Fun for the family that cooks together By Judy Belanger

If the young cooks in your family have moved on from the Easy Bake Ovens and are ready for bigger and better food preparations, here are some cook books to help with the transition. And since we're now in the hottest part of the summer, why not start with some refreshing desserts? Children might find they like the idea of helping around the kitchen and then you can introduce them to some main dishes. Any budding chefs out there?

BATTER UP KIDS: DELICIOUS DESSERTS, by Barbara Beery, photography by Marty Snortum, Gibbs Smith, $19.95; ages 9-12.

This kid-friendly cook book comes complete with wipe-off pages and a chef's hat. The first page of the book emphasizes the get-ready steps for cooking: cleaning the work area, gathering the necessary ingredients and the necessary utensils.

The book cautions children to read through the entire recipe before starting. That way, they can be sure to understand it, or have time to ask an adult for help before they begin. Beery also includes a few important rules, which she calls the Safety Patrol, for using the stove and microwave correctly.

Then come the 25 tempting desserts. One is as simple as dipping pretzels into chocolate and adding a few sprinkles to make dragonflies. Or on a hot afternoon create your own mud pies using ice cream and Oreo cookies. "Cookie in a skillet"-just like the oversized treats at the shopping mall-lets you make your own 16-inch cookie. Some recipes use cake mixes and pastry dough, which makes them easier for beginners.

The colorful pages include a picture of the final product as well as an easy-to-understand display of all the necessary ingredients. Most of the recipes use ingredients that most of us would normally have in the house; but it is best to plan ahead because not all kitchens keep items like meringue powder on hand.

EMERIL'S THERE'S A CHEF IN MY FAMILY!, by Emeril Lagasse, illustrated by Charles Yuen, photographs by Quentin Bacon, HarperCollins, $22.99; ages 9-12.

What fun the whole family can have choosing which of 76 recipes to try first. The first few pages are especially helpful for beginning chefs. Lagasse says cooking is not only fun and rewarding but also educational. Food preparation involves math, reading, following directions, using tools and working as part of a team. Also helpful are the pictures of the most-often-used tools in cooking as well as definitions of many terms one needs to know to perform such tasks as zesting, blanching and getting stiff peaks.

The first section emphasizes safety in the kitchen, which makes it well worth the time for parent and child to read together. Adult supervision is always recommended, especially when knives, stove-top burners or oven are used. There are sections for the various meals of the day as well as snacks and desserts. Each recipe includes a list of ingredients and the tools needed to put the dish together. The step-by-step directions are complete and easy to follow.

Want to try your hand at bagel making? It's not as hard as you might think. There are some specific references to Lagasse's commercial spices, but other brands may be substituted. His TV show will also be promoting families cooking together and he will do a week of shows titled "Cook With Your Kids" in October. More recipes are available on his Web site,

FAMILYFUN SUPER SNACKS and FAMILYFUN FAST FAMILY DINNERS, from Deanna Cook and The Experts At FamilyFun Magazine, Disney Editions, $14.95 each; ages 9 and up.

The super snacks book contains 125 recipes. They're not all snacks, some are variations on fun sandwiches kids can make. The idea behind this book is healthy eating. One chapter contains ways to have fun using fruits and vegetables, such as arranging them to make flowers before you eat them.

After school-when most children are ready for snacks-is a good time to mix up a batch of crunch or make pretzels together. Or make a zooful of bagel critters using sliced bagels, cream cheese and toppings formed to make faces. Or let the kids put together cookie ice-cream cups or an ice-cream pizza dessert for the family dinner.

And this book understands busy families. Each of the 100 meals requires less than 30 minutes preparation time, although cooking times can add anywhere from another five minutes to five hours (for a slow-cooking stew). The book is divided into four sections: soups and salads, main dishes, side dishes and dessert. Quick tips for added touches, such as sauces, dips and even directions for making a potato volcano, are added along the sides of each page.

Have you ever made ice-cream in a bag? This is a fun idea for a birthday party. Be sure to have the toppings ready for when they are finished shaking their own dessert.

Each recipe contains information on how much time it will take to prepare, cook and chill as well as which steps the kids are likely to need help with. Sit down with the family and plan the shopping list for the following week. With their input, you should be able to eliminate those "I don't know's" when you ask for dinner suggestions. What would your gang say about spaghetti pie? Sometimes the usual prepared differently makes all the difference. Both books contain an index which will help you easily find those favorite recipes again.

Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.



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