Cookbooks for Kids: 6 Books Reviewed

We first began cooking with Zayden and Esmé when they were each around 18 months old. We started out with baking because it afforded us many opportunities to let them pour ingredients into the bowl and stir things up, which was about all they were capable of at such a young age. Even then they needed lots of supervision or we would end up with flour all over everything. But now Zayden is four-and-a-half, and he has progressed quite a bit in his cooking abilities, so we have been taking a lot of kid-friendly cookbooks out of the library for a test drive before adding a few to our cookbook library. Here’s what we think so far:

kids-kitchenKids’ Kitchen
Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)

This was the one that got it all started. Kids’ Kitchen contains 4o recipes on colourful, oversized cards. The images of the food are cartoony and don’t really give the kids a sense of what the finished product will look like, and we have learned that pictures of the actual food are very important. If they can’t see what it is going to look like, they can’t decide if they actually want to eat it. Given that getting the kids to help pick out the recipes for our menu each week has really helped us combat a lot of their picky-eating issues, this is a big failing of this book.

The instructions are quite good. All ingredients and equipment are listed on the front and detailed, step-by-step instruction are on the back.  An older child who is a strong reader could probably use these cards to prepare a simple meal independently, but younger children will need help from an adult every step of the way. The trouble is that the recipes themselves are not that exciting and some offer no real challenge (e.g. recipes for mashed potatoes and baked potatoes).

What Shall We Cook Today?
Rating: 4 stars what-shall-we-cook-today-84331l1

Of all the kid-friendly books we have tried, this one feels the most “grown up.” It has beautifully photographed images of the food in each recipe, and the recipes themselves are more sophisticated than the usual pizza and pasta recipes found in most children’s cookbooks. Another unique aspect of this cookbook is that the recipes are grouped by season, which is helpful if you are trying to teach your children more about where food comes from and how different types of food are available in different seasons. If you love local, seasonal produce, but are short on inspiration, this is a great book.

We do love this book, but it is probably not the book I would start with if you are just starting to cook with your kids. The recipes are a little more complex, and many of them may not appeal to a picky palette. For foodie families who have been cooking together for awhile, this is a great choice.

children-cookbookChildren’s Cookbook
Rating: 5 stars (for most books in the series)

DK Publishers have a number of cookbooks targeted at kids. We have tried the Canadian edition of their Children’s Cookbook (pictured) as well as their Kids’ Fun and Healthy Cookbook. Both feature not only photos of the final product, but also step-by-step photos that will help even kids who cannot yet read participate actively in the cooking process.

When considering adding a DK kids’ cookbook to your collection, look through the book carefully. We left some of their books at the library because they were very heavy on dessert recipes. The ones we do like, however, have a variety of tasty, yet simple recipes that cover the full range of meals and snacks.

emiril-soupEmeril’s There’s A Chef In My Soup
Rating: 3 stars

If you are a huge Emeril fan, you may already know about his kids’ cookbook: There’s A Chef In My Soup! I am on the fence with this one. No real pictures, just drawings. The recipes aren’t that exciting either. Mostly the pizza and pasta recipes you might expect from Emeril. But the recipes, while pretty standard, would definitely appeal to kids.

The steps for each recipe are also very well described, so as long as you are cooking with your child or your child is a strong reader, they would be easy to follow.

I don’t think we would add this one to our personal collection, but I think it would be a good choice for Emeril fans or for families that are just starting to cook together. Given the kid-friendly nature of most of the recipes, I also think this is one of the safest choices for picky eaters.

ella-cookbookElla’s Kitchen: The Cook Book
Rating: 1 star

I could not have been more disappointed in this cookbook. I found many of the recipes very involved, which meant they were not conducive to getting the kids to help, and they were not practical for a weeknight meal. On top of that, the ones we tried were all very bland. I also found that categorization of some of the recipes a little confusing. I am a traditionalist and prefer Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Dessert and maybe Snacks. But they had a category for weekend food, bbq, baking as well as dessert–it was hard to figure out where you would find the recipe you wanted to try unless you marked the page the first time you saw it. Overall, not the most realistic cookbook for busy families.

What Are Your Favourite Kids’ Cookbooks?

Here’s hoping y0u find a cookbook or two that works for you, and that it is the beginning of some wonderful culinary adventures. Do you have a favourite kid-friendly cookbook that you would recommend?

Stamppot – An Easy Toddler-Friendly Meal

When we were on our honeymoon in Europe, we stayed a few days with my extended family in Waddinxveen in the Netherlands. While there, we were introduce to a staple in the Dutch family meal plans: a stamppot. A stamppot is a “mash pot” – a dish made with potatoes mashed with other vegetables and sometimes with meat. It serves as a fantastic “all-in-one” meal and we’ve made it many times in the past few years.

Staple additions to our stamppot recipes include spinach or kale, though I’d probably add onion if I had my way. You could add any vegetable in your fridge – what doesn’t go with potato!? – and make a tasty meal.

In our last stamppot, we added some Mexican chorizo we purchased from Cilantro and Jalapeno in the Quay.

To make this samppot, we took the casing off the chorizo and cooked the crumbled chorizo. We cooked and mashed potatoes (we leave the skin on) in a separate pot, adding butter, milk, salt & pepper. We then added in some lightly steamed (ok, we did it in the microwave) spinach and the cooked meat. Viola!

Aiden is always inconsistent in his meals and what he’ll choose to eat, but he was all over the leftovers of this meal today at lunch. He’s a big fan of meat sausages and this was the first time he ate mashed potatoes without spitting them out (yay for flavour). Now that I know he likes the idea of the stamppot, I’ll plan to make a version with vegetables he likes, such as carrots, instead of the spinach.

Making Chicken Palatable for Baby

IMG_0267Aiden is a fantastic eater. He loves pretty much everything. The only “no” we’ve ever had was from chicken. But that was, it turns out, our fault.

When we first introduced chicken, we gave him a purée of boiled chicken breast. Um, ew? Can’t blame him for disliking a dry tasteless paste.

So, attempt number two was more thought out. We bought a roasted chicken from Whole Foods, since we were short of time, and saved all the brown meat. I thought this would be more moist and have more flavor. Since chicken purée on its own is a little dry, I knew it would need water. To make more of a “meal” of it, I added some brown rice baby cereal to the mix.

Voila, a base for meals! Though Aiden will eat this purée on its own, I try to give him something more palatable by mixing it with other vegetables. In the photo above, I mixed it with carrot and apple.

The thing that I’m learning with baby food is that it’s not really all that different from our food. If I wouldn’t eat it, why should he? So, boost the flavor!