Kitchen Playdates


Slap, slap. That's me patting myself on the back for identifying a trend before the New York Times. Yep. Today the big feature in "Dining" was about cooking with kids. Now that I've run my victory lap, on to business. Let's talk about a wonderful book I've discovered (ahem, before the NYT) and can't wait to share: Kitchen Playdates.

Today I met KP's author, Lauren Bank Deen, and got a glimpse into life as a food producer/cookbook writer/celebrity foodie. The Emmy-winning mom of two has many gifts. Sharing the joy of good food is just one of them. Before embarking on a career as a cookbook author, Deen put in time on The Martha Stewart show as well as numerous other Food Network shows--she definitely knows her way around the Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

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Kitchen Playdates: Easy Ideas for Entertaining That Includes the Kids ** 70 Delicious Recipes is part parenting manual and part traditional cookbook. There are plenty of great recipes ( I can't wait to try the Duck and Andouille Jambalaya) including Deen's famous scone recipe. But the book is much more. Deen does a tremendous job of demystifying the kitchen and encouraging parents to involve kids in the process of breaking bread. Each recipe has a "Kids in the Kitchen" section which advises parents what cooking jobs are kid appropriate. Here are a few more tips from our interview:

Q. What items should parents keep in the kitchen to make meal time more fun?

Taco shells (my kids will eat just about anything if it'??s in the shell). For older kids, keep skewers'??then whip up a fast peanut sauce for grilled/broiled chicken, beef, shrimp kabobs. A roll of butcher'??s paper to cover the table (for kids to draw and decorate)--when you need more time to finish cooking and don'??t want extra '??help.'? Their own drawer of brightly colored spoons, whisks and measuring cups.

Q. What can toddler do to help with meals?

Younger kids can measure, help prep and wash veggies, older ones can try to use peelers, microplaners, cheese graters. I buy plastic lettuce knives for them to practice cutting and keeping their fingers curved correctly. They can practice cracking and separating eggs, whisking and emulsifying dressings with the help of a spoon of mustard or mayo to get them started while they drizzle oil in a stream.

Q. What are your kid-related food pet peeves?

Serving ketchup with everything. Unless you have the word'??s pickiest eater, then do whatever it takes. Hiding foods for all but the pickiest eaters (again, my son went through a rough year), but otherwise I feel passionately that you need to educate and teach the kids, introduce them to new flavors, plant herbs and veggies and understand where their food comes from (this is why I volunteer at Never having family meal. Even if you work, sit down for breakfast when you can.

Deen also offers entertaining themes, trying to take some of the pressure off over-committed parents and encouraging them to organize simple get-togethers. There's also terrific nutrition information and pictures that make you want to join in the fun. Kudos to Deen for this effort and all of her work with Spoons Across America to build the next generation of foodies. $16.47 on Amazon.

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