Many (many) months ago, I was asked by Owlkids to review a new book they were publishing … and to be honest, I’m not exactly a pro at reviews of any sort. And clearly not a timely person when it comes to caring for a wee baby … However, the book, Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking written by Sarah Elton and beautifully illustrated by Jeff Kulak, is definitely worth recommending, and I have been attempting time-and-time again to write this post. Writing reviews won’t be a common occurrence on the blog (and I have not been compensated financially by Owlkids; I was only given an advance copy of the book), but if I’m asked to review something that I legitimately like, and I truly believe you may too, then I will be passing on my raving thoughts.
Although Starting From Scratch is targeted at children who are starting to be curious about food – where it comes from, how to cook it, etc. – I would say it is a great book for young adults who were never previously educated on cooking or food. The writing style is easy for young readers to understand, yet it’s not so juvenile that I didn’t enjoy reading through the entire book. Starting From Scratch covers everything from the science of taste (did you know that artichokes make sweet food taste sweeter?); to how differently people eat around the globe (there is an amazing section mapping out different chicken dishes eaten in various countries); to how “recipes” are developed (an education on how baking, especially, is all math or ratios); through to setting up a kitchen with the essential tools and of course, food and cooking safety. The book takes you on a journey that leaves the reader with a deeper understanding of where your food comes from, why and how you perceive food tastes the way it does, and ultimately, the importance of preparing as much of your food from scratch (would you have guessed that from the title??).
I believe that one of the most important things we can teach our children and ourselves is to be conscious about the food we eat and about the enjoyment and pride that comes in cooking that food yourself. My brother and I were lucky to be raised by parents who encouraged us to always try at least one bite of everything; and gave us each the duty to prepare 1-2 dinners a week as part of our “chores.” This has instilled the deepest appreciation for food in both of us – now we fight about who gets the offal at Thanksgiving dinner over any of the other meat; and we scour the depths of the internet, cook books, grocery stores and markets for inspiration for what to cook and eat next. In the words of Anthony Bourdain: “it is a good and noble thing to cook well.” And while Starting From Scratch only contains a few basic recipes at the end, it would assist any child with learning how to sustain themselves with real food rather than resorting to take out and frozen dinners all the time. Whether you know everything about food and cooking, or you don’t have a clue about how to feed yourself, this book would make an excellent addition to your child’s (or a child you love) library.
Now how about a kid-friendly recipe to wash down that review?
Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast Sticks
Clearly, you can save some time and skip the “sticks” part of this recipe. However, cutting your bread into the sticks makes it a little more fun for kids and, to be completely honest, helps reduce the amount you consume since you feel like you’re eating so much more. Let the littles do as much as you, and they, are comfortable with – maybe it’s simply dipping the sticks in the batter; or maybe you’re up for letting them flip the sticks while they are in the hot pan. Either way, get them involved in the kitchen as much as possible and you’re helping pave the way to a lifetime of cooking and eating happiness.
8 slices thick (Texas-style) bread
butter (to cook the toast in; about 2-4 Tbsp)
1/4 cup half & half cream
1/2 cup milk
4 Tbsp peanut butter
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
Using a serrated knife, cut the toast into 4 even slices vertically and set aside. Prepare the french toast batter by whisking together the remaining ingredients (eggs through salt) in a large dish. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a non-stick pan or griddle. Working in 2 – 4 batches (depending on the size of your pan – you don’t want to crowd the pan), dunk the bread sticks into the batter, allow the excess to drip off and then place into pan with melted butter. Cook the sticks on one side until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes), then flip and cook on the other side until golden. Continue with remaining batches of bread (melting an additional Tbsp of butter in between each batch). Serve warm with or without maple syrup.
Makes 32 sticks.