This month we review a book that demonstrates kids are eager to learn the basic skills of cooking the food they eat.
Apples, Bean Dip & Carrot Cake:
Kids! Teach Yourself to Cook
By Anne and Freya Dinshah
American Vegan Society, 2012
Mother and daughter, Freya and Anne Dinshah, teamed up to deliver the Rolls Royce of cookbooks to teach young children how to prepare healthy vegan dishes. Well-conceived and designed with numerous color photos and step by step instructions, this impressive book of kid-friendly recipes makes it possible for young children to learn safe, no-fail approaches to cook healthful vegan dishes.
Freya is a veteran cooking instructor with 40 years of experience and a passion for teaching children how to cook and develop appreciation for fresh, whole, plant-based foods. She created the book's concept and provided most of the recipes. Anne contributed attractive, detailed photography and worked with 26 children to develop recipe language to help children achieve success when preparing the recipes.
The book opens with acknowledgements and smiling portraits of the 19 adorable children, ages 1 to 12, who participated in preparing the recipes. Designed for children from 4 to 12, the easy-to-follow instructions help them learn how to work independently in the kitchen, and encourage adults to supervise when new equipment or skills are introduced.
Basic instruction like reading the whole recipe beforehand, making a shopping list, checking for ingredients on hand, tying up long hair or wearing a hat, wearing an apron or play clothes, and keeping pets out of the kitchen prepares children to take cooking seriously. Cleanup and set up are covered in detail to make sure young people become responsible little chefs in the kitchen.
Photos of kitchen equipment and tools teach children to identify items by name and learn the difference between tools like lifting spatulas and scraping spatulas. The book is divided into four levels with each level introducing new skills and equipment. Level 1 teaches very basic but essential steps like washing fresh fruits before eating them, measuring and pouring liquid and dry ingredients, washing and tearing lettuces for salad, and soaking and steeping dried fruits.
Level 1 recipes are a delightful guide to developing kitchen savvy step-by-step. Beginning with an easy Trail Mix of cashews, raisins, and toasted whole grain oat cereal, children learn to make a simple salad of lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes. Other recipes include Cool Blue Treat made with soy yogurt and blueberries, 2-ingredient Punch, Fruit Juice Popsicles, and Shake-It Dressing for the salad.
When children are ready for Level 2, they learn how to use knives and kitchen tools such as graters, peelers, and measuring spoons safely, including how to clean them properly. On page 42 a young child is shown setting the table. Below are instructions on how to carry and pass a knife properly. Recipes include delicious treats like Bean Dip, Mashed Bananas on Rice Cakes, Ambrosia Fruit Salad, Almond Butter and Cherry Sandwich, and even how to pit an avocado and make Guacamole.
Preparing recipes using the stove and oven is covered in Level 3 and features safety and cleaning tips. The recipes introduce use of a timer and scissors, along with techniques for steaming and boiling vegetables like asparagus and broccoli. Simple recipes for making oatmeal, brown rice, and mashed and baked potatoes help to round out a meal. Level 3 recipes also teach kids how to prepare one of their favorite dishes -- pizza, with variations for Olive Pizza, Spinach Hummus Pizza, and Bean Corn Pizza.
By the time children are proficient in Level 3 skills, they will have developed the ability to prepare entire meals from scratch including recipes for salad, baked tofu, casseroles, gingerbread cookies, chili, and pumpkin pie.
Level 4 introduces blender skills including safety and cleanup. Almond Milk begins with blanching the almonds, soaking them briefly, and removing the skins. Then blending the almonds with water. Skills learned in this section include making smoothies, mushroom soup, hummus, tahini, and banana ice cream.
The concluding recipes, Chocorange Cupcakes and Chocorange Icing, put each of the previously learned skills into practice from mixing and measuring to stovetop and baking techniques. The final two pages of the book are Certificates of Accomplishment for each of the levels. Presenting the certificates to the children is an excellent way to build children's pride and confidence as they become proficient at each new level.
The numerous color photos on every page add so much charm to the book. Children looking through the pages will find themselves enamored with the beautiful photos of their peers cooking, cutting, measuring, washing, and even tasting brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
Apples, Bean Dip & Carrot Cake is a must for families who would like to teach their children not only the basics of cooking, but also preparing truly healthful foods. Grandparents will love this book because its well-planned lessons provide the perfect opportunity to spend invaluable time with their grandchildren. Well written, educationally complete, and graphically engaging, this is a book that will never lose its charm or usefulness--it's the perfect family book.