Mila’s Meals – The Beginning & the Basics

MILA’S MEALS: The Beginning and the Basics

When I first got my hands on a copy of this book, I must own I did have some expectations. I was looking forward to receiving it, as I had heard good things about it, and was excited to be introduced to a new recipe book with some inspiring ideas in it for me and my daughter. Well I was completely blown away from the moment I opened the parcel (popped corn replaced yucky unrecyclable polystyrene chips in the packaging!) and held this fat tome in my hands. It has many more pages than I expected, and the reason for this is that Mila’s Meals is an incredibly thoroughly and well researched book about nutrition in children and most especially starting FROM THE BEGININING with a diet that is nutritious and free from all the rubbish that gets put into our food today. Much of this rubbish is well hidden and that’s where Mila’s Meals really shines. This book is an education presented in a beautiful, readable, and FUN way!

The author Catherine Barnhoorn is Mom to a four year old daughter, and Catherine’s journey has been guided largely by the blessing of Mila. Their story is briefly told as an introduction to the book, which explains just how important and personal the book is to Catherine, and how much it comes from the heart. I love the original chapters into which the book has been broken:

UNLEARN: an interesting and informative chapter which presents facts regarding many common ideas surrounding the introduction of solid foods for baby. Catherine addresses some well-known concepts regarding first foods, and most importantly offers some alternative ways of looking at these ideas. This is followed by a chapter on ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS. It’s set out in table form which is convenient for quick and easy reference. There are very clearly set out guidelines as to what foods can be introduced when.

FEEDING WITH AWARENESS looks at food allergies vs food intolerances, and ways in which to address these. It also looks at the myriad of toxins which are present in some of the foods we eat, plastics that we use, cosmetics we think are harmless. A table is included here detailing the differences between whole foods as opposed to refined and processed foods – I found this very clearly explained and enlightening. There is then a section on additives in which these nasties and some not so nasties are well illuminated; this is important information that every parent needs to know. The pros and cons of raw vs cooked foods is also touched upon.

I love the ‘rainbow nutrition’ concept – eating foods which represent all the different colours of the rainbow will ensure that you get all the necessary nutrients! Fun, and kids love this! This chapter goes on to introduce anti nutrients and how we can combat them by the way in which we prepare our nuts, grains, seeds and legumes. Catherine discusses meat and the different kinds of labelling and what they actually mean. Then the chapter moves on to fruit and veggies, specifically addressing organic, conventional, and GMO – the significance of these differences is elaborated upon, and there’s some useful information on GMO’s. This chapter then poses the all-important questions that surround gluten, dairy, and sugar. The facts are presented with clarity, and then there are pages devoted to the many alternatives that are available for us to use. Food additives – the GOOD kind! – are also discussed here, giving some fantastic ideas as to how to include nutrients in simple basic foods that baby will love. The next part of this chapter is possibly my favourite, and I think it is what especially makes Mila’s Meals stand out from all the rest: Catherine not only does not ignore but embraces and emphasises the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of being a child (and an adult too!). This is a warm and loving reminder of the many ways in which we can grow into caring and nurturing human beings – growth is about more than the food we eat, of course . . . . .

Food preparation and storage is the next topic addressed – again, some very helpful and practical guidelines regarding the preparation, freezing, and reheating of food.

And now – the RECIPES! Catherine starts with the very basics – liquid!, with the emphasis on the enormous importance of water. Titled ‘Thirsty’ the recipes thereafter include a smoothie for breastfeeding Mum, and formula, juice, tea and smoothie recipes for baby. We then progress on the timeline to ‘Off the Spoon’ – recipes include purees, introduction to eggs, porridge, muesli, yoghurt and soup. After this (from one year old), Finger Foods: those one can take out and about (SO important to have own suitable foods when not at home!), and those that are preferable to eat at home. There are some yummy snack ideas which the whole family will enjoy in these chapters, including muffins, fritters, and cakes!

Dips and Spreads are introduced in the next chapter – fabulous accompaniments to any meal. There are some old favourites in here, but made in innovative healthy ways – we love these (think tomato sauce, mayonnaise, jam and even chocolate spread!). The next chapter tackles the use of utensils (From the Fork) and includes fun things to do with eggs, and also introduces some meat dishes. ‘Party Food & Something Sweet’ is such a vital chapter – these great ideas leave no excuses to resort to shop bought sugar laden ‘treats’! And it’s so essential to know that it is possible to relish being healthy! There’s an interesting chapter that includes recipes for pantry items – certain basics that you can make any time and keep in the pantry for when they are needed. These include stock, fermented food, flours and milks.

Even if your family is past the baby stage, you will still enjoy many of these wonderful recipes!

Then follows an ingenious chapter on how to use some of your key cooking ingredients in and around the home – Catherine illustrates myriad uses for coconut oil, lemon, honey, rooibos, spices and banana skins, to name but a few!

The book concludes with a glossary, a guide to certain equipment necessary in today’s kitchen, a conversion chart, and also a listing (and brief bio) of the authors of certain texts quoted in the book. The attention to detail (as illustrated so clearly by these last chapters) in Mila’s Meals is actually phenomenal.

Mila’s Meals is much more than a recipe book – although it incorporates over one hundred yummy recipes suitable for littlies, and desirable for the rest of the family too! Mila’s Meals is an eye opener in one way, and a positive reinforcement in another for all the Moms (and Dads) out there who wish to give baby the best nutrition right from the start! And what could be more important than a healthy and vital approach to the food that we are going to eat for the rest of our lives?! Mila’s Meals is a wonderfully practical and original guide through the overload of (mis)information that’s out there. It’s also beautifully presented, with text being complemented with pertinent quotations and stunning photographs. Mila’s Meals is a gem, and I recommend it for every new parent trying to find his or her way around the kitchen!

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