Barbara Brandt’s Your Kids: Cooking!

Barbara Brandt

What kind of cook are you?

Do you follow recipes?

Do you like lots of lists and tips?

Do you want to take it slow and learn step-by-step?

If this is you, and you happen to be about seven years old, and your parents or grandparents don’t know how to cook well, then Your Kids: Cooking! (Pukka 2015) is probably your best bet. Barbara Brandt will lead you through ten recipes, teaching you skills with a capital “S” and, if you are lucky, you will learn to build up your tastes and food memories along the way. So grab your DVD playing device, call your parent or adult helper a sous chef and get cooking.

Your Kids Cooking by Barbara BrandtThe book is spiral bound and filled with lots of pictures of ingredients, lists of utensils, and plenty of extra help for the cooking-challenged. It’s a useful book for a classroom or an after-school cooking club. The recipes are called lessons and Barbara even instructs you to read them a day or more before you start cooking. The book reads a bit like a teachers guide with a student’s cookbook sandwiched inside. At the back is a DVD with cooking lessons for each of the ten recipes. Your child can watch a young lady explain what to do, and then they pause and follow her instructions. It’s replete with goofy tunes and titles that reinforce what’s been covered. If you already know how to cook the video might be grating, but if you are not confident in the kitchen, the videos will help you and your child learn.

The recipes are not especially child-oriented. These are meals for the whole family, like Lesson 4: Quiche, Lesson 5: Spaghetti & Meatballs, or Lesson 7: Eggs Benedict. (Do kids actually like Eggs Benedict?) The point is to learn skills and then apply them to more and more difficult recipes. She teaches knife skills and stove skills, but all of it needs the watchful eye of an adult.

Lesson 6 is Stir-Fry (pp. 72-81) with Chicken and Vegetables. The table at the front of the book (p. XV) outlines what your child will learn: terms like slurry and wok; skills like peeling vegetables and preparing peapods; and cooking know-how like cooking with oil, boiling rice, and stir-frying basics.

The first few pages of the recipe outline what is involved for both parents and student. Then there are shopping lists, and descriptions of ingredients. Page 75 includes, which might be of little interest to a seven year old budding chef, but more interest for their sous chef. There is good and useful information like encouraging the use of brown rice over white:

Rice is an excellent source of energy. Brown rice –a whole grain– is healthier than white rrice because it contains fiber and higher amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Oddly, the cook in the DVD prepares white rice and doesn’t talk about using brown, red, black, Basmati, Jasmine, or other rice.

The recipe calls for carrots, red bell peppers, snow peas, and celery, but doesn’t suggest using fresh mushrooms, ginger, or spring onions, over canned water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Surely, we want to encourage young shoppers to try vegetables that are in season and unusual? The follow up recipe for Cashew Chicken does add dried ginger, but again the photograph accompanying the recipe is for white not brown rice. This is Americanized Chinese food that might go over big with a hungry family.

Barbara Brandt has added plenty of extras on her website that follow-up for each recipe. There is a list called “Expand Your Horizons” that lists recipes they should try to make next like Fajitas, Chow Mein, Chicken Ragu, and Pasta Primavera. The book also has a few desserts, but, wisely, they are largely fruit-based rewards for cooking the main dish. Kids will learn to make an Easy Key Lime Pie (p. 84) from Key Lime flavored yogurt and whipped topping cooked in a graham cracker crust, after mastering the stir-fry. It’s a quick one-page recipe that really cook have used a bit more space. But it’s one night’s dinner for a family of four made by a seven-year old (with the help of their sous chef!).

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