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September 2, 2008 at 12:08 PM

Just in time for back-to-school: a great cookbook for kids

Hey, I just got my hands on a terrific kid-oriented cookbook.

Real Food for Healthy Kids” by Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel (Morrow, $29.95) is amazing on many fronts — despite a title that makes it sound about as exciting as reading a toxicology report on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with a foreword by the Surgeon General:

These “200+ easy, wholesome recipes” manage to enlighten without being preachy, offering good-for-you recipes geared for tots to teens. Baby food this ain’t (though there’s a chapter on that, too), as evidenced by recipes for Thai Green-Curry Chicken (yes, it dares to have Vietnamese fish sauce in it), Mini-Cuban Sandos (using slow-roasted pork shoulder from an earlier recipe) and chai lattes (made with decaffeinated tea lest the wee ones stay up all night begging to watch another loop of Barney the Purple Eggplant).

Seaman and <a href="Steel , whose names may be familiar from their work with some of the nation’s best-known food magazines, aren’t proud — though with this timely tome they have reason to be. They’re happy to send you to your local grocery store for “store-bought food we like,” and they even name names: among them, Amy’s cheese enchiladas, Go Lean cereals and Mott’s unsweetened apple sauce cups.

These moms-who-know provide great tips for filling kids’ school lunch-box with “real food” that my kid would actually eat (like a Bento Box Chef’s Salad) plus recipes that should have your kids eating their veggies — including “Blasted Winter Vegetables” served, if they’d like, with “Eat-Yer-Veggies Cheese Sauce.” And if your child has allergies or food-sensitivities, as Seaman’s son does, they’ve got you covered there too, with a chapter devoted to dishes made without gluten, casein or soy.

I was as impressed with their nod to food shrinkology (“Picky Eaters and the No-Thank-You Bite”) and their call to get kids into the kitchen cooking as I was with their recipe basics. Those include prep-time, cook/bake-time and “speed limit” (total minutes per recipe), calorie and nutritional analyses, plus little “Jr Chef” icons indicating dishes your child might want to help make.

For once, someone’s published a book that even an “enlightened” parent like me can use. Because (like you?) I may know my way around a kitchen and have a kid who can be described the same way, but I also give in far too often to my “Jr Chef’s” urge for bad, bad soda pop and sweets, and regularly over-indulge his wont for pizza/burgers/teriyaki-takeout. But this is also the perfect book for those devoted to McDonald’s and the microwave (but hate themselves for it), offering tips on properly stocking the pantry, fridge and freezer in order to make recipes that are, for the most part, quick and easy to prepare.

With the first week of the school year at hand, I suggest you treat yourself and your family to “Real Food for Healthy Kids.” Your family’s lunchboxes and dining tables will be better for it. For real! — as the kids would say.

So: Do you have kid-centric cookbook you’d like to recommend? Spill it. They would.

Comments | More in | Topics: Reading about eating

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