Participants at Chicago Moms Blog and our sister sites were fortunate to receive free copies of two of Annabel Karmel’s books, Top 100 Baby Purees and Top 100 Finger Foods which, I believe, were originally published several years ago in the U.K.. These books contain beautiful photographs and the recipes are user-friendly because they clearly set out the ingredients and the time it will take to make the recipe. The baby puree book, in particular, describes appropriate ages for particular foods, but I would suggest consulting your pediatrician on these matters.
In regard to the baby puree book, unfortunately. and maybe this is my own “thing,” but I simply can’t endorse any baby puree book that doesn’t stress the importance of using organic ingredients. I scoured the book and could not find any mention of “organic” in any of the recipes. Her “quick and easy meals for a healthy and happy baby,” will not, in my opinion, result in a healthy baby without explaining to mothers why using organic ingredients is so important. Karmel discusses “nutritional needs,” allergies, and lactose intolerance in children quite a bit, why not discuss organic ingredients as well? Furthermore, her recipes incorporate many purees with beef and chicken [we don't eat this at all in our family], with no mention of the dangers of bovine growth hormone or the unhealthy amount of antibiotics found in non-organic beef and chicken. I don’t think this is a problem in the U.K. as they don’t use bovine growth hormones there but since she has decided to bring her book here to the U.S. this issue, in my opinion, must be addressed for new mothers.
I was ready for some new ideas for my children, so I was excited to receive the Top 100 Finger Foods book. There is not a lot in there for vegetarians like our family. I did make one recipe that was almost a success. I tried the Baked Parsnip and Sweet Potato Chips recipe. Baking took a long time and although the edges got brown, those were the only crunchy parts. This was the first time my husband ate parsnips so I will be making it again. My children preferred the baked sweet potato I prepared in case it was a flop.
Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of creativity in some of the dishes. I was hoping to add some new items to our tired repertoire. However, some of the dishes featured were commonplace recipes for pancakes, french toast, pizza, and quiche. I was surprised she included nachos as one of her “healthy” finger foods. The recipe was not a revamped nutritious version. Karmel uses real store-bought tortilla chips. Indeed, the recipe is similar to the very same nachos we are desperately trying to get off the cafeteria menus of our public schools. At one point, even she concedes that she can’t think of anything else to make the number of recipes add up to the 100 the title promises “for a healthy, happy child,” stating, “I have included recipes for brownies and mini jam tarts [not even whole wheat by the way!]. After all, you are only a child once.” Her jam tart recipe has two “ingredients” which are jam and store-bought pie crust.
I’m sorry to say that I’ve been disappointed by these two books. I expected something comparable to Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. No matter how many books Karmel has published and no matter how many beautiful photographs she includes, Yaron will, and still remains, my “go to girl” for all things food, babies and toddlers.