Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Cookbook Review - Williams-Sonoma The Kid's Cookbook
Our family owns many cookbooks, including a few that feature kid-friendly recipes, but Williams-Sonoma's The Kid's Cookbook (recipes and text by Abigail J. Dodge) was the first we owned that features recipes actually designed to be prepared by children. It was a gift from my parents a few Christmases ago and although it is recommended for ages nine and up, my six year old has already prepared several recipes from this book with little to no help.
The book itself is an attractive hardcover with spiral binding, which is always appreciated in a cookbook. The bright colors appeal to young kids and draw them in.The first section contains an introduction with short descriptions of kitchen basics like grating cheese, cracking eggs and cutting fruits and vegetables. It also discusses measurements (a conversion chart is included) and baking basics. The recipes are divided into four sections: breakfast and lunch, snacks, main courses and side dishes, and desserts. "Super easy" recipes (all of the recipes in this book are easy) are marked with an asterisk. Each recipe includes a full-page, full-color photograph of the finished product.
Recipes in this collection range from the aforementioned "super easy" with few ingredients and instructions (corn off the cob, old-fashioned pink lemonade) to a few that all but the most competent young chefs will need assistance with (all-American apple pie, super shrimp stir-fry). There's a good variety of stuff in here, "kid-friendly" being the theme that ties everything together. So you end up with a recipe for chocolate dipped treats right before the recipe for cheese and spice tortilla chips.The main courses include a couple of vegetarian selections and recipes for chicken, shrimp, pork and turkey. Salads, fruits and vegetables are all well-represented. My only criticism is that main courses and side dishes are included in the same chapter, which makes it a little difficult if you're quickly flipping through the section in search of one or the other.
My six year old has made the egg salad sandwiches and the creamy tomato soup with little parental intervention. The instructions include frequent asides like, "Put the lid securely on the blender. Make sure it's on tight! Hold down the lid with your hand..." These things may be second nature to seasoned cooks, but they're important reminders to inexperienced chefs, who may be too overwhelmed by everything else that is going on to remember to put the lid on the blender.
All of the recipes in this book are easy, but they're also surprisingly tasty. Perhaps I should not have been surprised, as it does bear the Williams-Sonoma name. The non-Celiacs in our house were especially impressed by the pizza dough. The creamy tomato soup, which is made with chicken broth and diced tomatoes, is also a winner. The oven-baked carrot fries have become a favorite side dish (I'm making them tonight, in fact) and the recipe for turkey burgers has become my go-to burger and meatloaf recipe.
Many of the recipes in the book are naturally gluten-free; others are not and can be modified to be gluten-free (use corn or rice flour tortillas for the veggie wraps, use rice noodles in the "oodles of noodles" soup). Other recipes, like the one for pancakes, are of little use to gluten-free families. Despite this, it is one of my favorite cookbooks and my kids frequently request recipes from this book when I pull out my cookbooks and recipe box and sit down to make my weekly meal plan. Of course, they also know that when they choose something from this book that they will be involved in its preparation.