Episode 53: Cooking and Creating Memories with Our Kids

In this episode we check out some cookbooks and picture books that are about cooking or include recipes. It’s a celebration of STEAM activities, cultures around the world, making memories, and preserving family histories. 

Books Discussed in This Episode:


Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. This is our last episode for our first year of “Books that Spark,” and next week we will start celebrating our second year as a podcast. And I’m very excited about this new year. I’ve got several authors lined up who I will interview. Several, have new books coming out this year that we’ll get to celebrate together. But for today, we’re going to talk about cooking with kids. There are so many wonderful books that we can talk about when we want to talk about the topic of cooking. And especially if we are growing the garden we talked about at the beginning of summer, then we will have wonderful, fresh vegetables or fruit to add to our recipes, which will make it even more fun. The children getting to see the results of their labor and getting to enjoy eating the fruit of their labor quite literally.

So let’s start with a few fun picture books that celebrate cooking in one way or another. And some of these I have shared before, but it’s worth sharing again, is My Breakfast with Jesus written by Tina Cho illustrated by Guy Wolek. And this one goes around the world talking about breakfast. Let me just read a little bit of it to you. “Many years ago, on a beach in Israel, Jesus cooked breakfast for his friends. Tired disciples ate delicious fish prepared by the Fisher of men. A holy way to start the day, a breakfast blessing. These days, all around the world, family and friends share Jesus’ love at breakfast. On a farm in Iowa, scents of bacon, eggs, and cinnamon rolls waft under bedroom doors. Anna and Isaac spread icing on gooey buns. Mommy gets sticky hugs as she reads a devotion. A hardy way to start the day, a breakfast blessing.” Each page has a little square that talks about the breakfast and how to fix it–what ingredients are included in each of the breakfasts. “Coffee diluted with milk warms Mariana’s mug in Brazil. Her friends stop by so they can walk to school together. They gulp down ham and cheese with bread and pray together over school. A peppy way to start the day, a breakfast blessing. It goes through many other countries, and it even includes the space station. “Beneath the stars in blackest space an astronaut prays over countries below. Pouches of juice, bread, scrambled eggs, and coffee float through the space station. God, You are an amazing Creator. A heavenly way to start the day, a breakfast blessing.” And then it talks about the astronauts and how they eat dehydrated food. This is just such a neat little book, especially if you want to emphasize that everyone eats breakfast and many people around the world worship God and pray to Him each morning as they enjoy their breakfast together.

And there’s a very old book I have. It was published in 1994, and it’s called Goody O’Grumpity. And this is a book that you could use at Thanksgiving. It talks about colonial days in it. They have some recipes at the end of the story. So this one’s fun in the fall or Thanksgiving. This book is by Carol Ryrie Brink and illustrated by Ashley Wolff. There are many books out there that include recipes. So you can be aware and watch for those kinds of books that include a recipe from the story.

And another really cute story that includes food and cooking together is Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco. She was afraid of thunder. It says, “Grandma looked at the horizon, drew a deep breath and said, ‘This is thunder cake baking weather all right. Looks like a storm coming to me.'” And so they would cook and make these cakes and it would keep her distracted from the storm and help her not to be afraid. At the end of the book, we have the recipe.

Of course, there’s always the traditional and wonderful book called Stone Soup, which talks about community and helping one another. And in the story, each person contributes one ingredient to make stone soup, and Stone Soup is written by Marcia brown and illustrated by her.

Okay, now let’s talk about some great cookbooks. If you are a Pampered Chef fan, they have a lot of cooking items that are specifically geared toward children. And then on Amazon, there are several different cooking tools and cooking kits that include materials to use with children. They have a whole set of plastic knives that you can use with children to make them a little bit safer, but they’re all the different shapes and types of knives that we see in our ceramic sets. So that way children can learn which knife works best in which situation. There are a lot of different cookbooks and you can find kid-friendly cookbooks about every topic and type of cooking imaginable. So I’m just going to mention a few.

Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook: Healthy Kid-Friendly Recipes to Cook Together has easy instructions, healthy choices, and safety is a priority. As you know, cooking is a stem activity. You’ve got measuring and the chemistry of it all. And so it brings in a lot of math and science when you’re cooking. In this toddler cookbook, it’s divided by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The breakfast includes smoothies, banana split parfaits, oatmeal, green eggs and ham cups, baked pancake pizza, pumpkin French toast sticks, and more. For lunch you have smashed bean quesadillas with easy salsa dip, broccoli nuggets, green monster smoothie bowls. For the dinner you have chicken parm pasta bake, rainbow rice noodles with roasted tofu, and lots of others. And then you also have snacks and sides and desserts. So this is a cute book that has a lot for kids to enjoy cooking with their parents. And there actually are quite a few cookbooks that are geared toward teaching our toddlers from an early age how to cook.

Then we have for a little bit older child, The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs: 100+ Recipes that You’ll Love to Cook and Eat. And this book comes from America’s Test Kitchen for Kids. They actually offer several of these great cookbooks.

There’s one from the Food Network Magazine. It is called Food Network Magazine: The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook, 150+ Recipes for Young Chefs. And so that one is intriguing because if you’ve ever watched the food network and the kid’s competitions, they have a lot of creative ideas and ways to make cooking fun for kids. Again, it’s divided by the different meals: breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, dessert, but then they also have fake-out cakes, which is one of their things they often do on the shows. And then at the end, they have a coloring book, which is just fun to have in your cookbook for kids. It has a lot of classic recipes, as well as some very fun, creative ways to cook and have fun with cooking.

Kids in the Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Tips for Young Home Cooks is another cookbook. It’s by Melissa Clark and Daniel Gercke. And this one has some tips for if the children want to have a party and have fun food for that, or if they want to make a one-pot meal or make different kinds of bowls with grains or salads, even sandwiches and cooking on a sheet pan. So this one’s very clever in the way it’s written. It really teaches the children a lot besides just cooking, but to make sure that they are doing things right, that they know how to chop the food, know how to prepare onions, to prepare garlic and different things like that. I love this because it gives a lot of great instruction. It has vocabulary, so you know what the recipe is talking about.

Then another one is Awesome Kitchen Science Experiments for Kids: 50 Steam Projects You Can Eat. And it has hands-on experiments that result in different recipes and food that children can eat. So these are a lot of fun and celebrate the fact that you’re using science and math and technology to create meals. Now, this one is not divided by the different meals. This is divided by the different subjects. So it shows different science activities, technology activities, engineering activities, art, and mathematics. So it’s divided that way rather than the meals. On one page, it says, “The kitchen is a lab. Science labs in movies are always full of people in white lab coats and shiny chrome surfaces. But if you look beneath the surface, the kitchen is like a lab full of technology tools, equipment, and supplies that you can use to explore answers to scientific questions. And a recipe is just like an experiment to bring any recipe or experiment to life. You’ll need tools.” And so then they look at the different tools you need in the kitchen, define those different things, and then they talk about the do’s and don’ts in the lab so that we stay safe. It has a glossary, it has resources, websites. And then of course the different experiments, which also result in a recipe or food.

And then a very cute little cookbook is called Mom and Me Cooking Together: A Sweet Kids Cookbook with Easy Recipes for the Whole Family to Make. It’s written by Danielle Kartes and illustrated by Annie Wilkinson. And the illustrations are really cute. And this book is not as chocked full of information, recipes, and things as much as it is a beginning book to introduce children to cooking. It’s cute. It’s got illustrations like a picture book, but it is a book that teaches about making memories together through cooking very basic recipes that children would enjoy: cheese eggs, lemonade, and those kinds of things. And it includes even jokes about eggs. And so it’s really cute. It’s only 20 pages long. So it is very much like a picture book, but it introduces children so that they can start to have a love for cooking.

There’s another one that is Grandma and Me in the Kitchen by the same writer and illustrator. It is also a short book of 20 pages that helps introduce children four to six years old to cooking and helping them to fall in love with cooking, but it focuses on making memories together in the kitchen.

There are several books for parents that help us to get our children to eat healthier. There’s a book by Jessica Seinfeld. It’s called Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets To Get Your Kids Eating Good Food. And The Sneaky Chef is another one: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods In Kids’ Favorite Meals by Missy Chase Lapine. Both of these writers have several good cookbooks out that help us to make sure our kids are getting healthy food.

And there’s one called From Mac and Cheese to Veggies, Please: How to Get Your Kids to Eat New Foods, End Picky Eating Forever, and Stay Sane in the Process by Jennifer Scribner. There’s an article I’ll include if I can find it, that talks about reclaiming your taste buds. And there is a way to reset our taste buds, to get us back to enjoying and tasting the different depths of flavor that we find in food. If you stop eating sugar and corn syrup and those kinds of ingredients for two weeks even, you’ll find that you can taste flavors in grains and vegetables and anything you eat that you didn’t taste before because the sugar that we’ve eaten and the carbs that we eat– they change our tastes beds and trick us into not even being able to taste the nuances of flavor. After you’ve been off sugar for a couple of weeks, you’ll eat something that you’ve never considered sweet, and all of a sudden it tastes sweet to you. I’ll see if I can find that article it’s called reclaiming your tastes buds. And this book talks a little bit about that as well.

And then one final book I want to share. It’s called Extending the Table: Recipes and Stories from Afghanistan to Zambia, in the Spirit of More with Less. And this one is by Joetta Handrich Schlabach, and it’s a world community cookbook. And I’ve had it for a while, but it’s a way to talk about missions, to include different foods from around the world. It says in the introduction in chapter one extending the table, “In 1976, prompted by what came to be called the world food crisis, Doris Jensen Longacre compiled The More with Less Cookbook. Her narrative and recipes invited North Americans to take a look at their connections to world hunger, and to explore alternative patterns of eating. She challenged readers to reduce high levels of consumption and share the abundant resources of North America with hungry people in other parts of the world. Doris knew that genuine sharing is two-way and that material goods are not the only form of wealth to be shared. In a sequel, Living More with Less, she invited readers to learn from the world community about patterns of living that respect the environment and nurture personal relationships. Learning from others, especially people we do not know, is often difficult. We find it easier to give than to receive, to teach than to learn. This changes, however, as we enter the lives of others and come to know them well enough to see their strengths and weaknesses, their needs and the wealth they have to offer. When Mary Yoder Holesopple went to Uganda to work in rural community development, she was prepared to try some new flavors. She did not realize, however, that she would return home with a whole new understanding of generosity, hospitality, and the meaning of food within a community.”

Eating together is a type of communion. And I think cooking together extends that communion, that memory, making that community that we share with our children, with our family, or our friends, whomever we’re cooking with. It is a wonderful way to connect with people. In the old days, the families would sit on the porch and snap peas, and as they’re snapping peas, they would talk and tell stories. Just the other day, my daughter and I sat at the table rolling enchiladas, enjoying that time with each other and sharing stories. These are wonderful times and wonderful ways to make memories. I encourage you as well. If you don’t get a formal little memory book to create a cookbook of your family recipes, get an index card holder and index cards and write down family recipes to be passed down to your children. It’s so important. My great grandmother was Mexican and Native American, and she made the most wonderful Indian bubble bread and the most wonderful Mexican food. All those recipes I grew up with in my family, and I don’t want to lose them. And so we’ve passed down the recipes from generation to generation and preserved that part of our family culture, whatever you cook as a family, and however you can retain that, it helps preserve your family culture and help send a legacy down generation after generation and gives opportunities for us to share together the joy we had in cooking with a grandma or to remember a person that’s no longer with us that maybe our children didn’t even get to meet, but they can hear the stories of that person’s life. Recipes and cooking together naturally lend itself to that. And then enjoying the food together. It’s like a celebration of what you’ve created and enjoying that together. As a family, with “Books that Spark, and with discipling our kids, our goal is to take those wonderful teachable and defining moments we have with our children. Just like it says in Deuteronomy to take advantage of those moments we have in our day-to-day life with our kids to teach and to instill in them a love for family, a love for God. What better way to do that than to start by cooking together and enjoying those meals together.

To finish up for today, I want to talk about a devotional that’s called “The Spice of Life.” And this is from How Great Is our God: Indescribable for Kids by Louie Giglio, devotional number 57, “The Spice of Life. The verse quoted is Colossians 3:16. “Let the teaching of Christ live in you richly.” And he says, “Do you like to eat spicy foods? While lots of different kinds of spices are used in our foods, the pepper is one of the most popular. You might be surprised to learn that peppers are a fruit. They’re a cousin of the tomato, which, yes, is also a fruit, but they’re not related to the ground black pepper on your dinner table. That’s a completely different kind of plant, though it’s a fruit too. In fact, ground pepper comes from a berry called a peppercorn. It’s cooked and dried, and then ground into the powder we call pepper. Peppers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and levels of hotness. The bell pepper is sweet. While chili and jalapeno peppers are much hotter. Peppers can be eaten by themselves, raw, or cooked. Some are dried and ground into spices like paprika. Others are chopped up and added to other foods. Some people even like to add a little chili pepper to their hot chocolate. However you choose to use it pepper adds flavor to your food. Food is never dull or boring when there’s pepper around. Just as you flavor your food with pepper, you can flavor your life with the word of God. It’s never dull or boring. There has never been a more exciting book written. It’s full of action and adventure, heroes and villains, and the greatest love story of all time: God’s love for you. Go ahead, spice up your life with the word.”

“Lord, thank you for the Bible, for its stories, the examples of how I should live, and most of all, for its promises from you to me.” And then he has a section in each devotional called “How Great: Carolina Reaper.” To measure how hot a pepper is, scientists use a scale called the Scoville Heat Unit. A sweet bell pepper has a Scoville rating of zero units while a jalapeno rates at 2,500 to 8,000 units. The hottest known pepper so far is the Carolina Reaper at 1,641,000 units. That’s 200 times hotter than a jalapeno. Taking a bite out of that one can be dangerous, even deadly.

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope that you enjoy some wonderful discussions with your children as you cook together, as you teach about food and how to prepare great recipes, what a wonderful opportunity we have to create memories and to share stories together around the kitchen counter and the dinner table. You can sign up for my mailing list on my website at TerrieHellardBrown.com, and then you’ll get notifications when I post a new blog or podcast and when I send out the occasional special email just for my mailing list. I hope this podcast is a blessing to you and your children. If it is, please share, especially as we go into our second year with so many great things coming.

Article: 6 Ways to Reclaim Your Taste Buds

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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