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The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids by Ruby Roth

As the parent of a toddler, I face a dilemma every single day. No, it’s not how to keep myself from cutting off my ears listening to Norman’s voice on Fireman Sam, as my daughter wants to watch it for the ten millionth time, nor is it changing a diaper full of pee only to have her take a crap in the new one five minutes later. Rather, it’s how to balance my desire for her to love cooking and share the kitchen with me, while simultaneously keeping her the hell away from me during my much-needed “me time.” Cooking is my daily therapy, stress relief, and meditation. My zen. A toddler demanding to “help” with everything, and moving chairs across the kitchen so she can stand on them next to a hot burner does not exactly encourage the zen. It interrupts the qi, and throws a funk in the feng shui. So how then am I to keep my sanity when I let this little tornado into my meditation room? This is the dilemma.

Thankfully, this book is the answer.

My daughter knows how much I adore my cookbooks. At least once a week, I can be found sitting on the floor in front of my bookshelf, pouring over pages as I choose recipes for the week. When this book arrived and I told her it was her very own, she hugged it and immediately starting asking if we could make this, that, or OOOH, THAT! It lives on the shelf with all of mine, and she regularly pulls it off (and all the others), asking what we can make next. It makes me so happy to see her excited about cooking. And because I’m an exhausted mother, it makes me even happier that all these recipes are so brutally simple that I can usually oblige her when she wants to make something. See, these recipes are beyond easy. You might even scoff at how simple some are.

The very first thing we made? Water. Not just any water, but pink Bright Water. Ingredients? Water and a couple beet slices (told you it was easy). Put them both in a jar, shake, remove beets, and voila! I can’t even tell you how excited she was to drink pink water. Despite my best efforts to not have my daughter obsessed with the color pink (including not telling anyone she was a girl before she was born so that we wouldn’t get any pink clothes), she gravitates to pink like a moth to the light. (My guess is this will not be the last time she rebels against my desires.) So yeah, we made pink water, and it was awesome (so awesome that we made green water the next day, thanks to a sprinkle of spirulina). Because pink is the way to her heart, the first real recipe we made was the Pink Couscous, because duh. She was a little unsure of the green onions and pistachios in it, but she didn’t seem to mind the couscous. It was pink, after all (thanks again to beet slices). However, I did discover that couscous is not a very mom-friendly food for a two-year-old. It makes a royal mess, and is a pain in the ass to clean up. If your kid can keep that stuff contained to the bowl, spoon, or mouth, good for you, but that’s a skill my two-year-old does not yet possess. It’s a good thing she’s cute.

You know what else is cute? This book. It’s pretty much the most adorable book I’ve ever laid eyes on. The recipe pages are put together as collages of photos and drawings, and the text is all hand-written. It looks like a rainbow of happiness exploded all over the pages. Lucky for me, that means that even when the food itself isn’t pink, there are recipes that are on pink pages… and that is just as good in my daughter’s eyes. Like the Party in a Cup. It’s just some yogurt topped with whatever toppings you got, but has been a great way to combine some of my daughter’s favorite foods into new combos. I use fresh berries in the yogurt and top it with hemp seeds. I tell her they’re sprinkles, but hey man, my kid is eating hemp seeds! She’s asked for the “party cup” a few times now. Thank you, pink page.

When snack cravings attack, I love the simple recipes in here. Instead of reaching for her usual handful of pretzels, olives, or berries, we can throw together some Power Towers, which are just apples (or bananas) with almond (or peanut) butter. No, I suppose one doesn’t really need a recipe for almond butter on apple slices, but as the mother of a two year old, I am so thankful for “recipes” like this in the book. She sees them on the page, knows what we’re working toward, and then gets to see the finished product that we eat. And it teaches her that no, food doesn’t just magically show up on your plate. We have to make it, and you get to help. We get to be in the kitchen together, and I get to keep my sanity because it only took five minutes.

Along the same lines, there’s a recipe for Dino Rolls, which are essentially just ants on a log, but made with lacinato kale instead of celery. Do you need a recipe for that? Maybe not, but tell me this… would you have ever thought to make ants on a log with kale? No, you wouldn’t have. And did you ever get your two year old to eat raw kale? No, you didn’t. I rest my case. 

While I might be irritated if a book for me had recipes this simple, this book isn’t for me. It’s for my daughter, and therefore it’s perfect. And you know what, I really like a lot of it myself. When she wouldn’t eat more than a few spoonfuls of the Broc-O-Tree Bisque, it was my lunch at work the next day (and I loved it). When the smoothies like the Polar Bear and the Un-Stick in the Mud are so good that I’ve wanted my own, I’ve made my own. I’m not ashamed. Mother tested, kid approved.

There are a lot of things in here that she isn’t quite adventurous enough for (at least not yet), but I imagine we’ll get there. The book is listed for ages 6-12, but don’t wait until your kid is 6 to get this book… start the love of food and cooking young. If we’re loving it this much at age 2, I imagine it will only get better as she gets older and becomes a little more brave with her foods. But even now, she’s tried so many new things, or foods in new combos, that I am one happy mama. She doesn’t love everything, and she doesn’t have to. All I ask is that she tries things though. If that means she doesn’t like cucumbers and wants to eat the Pipsqueak Tea Sandwiches as just vegan cream cheese on bread, so be it. Rather than fight it, I’m just going to go with the flow. I’m learning to find a new zen, and I’m thankful to have her in the kitchen with me. Just as long as it’s not for too long…

  • dianaMay 12, 2016

    You are SO right! While the adults might not need those “recipes” it is so so great to have a book that gets the kids excited for healthy choices! My daughter can’t eat yet, but I really want this once she can!ReplyCancel

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