Ā La Carte has a twofold mission: to simplify the cooking experience for the home chef with easy-to-follow recipes and to raise much-needed funds for the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

I chose the name to reflect the Montreal-based initiative for a few reasons. In French, ordering à la carte means ordering individual dishes from a restaurant menu; the term is widely understood by Montrealers. The cookbook features recipes for nearly 150 dishes, which can be enjoyed individually or together with other dishes: Look out for pairing suggestions in the introductory blurbs and ingredient lists. And the book has elements of a storybook, with profiles of healthcare professionals and the children for whom they care.

Bagels are such an iconic Montreal food. Our graphic designers, food stylist and photographer, working as a kind of focus group, selected bagels as a representation of the project as a Montreal-based initiative promoting local restaurants, businesses and institutions.

The Montreal Children’s Hospital was important to my husband, Howard, and to me even before we became parents. I knew all along that I wanted to do meaningful community work: I just couldn’t figure out what kind.

When our two boys, Noah and Ryan, were babies, we established the idea of a pleasant mealtime experience as central to harmony within our home. The cookbook is a way for me to make a difference in the broader community.

I have always felt strongly about modelling an active, healthy lifestyle for our children and Ā La Carte is a way for me to share this passion with others – and to help support the hospital at the same time. It’s a feel-good community project, one which has brought together like-minded volunteers to make a difference in the lives of children treated at the hospital and their families.

We asked volunteers to submit their favourite family recipes and then selected and adapted and created easy-to-follow recipes designed to appeal to the entire family; the hope is, through these dishes, to foster a pleasant mealtime experience in which conversation and laughter play starring roles.

We narrowed down almost 500 submissions to the nearly 150 recipes in the book. Space constraints meant we had to leave out some wonderful recipes. But they’ll be featured on social media, so follow @alacartecookbook on Facebook and Instagram.

A chapter called Breakfast Set Go features recipes for oats, muffins, toasts, pancakes, waffles and eggs. Another, Soups, Salads & Soul, includes vegan, vegetarian, poultry and meat options; Meals & Memories are Made Here provides recipes for vegan, vegetarian, fish, pasta, pizza, poultry and meat dishes. A chapter on sides – There’s Always Another Side – has recipes for vegetables, nuggets and fries. Eat, Sleep, Snack, Repeat features recipes for homemade “milks,” nut and seed butters, granola and kale chips and includes school-lunchbox friendly options. Save Room for Dessert offers fruit-based treats, cakes, loaves and squares, cookies and bites, muffins and frozen desserts.

Submissions by well-known local chefs and restaurateurs appear at the beginning of each chapter!

Healthy means different things to different people. For the Ā La Carte team, it is about fostering a mealtime experience that includes homemade food. The goal is to promote cooking at home by providing easy-to-prepare recipes for the work and school week and to encourage variety in the foods we eat.

The book features a wealth of information, including when organic produce is best, food misconceptions, how to read labels in the grocery store, the properties of different oils and when to use which, store-bought versus homemade and what constitutes a holistic lifestyle. We’re also prepared to answer your questions via email, social media or on our website.

We are looking for volunteers who would like to get involved with sales and distribution.

No one – not the dietitians, graphic designers, copywriters or editors, the food stylist, photographer, legal counsel or anyone else: Everyone has been working pro-bono to maximize the project’s fundraising potential.

All proceeds from sales of the cookbook will go to the Healthy Kids Fund at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

A February 2023 launch is projected; we’ll know better as we approach the finish line.