Chop Chop

Little Bites

by Moira Silva

From Little Bites by Christine Chitnis and Sarah Waldman, ©2015 by Christine Chitnis and Sarah Waldman. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boston, MA.

I almost brought it with me. While packing swimsuits and toothpaste into our suitcase, preparing for a family vacation in Florida, I considered making room for my sauce-spattered copy of Little Bites: 100 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Snacks.

Since I bought it last summer, this inventive book, co-authored by Christine Chitnis and Sarah Waldman, has provided my two sons and I with hours of nourishing entertainment. On quiet days, we pull it off the
shelf, leisurely exploring the wonders of savory corn fritters and creamy blueberry lassis.

On rushed weekdays, I reach for it to help me build a safe bridge for my boys over the perilous chasm between lunch and dinner.

Like many nutrition-conscious mothers, I had often found myself stressing out when my kids were too tired, distracted or stuffed with snacks to tuck into a wholesome dinner. But thanks to Little Bites, I now console myself, knowing that my rascals have spoiled their appetites with warm cheddar broccoli pretzels or sweet potato cornmeal muffins.

Local food writer Waldman and her co-author Chitnis organized the recipes in Little Bites by season and in each section provide a list of produce likely to be available.

It’s impossible not to become fast friends with Little Bites, excitedly doggy-earring page after page of enticing recipes, and as with any new friendship, you can’t help but wonder where it might take you.

Vibrant photos of fuchsia dahlias, fuzzy baby chicks and glistening raspberries on the opening pages broadcast this duo’s passion for sustainable living with style.

More inspiring and adorable photos mark the beginning of every section throughout the book, reminding readers to celebrate each snowflake and spring puddle with a culinary woo-hoo!

I could not help feeling inspired by the evocative image of a picnic basket filled with jars of apple cider, golden pears, and twine wrapped sandwiches. And then, score! A yummy, protein- rich recipe for apple power pockets followed, prompting me to get my unwieldy family out the door to see the radiant fall foliage before it withered.

Every recipe is accompanied by a motivating snippet noting its nutritional value. At the book tour kick-off last July, Waldman, a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, explained why.

“Instead of saying to myself, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad’ as I hand my kids a bag of pretzels,” she said, “I instead ask myself, ‘What’s the benefit? What will this snack offer them?’”

Without the authors’ notes, I wouldn’t have realized those sweet apple power pockets contain plenty of vitamin E, which improves skin and hair health.

The flavors in Little Bites dishes range from simple (berry ice pops) to complex (baba ganoush with tahini, fresh parsley and mint). On the whole, preparation time is brief, although some of the more intricate snacks are best saved for a snow day.

And, in the age of special diets, it helps that most recipes, like the soft, sweet cranberry granola bars, can be easily adapted to be gluten, dairy or nut-free. Due to my older son’s severe nut allergy, we just slip in seeds and seed butters, as directed by the book’s special notes (GF, DF, NF).

Adaptations to feed babies and older eaters are also included so parents don’t need to make multiple dishes to feed everyone in the family. In fact, I bet my 6-year-old son could even make some of these on his own.

While feeding little ones is never easy, Chitnis and Waldman make healthy eating a pleasure, deciding
to showcase the spinach instead of hiding it. When I make the bunny rabbit rolls - a colorful medley of summer vegetables wrapped in a tortilla - my kids burst into giggles, both with happiness and tickled at the name. Enthusiastically climbing their step stools to reach counter height, and sometimes knocking each other out of the way, they cannot wait to participate in jobs like “skewering” the yellow cherry tomato and fresh mozzarella pesto bites.

Little Bites diverse recipes delight everyone from sweaty tee-ball players flocking in from a game to discerning grown-ups at a Memorial Day barbecue.

I can’t speak for all mothers, but I know that many of us strive to nourish our children while encouraging them to develop an adventurous palate. I found it reassuring, then, to learn that Waldman and Chitnis understand the challenges of tight budgets, full lives and wary young eaters.

They tested the recipes on their own kids. So, I figure, the odds are in our favor.

If their munchkins will eat the kale bread pudding bites, then why not mine?