Get the kids into Italian food this half term

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Let's Cook Italian: A Family Cookbook

 

Hard to believe that half term is fast approaching. I mean, I haven’t even got the Christmas decorations back into the loft and the kids are about to be off again.

In case the weather if foul, the bank account is still a little light, or you just have kids who’d love to get into the kitchen, then Let’s Cook Italian could give you a happy few hours in the kitchen. Not only will you turn out some delicious dishes, but it’s a bilingual book so you could give them Italian lessons at the same time.

Talk about multi-tasking!

Following a very similar route to Kids Cook French that I reviewed last year, you can get them started on simple things like cheese focaccia or bruschetta, and progress up to making pasta and things like Saltimbocca alla Romana. I would think it’s a book that would suit cooking with a variety of ages given the variety of complexities.

It does lack photos or illustrations of the dishes, or the steps, so does need a certain amount of knowledge. But if it’s chucking it down with rain outside, putting together your own pizza and then eating it has to be great way to pass a few hours.

Written by Anna Prandoni, this is currently £12.08 on Amazon with free delivery.

Interested to know if you have any favourite cookbooks to cook from when the kids want to be in the kitchen? Let me know, always fascinating to find new books.

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Some catching up to do

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Catching up

 

One of the things about being away for nearly a month is there always loads of jobs to catch up on. Some are a little dull and tedious, like all the washing and ironing, not to mention the weeds that need tackling.

More pleasant will be testing recipes from three books I’ve had for review: Soulmate Food Fitness Gourmet (I deliver the gourmet bit, relying on someone else for the fitness), Kids Cook French (that’s next weekend with three of them) and One Pot Gourmet Gardener.

I’m sure with the last one that it won’t necessarily need me to wait to grow something in order to cook it, but for future years then sounds like it might.

Full reviews to follow, but definitely liking the look of some of the recipes in Fitness Gourmet for the warmer months ahead.

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Helping kids get into noodles of all kinds

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Noodle Kids

 

I got a great new book to review recently, called Noodle Kids, which has just been published. This is a great book for families who like to cook and eat together, or just looking for new recipes that kids might love, without them being all cutesy.

This is noodles in the broadest sense, not just the bowls full of the Chinese or Japanese style variety. So there’s stuffed noodles, covering everything from potstickers to ravioli, or saucy ones covering spaghetti to ramen.

I like that there are lots of ideas for getting social with food, how to really encourage kids to get stuck into making food, cooking food and enjoying eating food together. None of it is too complex, though some of it is going to be messy, but that’s got to be half the fun of it. Kids will love it, and cleaning up is an important part of learning to cook as well.

Cooking together, cleaning up together, eating together. Any book that gets us doing all of this together gets my vote. Published by Quarry Books, this is currently £15.99 at Waterstones.

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Inspiring mini gourmets into the kitchen

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Another week lies ahead, which means another week off the Christmas countdown. How’s it going? Organised yet?

No, me neither!

So trying to pull together as many gifts as possible, quick views on great food gift ideas for every kind of food lover. And of every age, starting with the little ones today. Look how cute this is:

 

Great gift for mini food lovers to encourage them into the kitchen

This is from Cookie Crumbles, and is a beautiful kit that they just won’t be able to wait to get into the kitchen to start making cookies. Yes, I know that could be 5.30am on Christmas morning, but imagine the gorgeous smells from the kitchens! Everything they need except the oven, and everything can be kept neatly together. Perfect.

This one is £14, which is not bad for all the things you’re getting. If you want something more stocking filler sized, then try the Pelican Bay Cookie Mixes at John Lewis, at £6, or perhaps the decorate your own cookie at just £3.50. Anything to get them in the kitchen!

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Quick pick – gorgeous for little ones in the kitchen

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If you’ve got children to buy for who are keen on cooking, or ones that you want to try and encourage into the kitchen, then try these beautiful aprons from Kiss the Cook:

These can be personalised with their names, but also with their position in the family, so big sister, middle brother, whatever is appropriate. Oh yes, there’s something in there for the boys too. Kiss the Cook is a great site, and there’s a whole range of great gifts you might want to take a look at for food lovers, cooks and dinner party throwers!

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What will you cook in the extra hour?

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What would you bake with an extra hour

So, it’s that time of year again, the clocks are going back, longer nights, blah, blah, blah. And Sunday gives you an extra hour to do something with.

And is there a better place to spend that hour than in the kitchen? Think what you could be doing.

Personally, I think Sunday is made for a really slow cooked casserole. If it’s going to be dark early, then it must be time for a beautiful casserole. And possibly dumplings too. Or what about cake baking? There could be whole batches of sponge cakes and cupcakes, but it’s also a perfect time to make a gorgeous fruit cake or a parkin.

If you’ve got children, then spend the hour with them in the kitchen. It almost doesn’t matter what you make with them, they’ll just love doing stuff. Get the icing out and ice digestive biscuits if nothing else available, do anything to get them in love with cooking and food. As it will be Halloween, make some ghoulish goodies, like the Monster Eyeballs, no cooking involved and delish but ghoulish results guaranteed.

Lets make the most of our hour and get our kitchen’s buzzing!

 

Great shot of many clocks reading different times, which is exactly how our house will look on Sunday, by nicksarebi on Flickr.

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The Friday Five – food for TV marathons

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Couch potato cooking - great cookbook gifts for those planning some box set binges

 

Okay, so the big event is upon us. And I’m not talking about the last series of Big Brother. Which means there’ll be a whole load of people fixed to their sofas. So here’s five tomes that will give you some food for thought on snacks for the sofa.

Appetizers – 500 Best-ever Recipes: The Ultimate Collection of Finger Food and First Courses, Dips and Dippers, Snacks and Starters– Phew, an exhausting title, but this should give you enough ideas to keep even the most ardent football fan stocked up. From nibbles to something a little more substantial, hot and cold, there should be enough variety in here to keep them going till the end of the tournament.

Appetizers: Fab Finger Food from the ’50s – this one isn’t widely available, but I think the time is right for full on retro snacks. Given that it’s so long since England last won one, taking the retro route seems very appropriate. Devilled eggs all round, not to mention a cheese and pineapple hedgehog!

The Big Book of World Tapas: 365 Delicious Light Bites for All Occasions – bring a global outlook to your snacking with a snack for every day of the year and from all around the globe. Perfect for World Cup dining, you could try matching snacks to the particular match.

Cool Snack Food Art: Easy Recipes That Make Food Fun to Eat! – should you want to stay out of the living room, and maybe experiment in the kitchen, then this might be a great book for you. Or just resort to the hedgehog again.

Family Fun Super Snacks: 125 Quick Snacks That Are Fun to Make and to Eat– if the World Cup is a family affair in your household, then this might be a good book for you, both for eating and making with the kids. From really snacky stuff to sweet stuff, there is something for every kind of taste.

As I’ve written before, this is a non-event in my household, so cooking will continue as always here. But even I might have to sneak in a few retro snacks! Here’s hoping the couch potatoes end up with something interesting to snack on, or to take away the bitter taste of disappointment!

Great couch potato shot by Richard Summers over on Flickr.

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The Friday Five – getting hot and spicy

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I’m a couple of weeks behind the launch date, but I wanted to feature Thomasina Miers’ Mexican Food. I have had two of the best evenings at Wahaca, which takes Mexican food, and tequila, to another level for me. The difference between Wahaca and somewhere like Chiquitos is like the difference between Burger King and Hawksmoor. So, if you think you don’t like Mexican, buy this and experiment.

And if you love Mexican, buy it and enjoy cooking from it!

I’ve added a few others that will give you a different spin on Mexican, to show it’s not all tacos and cheese.

 

Mexican Food Made Simple

 

1. Mexican Food Made Simple – What else can I write about this? I love the way Tommi writes, I love the food her kitchens turn out, and I am buying this for myself if it doesn’t arrive on Mother’s Day. And think Mexican doesn’t cover sweet stuff? Check out the pancakes with vanilla ice cream, caramelised pecans and salted caramel sauce.

2. Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico – another great book for getting into the heart and soul of Mexican cooking. I like that reviews of this say the flavours of this are not Americanised, which is a positive in my view.

3. Essential Cuisines of Mexico – Diana Kennedy has been writing about Mexican cooking for over 40 years, and this is a fairly new updated and revised version of one of her earlier books. This will take you through the whole spectrum of Mexican cooking, from tamales to tortillas through to breads and desserts. It is said the Diana is to Mexican food what Julia Child is to French, so that’s not too bad a recommendation!

4. The Well-Filled Tortilla Cookbook – a little more amusing, and single minded in pursuit of the perfect filled tortilla. You can make it crispy or soft, bake it or fry it, and fill it with all sorts of stuff, savoury and sweet. I would think this was a great book if you have kids, as this is the sort of food I always find kids will try, as it has that level of interactivity to it. Not to mention it’s wonderfully messy to eat!

5. Tequila: A Guide to Cocktail, Types, Flights and Bites– well, couldn’t finish this without bringing out the tequila. Wahaca takes tequila as far from the Tequila Shots Girl as it’s possible to get, and this book is in that spirit (no pun intended). This will tell you all you need to know,what you should be tasting and what goes really well with it.

It may have felt like the endless winter, so spicing it up in the kitchen just may help it feel like the sunshine is back! A bit of spice can go a long way to cheering up cold, grey days! Enjoy!

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The Friday Five – the kawaii side of Japanese food

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Face Food

I’m feeling a bit jealous as some colleagues have gone off to Tokyo for the week. I am really lucky in that I’ve been three times for work, which means I’ve probably done more high end dining there than if I’d gone under my own steam. But the thing that fascinates me most is the bento box, especially the really kitsch stuff. So much of the Japanese restaurants here do the formal, very beautiful stuff, so I wanted to celebrate the stuff that just makes me smile, if not just laugh out loud!

And who knew how many books there were around this subject? If space were unlimited, I’d have all of these. As it is, I may just try to sneak one of these in! See what you think.

1. Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes – talk about playing with your food! Show me a kid or an adult who could resist the Frog Party salad! Got a boy who won’t eat his packed lunch? Super Mario to the rescue! Lunchtime may never be the same again.

2. Kawaii Bento Boxes: Cute and Convenient Japanese Meals on the Go– Kawaii means cute, and then a bit more, and is a bit of an obsession in all kinds of things in Japan. And this book really gives a good view on it when applied to the art of the bento box. I particularly love the rice sheep!

3. The Manga Cookbook– we’re definitely in niche territory here, but definitely an interesting one to have on your bookcase. Manga is huge in Japan, and apparently food appears a lot in the comics. Food sounds good, including onigiri (rice balls), yakitori and oshinko (pickled vegetables). Which are all popular with your average Manga character.

Yum Yum Bento Box

4. Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook – I enjoyed nights in an izakaya more than many of the meals I had, just as it was bit more relaxed, and felt more real than eating beautifully prepared sushi and sashimi in private dining rooms. This is great for a more relaxed style of Japanese cooking, but don’t think presentation goes out the window, far from it!

5. Yum-Yum Bento Box– I know, I’ve featured Face Food and Kawaii Bento Boxes, but this one is just so cute as well, it’s hard to pick between them! Smiley mushrooms, pig sandwiches, chickens made from rice, frogs made from rice…well, at least that’s a new use for the leftover rice!

So explore the fun side of Japanese food, especially if you have kids. These are the sorts of books that will really get kids excited about food, from choosing it to preparing it and then really tucking it and enjoying it. Or just surprise them with a very different lunchbox one day! Can you imagine their faces? Fantastic!


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The Friday Five – Get cooking with the kids this half term

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I think most places around the country are about to start half term (I know, it seems like they just went back). There is good news, roads will generally be quieter. But homes with kids may not be! So this is a perfect opportunity to get kids in the kitchen and get them busy cooking up a storm. There is no better way to get them involved with food than getting them involved in it’s preparation.

So, this post is a bit of a collaboration between me and Mini Gourmet Girl, as MGG has acquired a number of cookbooks over her 8 years (can’t think where she gets that habit from) and she has some favourites, as do I, for really getting stuck in in the kitchen. Here goes:

 

The Usborne Cookbook for Children

 

1. The Usborne Cookbook for Children – this is MGG’s favourite, and you can regularly find her poring over it before coming to tell me what she wants to cook. There’s a good mix of savoury and sweet dishes, both hot and cold, and every step is well-illustrated. There are even useful chef’s tips, like how to make olives less salty, and covers everything from basics like rice and bread through to a very scrummy chocolate cake.

 

Kids' Kitchen

 

2. Kids’ Kitchen by Fiona Bird – we’ve been playing with this one recently, as Fiona and her publishers kindly sent us a copy. I like the format: individual wipe clean recipe cards, plus some how to cards as well. The colour coding helps them work through all the five major food groups of the Government’s healthy eating initiatives, covering fruit to grains, veg to oils. The steps are clearly written and easy to follow, and the results have so far been delicious. And all the kids I’ve had in the kitchen have loved having their own card to work from and I love being able to wipe them down! I think this is an innovative and interesting approach to kids cookbooks, and worth a look.

3. The River Cottage Family Cookbook – I think this is probably my favourite book for cooking with MGG. I love the explanations of the basics of cooking, of helping kids to understand why things work and how. MGG loves the Victoria Sponge recipe, where you weigh your eggs and match everything else up. This is probably a great book for sevens and over, and will probably be a book they dip in and out of for years.

Family Food

 

4. Family Food: A New Approach to Cooking by Heston Blumenthal– this one must be for the molecular gastronomes of the future! Actually, it’s a lot less  contrived than you might think, but will still appeal to the slightly more geeky cook. We have cooked less from this one, but MGG has enjoyed doing things like making cartouches for sauces and things. It’s worth having just to marvel that this is the first cookbook that Heston wrote, as I don’t think many of us would have thought that family cooking would have been where his writing started out.

5. The Gastrokid Cookbook: Feeding a Foodie Family in a Fast-Food World– this is a great all round book, both for cooking with, and for, kids to help expand their food horizons. The recipes are tasty, quick to put together and guaranteed to generate clean plates all round! I also lover their courgette hummus for being another way to get rid of the courgette glut at the end of the summer!

I honestly don’t think it matters much what you cook with kids, as long as you keep it fairly simple and quick, as they tend not to have great attention spans. Small cakes always work well for me as you get two bites of activity: one to make them and one to decorate them! Go on, go mad with the sprinkles! Don’t rely in your local Sainsbury’s, order now from somewhere like Splat or Cupcake Style. Of course they’ll be on sugar overload, but isn’t that what holidays are for?

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