Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
May 25, 2013 06:38 PM

Cooking from “Family” Focused Cookbooks

So I’ve recently accumulated a towering stack of “cooking for kids/family” type cookbooks and I'd like to cook from them more. I plan to document my experiences in this thread and invite anyone who is interested to join in.

I’ve listed below the books I own, but if you’d like to join in on others in the genre (including any of those 30 minute meal /get dinner on the table quick kinds of books), please feel to jump in with new titles. Please just state the name of the book you are cooking from, the author, and particular recipe.

My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking by John Besh

Dinner: A Love Story: It All Begins at the Family Table by Jenny Rosenstrach

River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook by Nikki Duffy

Robin’s Quick Fix Meals: 200 Simple, Delicious Recipes To Make Mealtime Easy by Robin Miller

Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson

Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton

How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food (USA) by Nigella Lawson (this book has a section on feeding babies and young children)

I don’t believe children age two or older necessarily need special diets, but I personally am looking for more ways to be efficient and flexible in the kitchen. I need improve my skills and employ smarter strategies and hope to find some answers and inspiration in the pages of these books.

I don’t want to dumb down our meals, but at the same, I no longer have time to shop numerous specialty markets for the perfect array of “authentic” ingredients. I’m willing to accept compromises and short-cuts for now, but we value diversity in our household and I want to introduce my child to lots of different cuisines, not just standard American fare. I personally cannot eat steak, potatoes, chops and mac and cheese for every meal.

I'm sorry for those of you who don't find these kinds of books chowhoundish (and I'm guessing that's the case because there's hardly any discussion about these kinds of books here on CH), but it's where I'm at right now.

Anyway, please join me in this grand experiment.

P.S. please be patient with me as I have limited time to both try new recipes AND post... This might be a slow-moving thread.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Are the recipes in Dinner: A Love Story also on the blog? I've made one of her blog recipes and have others saved to make soon and would be happy to do write ups if you're interested in that.

    I actually like books like these even though I don't have children, for the reasons you mention...easy to find ingredients, and they are relatively quick to prepare.

    5 Replies
    1. re: juliejulez

      You know, I don't know. I think a lot of them are. But here's a listing of the recipes in the book per EYB. Are the recipes you're thinking of on the EYB list?

      And, yes, I'm delighted to have your participation even if you don't have children. Mostly, I'm a cookbookaphile and have accumulated several of these kinds of books and figure I should cook from them. Plus, there's not a whole lot of info about these kinds of books out there other than on Amazon. I thought it would be nice to document some of my experiences for those hounds who eventually find themselves interested in these kinds books. Child not essential for participation in this thread. :)


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Cool :) My SO eats like a child sometimes so that has to count for something LOL!

        I looked through the list and I'd have to do a side by side with my Pinterest, the recipes are saved intermittently there since I organize by main ingredient instead of all on one board. It looks like the yogurt marinated chicken is probably one of these though:

        The recipe I've made so far from the blog is this Asian BBQ Chicken, and it was a winner. The sauce could easily be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge... if you do that this would only take like 20ish minutes to do on the night of, and it would work to do it in the oven too, when the weather is not good enough to grill. Also great reheated the next day or cold in a sandwich. I served it with plain rice, and green beans using this method: might be a bit spicy for the kiddos but the idea is good, I think leaving out the sriracha wouldn't affect the dish at all other than the heat level.

        1. re: juliejulez

          Looks delicious! (ETA: I don't think it's in the book BTW, nevertheless, I'm happy to you reported on it. Online recipes are easy to whisk into pepperplate!)

          I think that yogurt marinated grilled chicken recipe does appear in the book (ETA: pg 264-265). Go for it! I'd love to hear how pounding out the chicken works for you. That's a smart way to speed up cooking time for meat and poultry!


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I'm going to try the yogurt marinated chicken, with the middle eastern flavors mentioned in the blog next Monday I think. I might end up doing chunks though, and put on skewers. I'm going to grill it along with zucchini strips.

            My secret for pounding out chicken? I don't do much of it, it's a pain. I just cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise, sometimes you can even cut them into thirds if they're real fat ones. I might still pound them a little but overall I just don't like doing it.

            I also just ordered Donna Hay's Instant Cook today after reading about it over in the Donna Hay thread. It says it's for people in a hurry, so hopefully that will be the case :) It cost me a whole $4 once you add in the 3.99 Amazon shipping for used books so if it's a bust it won't cost me much. I don't get home from work til 7ish, and by the time I give the dog some attention and water my plants, it's well past 730 so anything much longer than an hour of prep/cooking time just doesn't work for me.

            1. re: juliejulez

              I did end up making the yogurt marinated chicken, using the Middle Eastern Option 3 in the link above. I made the marinade the night before and marinated overnight.... it was very quick to make since you just throw everything into the blender... only prep was quartering the onion and peeling the garlic. I cubed up my chicken so I could do skewers but leaving the breasts whole would make it even quicker. My skewers stuck to the grill pretty bad even though I oiled it down a bit. I guess add more oil next time.

              My SO approved, but told me after I asked him how it was "As good as the last time you made it", which puzzled me, but then I realized he was thinking of the Serious Eats Halal Cart Chicken, which isn't yogurt based but has very similar flavors.

              I think next time I would add more oregano than what's called for, along with the coriander that's in the Halal Cart recipe... it was just missing a little oomph. I'll be curious to try the other options too. I served it with the yellow rice from the Halal Cart recipe, and some grilled asparagus instead of zucchini since I had some to use up. Definitely a quick meal though... maybe 5-10 minutes to do the marinade, 10 minutes to do the skewering (which you could skip) then only about 20 minutes of actual cooking time for all components including the rice (which is mostly hands off).

    2. I've seen several "dinner in a hurry" major discussions, TDQ, so you are certainly not alone in this style of cooking. I'd guess that CH regulars on the What's For Dinner threads may, like me, usually post when they've made something they think others will find "inspirational". We skip over the 10 days of what one person dubbed "survival cooking".

      My own favorite family cookbook is "A Dinner A Day" - see my profile for ISBN & author info.

      I'll join you, when the library opens Tuesday and I can check out the Robin Miller book.

      I was able to get the library's electronic copy of another of her books "Robin Takes 5: 500 recipes, 5 ingredients or less, 500 calories or less, 5 nights a week at 5:00 PM". The chicken & turkey chapter looks especially promising. I was disappointed skimming through the pizza/flatbread/strudel chapter since I found only one recipe I'd like to try (but lots of meatless and oddball cheeses recipes, if those appeal to you).

      1 Reply
      1. re: MidwesternerTT

        I'd love to hear what you think of "Robin Takes 5". She has one coming out this summer that I have on preorder on Amazon, "Robin Takes 5 for Families" or something like that... It's a bit of a leap of faith since I haven't cooked from any of her recipes, but it's her approach that appeals to me. If I can get that under my belt, I figure I can apply it to any recipes. Of course, it would be great if I end up liking her recipes, too!

        Better harvest that rhubarb before it gets too hot... :)


      2. TDQ - this CH topic from 2009 on easy meals was recently "resurrected" . A fun read

        Turns out my library was open today (only closed Monday for the holiday), so I've now got the Quick Fix Meals book and the cherry chicken caught my eye. I have also spotted a salad I can make using my garden chives, but now need to shop for a green pepper. All mine are sliced/chopped & frozen, ready to use in cooked recipes.

        1. Out of your list, I have River Cottage, Kitchen and How to Eat.

          I don't have much luck with River Cottage. There are only two things I have repeated from the book. One is the pesto using ground almond. (But only because I was worried about not grounding my pinenuts enough so baby could choke on it). And the blueburry muffins. The food I found tend to be on the bland side, but it was good for the 6-18 months period when I want to cook without salt (or just less salt) for the baby.

          I have How to Eat for years and have never warmed to it. I tried again during the COTM and I still don't get inspired. I remember there is a cottage pie recipe in it that is quite sweet. So could be good for a young child who love sweet things.

          I bought Kitchen earlier this year, but I don't think I've cooked anything from it yet!

          I'm having a lot of success at the moment with Diana Henry's cook simple. The one that sticks out is the Pacific Lime chicken. After cooking, I cut up the chicken pieces into smaller squares, mix it with plain rice, and boiled peas/edamames, add a little of the pacific lime sauce. My 2 year old couldn't have enough of this.

          Cook simple also has a goat-cheese pesto with roast tomatoes. It's a nice variation on the standard pesto with parmesan. If your little one likes pesto pasta, I'd recommend it.

          13 Replies
          1. re: lilham

            Hmmm...maybe I should move on from River Cottage Baby & Toddler then. My LO is well beyond that 6-18 months period. I think you once recommended the falafel from River Cottage Baby and Toddler? BUt now I'm thinking that that might have been from a different book as I don't even see a falafel recipes from RCB&T!

            Funny, I have that Pacific Lime chicken marked in Cook Simple. Sounds fab. In fact, I think I have that whole chapter tagged!

            Have you tried any of the recipes from the How to Eat "feeding babies and young children" section specifically? (ETA: Oh! I see the cottage pie recipe is from that babies and young children chapter!)


            Diana Henry Pacific Lime Chicken recipe:

            Diana Henry "Fettuccine with Goat-Cheese Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes" recipe:

            Nigella's Cottage Pie (I assume this is the right one?)

            River Cottage Pesto:

            River Cottage Blueberry Muffins:


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Searching on my EYB index, I think the falafels you remembered are from Mighty Spice. It's another of my favourite fast dinner book.

              I don't remember cooking anything from How To Eat for my daughter. The only recipe I remembered trying from that chapter was the cottage pie I mentioned


              I only remember it was a disaster as it was so sweet! It was only then I noticed the recipe was from the children section.

              I know it's not dinner. But the domestic goddess has a baking section with young children. I haven't seen similar in other books.

              1. re: lilham

                Oh! That makes sense. Here, I think, is the falafels recipe from Mighty Spice, a book I don't own, but probably should!



                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Oh! I see John Gregory Smith has a new book, Mighty Spice Express, coming out in the fall! I've preordered it on Amazon. (Oh wait! I'd better confirm it's not simply the US version of Mighty Spice!)


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I just checked the EYB listing and I don't see a cinnamon fig tart or a taiwanese beef noodles in the original Mighty Spice.

                    1. re: lilham

                      HA! That's exactly what I did to confirm it wasn't the same book...


                2. re: lilham

                  Here's a link to the "Cooking From Mighty Spice" thread, for posterity: and a link (thanks to lilham) to the author's "online magazine," which has tons of recipes.


                3. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I think that chapter of the Diana Henry book is incredibly useful when you want fast, flavorful meals (I type, just having made one of them - the north african poussins - but I used chicken thighs). The pacific chicken is also good - not at all spicy and yet flavorful. Same with the Caribbean chicken. So many good, easy recipes in that.

                  Have you tried the Nigella book called Fast Meals (or something like this)? I've found a few in that which bear repeating - easy and tasty.

                  I've never tried the River Cottage books, and I guess based on this discussion I won't.

                  I really do find Mighty Spice to be an easy to use, mostly quick source of great meals. But then you knew that ... : )

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    And, for posterity, here is the link to the "Cooking from Diana Henry" books thread

                    LLM, I just noticed your comment on the Nigella book, Nigella Express is the book you're thinking of?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Yes yes, sorry about getting the name wrong. That is the Nigella book I meant.

                4. re: lilham

                  KOREAN KEEMA - Nigella Lawson's KITCHEN

                  I've owned this book for more than 6 months and this is the first thing I cooked from it.

                  You make a sauce with gochujang, honey, rice wine and soy sauce. (Nigella specified crushed garlic too, but I forgot). Mix the sauce with ground turkey. Stir fry the petite pois and spring onions for 3-4min, then add the ground turkey. Cook for another 4-5min. That's it. Super easy, and oh my, so tasty.

                  She said it should 'serve 2 generously'. I made it for my pack lunch, and with rice, it comes to 4 lunch portions. I have put two portions in the freezer since they look like they will freeze well.

                  Definitely a keeper.

                  1. re: lilham

                    So great to know! Sounds delicious! Not too spicy for the little one with the gochujang in there?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Surprisingly it is slightly sweet. I think it is the honey. But the recipe is very flexible so you can adjust the proportion of honey, gochujang and soy to your taste.

                5. I have or have read several of those cookbooks (I love Hungry Monkey but Matthew is not really good for not sourcing specialty ingredients, just an FYI) and I cook that way fairly frequently. I find that most recipes aimed at children aren't really the way I want to cook, though, and my children seem to be weird in their preferences (Thing 2 has, to date, eaten everything set before him with gusto (he's 1). Thing 1 is picky, but strangely picky. She loves roast chicken (and the potatoes I cook in chicken fat), octopus, kale salad, hamburgers, beans of various kinds, but only eats mac and cheese occasionally and despises hot dogs. I find the sanity saver is just to cook what I feel like eating and serve it to the kids, unless it's super spicy, in which case they get fish sticks or mac and cheese or a hamburger or something. That said, I'm always looking for quick and easy recipes - I've just oddly found that recipes geared towards "family" aren't always fast.

                  That said, you might want to also look into Catherine McCord (weelicious) and Kelsey Banfield (The Naptime Chef). Both have blogs and associated cookbooks.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Savour

                    Thanks for your thoughts on Hungry Monkey. I haven't felt compelled to cook any of the recipes. Not sure why, even though some (pad thai anyone) are recipes that generally interest me.

                    RE: weelicious and Naptime chef: I'm happy to have anyone cook from the cookbooks they're suggesting and report back in this thread. I'm not necessarily searching for more titles, rather I'm offering an invitation for people to cook along from the titles I own or books they own/are curious about of the same genre and share their experiences.

                    I intended this less as a "what book should I buy and what do you suggest" kind of thread, but more of a "Yikes! I have a ton of these kinds of books and should cook from them--please join me and share in the cooking fun" kind of thread. Mostly I'm seeking companionship in cooking...


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Well, I, too, have a fat ton of those types of books!

                      1. re: Savour

                        I'll have to change it to "Yikes! I have a ton of these kinds of books, and I shouldn't have bought them" :)

                        I also have
                        My Daddy Cooks
                        Baby-led weaning cookbook

                        that are not on your list. But I also wouldn't recommend them.

                        1. re: lilham

                          Well, I can't definitively say "I shouldn't have bought them" regarding the ones on my list until I've cooked from them, hence this thread. I think one of the reasons why I, and perhaps Savour and even you, have lots of these kinds of books is there there is a dearth of information about them so we went ahead and gave them a chance.

                          I'm thinking if I report back on what I've tried from these books and what I liked or didn't like about them, I might be able to steer other chowhounds towards or against them in the future...

                          But, good to know My Daddy Cooks and BLW Cookbook are not recommended. You just didn't have luck with the recipes?


                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        If you ever have a spare moment, check out weelicious. The muffins are fantastic- most can be made into minis. I've checked the book out of the library, but I log onto the blog often.

                        The muffins are great as snacks, and my toddler "helps" prepare them