Great Cookbooks for Families:
Reviewed by Katy Killilea
Cooking–at any age–can be just like playing, and if the results of this playing fill a belly with wholesome food, all the better. Over the past ten years, Mollie Katzen has written three books for the very youngest cooks–two of them are specifically for “preschoolers and up.”
In these books, recipes are written and illustrated with pre-readers in mind. For example, when three spoonfuls of maple syrup are to be added to the Sunrise Lemonade in Salad People, a drawing of three charming spoons beside an iconic jug of syrup clues you in (written below the drawing is “add 3 tablespoons syrup,” in case you need reassurance that you’re getting the picture). Honest Pretzels is recommended “for cooks ages 8 and up,” so the recipes are a wee bit more complex. As with Katzen’s other kids’ books, each step is illustrated.
Katzen has childhood food preferences nailed. In all of her books–for child or adult cooks–her aesthetic is for homey, simple, yummy foods, often with ethnic twists. Bagel Faces, Smart Cookies (“eat ’em on the bus!”), and Carrot Pennies all take familiar foods and add some child-enticing sparkle. For example, Spaghetti Pie requires the snipping of pasta strands with scissors. But then it also requires eating spaghetti in the format of a wedge of pie. Twists like this are just weird enough (i.e., intriguing but not revolting).
Many adult cooks with young children own the original versions of Katzen’s hand-lettered cookbooks, The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Both of these classics–first published over twenty years ago–have been updated to make the recipes lower in fat and to offer dairy-free and egg-free options. The changes are subtle and make the books more functional for most families today. It’s definitely worth upgrading your home library with these slightly altered editions–especially if your current copies are warped and stained from years of use.
Below is a recipe to try with your kids from Pretend Soup.
Bright Pink Fruit Dip
– Spears of cantaloupe or honeydew
– Spears of fresh, firm banana
– Apple or pear slices
– 10-ounce package frozen raspberries, defrosted
– 4 ounces softened cream cheese
– 1 cup firm yogurt
– 2 teaspoons lemon juice
– 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar or honey to taste
1. Arrange fruit on a small plate.
2. Puree raspberries (and their liquid) and cream cheese in a blender or food processor until uniform in color. Transfer to a bowl.
3. Whisk in the yogurt and lemon juice until well blended.
4. Pour the dip into one or more serving bowls. Dip the fruit into the pink stuff and eat!
Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up
1994 Tricycle Press
Honest Pretzels: And 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks
1999 Tricycle Press
Salad People And More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up
2005 Tricycle Press
The New Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen’s Classic Cooking)
2000 Ten Speed Press
The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest (Mollie Katzen’s Classic Cooking)
2000 Ten Speed Press
All of these books were written by Mollie Katzen