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“Honest Pretzels” by Mollie Katzen

Reviewed by Audrey E. Nickel

Cooking with your children can be a wonderful, enriching activity. Not only is it a fun thing for parents and kids to do together, it’s also a great learning experience for children. Working with parents in the kitchen, they learn an important life skill, while enhancing their understanding of reading, math, science and nutrition…AND they get to eat the results! Not a bad combination in anybody’s book.

Using cookbooks geared toward adults, however, can be frustrating for both parent and child. Often the recipes are just too complicated or unappealing to children, or difficult (and potentially dangerous) techniques force the child into the unsatisfying role of “chief measuring cup passer and dish washer.” Where’s the fun in that?

The fun begins with Mollie Katzen’s latest book Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up, a vegetarian cookbook designed especially for elementary and middle school kids. Katzen’s creative approach allows children to take the primary role in cooking (with advice on when to ask an adult for help where necessary), with recipes laid out in a clear, easy-to-follow pictorial format (enhanced by Katzen’s zany illustrations) and geared toward a young person’s tastes. What kid wouldn’t be attracted by a book that tells him or her:

“You are mostly the boss of these recipes. An adult must be there, aware of what you are doing, and available to set up and help. But you are the one who will read the recipes and be the leader of what happens. It’s like you (and maybe some of your friends) and an adult are a team, and the kids get to be in charge.”

Parents and kids who enjoyed Katzen’s first children’s cookbook Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes (for preschool-aged children) will find Honest Pretzels to be familiar ground and a natural “step-up” for children ready to move on to more sophisticated cooking techniques. Recipes include snack items, beverages, salads, main dishes and desserts. All of the recipes are vegetarian, but families who prefer a purely plantbased diet should be aware that many of the recipes in this book do call for dairy or eggs (several can be made with reasonable vegan substitutions, such as soy or rice milk instead of dairy milk or cream, or margarine or oil instead of butter).

Invite Mollie Katzen into your kitchen and watch your kids grow into creative, confident chefs!

Spunky Chili

From “Honest Pretzels” by Mollie Katzen

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cup chopped onion
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped or sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tablespoons mild chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 small bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons minced (cut in tiny pieces) or crushed garlic
3 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or about 5 cups cooked kidney beans)
2 cups tomato juice

Ask an adult for help with:

  1. Put a soup pot on the stove. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  2. Turn heat to medium and wait 30 seconds.
  3. Put in the pot: 1½ cups onion, the carrot, the celery, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, ¾ teaspoon salt.
  4. Cook the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, the bell pepper, 2 teaspoons garlic, the beans. Stir, and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Measure 2 cups tomato juice. Pour it in slowly.
  7. Stir gently, cover, and turn the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes. Ask an adult to lift the lid when it’s time to stir, then to put it back on.
  8. Ask an adult to help ladle or spoon the hot chili into bowls. Serve with the toppings of your choice, and maybe also with tortilla chips on the side. Makes about 6-8 servings.