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Family cooking made easy

Feeding the Whole Family CoverDo you end up cooking two (or three) different dinners every night for your family: one for you and your spouse, one for your older kid(s), and another for the baby? Among many of our parent friends, this seems to be an acceptable norm. And given the way kids' food is marketed, who can resist? Mac n' cheese is just too easy. But longtime food guru Cynthia Lair makes the alternative (one healthy meal for the entire family) simple and delicious. Check out the brand new edition of her classic cookbook, Feeding the Whole Family (Sasquatch, 2008). I've had this book for years and I love it; when I'm stumped, I always return to its yummy, wholesome recipes. And it's simple to follow: Each of the recipes includes directions on how to modify the same foods for kids of varying ages. For infants, the book serves as a guide to preparing and introducing wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins. And for older kids, it offers creative advice on how to give dishes kid-appeal—and how to get children involved in mealtime in general. For starters, try this amazing beet salad recipe (courtesy of Sasquatch Books); it's one of my personal favorites.

Luscious Beet Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This recipe was inspired by Jeff Basom and his friend Tara. I love it because it uses the whole beet. Adds beautiful color and a bounty of vitamins to a simple rice and fish meal. If beet greens are unavailable or if the greens are wilted, use raw spinach, watercress, or arugula leaves.

Prep time: 1 hour to cook beets, 15 to 20 minutes to assemble salad

Makes 6 servings


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil


4 large beets with greens

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

2 scallions, finely chopped

1/4 pound feta cheese

Place all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside.

Remove greens from beets. Wash beets and place in a large pot covered with water; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until beets are tender (about an hour). You can hasten this step by pressure-cooking beets (see page 185). Set aside to cool.

Toast pumpkin seeds by placing seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Move the skillet back and forth over the heat with one hand; stir the seeds using a wooden spoon with the other hand. This will toast the seeds evenly and prevent burning. When seeds begin to puff up and give off a nutty aroma they are ready. Remove seeds from skillet and set aside.

To prepare beet greens, follow directions for Quick Boiled Greens on page 187. Squeeze excess water out of the cooked beet greens and chop. If the greens on your beets are wilted or puny, skip this step and use fresh spinach, watercress, or arugula instead.

Peel beets by holding under a trickle of cold water and pushing the skins off with your fingers. Cut into small cubes. Put cubed beets, greens, pumpkin seeds, and scallions in a salad bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Crumble feta cheese on top. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

For babies 10 months and older: Reserve a teaspoon of the toasted pumpkin seeds, grind them to a fine powder, and stir into baby’s cereal or puréed vegetables for extra calories and other nutrients.

Variation for children: Cook the beets in apple juice instead of water and serve plain, cut-up cooked beets. -Cynthia Lair, from Feeding the Whole Family

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