Little Chef Cooks: I Can Cook Too! is a book aimed at the very youngest chefs. It is full of simple recipes that allow for a substantial amount of child participation, with an introduction containing tips for the adult helper.
The book includes a reasonably wide range of recipes, from apple-sultana porridge mix (that’s “apple-raisin oatmeal”, for American children) to avocado dip to watermelon splash, and there are even a couple of recipes that are literally for the birds (a birdseed recipe, followed by a pinecone bird-feeder project).
Most of the recipes have particular skills highlighted on the side (“assembling,” “pouring,” “mixing”), and some of them have tasks listed as “extra for experts”, which are more advanced skills for a more independent little chef. Tasks that are only for adults are clearly highlighted.
I had to call in an assistant for this review, in the form of my own young son, who is a bit older than the book’s target audience, but still eagerly picked out several recipes for our later experimentation (he was particularly enthusiastic about the Raspberry Ripple and the Honeyed Ricotta). The recipes are in general very easy, and almost impossible for even the most inexperienced small chef or incompetent adult helper to mess up. (The honeyed ricotta recipe, for example, contains three ingredients – ricotta, honey and strawberries – and this reviewer is completely unable to imagine any possible combination of the three that would fail to taste good.) The “adults only” steps are kept to a minimum, allowing for as much child participation as possible, and the directions are clear and readable, in simple language. Recipes are reasonably nutritious, if a bit on the sweet side, and involve whole, recognizable foods rather than processed mixes (something far too many kids’ cookbooks resort to).
Some of the measures are given in grams and ounces, but the measurements in these cases need not be exact for the recipes to work, so the cook without a kitchen scale should feel free to approximate. The book’s back cover is arranged in such a way that it might give the reader the mistaken impression that the book is a Level 2 book, but the front cover, title page, and contents make it clear that this is Level 1, the most basic level. Even at this level, however, a couple of the recipes do have the reviewer wondering why one needs a cookbook to explain them – particularly the recipe for “crackers”, which involves arranging crackers on a plate and putting cheese on them (with the “expert” chef cutting the cheese into shapes with a cookie cutter first). The recipe for trail mix inexplicably includes no nuts, seeds or other protein as written (though the instructions say they can be substituted in) and consists entirely of dried fruit. Still, given that this book is aimed at toddlers and very young children, perhaps it is better for it to err on the side of simplicity.
This is a cheerful little cookbook with simple recipes for foods that very young children can readily enjoy. It could be a great way to get a small child interested in kitchen experimentation, and in actually taking part in preparing the food they eat (always one of the best ways to get them eating good food).
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader