08 June 2012

Book Review: Little Kitchen: 40 Delicious and Simple Things That Children Can Really Make

With the kids home from school for the summer, you might be looking for a way to keep them busy. LITTLE KITCHEN: 40 DELICIOUS AND SIMPLE THINGS THAT CHILDREN CAN REALLY MAKE by Sabrina Parrini is a perfect cookbook for summertime, when things are a little less rushed and you have more time to experiment together in the kitchen.

Parrini has compiled a collection of delicious recipes for real food, not just simple snacks constructed from ready-made items, as most cookbooks for children have.  Inside, you’ll find recipes for minestrone, potato croquettes, meatballs, crunchy chicken fingers, perfect potato gnocchi, sticky rosewater dumplings, mini chocolate souffl├ęs, shortbreads, and more.  The recipes are truly delicious, and children learn real cooking skills with real ingredients.  Parrini also includes 2 introductory letters, one written to the children and one to parents, as well as a “safety first” section and a rundown of the kind of ingredients and equipment needed for the recipes in the book.  (I recommend you read these introductory letters with your child, as they contain great advice for using the book. Don't be tempted to skip the introduction and move straight to the recipes.)

The recipes were well-written, with clear instructions that the child could easily follow.  The potentially dangerous steps in each recipe are flagged with the phrase “Ask a grown-up” to remind young children and parents alike of the importance of adult supervision.   This is not, however, a beginner’s cookbook.  While nothing is too difficult for a child to handle (with appropriate adult help), the recipes aren’t necessarily what I would call “simple.”  Parrini warns, in her introductory letter to parents, that you should “plan to cook when you have plenty of time,” and she isn’t joking.  Most of these recipes take at least an hour to prepare, in addition to cooking time, so cooking with children takes patience.  (This is what makes it an ideal cookbook for summer time. We tried a few recipes on school nights, and it made for late nights and grumpy mornings, but in the summertime, you don't have such time constraints!)

The time commitment for these recipes is much more than most cooking-with-kids cookbooks. However, in the end, the kids learn real skills in the kitchen and are better prepared to tackle real recipes on their own as they grow. It's a great way to learn together and a great activity to fill those summer days when kids say "I'm bored. I have nothing to do."

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