March 17, 2009

Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Recommends

Don't forget: the books mentioned below are available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code "tablehopper" at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.

(Note: if you don’t have kids, skip this section today and I’ll have something for you next month.)

It probably goes against the best interests of the tablehopper to even allow me to suggest that you stay home and cook more. And, indeed, if you can still afford it, by all means get out to your favorite restaurants as often as possible so they’ll be there forever. As a fellow small business owner, I know times are tough and restaurants need your support now more than ever, especially those bold (or unlucky) enough to be just opening now.

But if you’re trying to stay home more and you have kids, I’m here to help you kill several birds with one stone. (Bad metaphor, huh?) Get your kids fully involved in their meals, from the shopping to the cooking to even the growing of their ingredients, and the rewards will be bountiful. You’ll enjoy your time with them and they’ll learn a love of good food and healthy eating habits. That’s why you read this weekly NOT-A-BLOG, right?

First up and new from Williams-Sonoma is Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen by Maria Helm Sinskey. Now, I have to admit that as an occasionally snooty bookseller, I usually steer away from “packaged” or “branded” books like this one, where the Williams-Sonoma brand is what’s supposed to sell you on the book. But this one’s an exception: the content is good, even if the layout is more magazine-y than is my style.

Organized by ingredient, this thick book is full of relatively simple and wholesome recipes, many of which you already know how to make (roasted cauliflower, tabbouleh, etc.). While there are more advanced projects, like making your own sourdough starter, or curing your own salmon, think of Family Meals more as a resource and motivation to get you and your kids into the kitchen. What a great reason to start a tradition of cooking together every Sunday night.

In a similar but simpler vein is Rozanne Gold’s Kids Cook 1-2-3: Recipes for Young Chefs Using Only 3 Ingredients. This truly is simple stuff, like pita pizzas (pita, sauce, and cheese) or carrot “fries” with mint (carrots, olive oil, mint). Unlike Family Meals, this one is written for kids, though they’ll need supervision when using those knives and that broiler. Colorful, simple, and affordable, this is great basic recipe book to get kids started.

Finally, to take it all a step further, if you want to make carrot and orange muffins this summer, you’ll need to get planting soon. Grow It Cook It: Simple Gardening Projects and Delicious Recipes is a very colorful guide to growing and cooking ingredients. While some of the veggies they discuss may not work for landless apartment dwellers, there are many things that can be grown in a window box. This science-heavy and well-illustrated guide will connect kids to their food source even better than a trip to the farmers’ market.

Even if you can afford to go out as much as ever, getting your kids involved in the kitchen will pay dividends for years to come. Imagine waking up on your birthday someday to those carrot and orange muffins!

Thanks for reading.