20 Recipes Kids Should Know, Recipes + Text by Esme Washburn (age 12), Photographs by Calista Washburn (age 17)

20 Recipes Kids Should Know
Recipes + Text by Esme Washburn (age 12), 
Photographs by Calista Washburn (age 17)
Review Copy from Prestel Publishing

Ever since my daughter could sit on the counter and help me make bread (some 25+ years ago) I've been on the lookout for great cookbooks for kids and I can tell you they are rare. At least the ones that meet my standards are rare. And now that there is a video tutorial for everything you ever wanted to know how to do, I feel like cookbooks have to meet an even higher bar. Happily, you can't give a video tutorial as a birthday gift (yet?) so the shelf life of cookbooks has not (quite) expired. Where I used to buy a few cookbooks a year, I find myself turning to the internet and apps for reference these days. The last cookbook I bought (for myself) - and my first cookbook purchase in 8 years! - was Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat. And, while watching her show assured me of her knowledge and skill, it was ultimately her personality bursting off the pages of her book that convinced me I needed to READ it. 20 Recipes Kids Should Know has all this - knowledge, skill and personality! And, in case you missed this, the author, Esme Washburn, was twelve at the time she wrote this book. Her older sister and photographer, Calista Washburn, was seventeen.
The title, book design and photographs drew me in initially, then Washburn hooked me when I read  her introductory paragraph where she writes about her path to the kitchen, which begins (as all good roads to the kitchen do) with her grandma. Washburn goes on to talk about reading cookbooks from cover to cover and checking out as many as possible from the library, discovering that "many cookbooks for kids consisted of random recipes for snacks and sweets and didn't actually teach you how to make a meal." Washburn has done a superb job choosing twenty recipes that are not heavy on the sweets and desserts while also being accessible for young chefs. She writes a paragraph before each recipe that gives a little background as to why she chose it along with tips on making it and variations, when applicable. As I read through each paragraph, I was pleased to see a similar thought process - making fresh pasta is not hard! black bean soup is even better reheated later in the week! - and a similar family tradition. Growing up, mashed potatoes were a Thanksgiving-only dish. But I loved them (who doesn't) so I started making them on an almost weekly basis, which also allowed for regular critiques and improvements. I am excited to try Washburn's recipe, which adds cream cheese and mashes on the stove top, two things  have not tried yet. I also love that Washburn includes a recipe for popovers, something my kids loved making when they were little. Not only are they delicious, but its so fun to see them change as they bake. As she says, "popovers look impressive and complicated to make, but are actually very simple - they do all the work themselves!" And, while there are the recipes for sweets and desserts, there are also easy and healthy recipes for "Heavenly Hummus," "Green Salad with Delicious Dijon Dressing," and "Crispy Roasted Vegetables." All the recipes take up one page, have short ingredient lists and truly are doable. The recipe for fresh pasta with tomato sauce or pesto (another kid-favorite staple in my house) is followed by a two-page, step-by-step, photo spread showing how to make the pasta - another thing I do with my kids a couple times a year. While it's fun to make fettucini (which we dry on coat hangers strewn about the kitchen) it's also super easy to make filled pasta, which I strongly recommend!

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