New cookbooks for kids offer whimsical recipes for late summer fun

Have some fun in the kitchen with the kids with recipes from "Let's Make Dumplings!," "The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook" and "The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book."
Have some fun in the kitchen with the kids with recipes from "Let's Make Dumplings!," "The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook" and "The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book."

One of the things I am most looking forward to doing with my daughter is teaching her how to cook. She hasn’t learned to stand on her own yet, so she’s still a little ways off from being able to do much more than watch. But once she’s ready, I’ll surely be consulting some of the kid (and kid-friendly) cookbooks released this summer.

In 2020, Food Network Magazine ventured into the realm of cookbooks for kids with “The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook.” This year, they followed up with “The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book,” which showcases a colorful collection of mostly sweet baked goods.

The recipes are short, simple and whimsical: Sundae cupcakes that look like a Dairy Queen dipped cone, biscotti studded with confetti sprinkles, and a s’mores layer cake are all recipes I would have loved to make as a kid.

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Older kids who have watched “The Great British Baking Show” and/or “Nailed It” will enjoy the final chapter of the book, on “fake-out cakes,” which gives step-by-step directions for turning basic cake mix cakes into the likes of maki rolls, grilled cheese, tacos and even chili dogs.

Between each chapter is a section of ideas, such as making cookie dough into puzzle pieces, for playing with the recipes.

I made a batch of the cherry pistachio muffins; my adult taste buds found them on the sweet side (I’ve been eating them for dessert), and mine turned out a bit smaller and squatter than in the photograph, but they were packed with pistachio flavor and fun to put together. The simple recipe would be a great project for a preschool-age kid to make with a parent.

Geared toward kids of all ages, blogger Laurel Randolph’s “The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook” offers 70 recipes from and inspired by the classic cartoon. While your kids may or may not have seen the show, much of the food in the book — Circus Tent Mashed Potatoes, Little Meatloaf Men, Nacho Hat, School Lunch Tater Tots, and, of course, doughnuts — is inventive, and enjoyable to eat and make.

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I couldn’t resist grilling a batch of Krusty Burgers, which I’ll bet were tastier than the burgers in the show. I don’t often add much to my burger patties other than salt, but I enjoyed these garlic- and onion powder-seasoned cheeseburgers. The cooking times were spot on, and the umami-forward flavors hinted at fast food, but better. Grilling, of course, is an activity more suited to older kids and teenagers, but mixing and shaping the burger patties and stirring together the sauce are all young-kid-friendly activities.

A more ambitious book is “Let’s Make Dumplings!” by chef and writer Hugh Amano and illustrator and comic book artist Sarah Becan. While not specifically a kids cookbook, it is written in the style of a comic book, with step-by-step photos that likely will appeal to older kids and teenagers. The first third of the book is dedicated to folding cooking methods, with illustrations and descriptions; I found this section incredibly helpful as I consider myself a dumpling klutz. The recipes range widely in scope, origin and difficulty, but are approachable with time and patience. And, of course, there are some elements of the recipes — especially mixing the fillings with your hands — that would be entertaining for younger children.

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I made a batch of the pork and chive potstickers and fried them using the crepe method, which creates a shatteringly crisp bottom to contrast with the soft top and juicy filling. Next, I’m planning to try my hand at homemade dumpling dough for Tibetan Beef Momos and Savory Mushroom Baozi. Even though my daughter can’t yet help, she’ll definitely enjoy sampling each of them.


These recipes, excerpted from three new kid-friendly cookbooks, are all fun cooking projects to explore before school goes back in session. They range in difficulty, so some steps will be more or less appropriate for young children.

Cherry Pistachio Muffins from "The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book" from Food Network Magazine. (Courtesy of Ryan Dausch)
Cherry Pistachio Muffins from "The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book" from Food Network Magazine. (Courtesy of Ryan Dausch)

Credit: Ryan Dausch

Credit: Ryan Dausch

Cherry Pistachio Muffins

We love the way these cherries look, but you can’t bite into them whole — they still have pits! Just pull them off and eat them separately.

Cherry Pistachio Muffins
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for topping
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 to 24 medium fresh cherries with stems
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Combine the pistachios, flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
  • Mix the confectioners’ sugar and eggs in a large bowl with a whisk. Add the pistachio mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the melted butter and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.
  • Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Bake until the muffins are slightly puffed and just beginning to set, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven with oven mitts. Place 1 or 2 cherries in the center of each muffin. Return to the oven and bake until the muffins feel springy and the edges are lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let the muffins cool 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Makes 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per muffin: 155 calories (percent of calories from fat, 50), 3 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 9 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 46 milligrams cholesterol, 83 milligrams sodium.

Excerpted from “The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book” by Maile Carpenter and the editors of Food Network Magazine. Copyright © 2021. Used with permission of the publisher, Hearst Home Kids. All rights reserved.

Krusty Burgers from the "The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook" by Laurel Randolph. (Courtesy of Harper Point Photography)
Krusty Burgers from the "The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook" by Laurel Randolph. (Courtesy of Harper Point Photography)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Krusty Burgers

At your next luncheon, impress your guests with these delicious steamed hams (it’s an Albany expression). Despite the fact that they are obviously grilled, these hamburgers, from Season 7′s “22 Short Films About Springfield,” are definitely not from Krusty Burger. The sauce will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator.

Krusty Burgers
  • 2 pounds 80% lean ground beef
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon pickle relish, sweet or dill
  • 2 teaspoons pickle juice
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • Vegetable oil, for grilling
  • 6 slices cheese (optional)
  • 6 hamburger buns
  • Optional toppings: Shredded lettuce, 12 sliced dill pickles
  • Add ground beef, garlic, salt, pepper, and onion powder (if using) to a large mixing bowl. Fold together using your hands until just combined.
  • Form mixture into 6 burger patties. Make patties almost 1 inch wider than buns, pressing the middle of each patty to make the center slightly thinner than the edges. Place patties on a large plate in the refrigerator to chill uncovered while you heat the grill and make sauce.
  • Heat a clean grill to 450 degrees.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish, pickle juice, and mustard. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Once the grill is hot, lightly oil the grates. Remove patties from the refrigerator and add to the grill. Cook about 3 minutes or until browned on one side with visible grill marks.
  • Flip patties and cook 5 more minutes or to preferred doneness (patty should have an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees for medium-well done). If you’re making cheeseburgers, add cheese in the last minute of grilling.
  • Let burgers rest 2 minutes on large plates. If desired, briefly toast the buns.
  • Add sauce to both sides of buns. Top with patties, followed by toppings. Serve on a silver platter. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, without cheese: 391 calories (percent of calories from fat, 32), 37 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 14 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 98 milligrams cholesterol, 1,010 milligrams sodium.

Excerpted from “The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook” by Laurel Randolph. Copyright © 2021 by Laurel Randolph. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.

Pork and Chive Potstickers from "Let's Make Dumplings!" by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan. (Illustration by Sarah Becan)
Pork and Chive Potstickers from "Let's Make Dumplings!" by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan. (Illustration by Sarah Becan)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Pork and Chive Potstickers

The term “potsticker” refers more to a technique than a specific dumpling — start with pan-frying a dumpling, then add water and cover the pan to finish cooking the dumplings through with steam, creating a delightfully golden brown and crispy crust on the bottom; a soft, chewy top; and a perfectly cooked filling inside. Pork and chives is a popular filling for Chinese dumplings — you can use standard chives, but if you can find flat Chinese garlic chives, all the better.

Pork and Chive Potstickers
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup minced garlic chives (about 1 bunch) or 1/2 cup minced chives and 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 48 store-bought gyoza wrappers
  • Neutral oil, for frying
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons flour (if using crepe method)
  • Place the pork, chives, ginger, salt, sugar, white pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Use your hands to vigorously mix the filling until it starts to come together, 20 to 30 seconds. Then “knead” the filling by folding it over on itself repeatedly for another 90 seconds. Finish emulsifying the filling by continuously picking it up and slapping it back down into the bowl for another 30 seconds. The mixture should be cohesive and sticky.
  • To try the filling: microwave about 1 teaspoon of it for 20 to 30 seconds and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  • Fold! Fill each wrapper with about 2 teaspoons of filling. Lightly wet the entire rim of a dumpling wrapper with water using your pinkie, keeping your other fingers dry. Fold in half like a taco and pinch the ends together. Work from the middle to seal half of the dumpling. Then seal the other half, making sure to remove as much air as possible before you finish sealing, and flatten the bottom.
  • Cook! Heat a 10-inch or larger nonstick or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of neutral oil, and swirl it around the pan. Lay a batch of dumplings in the pan on their flattest side, leaving about 1/2 inch of space around each dumpling to allow for steam flow. Fry until the bottoms of the dumplings are lightly golden brown (use a fish spatula or fork to lift a dumpling up for a peek), about 2 minutes. Holding the pan’s lid (or a baking sheet) near the pan to serve as a shield, pour 1/2 cup water into the pan and cover immediately. (The water will sputter and spit furiously!) Lower the heat to medium and let cook, tightly covered, for 5 minutes more. Loosen the lid so it is slightly ajar to let the steam escape. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until most of the water is gone. Then remove the lid completely and let the dumplings finish frying for another minute or so, until golden brown on the bottom and the filling is cooked through. Using your fish spatula to leave as much oil behind as possible, transfer the dumplings to a serving plate. Repeat with remaining dumplings, if desired.
  • For the lacy crepe, be sure to use a nonstick pan, and substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons flour whisked with 1/2 cup water for the plain water used for pan-frying. Proceed as directed above, gently but quickly pouring the slurry in a circular motion around the pan when the water is called for. Note that the mixture will thin out as the water evaporates. When the dumplings are cooked through and the crepe is golden brown, carefully invert onto a plate so the lovely crepe is on top. Repeat with remaining dumplings, if desired.
  • Serve! Freeze extras uncooked. Makes 48 dumplings.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per potsticker: 50 calories (percent of calories from fat, 34), 3 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 6 milligrams cholesterol, 129 milligrams sodium.

Excerpted from “Let’s Make Dumplings!” by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan. Copyright © 2021. Used with permission of the publisher, Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.

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