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Gifts for food lovers: For kids who love to cook (Recipe: green bean sesame sauce toss) {vegan}

Part Two of an eight-part series.  


For years my parents kept a photo of me on their dresser. In the photo, taken when I was just barely old enough to sit upright on my own, I was wearing a cute little frock and Mary Janes, and "reading" a copy of The New Yorker magazine.

I've had my own subscription to The New Yorker since high school, and until just a few years ago, when they stopped publishing this feature regularly, I looked forward to a series of articles every December titled "On and Off the Avenue", which were all about extravagant gift shopping in the swankiest stores in New York City.

Here in The Perfect Pantry, I'm more interested in "On and Off the Kitchen Counter". This week it's gifts for kids who love to cook, like our super-fabulous granddaughter, Sabina, who can read The New Yorker almost all by herself. She is so cool!

Foodie togs

Every budding chef needs the proper attire. Happy Chef Uniforms can customize a chef's jacket or apron with your child's name. $19.95 + $3.95 to add one line of embroidery (up to 20 letters). Add a chef's hat, apron or pants.

Check on eBay for great bargains on children's chef jackets, too.

Child-size aprons in holidays prints will brighten any kitchen. All Heart Chefs has some designs for super-closeout prices as low as $2.49. On Etsy.com, Tiny Green Apples features original designs on toddler-size and larger aprons; Suzy M Studio sells an apron set just for boys.


Cookbooks for children

Nobody does illustrated cookbooks for the preschool set better than Mollie Katzen; Salad People and Pretend Soup are two picture books your kids can use without reading a single word.

Young cooks, ages 4-8, will be able to manage Kids Can Cook: Vegetarian Recipes, by Dorothy R. Bates; Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids, by Rachael Ray; Williams-Sonoma Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food, by Stephanie Rosenbaum; and What’s Cooking? A Ratatouille Cookbook for Kids.

For ages 8-12, the time when kids really get serious about learning how to cook, I like two pictorial Dorling Kindersley books by Angela Wilkes: The Children’s Quick and Easy Cookbook, and Children’s Step-by-Step Cookbook. The whole family will love the Spatulatta Cookbook, by Isabella Gerasole and Olivia Gerasole. Our vegetarian granddaughters just might find The Jumbo Vegetarian Cookbook, by Judi Gilles and Jennifer Glossop, and The Great Big Veg Challenge by fellow food blogger Charlotte Hume under a tree next month.

I sent to my teen friends Nagisa and Misaki, who live in Japan, a set of measuring cups and spoons, and two books by two sisters and their mom: Teens Cook: How to Cook What You Want to Eat, and Teens Cook Dessert, by Megan, Jill and Judi Carle.

You can find more recommended cookbooks for kids on The Daily Tiffin.

Cooking gear

Nothing will ever top the Easy Bake Oven I got when I was 10 years old -- except the new and improved Easy Bake Oven, selling for $19.77 on Amazon.com. Be sure to buy some extra cake refills, or cinnamon bun mix.


A set of five small-size bamboo mixing spoons and fork is $18.00 at Branch, which sells a wide range of sustainably produced items. Williams-Sonoma carries child-size silicone tongs that look just like carrots ($12.95), and a snazzy red silicone whisk for $15.

Children will have fun with a gingerbread house kit ($22.95) from Dancing Deer, a Boston company that donates 35% of the purchase price to help homeless families find jobs and homes, or a pretzel-making kit ($29.95) from Eatgourmet.com.

The ultimate

Membership in the Kids Cooking Club, for children ages 3 to early teen, delivers a new cooking project right to your door each month. Menus include fondue, pizza, breakfast, picnics, and seasonal menus, with an emphasis on healthy eating, nutrition, and fun for the whole family. $19.95 per month includes nonperishable foods, recipes, and more.

[Next Tuesday: Treasures from travels near and far]
[Last week: Think outside the box]


Green bean sesame sauce toss

Sabina added Gadgetology: Kitchen Fun with Your Kids, Using 35 Cooking Gadgets for Simple Recipes, Crafts, Games and Experiments, by Pam Abram, to my cookbook library. We had fun making the watermelon basket filled with fruit salad last summer. This recipe from the book serves 4-6.


4 Tbsp white sesame seeds
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 lb fresh or frozen green beans, cooked and cooled


Pour the sesame seeds into a dry frying pan and roast over high heat until they start to pop, turn color, and give off a nutty aroma, 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool, then put the sesame seeds in a mortar and grind them with the pestle. Push hard! When the seeds resemble a rough paste, transfer them to a small mixing bowl or cup. It's fine if there are some whole seeds left.

Stir in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar, and mix well. Toss the sauce with the green beans and serve right away.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Spicy green beans
Asparagus in miso sauce

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I love kids cookbooks. I still have all of mine from when I was little.

I couldn't get the link to the Kid's Cooking Club to work. It sends me to a site selling a pizza kit for kids.

When I was still teaching cooking, I would lead cooking parties for kids' birthdays. Definitely a gift from the parents, though the kids might not see it that way. Probably, the most successful was the pizza. I had raw dough, which I let them roll out and lots of topping so they could garnish their own to their taste.

I absolutely love cooking with my children. We have such a hard time finding good cookbooks for them to be able to help. I'm so thrilled with the list you gave me, so I am going to have to go check some of them out. Maybe one will show up for Christmas! :) Thanks!

Cute pictures. The green beans sound really good, I'm always looking for more simple side dish recipes.

Rachel Ray, Barefoot Contessa etc. ---watch out -- the mighty Sabina will be taking the cooking world on soon. And she knows what she likes!!!!! I loved cooking as a child -- hence my food and mixer art. Hated the cleanup and still always try to strike a bargain with the eaters so I don't have to do that!!

The green beans sound great. I have an old Snoopy/Charlie Brown cookbook from my childhood that I'll have to dig up. Thanks for the reminder!

What great ideas! I grew up in an Italian restuarant family (grandfather, then father) kid, and now my son has been into cooking ever since he saw Ratatouille. He is always bringing home cookbooks when he has library day at school. We'll have to pick him up his own chef's coat. Thanks!

I'm glad to see so many terrific ideas & books listed here.

Another children's cookbook author who makes fun books for girly-girl cooks, is Barbara Beery, author of the Mermaid Cookbook, the Princess Cookbook, and the Pink Princess Cookbook. Albeit more themed books, these cookbooks will still inspire the young, female chefs in your life. And at that age, it really is all about the fun.

Those look like very amusing and useful books. Rachel Ray is definitely good for kids. My granddaughter loved watching her show around a year ago when she was 4. (She doesn't usually have the right to watch random TV shows, so she hasn't continued.)

At only $19.77, I just might buy myself an Easy Bake Oven!

Lots of good pointers here...I know cooking is something I want to share when we have the baby (whenever she's old enough to do so)...and I've been wondering how to approach doing so. Also, very cute photos!

Great list! Like Peabody, I still have treasured cookbooks from when I was a kid. I just published Picture Yourself Cooking With Your Kids, a brand new cookbook.

Great ideas and delicious green beans!

Love the photos! She is just too cute. I agree, cooking with kids is great. My niece Livvy is a budding young cook.

Peabody, I have my Winnie the Pooh, but no cookbooks. I guess it's because my mother didn't like to cook.

Margaret, thanks for the catch. It's fixed now.

Julia, I did a few pizza classes for kids, too. Their combinations of toppings were much more creative than the ones their parents made.

Monica, if you find any other great kids' cooking books, please let me know.

Sara, Mary, Kalyn: I might be a wee bit biased, but I think she's the cutest!

Micaela, I'd love to see that! I'm amazed, whenever I visit my favorite used cookbook store, how many cookbooks were written for kids over the years. I don't remember ever receiving a cookbook as a gift when I was young.

Anne, hooray for your son who loves to cook! And for you, for encouraging him.

Sandie, I've given Sabina a couple of the Barbara Beery books, too. They are so pink and girly, aren't they?!

Mae, I'm all for anything that gets kids into the kitchen, especially with their parents or grandparents.

TW, I don't think there's an age limit on toys, is there? Anyway, the Easy Bake is more tool than toy, so that's all the justification you need.

Mike, it's never too soon to start your collection of cooking tools, books, and other things -- your baby will be seven before you know it.

KitchenMage, your book looks terrific. Readers, check it out!

Reeni, thank you.

Kalyn, your niece must have so much fun with you in the kitchen!

In our house it was the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls. Our favorite was pancakes with faces. Easy: put down the features, then pour more batter over them. The eyes, smile, etc will be more brown than the rest. The best was to get kids in the kitchen is as helpers -- I have 3 sons who love to cook. And a daughter, now mother of 2, who is getting a late start!

Can't wait for my friends' son to get big enough to be interested in the kitchen!

Love her! The green beans look so good and easy!!

Lots of super information, Lydia, thanks! I used to teach kids cooking when we lived in Europe, and wish I had access to these products then! At least now I can share them with my daughter who loves to cook.

I did a post on this subject last week at The Daily Tiffin. Through my research, my gift list for my kids grew and grew and now, after reading your posts, it is growing again!

Why don't they make carrot tongs for adults!?
I would love some. :)
Love the noodles, nice and simple. I am a noodle girl at heart.

I think I now know what to get my nieces for Christmas! Phew, that was easy.

Please enter me and my brood. :)


Great list - I agree and have so many of these items. But, as my daughter gets older and more interested in cooking, I look forward to helping her grow. Thanks for the suggestions broken out by age, that is really helpful.

OK, Sabina is so cute I could eat her up. How's that for a RI expression? Great gift ideas, Lydia. Thanks!

Sabina is just adorable, oh goodness! Lydia, all your grandbabies are so precious. You are so lucky! (my Mother certainly think you are!)

I really appreciate all the information here because I know exactly what to get my nephew for Christmas. No video games for them. The cookbook idea is perfect, educational and fun! Now I can spend more quality time with him in the kitchen and give him something to be excited about and use as a reference!

Susan, I just saw a copy of that book at my favorite used cookbook store. How great that your kids have all (well, almost all) grown up with a love of cooking.

Toni, it's such fun to have children to buy cooking stuff for -- so much more sophisticated things available now than when I was a kid.

MyKitchen, Sabina is the coolest of the cool.

Lynda, Callipygia: hope there are some good ideas here for you. This post could have gone on and on -- so much stuff on the market now that kids would really enjoy.

Kristen, here's the link to your post: http://dailytiffin.blogspot.com/2008/11/three-foodie-gifts-your-kids-will-love.html

Natashya, I thought the same thing; those carrot tongs are adorable!

Gudrun, it's so much fun to watch kids get interested in cooking -- real cooking, not just how to make pizza and nachos. Enjoy this time with your daughter as she learns to love the kitchen!

Susan, WORC: I'm partial, of course, but I think Sabina is adorable, too! And she's a great sous chef. She and her mom do lots of baking and cooking together, too.

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