Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cookbook Review: Bean Appetit

Bean Appetit: Hip and Healthy Ways to Have Fun with Food

I picked Bean Appetit: Hip and Healthy Ways to Have Fun with Food off the New Arrivals shelf at our (new, state of the art!) library and boy, am I glad I did. As a kids' cookbook, this one does pretty much everything right. From the creative recipes to the full color, glossy pages to the games and activities (I would actually call it a cookbook/activity book), it's designed to appeal to kid chefs and it does. It appeals to my kid chefs, anyway.

The premise behind this book by Shannon Payette Seip and Kelly Parthen (who co-founded Bean Sprouts, a kids' cafe/cooking school in Wisconsin) is that cooking should be fun and creative. Thus we get recipes with names like Pear Penguins, Starry Night Bites and Bug Bites. The book gives equal time to games and activities families can play together in the kitchen or at the dinner table. One activity suggests playing Jenga using carrot sticks. Another has instructions for making a homemade memory game out of repurposed metal lids. "Table Talk" questions and food facts throughout the book are designed to get families talking. My husband and kids spent an evening going through the Table Talk questions while I was at a PTA meeting.

One of the things I look for in a cookbook--especially a cookbook aimed at kids--is recipes that are gluten-free or that can easily be converted to gluten-free. One of my children has to adhere to a gluten-free diet; a cookbook that he can't enjoy would not be practical at all. Fortunately, many of the recipes in this book call for gluten-free ingredients like fresh fruits and veggies, beans, rice and chocolate. There are also a number of recipes that call for a special flour blend. This flour blend (instructions are provided in the introduction) is not gluten-free. While we skipped those recipes, I do think my older son would enjoy them. (Or, I could do a little work and come up with a proper substitute flour blend.)

Most of the recipes in the book are snacks, side dishes and desserts--perfect for kids who are just delving into cooking. The recipes are geared toward children who are able to read and follow directions but even younger children will find these recipes easy to follow with the help of an adult. The instructions clearly indicate when an older caregiver's assistance is required (like when using appliances or slicing fruit).

While my kids were at school today I purchased the ingredients to make one of the recipes in the book: Pear Penguins. (If you remember my post about penguin books, you know we are big penguin fans in this house) After homework we went to town:

Quite often I check out kid cookbooks at the library and return them before we have a chance to make anything either because 1) the recipes are too involved and/or require ingredients we don't have on hand or 2) the recipes rely on gluten-containing ingredients. I am happy to say that this book will be staying with us for the entire three weeks we have it; the kids have already identified other recipes they want to try. This is a kids' cookbook that does everything right.

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Zoe @ Playing by the book said...

The penguins look fantastic! And I love the sound of the games and activities in addition to the recipes.

sandhya said...

The penguin certainly looks yum! Let me guess- You peel the pear, slather on the chocolate icing, stick on some kind of candy eyes and a carrot slice nose and viola!Pear Penguin is ready!

Katie Fries said...

@sandhya - Yup, that's exactly how we made the penguins! Very easy. The eyes were made from white chocolate chips.