Monday, March 30, 2015

New Addition to Cookbook List!

On this blog, I keep a list of my favorite cookbooks.  I haven't added a new one in a long.... long time.
A few years ago, I searched for a kids' cookbook that I could love and that my kids could enjoy and follow easily.  I was so surprised by the variety of cookbooks and the poorly written directions they included.  In particular, I remember looking at Paula Deen's cookbook for children.  The small print, light type, and colored background...  I wanted a better cookbook for my kids!  For me, cookbooks are inspiring (even if I almost never follow a recipe exactly)!  I ended up finding one that I loved-- Kids Cook!, a Williamson Kids Can book that is now back in print.  But, there are no photographs in the cookbook.  My kids love color and they are not drawn to that cookbook.  On the other hand, a new cookbook arrived at our doorstep last week and my kids hovered over it--drinking in the recipes, excited to cook!

That cookbook is Cooking Class by Deanna F. Cook.  A few years ago, Storey published two
cookbooks for kids about sewing that I like:  Sewing School and Sewing School 2.  With this cookbook for kids, Storey followed the same format and editing style--which I loved back then and love again with this new cookbook.

Cooking Class is divided into seven sections that cover the basics, meals, snacks, and of course--dessert!  The Basics section is what I have found lacking in most kids' cookbooks, but in this one, it is done well.  Good tips, good pictures, and even a page on how to clean up!  I like that they added two pages on how to fold a fancy napkins and setting the table.  I have a feeling that our next holiday meal will have some beautifully folded napkins!

From there, the recipe sections begin.  The recipes are divided into 1, 2, or 3 spoons.  1 spoon recipes can be made by kids themselves.  2 spoon recipes might need an older sibling or parent's help.  3 spoon recipes use sharp knives and the oven/stove, so an adult is most likely needed for kids under 10 or 11.  My daughters are 9 and 11 and are uncomfortable with the oven and can turn on the gas stove, but usually prefer me to do that.

The recipes are easy to follow and have great pictures which give clear instructions.  The reading level (because of the size of the type) is probably 3rd grade and above.  I know that my first grade son can read most of the words in these directions, but the size of the type would be a stumbling block for him.

Our first recipe we tried from the cookbook was the grab and go granola bars.  I was a little skeptical about how my kids would like them since they aren't baked, but my whole family ended up loving them!  I think next time, though, I am going to try and mix the chocolate chips into the mixture and then press into the pan so that the chocolate chips are mixed throughout the bars and aren't just on top.

I suspect that within a few months every recipe in this cookbook will have been tried by my kids!

Aside from the recipes, the cookbook includes some fun stickers, place cards, and conversation questions for the dinner table.  These are of high quality and my kids have enjoyed them all.

I think you get the idea... when choosing a great kids' cookbook, this one tops my list! (and has been added to my list of favorite cookbooks on this blog)

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook for review from Storey publishing.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Freezer Issues

Freezers and I have a love/hate relationship.  It drives me crazy that I lose food in them and that they get disorganized so quickly because I'm in a rush and have to stick stuff back in them.

But, this week I began implementing one of my new grocery plans--to go to Wegmans once a month (or every 6 weeks) to buy meat/chicken/pork and stock up.  I came home and divided up the meat into ziplocs... but I knew that I needed to organize our freezer(s) so that I'd be able to find it when I needed it.  So, I got started and came to a conclusion.

Freezing meals doesn't work for me.  I don't defrost things well.  I often change (or even decide in the first place) what I'm going to cook for dinner an hour or two before we're going to eat.  So, I keep a stock of basics (dry goods and frozen) on hand.

I sorted my meats by type, frozen vegetables together and breads, freezer strawberry jam and blueberries, grains, coconut, bread crumbs, ice cream...  One of the issues I faced was the jumble of partially used frozen fruit and vegetable bags.  They would drive me crazy when they'd fall out of the freezer.  So, I found that the shoebox size plastic boxes fit perfectly.  I put one with the bags of fruit in my freezer upstairs and one with the open frozen vegetables.  It's amazing how boxes and baskets can make me feel less cluttered and more organized because it gives things a place to belong.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned this past year is about comparing ourselves to others.  When it comes to saving money, the same thing applies--just because someone else can manage and juggle something doesn't mean you should.  What works for one person won't necessarily work for another.  I know there are a ton of cookbooks about cooking for a month and freezing ahead.  But, I realized the other day that my brain just doesn't think ahead to defrost such meals so they end up being a waste of money for us.  I love the ideas that I get from hearing how other people feed their families and what strategies they use for saving money.  But, I see the wisdom in taking what applies to me and then simply appreciating that the other strategies bless the other people using them.  It's not an all or nothing deal.  For example, I don't use coupons much anymore.  But, I did for years!  I still love to clip them some times, but they don't end up being used much anymore.  I don't have the time to shop and use them.  I'm in a time of life that requires me to be more time efficient with my grocery trips.  So, that means I am making a monthly trip to Wegmans for meat, asian rice (when needed), and generic spiral mac and cheese.  An almost weekly trip to Aldi for the bulk of our groceries, and an every other week trip to our local grocery store for deli meat, buttermilk, and a few things that Aldi doesn't carry (like red leaf lettuce heads, cilantro, and fresh jalapenos).  Not worrying about coupons right now takes a lot of stress off of me.  And decreasing my stress right now is worth a lot to me.