy duck breast with dried cherry sauce for dinner every night, because I'm certainly not above having mac 'n cheese with a side salad for dinner. Which is what I decided to go with in the test kitchen.
The "deceptive" part of the Deceptively Delicious macaroni and cheese recipe comes in the form of a 1/2 cup of cauliflower puree. Cauliflower being an already mild-flavored vegetable, it was easily masked by the cheese sauce -- I couldn't tell if I was actually tasting it or if my mind was playing tricks because I was aware of its presence. The only negative was that the recipe on its own was just O.K. The inclusion of nonfat cream cheese added a tang that the kids and I didn't really care for. But I certainly realize that having a sinful version like the one I'm used to in a book promoting healthy eating would be beside the point, and the recipe is simple enough that it can be easily tailored to individual tastes. The book includes many other "family-friendly" recipes that should appeal to both kid and grown-up palates, such as Italian meatloaf, pasta with Bolognese sauce, and creamy potato soup. Also included are breakfast, snack and dessert items.
Speaking of dessert, we whipped up a batch of Ms. Seinfeld's chocolate brownies, which contained a full cup of spinach and carrot puree. Once I got over putting a big glop of baby food in my batter, it was obvious after mixing all the ingredients that the consistency was similar to traditional brownies. As a longtime fan of zucchini bread and the like, I was not surprised that the veggie flavors completely disappeared into the chocolatey goodness and at 133 calories and chock full of antioxidants and fiber, certainly no complaints about this yummy treat.
The cookbook itself is very attractive, with retro graphics, "lay flat" spiral binding, and the prerequisite food porn shots of the finished products. Besides the recipes there's a guide to equipping your kitchen and preparing the various purees for portioning and freezing, as well as a nutrition guide so you can tell the exact benefits that you are getting for the extra work.
So if you're not morally opposed to being sneaky and continue to model healthy eating by serving up vegetables and fruit in their "normal" state alongside the pureed versions, Deceptively Delicious might be just the key to help you work some nutritious options into your children's diet.
Squiggles: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book
By Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books; $18.95
204 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0811861519
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Almost $20 is a pretty steep price for a coloring book, but Taro Gomi's Squiggles: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book is more than just black and white pictures on a page to be filled in by any kid with a crayon. Larger than the usual coloring book (around 8x12 inches) and bound with extra-heavy paper that can withstand paint, markers, crayons, and other projects like collage, this is a book that takes the art of creation seriously.
Affirmative text at the beginning of the book validates all different kinds of artists with varied working styles, focusing on the fact that "Here you are the artist." From simple coloring to more intensively creative projects like responding to creative prompts that use the pictures as starting point, Squiggles is a pleasant way for kids to spend some time as well as work that creative muscle, guided by drawing prompts and their own imaginations. The light gray, irregularly lined drawings have plenty of white space surrounding them, leaving lots of room for children's ideas for background, foreground, and surrounding art.
Themes include transportation, a village setting, landscapes, empty vases to be filled with flowers, faceless people waiting for expressions, and more. A section labeled "Time to Eat" presents numerous dishes all waiting for someone to draw meals on them, while the opening section is devoted to t-shirt design. Perforated pages would have been extremely helpful to the children and adults using this book, especially if you've got more than one child coloring or painting. Plus, at about an inch thick, the book doesn't lie flat on a table or desk, so the ability to tear out pages and work on them independently of the book would be nice (although keeping an Xacto knife handy would do the trick too). The flip side of not being able to take pages out is that you've got a ready-made scrapbook or time capsule of your children's artwork that's outfitted with a durable paperback cover.
Taro Gomi's Squiggles has broad appeal beyond children -- young-at-hearts and creative types of all ages can get plenty of inspiration from the author/illustrator's challenges along the top of some of the pages. "This ship has a big net. What's in it?" accompanies a drawing of a ship on the ocean that's placed toward the top of the page, structured enough to prompt ideas and broad enough to allow for a wide latitude in execution. While some younger kids may not be able to read the prompts themselves, the wide scope and nature of the book's activities make Squiggles a good choice for family fun.
The book was originally published in Japan in 1997, translated and printed here in the U.S. for the first time. Gomi's get-you-started drawings are reminiscent of his other illustrations in Spring is Here and Everyone Poops.
More stimulating than a traditional passive coloring book, Squiggles offers kids a good variety of projects and plenty of room and encouragement for budding artists to personalize and develop their own style.
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