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.

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.

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.

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)

Credit: Ryan Dausch

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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.

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)

Credit: Handout

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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.

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)

Credit: Handout

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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.

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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