Ready, Steady, Spaghetti

I’m home with the kids this month, so I thought it would be a good idea to continue with kid friendly books. I picked up Ready, Steady, Spaghetti at a Tuesday Morning about 2 years ago when I probably fantasized about how awesome it would be to share the kitchen with my children. Giggling over cookies. Laughing over pasta. 4 years old and devouring a beautiful porterhouse, medium rare, with a side of roasted seasonal vegetables, a crisp green salad, and a glass of “special occasion” wine we keep stashed in the basement cellar. No, the wine is just for me. Delusional, I know. I must have had either too much or too little coffee that morning, because the reality is that I have a son who only likes cold food, a daughter who claimed that Cool Whip was the best thing I’ve ever made, and their fearless leader (me) goes into orbit anytime they touch anything in my new kitchen. Ah, reality. So this pink puppy has been sitting on the shelf for a while without any action. That is about to change.

I let Harper pick the recipes again. Thank goodness we ran out of Post-Its in the first half of the book, because otherwise, we may as well be opening a pasta shop/bakery. But you can read about that in the “ugly” section of the review.

The Recipes
Blueberry Pancakes (substituted blackberries)
Scrambled Eggs
Sticky Chicken Drumsticks
Fresh Spring Rolls
Mango Whiz (no picture, forgot!)
San Choy Bau (pork lettuce wrap)
Pork and Chive Dumplings 

The Good
My dreams of cooking with the kids – good. The reality? Not so much. But I was really surprised to see some of the recipes that H chose this week. I vetoed most of them, including the three pasta with red sauces in a row (meatballs, bolognese, and plain tomato) but I was interested in the asian flavors that we enjoyed this week. Pork lettuce wraps were my favorite; Jeff thought the sticky drumsticks would be great for a superbowl party. (Guess we need to have one first!) Both kids liked the wraps and the pancakes were the favorite “mid morning snack” for the week. The biggest pro – these recipes are easy. REALLY easy. Perfect for the 12 year old who wants to make something more than PB&J. Nicely photographed with step-by-step photos to help a novice cook along. I liked that this included all the ingredients, pre chopped and measured – a classic “mise en place” that I should be doing anyway. But who has time to do it right from the start? (Insert eye roll here.)

The Bad
Again – my attitude. I had this problem last week as well – I just wasn’t excited about cooking out of this book. It was almost TOO predictable for getting kids to the table. Basic pastas, lots of desserts and treats, some vegetables but it doesn’t even come close to the other kid-friendly cookbooks I have. C did have a tantrum when he realized H grabbed the last pancake and I didn’t have the right equipment for the pot stickers, so it was a bit of a stretch pulling that recipe together. And if you do the drumsticks, cuddle up with your butcher for them to be skinless from the beginning. The image has them frenched, which I found ridiculous for a kids cookbook. Frenched drumsticks? Seriously. But when realized they would cook up better without the skin, I did it myself. Ugh. I also found myself missing salt again, so I ordered Salted – a salt manifesto from Mark Bittman. So that’s cookbook 149. I may need to start a new cookbook shelf.

The Ugly
Sugar, sugar, sugar everywhere. This book was clearly written before the war against sugar began, because these recipes are sugared up. Even the pancakes had double the sugar compared to other recipes I’ve tried. The last half – HALF – of the cookbook are sugary treats. Granted, that’s a good way to get kids interested. But is it the best way? I’ve certainly endured C wailing on the floor for more treats and I can’t help but wonder if the first sweet bite ultimately created that meltdown. I did try and involve the kids with folding the pot stickers, but that didn’t end well. The pork mixture is steamed within the pot sticker, so there was raw pork in play. H promised to keep her hands away from her face, and C did the same…until I saw his hand sneak up toward his lip. I freaked out and made Jeff take him into the bathroom and scrub his face and mouth out. I don’t know what was puffier – the pot sticker leaving the steamer or C’s poor little face coming back from the scrub down.  Not our best moment.

Ready, Steady, Spaghetti by Lucy Broadhurst
Overall Review – 3 out of 5 stars
I should probably pull this book out in about 8 years when the kids are 14 and 12. If you are planning a birthday party, sleep over, or have a ton of kids running around during the holidays, this is a great book to have around. It has nice photography and a good collection of recipes that would motivate kids to try something in the kitchen. From a parenting perspective, this book just didn’t cut it with me. Too much sugar, too many predictable recipes, with the exception of the deployment of soy and oyster sauce. I already know that spaghetti with meatballs get my kids to the table. I did like the asian influence for some of the main dish flavors – several stir fries and noodle dishes that are tasty for both kids and adults. And if I do end up having a superbowl party, I’ll be serving the sticky drumsticks for Jeff to gobble up!

On a happy note, I hope you’ve all been able to enjoy your summer. I had a great dinner the other night with friends – the kind of friends when you feel ok creating random recipes to clear out your fridge and the dinner is both delicious and fun. Here’s my wine salute to summer in Minnesota!

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