Lynn: Cooking is a hot topic these days. I remember the days when cooking was the stay-at-home-mom’s sole province but not only has American cooking changed markedly from the Campbell’s soup and casseroles days but men are often the major cooks in the family. My oldest son is a far better cook than I am and my younger son is no slouch either. But there is still a lot of work to do. With the national health news revealing distressing results about the health of children in this country, there is a new focus on helping children to develop an understanding of food and healthy eating.
Lerner’s new series, You’re the Chef, is a welcome addition to this effort. The older members of the focus group have always liked to cook and they help me a lot in the kitchen so we decided to give the series a test run over spring break.
We chose to test Super Pasta and Rice Dishes (Lerner 2013) by Jennifer S. Larson. Common to all the books in the series are some excellent introductory features. Before You Start provides some practical over-all advice and an explanation about the icons used on each of the recipes. Safety Tips is next and the tips involve cautions about hot surfaces, sharp objects, cleanliness and even cleaning up afterwards. Next is helpful information on cooking tools and techniques.
Each recipe features attractive color photographs, a side bar that lists ingredients, prep time and equipment needed. The directions are step-by-step, numbered and very clear and easy to follow and understand. The recipes are very appealing for kids but include lots of healthful vegetables, sometimes a bit disguised by grating finely.
The boys chose Magnificent Macaroni and Cheese to try and the managed the whole dish with only a little help. They took turns reading the directions and performing the steps. I grated the carrots and helped with getting the boiling pasta off the stove and just a bit with making the sauce. They boys thought the directions were easy to understand and follow. We chose to use pre-grated cheese but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. The result? Four thumbs up (my husband agreed to sample the product).
Cindy: You would think that since I’m in the middle of a kitchen remodel project and macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods that Lynn and the focus group would have invited me over for dinner to sample their end product! Sheesh!
I’ve been thinking of food too while my stove and fridge sits in the middle of the living room and it seems that every book I pass in my middle school libraries has a teen chef on the cover or recipes inside it. I’m probably just hungry to have my kitchen back in place but nevertheless I decided to showcase these with a “Hungry for Books” bulletin board. A few aprons stapled to the board and some chef hats made out of card stock and napkins makes a quick and easy backdrop for a display of foodie fiction, cookbooks and a dash of books about healthy eating. Let me know when dinner is served…I’ll be over!