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Cookbooks that appeal to kids?

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My younger son enjoys food and frequently hauls out his Betty Crocker Kids Cookbook to select items to prepare. He is 7. For selfish reasons, I'd like to encourage more interesting fare but he seems to need appealing pictures to pull him in to recipes. Any thoughts on books or other resources that might broaden his horizons? He is pretty adventurous with restaurant food; loves pho, most asian, mexican, central american. Me printing out recipes that I find interesting, sans photos, doesn't work.

After spending a weekend with my older son's boy scout troop having positively disgusting food prepared by the scouts, I really want to work on kid cooking skills.

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  1. It's an old book (1987) and the photos aren't quite the food-porn type photos we're used to seeing in many more modern books and on food blogs today, but "The Good Housekeeping All-American Cookbook" has a photo index, with color photos of every dish in the book, and 1500 step-by-step line drawings of each of the steps needed to make the recipe. It even includes suggested menus and gives plan-ahead information on what to do on day 1, day 2, etc. Obviously, this isn't a cookbook written specifically for children. It's a soup-to-nuts cookbook, and very much what you'd expect from Good Housekeeping, with all the recipes thoroughly tested. And although I think it's now out of print, there are lots of copies available at Amazon.com, some of them used, at all price ranges. (The original book, just fyi, sold for $24.95 when it was first published.)


    1. I always LOVED historical-type cookbooks as a kid. My favorite one was the Little House on the Prairie cookbook which is REALLY interesting, although with boys...

      You know what might be a good method is subscribing to a magazine like Cook's Country (by the same folks that do Cook's Illustrated) -- it has a beautiful glossy color recipe card for each recipe. They're good recipes, diverse and interesting but not fussy or over-complicated. Maybe he could pick out a few recipes from each issue to cook with you?

      I think it's great that you're encouraging your sons to cook. My brother had never fried an egg when he got married. :)

      1. Although I have neither book, I have read very good reviews for Mollie Katzen's "Pretend Soup" and "Salad People" books, geared toward youngsters.

        Working without a book, you could print out a picture of a parfait and then the boys could make one with yoghurt-homemade granola-fruit. They've seen meatballs, so roll spicy chicken or turkey meatballs to stuff in pitas with cucumber sauce or put little ones in Italian wedding soup. Make pasta and ravioli (use gyoza rounds or won ton skins to make it easy.) Print out pictures so they know what they're aiming at, but you don't really need a cookbook.

        Maybe start a sprout jar. No-knead bread would require supervision, but they would learn about yeast, and then you could move on to homemade pizza dough.

        1. Alice Water of Chez Panisse fame did one 20 or so years ago with her daughter called Fanny at Chez Panisse. It's a fun and well illustrated book for kids and the recipes are spot on.

          1. I'm looking for the same thing, thought I'd give this old thread a bump and see if I can drum up a few more responses.

            My wife's nephew is 12 and is taking a strong interest in cooking. Mostly baking projects, like muffins, cookies, the kind of thing kids want to eat more of than their parents like to make. He is working from a book, but it's old and outdated and not great, or at least so my wife reports. But he's pretty serious about it and more or less doing all of it himself. So: we would love to encourage him and want to set him up with a great cookbook or two, and maybe some simple kitchen gear, as a Christmas gift.

            The Fanny and Chez Panisse book looks pretty good, thought it's an interesting mix, jumping from pizza pretty quickly to fish roasted in a fig leaf. The nephew in question lives in Idaho, so some ingredients might be a challenge (ie fig leaves). But you can't go too wrong with Alice Waters.

            Still, I'd love a few other suggestions. Does anyone have any thoughts about good gifts for kids who are just exploring cooking for the first time? Books, gadgets, even websites or food blogs we could point him to would be a help.


            2 Replies
            1. re: andytee

              I think your wife's nephew is probably beyond the "Fanny at Chez Panisse" stage and is old enough for an "adult" cookbook. When my grandson was about that age I bought him the pizza book "American Pie" by Peter Reinhart. Most children love working with dough and what child doesn't like pizza? Added advantage is that there are all kinds of side gifts to go along with it: pizza stone, pizza peel, pizza cutter.

              1. re: andytee

                I loved Joy of Cooking as a teenager. It has recipes for everything, as his interests change, and lots of background information too; he will never grow out of it. At the same time, it's accessible. At that age, I think a kid with a serious interest appreciates being taken seriously. It could be paired with something more disposable like a paperback devoted to muffins or cookies (or pizza as suggested below- but as a parent, I would be a little wary about the super high heat oven, smoke alarm issues, etc, that we adults have with pizza at our house ;) ).

              2. You might consider a cookbook by Alton Brown, several even come with interactive refrigerator magnets. But Alton has a great approach to food science and history along with many adventureous recipes and for your son might be exactly the role model you're looking for. My youngest son, who is a bit older than yours, learned a good deal about food prep from Alton Brown's cookbooks. I use to leave cookbooks all over the house like any other good read and my children got in the habit of reading cookbooks like any other good story...which led to some wonderful kitchen habits and skills.

                This is a handy list of blogs by & for teens.