5 Cookbooks for kids and families I’m loving right now

When my kids were really little, they were forever dragging chairs to the counter to help cook, bake or otherwise make food with me. At times, it was overwhelming — those little hands wanting to stir, knead, cut and mix when I just wanted to get lunch on the table or whip up something for work. But I knew then, and I especially know now, that those are the best of times.

Those days — the ones where they were so little and just learning about the world — will never come again. I am so glad I took the time to cook with them then. It’s among my favorite memories of them as little ones.

These days, my kids still like to cook, but they are a little busier with homework and activities to occupy their minds and bodies, and friendships to foster. And there are so many more things they can do.

Nonetheless, I still love cooking with my children. So when my daughter decided to fill a bag with cookbooks at a book sale fundraiser a few years ago, I encouraged it. And when one of them comes to me with something they want to make, I try to say yes whenever possible.

And that’s also why I pay attention to the new cookbooks for kids and families that are released each year. Cooking as a family brings us together. These books do a mix of things — they help inspire times together in the kitchen, help busy families get food on the table faster and encourage creativity.

All good things, right?

“Baking Class,” by Deanna F. Cook
Storey Publishing, $18.95

This just released book is a must-have for families that like to bake together. It begins with important kitchen lessons and vocabulary. I particularly like Lesson #2, which is a photographic diagram of baking tools with everything really clearly labeled. Then comes the recipes. Some are super simple — like the spread of Mix & Match Toast Toppers (S’more Toast? Yes, please). More complicated recipes like My First Blueberry Pie include step by step instructions — with pictures — making the recipes totally doable for bakers of all levels of expertise. It’s useful, appropriately detailed, and will be appreciated by bakers of all ages.

“The School Year Survival Cookbook,” by Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh
Appetite by Random House, $24.95

When I realized that my daughter would have three different after-school activities on the same night this week, I wished for a moment that I wasn’t her soccer coach. But I am, and I love it. And what happened was a rare occurrence where an occasional activity happened to be happening at the same time as other regular activities. It all worked out in the end. If your family is like mine, and dealing with a little back-to-school busy. Or, also like mine, filled with really active kids, then this cookbook is for you. We loved the Caprese Chicken Skillet, ready in a mere 30 minutes, and the Turkey, Apple and Cheddar Quesadillas are just begging to be added to the dinner rotation. What I most love about this cookbook is that it’s written with busy families in mind. The recipes are quick, but also full of flavor — just what my family wants.

“Stirring Up Fun with Food,” by Sarah Michelle Geller and Gia Russo
Grand Central Life & Style, $28.00

Whereas the other cookbooks in this list are practical, this one is really just fun. It’s the kind of book you want on your shelf for special occasions and celebrations. From adorable Mummy Dogs to Tie Fighter Cheese Snacks, this one is great for inspiring a little joy in your cooking.

“The Forest Feast for Kids,” by Erin Gleeson
Abrams, $19.95

Let me confess first: I am a huge fan of Erin Gleeson. Her Forest Feast series of cookbooks, notebooks, calendars and even placemats has won me over with its stunning mix of lively photography and pretty watercolor embellishments. And the vegetarian recipes aren’t too shabby either. Pomegranate Hot Cider, anyone? How about a Rainbow Chard Quiche?

“The Organic Lunchbox,” by Marie W. Lawrence
Skyhorse Publishing, $22.99

 

There was one summer a few years ago where my kids had the same sandwich (PBJ, if you must know) again and again. It was quick and easy and they liked them. Until … well, my daughter avoids that combination in all forms now. “The Organic Lunchbox” is the answer to parents who need a little inspiration for better school lunches. All the recipes are peanut-free too, which is great if your child goes to a peanut-free school or needs to avoid peanuts themselves. And the kids will like these recipes too. Tiny Turkey Sliders, Carrot Surprise Soup, Chicken Nibbles … they all make for a tasty lunchbox.

Sarah Walker Caron

About Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is senior features editor for the Bangor Daily News, and resident cook. She writes a cooking column, Maine Course, and is also author of "Grains as Mains: Modern Recipes Using Ancient Grains." Her recipes have appeared in the BDN, Betty Crocker publications, Glamour.com and more.