The recipes in this book look different from other recipes—that's because they're written with kids and novices in mind. Here's how I make these recipes more kid-friendly, along with some tips on the best ways to follow the recipe instructions:
Skill level: None of the recipes in this book are complicated, but some are more basic than others. Symbols indicate the minimal level of skill that the recipe requires, but don't forget that parents need to supervise whenever kids cook.
Easy: Anyone can make this recipe! These easy recipes have very few steps and ingredients, and they whip up in a jiff, so even fidgety preschoolers can make them with a parent's helping hand. School-age children will find these recipes a breeze!
Moderate: Almost everyone will find this recipe easy to make. You don't need much cooking experience, but you should be old enough to read the recipe and perform measuring and chopping tasks. Most school-age kids can make these recipes. Younger kids can perform many of the tasks, but a parent will need to help with the actual cooking and chopping. Most of the recipes in this book fall into the moderate category.
More challenging: These recipes aren't complicated, but you need some amount of cooking experience to make them. In some cases, an adult or teenager may need to perform most of the cooking tasks (like lifting a turkey), while younger kids can assist with easier recipe tasks (like measuring). Only a few of the recipes in this book are considered "more challenging."
Recipe steps: Recipe steps may seem long, but they're just explained in more detail. Most cookbooks streamline a recipe, condensing several steps into one description. They list ingredients according to the way they'll be added to the dish, such as "1/2 cup chopped onion"—but without telling you to actually chop the onion. Without making the recipes too cumbersome, I try as much as possible to list every ingredient in its store-bought form and explain all the steps needed to prepare it as part of the actual recipe instructions.
No flame, no fire recipes
Certain recipes in this book can be made entirely without heat, preventing tender fingers from accidentally burning. (The recipes may require the use of a knife or appliance, though, so parents still need to pay attention and use caution.) Look for recipes marked "no-flame, no-fire" to avoid stovetop, oven, or even microwave cooking. Chapter 23 lists ten of them to get you started.
Do this first: In some cases, when the ingredients you purchase vary in size (for example, a bunch of parsley) I list the ingredient the way it looks after it's been prepared, saying "1/4 cup chopped parsley," instead of 5 sprigs or 1/4 bunch. The "Do this first" area of the recipes identify tasks to be done before jumping into the recipe, saying in this example, "Do this first: Chop enough parsley to make 1/4 cup." Other ingredients that need advance preparation, such as cooked chicken for chicken salad, are also listed in the "Do this first" areas.
Prep time: Use preparation times as approximate guides. The "Prep time" feature is based on one adult working alone—extra hands may increase or decrease the time. Time starts when you walk into the kitchen and turn on the lights, but I do assume the ingredients are reasonably accessible—if you have to excavate your spice cabinet just to find the basil, add more time.
Cook time: Use cooking times as approximate guides. Actual cooking times may vary depending on the pans used, the oven's temperature accuracy, the thickness of a food, a fruit's ripeness, or the size of the vegetable. Follow the guidelines given in each recipe to determine doneness, instead of relying on exact times.
Keep in mind that all cooking times and recipe results can vary depending on the equipment used—gas verses electric stoves, metal verses glass baking pans, and so on. To make these recipes as universal and foolproof as possible, they were tested on both gas and electric ranges (consumer models, not high tech or professional ranges), and an 850-watt microwave oven with cooking carousel when appropriate (if you have a less powerful microwave, you may need to cook the recipes slightly longer). Consumer cookware covered the spectrum from Chantal cookware (I love their kid-friendly stay-cool handles!) to Revereware, and to be consistent with most home cooks, only the top selling brands of small appliances were used, including KitchenAid, Braun, and Rival. If you use different brands, be prepared to adjust preparation times or cooking times, as needed.
Yield: Consider the yield to be a portion guide—the yield indicated for each recipe reflects the number of average-size servings a recipe makes, not necessarily the number of people it feeds. Appetites may drastically vary from one person to the next and a preschooler will likely eat less than the average serving while teens may go back for second (or third!) helpings.
Special equipment: Don't worry about special equipment—I avoid recipes that call for special accessories, like a springform or bundt cake pan. You probably already have every piece of equipment that you need for the recipes in this part, including a microwave oven. Some recipes call for a small appliance, such as a handheld blender, blender, mini-chopper, or food processor. In almost all cases, you can substitute a sharp knife and a cutting board and still make the recipes successfully. Flip to Chapters 3 and 22 for kid-friendly kitchen tools that can come in handy.
Ingredients: Be flexible with ingredients. Don't avoid a recipe because you lack one ingredient—think of a similar ingredient to substitute, such as chicken rather than pork. If a recipe contains an ingredient that you don't like or isn't available, try to come up with an acceptable alternative and make the recipe with that ingredient instead.
Vary It!: Look at the Vary It! sections, after some recipes, for bonus recipe ideas. The changes that I suggest may be minor, such as substituting other seasonings, or may explain how to make an entirely different dish from the same basic recipe.
Serving Suggestion: Look for these tips on ways to create an entire meal or present a dish with flair!Meal Morphing: When a recipe makes a dish that can be saved in part and then transformed into an entirely new tasting dish, I call this meal morphing. Meal morphing saves time without making the family eat exactly the same dish more than once. Check out Chapter 5 for a description of meal morphing techniques and menu plans that include morphed recipe ideas.
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Brown-Bag Barcelona Chicken
Buttermilk Basil Dressing
Chinese "Barbecued" Pork
(A No-Flame, No-Fire Recipe)
Green Onion French Bread
Happy, Dappy, Flappy Jacks
Irma's Spiced Nuts-to-You
Mexican Fiesta Taco
or Burrito Mix
More Cooking Tips
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