When I was a little girl, I yearned for an Easy Bake Oven. Pined for one. Asked every year at Christmas when the big Sears book came to the house. And every year, my mom would reply, "But we already have an easy-bake oven! It's downstairs! In the kitchen!"
At the time I was all like, "Yeah just because YOU can't make a piecrust, grumble grumble boo!" but now that I have my own kids - and more importantly, now that I am familiar with some of the great great children's cookbooks available, I see her point. Why bake two mingy little cupcakes from a crappy mix under a light bulb when you can make your very own Lickable Wallpaper, like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Or actual Stone Soup (recipe in Jane Yolen's Fairy Tale Feasts)?
These are the cookbooks I recommend most strongly. Some of them I have field-tested. I have checked all of them for clarity and easiness and appeal. If a book can lay flat on the kitchen counter, that's a plus. If it includes actual photos of actual children actually preparing food, that's a BIG plus.
After my family's experiment with Vegetarian Summer, I am more than ever convinced that intermittent vegetarianism expands kids' edible horizons, increases their awareness of what they eat and where it comes from, and is an interesting topic of dinner table conversation. The recipes also tend to be pretty foolproof, and noted vegetarian chef Roz Denny is an excellent guide. Unfortunately, this pup is out of print in the U.S.
Disgusting Food. Miller, Connie Colwell.
This one is for all you young men out there. Snails, grasshoppers, grubs... there are tons of protein-rich invertebrates here to use as perfect fast fact grossout material. Be warned - you will hear about these at the dinner table!
What The World Eats. Menzel, Peter & D'Aluisio, Faith.
Not a cookbook, but a phenomenal addition for anyone interested in food. From the team who brought us the eye-opening grownup book Material World: A Global Family Portrait, What the World Eats surveys families around the world, showing us how they eat, what they eat, where they buy it, and who prepares it. Big, colorful, beautifully printed photographs and easy to understand graphics, including maps, make this not only an important resource for establishing global awareness, but also a damn entertaining, browsable read. I hope none of my libraries will ever be without this book.
Green Eggs And Ham Cookbook. Brennan, Georgeanne.Some of the recipes in this book are easy.
Some of them are not.
Some of them call for things like a shallot.
My rhymes are awful, but the book is cute.
Kids will eat anything if the name is like 'Smoot'.
Betty Crocker's Cookbook For Boys And Girls. Crocker, Betty.
This is the cookbook to which my mother was referring when she suggested I hie my little heinie into the kitchen and try cooking for real. I have made most of the recipes in this book - some of which are a little disgusting, to today's eyes - I remember mini meatloafs with a well of ketchup in the middle? Is that right? Anyway, there's an updated version, but I think the pen and ink drawings in this one are easier to follow (think America's Test Kitchen) And it is still good advice to suggest that a child wear an apron in the kitchen!
Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes. Dahl, Roald.
This cookbook, illustrated with attractive phood photos and Quentin Blake's acrobatic, jivey illustrations, provides recipes for some of the wacktastic, bananagrammatical foods mentioned in Monsignor Dahl's books. Yup, most of it looks entirely gross when you're done, but that is certainly part of the appeal. Best to do with a grownup as some of the steps are a little fiddly. There's a sequel, just as good.
Salad People And More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook For Preschoolers And Up. Katzen, Mollie
Every one of the recipes in this book and its sequels has been prepared by preschoolers in my house. The instructions are extremely easy to follow, and emphasize skills like counting and measuring. There's a strong emphasize on healthy food - yogurt and tofu are frequent ingredients - and a minimum of recipes that require a stove, making them good possibilities for classroom cooking too. Tips to minimize mess (put the mixing bowl on a cookie sheet so that spills are localized) are included - and if you're like me, that takes a lot of stress out of the prospect of letting little kids prepare food themselves.
Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook For Young Readers And Eaters. Yolen, Jane.
Spatulatta Cookbook. Gerasole, Olivia and Isabella Gerasole.
This one has it all. The photos are bright and appealing and lively and make the food look fantastic. The spine is spiral, so it lays flat. The steps are pretty easy, but best of all, Olivia and Isabella Gerasole, the authors, are pictured doing all the work, and they make the work look like play. The Spatulatta website is pretty great too, with lots of video instruction.
Kids' Multicultural Cookbook: Food & Fun Around The World. Cook, Deanna F.There are a few of these out there - multicultural cookbooks for kids. I found this one to have instructions that are easy to follow and a nice variety of foods. I am going to keep looking though - this one didn't rock my world.
World Religions Cookbook. Schmidt, Arno.
I love this book. It's a grownup cookbook, but what the heck - some kids want to stretch in the kitchen, and I am happy to provide them that opportunity. I myself don't subscribe to any religion, but I believe in food with meaning. This book teaches kids to not only make the traditional foods that may be favorites in their house, but also explains the reasons and the meaning behind the ingredients and processes involved. Plus, when you're teaching kids about cultures not their own, you want to explore as many sensory avenues as possible. Music is good, but I'm going to argue that food is better.
Chocolate: A Sweet History. Markle, Sandra.
And come on - you have to have a chocolate book! This one has a few recipes, a little history, and nice pictures.
Hey, I can't make a piecrust either. But my kids can make muffins, soup, salad, and pretty soon I'm going to train the big one to run the rice cooker. Then, I'll sit back on my butt and laugh like a king! Aaah ha ha haaa! Fix me some rice!