How to manage your kids in the kitchen

Kids’ cookbooks all start with the same bit of advice: the road to raising a good eater begins by getting your kiddo involved in the kitchen. Emily Franklin and Matthew Hamster-Burton, both foodies, authors and parents, face-off in that very challenge, chronicling their tales from tacos to tarte tatin.

Child CookingHungry Monkey

The tagline of Matthew Amster-Burton’s book, due out May 2009, sums up what we’re all striving to achieve. Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater tracks the trials and tribulations of feeding your kid while maintaining your own culinary identity.


Amster-Burton, a former restaurant critic at The Seattle Times, switched gears and became a stay-at-home dad when his daughter Iris was born four years ago. After years of dining out daily and critiquing chefs, he’s now engaged in a real-life episode of Top Chef.


While Iris hasn’t told him to “please pack his knives and go”, her days of jalapeno munching are behind her. Like many school-age kids, mac n’ cheese is one of her favorites (and Amster-Burton is not shy about boosting the boxed version with some cooked veggies).


Mostly memoir, interspersed with a dash of recipes, Hungry Monkey reminds readers that the real key to keeping kids interested in eating is making it fun—even if they don’t like everything they try.


Irish Oats with Candied Bacon

Serves 4


Hungry MonkeyBacon and eggs is no competition for this fiber and fun-filled breakfast.


For the oats:
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup lowfat milk
3 cups water
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/4 teaspoon salt


For the candied bacon:
8 slices thick-cut bacon
1/2 cup light brown sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the butter, milk and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the oats, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes.


2. Meanwhile, make the candied bacon. Wrap a baking sheet completely in heavy-duty foil. Place the strips of bacon on the pan and evenly sprinkle with 1/4-cup of the sugar. Bake 8 minutes, flip, and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake an additional 8 minutes or until firm and lacquered. Cool briefly, then dice or let kids crumble with fingers.


3. Stir the salt into the bubbling oatmeal, continuing to simmer until the oats are thick but not pasty, about 5 more minutes. Serve topped with bacon plus additional milk if desired.


* Recipe courtesy of Matthew Amster-Burton, Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)

Too Many CooksToo Many Cooks

Emily Franklin offers a more prose-filled reflection on feeding a family. Chef turned novelist, Franklin, a young adult author, wrote The Girls’ Almanac as well as her most recent book Too Many Cooks: 4 Kids, 1 Mom, 102 New Recipes, which guides us through a year of meals.


There are lots of car and plane trips as she carts her caravan to visit friends at a remote lake house in “the middle of nowhere” Indiana and to see her dad in Farnese, a quaint sounding town in Italy.


The stories tend to go on, but the ease with which she writes about cooking while balancing a breastfeeding newborn and three more kids underfoot is a nirvana-like goal worth working towards. Franklin seems to embrace the mess that inevitably occurs when you unleash young ones in the kitchen, making the experience appear genuinely enjoyable.


Gross-Looking but Very Delicious-Tasting Lentil Soup



Try ladling this soup over a pile of arugula or baby spinach – it’ll wilt down, for an added veggie benefit.


1/2 teaspoon each turmeric, cumin and coriander
1 onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups red lentils
6 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 dried bay leaf
1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 dash chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


1. In a large pot, heat the turmeric, cumin and coriander, stirring until the spices are fragrant, about one minute. In the same pot, sauté the onion, shallot and garlic in some olive oil. Add red lentils, stock, bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover pot and let cook about 25 minutes.


2. Stir and add mustard, chili powder, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Let cook until lentils start to turn mushy, adding more stock or water, until desired level of thickness.


*Recipe courtesy of Emily Franklin, Too Many Cooks: 4 Kids, 1 Mom and 102 New Recipes (Voice, May 2009)

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