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Great Cookbooks for Families: The Mommies

By Katy Killilea

I’ve learned a lot of life-changing stuff from moms this year. Cooking stuff. These are my top three revelations.


1. Nugget-ization of X

There are loads of useful insights into food and child rearing in Emily Franklin’s Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes, but the most life-altering part of this wonderful book comes on pages 32-33, for here lies the recipe for Mummy Nuggets. Franklin gives precise instructions for turning anything into a nugget. Regardless of its components, if a food is a nugget, there are lots of otherwise picky kids who will eat it. Eggplant, cod, chicken, tofu, mashed-up beans and rice . . . these have all been nuggetized by me, successfully, using Franklin’s formula. If you can kiss a boo-boo and make it better, you can add this new trick to your magic act.

2. Subversive Popsicleone-bite

Ann Hodgman’s One Bite Won’t Kill You (illustrated by Roz Chast) has fun, funny, weird, yummy recipes for everything a family with young-to-teenaged kids might want to eat on a weeknight or holiday, with plenty of commentary to make you feel like you’re doing a great job (or at least that you’re not a whole lot worse than anyone else’s mom). Hodgman on feeding a picky eater: “Your kids probably won’t reach adulthood never having eaten a bite of salad. Or maybe they will! . . . Our children are only young for a little while. If we can give them enough to eat, we’re lucky, and so are they.” Phew! But my favorite, favorite idea from this book is to use an action figure as a popsicle stick. Poke that Clone Trooper helmet deep into a cup of yogurt, freeze it, and make your children scream with joyful disbelief. (Hodgman warns against trying this with Barbies: the hair.)

3. Unlikely Smoothie = Dip

We’ve been blending stuff for ages: vanilla soymilk + frozen bananas (or any kind of frozen fruit) = smoothie. Peanut butter + coconut milk + soy sauce + garlic= peanut sauce. But this year I learned to wield my immersion blender to whirl things like tahini and previously untouchable items like orange bell peppers into salad dressing, or as the fellows here call it, “dip.” Hannah Marcotti shares her smart recipes on Kidoinfo and her blog, and she and her children beam with well-being, so if you have yet to try her methods–for what its worth–I say, go for it!

This is my best approximation of the proportions for my favorite Hannah Marcotti salad dressing, which flows from her mind naturally, and so she has never written down. You’ll need to crank the ingredients up or down or substitute them to your liking.

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

2 tablespoons tahiniimg_09841

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded & chopped

1 shallot, peeled & chopped, or a few scallions, chopped

olive oil, salt, pepper

Whirl everything together in a blender or in a mug with an immersion blender. Add a little olive oil if it tastes too sharp and vinegary. Season with salt and pepper. Serve as a salad dressing–especially on finely chopped raw chard or kale–or as a dip for vegetables or even nuggets.

The details:

One Bite Won’t Kill You
by Ann Hodgman
$16 Houghton Mifflin
Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes
by Emily Franklin
$24 Voice

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1 comment
  • I’m beyond moved to be included on your list and I promise to try writing things down more often. As serendipity seems to follow me these days, you will see a recipe for a “nugget” in the next vegetable article. I dedicate it to you! A thank you to you as my kids cookbook collection has a few “nuggets” in it from your recommendations.