Want to put your kids to work in the kitchen? Try these new cookbooks
Last year was a breakout year for books for kids — cookbooks and food-related volumes — as the writers from America's Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping and beyond vied for readers. And the winners are kids — and their parents.
"In the French Kitchen With Kids," by Mardi Michels (Appetite by Random House, 184 pages, $24.95) may be the most revolutionary. Michels, a French teacher at an all-boys elementary school in Toronto, runs after-school cooking classes for ages 7 to 14, where she serves up recipes far beyond the usual fare in kids' cookbooks.
"The boys NEVER think something can't be done unless they've been told it's supposed to be hard," writes Michels. "Puff pastry? Choux pastry? Sushi? Molecular cuisine? ... No problem for kids who believe they can do anything." That means macarons and madeleines, crêpes and crème brûlée, brioche and butter cookies, as well as savory dishes that sound so much more interesting in French: Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes (Gratin Savoyard), Crunchy Fish Cakes (Croquettes de Poisson) and Shepherd's Pie (Hachis Parmentier).
Michels breaks new ground in the kitchen equipment she recommends for kids: knives, an immersion blender and even a kitchen blowtorch. "Kids, closely supervised, absolutely love this tool (because, fire, obviously!)," she writes. The book's photos are sophisticated and lovely, with many welcome scenes of the hands of children at work in the kitchen. Michels is also a blogger; find her at eatlivetravelwrite.com.
America's Test Kitchen is looking for a new audience with its effort that includes not only cookbooks for kids, but picture books and board books. "The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs" (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 208 pages, $19.95) is aimed at cooks from ages 8 to 12, with more than 100 recipes from Veggie Wraps With Hummus, to Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry, Kale Chips, and Applesauce Snack Cake. The ATK approach is evident. The authors test oven mitts in kids' sizes and come up with a recommendation, and offer tips on "How to Flip Fish." For more recipes, see americastestkitchen.com/kids.
The two board books, "123 The Farm and Me: Following Food From the Farm to Your Family" (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99) and "A Is for Artichoke: A Foodie Alphabet From Artichoke to Zest" (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99) are both by Maddie Frost for ATK. Although the books have the thick-cardboard pages and whimsical illustrations that are usual for a toddler, the content itself is a surprise — and not in a good way. In the "Alphabet" book, the letters move on to brine, caramelization, dulse, edamame, farro and ganache, with umami, vanilla, whisk, xigua (a melon), yeast and zest finishing up the 26 letters. The "Farm" board book starts out gently with "One farmer grows enough wheat to feed many people." But then it moves on to "Three types of flour are found at the grocery store," after which it explains what bread flour, cake flour and medium-protein flour are used for. Not the content most 3-year-olds embrace. ATK may need to rethink this project.
"Kids Bake: 100+ Sweet and Savory Recipes" is by the editors of Good Housekeeping (Hearst Books, 160 pages, $19.95). From a chocolate layer cake to gingerbread cupcakes, popovers to DIY pizza and Cheesy Monkey Bread, this is a book for the young cook who wants to expand into baked goods. The cookbook follows an earlier volume, "Kids Cook!" also by Good Housekeeping.
"The Ultimate Kids' Cookbook: Fun One-Pot Meals Your Whole Family Will Love!" is by Tiffany Dahle (Page Street Publishing Co., 208 pages, $21.99). Mostly savory dishes, from lasagna soup to tomato beef stew, chicken fingers to mini meatballs, are presented in a format that emphasizes parental help.
"Say Cheese: A Kid's Guide to Cheese Making" is by Ricki and Sarah Carroll (Storey Publishing, 128 pages, $18.95). Who knew that kids could make mozzarella, cream cheese, feta, ricotta, yogurt and more? The authors did. The mother-daughter duo own and operate New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. in western Massachusetts and direct their readers in delightful kitchen-based projects with step-by-step photos and plenty of facts to keep it even more enticing. Find the authors online at cheesemaking.com.