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Book Review: The Organic Family Cookbook by Anni Daulter

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When I first made the decision to actually cook my meals at home, rather than rely on boxed dinners and take-out, I went on a cookbook-buying rampage. With little food preparation experience behind me, I stalked thrift stores and picked up anything that seemed like it would be even remotely helpful in my quest to prepare good recipes that featured natural, seasonal food. Needless to say there were many misses. As cultural awareness about the importance of eating whole foods increases, there is an even greater sea of options to choose from, but what I needed at that time was a single source of easy-to-follow recipes that wouldn’t intimidate this novice cook and that didn’t sacrifice taste. What I needed was Anni Daulter. Written with her gentle and inclusive voice, The Organic Family Cookbook: Growing, Geening, and Cooking Together (2011, Sellers) provides a welcome guide to natural cooking for the entire family.

With a family of six disparate eaters (including one strict vegetarian and two toddlers), Daulter has found a way to create meals that satisfy everyone without mom becoming a short order cook. She includes between nine to 12 recipes in each of the categories of breakfasts, snacks, lunches, dinners, sides, desserts, and extras. Sprinkled throughout are personal anecdotes, advice for including all family members in food acquisition and preparation, and news nuggets about our larger food system. It all comes together to create a broadly informative, richly textured book that is about so much more than cooking. At its heart, it is a guide to a more mindful life.

What I liked most about this cookbook is that as I read through each recipe I found myself slapping my forehead and asking, “why didn’t I think of that?” This food is familiar, but with a twist. Daulter not only provides more healthful substitutions for common ingredients (A better-for-you donut recipe? You bet!), she has taken popular flavors and combined them in unique ways. One of our family’s favorites are her Veggie Sliders. The expected black beans are mixed with all the veggies that we’re getting in our CSA box right now, plus she throws in healthy boosts, like hemp seed powder, to create a truly delicious and satisfying meal.

If an eco-minded, organic lifestyle makes sense to you, but you’re not sure how to get started, this is the perfect cookbook for you. If you already eat a from-scratch diet and you’re looking for quick tips to incorporate more nutritional punch to your dishes, this is a great addition to your cookbook collection. At the very least you have to check out her red velvet cake recipe (with a surprising red food dye alternative!). Simply delicious.

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