With more and more families consciously deciding to eliminate meat from their diets, cookbook author, popular blogger of Herbivoracious, and father of two daughters shares his thoughts on how to implement a vegetarian diet for the whole family.
We are also giving away a copy of Michael Natkin’s new cookbook, Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes (Harvard Press Commons May 2012), and appreciate him for sharing his Dutch Baby With Sautéed Apples recipe from his new cookbook.
Alice: What advice would you give parents seeking to implement a vegetarian diet for the family?
Michael: I think if you are already vegetarian when you have kids, it won’t really even come up for a long time because they just do what you do. If you already have kids and want to go vegetarian, I would have an honest conversation with them about your reasons for making that change, and I’d consider doing it gradually so everyone has time to adapt. One of my goals in writing my cookbook was to provide big, flavorful vegetarian recipes that will leave you fully satisfied, whether or not you are used to eating meat-centered meals, so hopefully it can help you make any transition you might be contemplating. I also hope a lot of families will simply use it as a way to eat *less* meat, without being too concerned about the labels.
Alice: I love how inventive and internationally inspired many of the recipes in your cookbook are. Are your kids adventurous eaters? If yes, what advice can you give parents to encourage their children to also be adventurous?
Michael: I think the best thing you can do is involve your kids in as much of the process as possible. Take them shopping, both to grocery stores and farmer’s markets, and talk about all of the different products. Let them choose new things to try. Invite them to taste ingredients as you prepare them and talk about what flavors they experience. Let them help out in the kitchen with simple tasks like cutting soft vegetables with a butter knife, stirring bowls, etc. If you stimulate their curiosity instead of engaging in power struggles with them, they will eventually try new things. And just know that most kids go through a carbo-tarian phase that may last several years. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just keep putting a variety of healthy foods on the table and let them figure it out over time. By the way, my wife is a parent educator, and she’s written an awesome article on this very topic.
Alice: What will you be cooking for Mother’s Day for your wife?
Michael: We have a tradition that the kids and I make a Dutch Baby (a giant, oven-baked pancake) and bring it to her in bed. And of course she gets to decide what I’m making for dinner!
Alice: Thanks Michael!
To win a copy of Michael’s cookbook, leave a comment below telling us your favorite vegetarian dish. One entry per person.
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Michael’s notes: I never knew what a Dutch baby was until my wife introduced me to this favorite from her childhood. It’s an enormous, oven-baked pancake that puffs up theatrically, then just as suddenly collapses into a rich, custardy pie—similar to a clafoutis but less eggy. The preferred way to cook a Dutch baby is in a cast-iron skillet with a lot of butter in the bottom so that you get a little bit of a popover-type crust. Confectioners’ sugar and a squeeze of lemon are the traditional accompaniments.
The sautéed apples are our house variation. For a savory twist, skip the apples and add modest amounts of grated aged Gouda cheese, sautéed onions, and herbes de Provence directly to the batter.
I especially like to serve this Dutch baby for brunch with company, because I can make the batter and sautéed apples in advance and then finish the pancake in the oven while I visit with my guests. If you want to do it that way, you can make the batter the night before and refrigerate it in the blender jar, giving it a last second spin to reblend. The apples can be made an hour ahead of time and rewarmed just before serving.