Do your kids help out with the cooking in your house? Whether they're toddlers or teenagers, Beth Sheresh thinks that there are lots of ways that kids can contribute in the kitchen - not to mention the garden, the grocery store, and the farmer's market! After reading her book Picture Yourself Cooking with Your Kids, she definitely has us convinced...
Rather than simply focusing on "kid-friendly" recipes, Sheresh takes a very holistic approach. The first quarter of the book lays the groundwork by covering topics like where to buy food, using all five senses when cooking, how to read food labels, and what foods you might want to keep stocked in your pantry. She also talks about basic cooking techniques and different ways that kids can help out depending on their age and ability.
The rest of the book contains recipes divided by meal and also includes plenty of helpful tips, suggestions for variations, and notes on health and nutrition to reinforce the themes established in the first few chapters. We really like that the prep time, necessary tools, and nutrition information are clearly listed at the beginning of each recipe. Ingredients and instructions are also easy to read, while full-color pictures demonstrate steps and show ways that kids can help out.
The recipes are well-chosen to satisfy a range of personal tastes, cooking abilities, and whatever time-restrictions your family may have on a particular day. They run the gamut from simple (Sweet Potato Sticks) to more complex (Cheddar and Caramelized Onion Breadsticks), and there are plenty of dishes for both adventurous and picky eaters - although Sheresh would argue that the more your children become involved in selecting, shopping for, and preparing their meals, the more likely they are to try new things. The "Pasta with Spring Greens and Asparagus" might get passed over in favor of "Magic Microwave Mac n' Cheese" at the moment, but give it some time!
While the book is definitely written for adults, it's laid out in such a way that makes it easy for us to pass along the information or even read aloud to kids. We also like that Sheresh doesn't assume that we already know how to cook. The guides and tips can be just as useful for a new mom or dad who's never cooked before as for a seasoned kitchen veteran with teenagers!
With a team of several parents and their kids as helpers, we tried out the recipes for Magic Microwave Mac n' Cheese, Flaky Biscuits, Ginger Applesauce Cake, and Butterscotch Pudding. The kids were definitely eager to jump in once invited! They stirred sauces, measured flour, grated cheese, and happily tasted ingredients both raw and cooked. And if their attention faded in and out a bit, no worries because we adults had just as much fun.
The final results were very positive, as evidenced by happy faces and clean plates. The biscuits were flaky and the mac n' cheese was indeed magically cheesy and delicious. With a dollop of sweet whipped cream, the ginger applesauce cake received rave reviews.
The pudding had a few setbacks - our volunteer tester for that one had some trouble with a few of the steps and ended up with slightly lumpy pudding. None the less, they report that they had a lot of fun making it and aren't deterred from doing more cooking in the future!
Whether you already do a lot of cooking with your kids or not, Picture Yourself Cooking with Your Kids is a great reference book to have on your shelf. Beth Sheresh has done a great job of writing an accessible and inspiring cookbook, and we definitely recommend giving it a look!
And stay tuned - tomorrow we'll be sharing Beth Sheresh's recipe for Ginger Applesauce Cake!
• Buy yourself a copy of Picture Yourself Cooking with Your Kids by Beth Sheresh on Amazon, available for $15.59.
Related: Lunch Box Blues: Good Ideas for School Lunches?
(Images (and many thanks to): Lee and her boys via Seriously, and Jana and Emma Reger)