we <3 Tyler Florence

I love Tyler’s Ultimate. It was one of the few shows I would actually tune in for when we still had cable. He is definitely my favorite Food Network chef to watch in action. His passion for food and life shines through. He has several books out, but I had not been interested in purchasing them. I guess I thought some of his magic would be lost in print. That is until two weeks ago when I ordered Start Fresh: Your Child’s Jump Start to Lifelong Healthy Eating on a whim from Amazon. As soon as it arrived I fell in love and I have made something out of it every day since. EVERY day. I’m not kidding you. The book is absolutely fabulous. If you are into making food for your baby/toddler – go get this book! Get it even if you don’t have kids…And if you don’t want to buy it, borrow it from your local library. I promise, you won’t be sorry.

Start Fresh is divided into three sections roughly based on age. The first contains purees, some of which can also be used as sauces for meat dishes for the grownups. We came to this book a little late for the first section. Kaylee is pretty much over purees.  She’ll eat them if no finger food is offered but gets bored quickly with being spoon-fed. So, as a compromise I tend to give her purees in a cup with a straw – smoothie style. She had Tyler’s banana, spinach, yogurt puree this way and asked for more after already sucking down 5 ounces.

The second and third sections are where the fun begins. All of the recipes contain fresh fruits and veggies, which Tyler suggests you purchase organic and locally (a man after my own heart). Most of the recipes call for these various fruits and vegetables to be roasted in the oven, a technique I have to admit I had never bothered with before the book. It is so simple and does an excellent job of adding complex flavors to food that I can’t believe I avoided it for so long.

The very best part is that the meals are meant to be enjoyed as a family! That’s right, one meal for everyone. This is easily accomplished by blending or processing the infant and toddler portions to the right consistency for your tot and leaving the rest in tact for the grown-ups at the table. I have seen that advice before, but never in a way that actually worked out well for everyone. Typically recipes of that type end up being too bland for the adults or too flavorful for the infants. Start Fresh gets it right, and the results are brilliant.

Kaylee and I are alone for dinner during the week, and with about half an hour to get things from the stove to the table, I have had a difficult time getting something for both of us ready before she is ravenous. This book helps out immensely with that since I can make one dish, typically in 20-30 minutes, and have something that both of us can eat together without resorting to packaged food. Plus most of the recipes include veggies, something I generally have a hard time getting excited about. And, there are always left-overs which is great in case I get in late and don’t have time to make something from scratch.

Everything we have made so far has been simple, beautiful, quick, and most importantly, tastes excellent. I made the cauliflower gratin for dinner with grandma and grandpa last week and it disappeared. Scott, who typically can’t stand anything green, even asked me to make it again this weekend. Proof that Tyler has a way with veggies. Prior to this book I was struggling with getting enough veggies into Kaylee’s diet, as well as our own. Now I never have to worry about it and getting meals to the table is actually fun again in a way it hasn’t ever been. Magic!

Start Fresh is also filled with bits of Tyler’s wisdom about inspiring a love of great food in your kids. He suggests that even the simplest things, like letting your little ones watch you cut up veggies and fruits so they are more likely to eat the end result. And also, letting them feel involved by putting a play kitchen in sight of the stove. Pictures of his family and to-die-for kitchen are sprinkled throughout.


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