my top 5 picks: kid-friendly cookbooks

As much as I like to be creative in the kitchen, there are many times I simply want to follow instructions and have ideas with pretty pictures placed in front of me. I am a self-professed cookbook junkie and collect books for leisure reading.

I have a few regulars that I find myself coming back to, especially when it comes to weekly meal planning for the kids.

I need recipes that will not only work for my kids, but for me as well. I'm of the belief that we should eat together and share the same meal. I really do not have time to cook two meals, so all approved recipes must work for everyone. This can be a tricky task, but with the right resources it's absolutely possible!

How to Feed a Family by Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh

I am a big fan of the local Canadian girls behind The Sweet Potato Chronicles. I've been a follower of their website and blog for years and thoroughly enjoy their healthy take on family-designed recipes.

Having a hard-copy resource to flip through (as opposed to searching online) is nice way to spend 30 minutes on a Sunday afternoon. The book is gorgeous, and all the recipes are must tries -- there really are so many great ones to choose from.

My kids' faves include Peanut Butter Pancakes with Jelly Syrup, Mini Kale and Parmesan Quiche, Beef Lettuce Wraps, Mini Meatloaves and Baked Spiced Apple and Sweet Potato Toaster Tarts (YUM! A little more work than I like, but freezer-friendly, so make a lot!).

Check out their website for more great articles and recipes

My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

I was pleasantly surprised by Gwyneth's approach to family cooking. She believes in introducing a variety of flavours, textures and adventurous foods to kids.

She has taken traditional recipes and altered them with healthy twists. Her soups and salads are amazingly fresh, and the variety of burgers and sandwiches (from veggie to tuna) and crab cakes were a huge hit. I loved all the homemade sauces, which really made the sandwiches and burgers complete.

This book makes me want to cook! Overall, the book is chock-full of healthy, delicious recipes -- my kind of food and way of cooking for sure!

Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh and Easy Recipes by Catherine McCord

This book follows a very similar approach to how I feed my family -- designing recipes that will work for everyone, not just the kids. 

When developing my own recipes, I always try to make it work for everybody so we can enjoy a meal together. Catherine has managed to provide us busy parents with quick, easy recipes the whole family will love.

My favourites are the cold soba noodle salad (which we had for dinner last night), the graham crackers, enchiladas and wonton soup. Don't fret if you don't have some of the ingredients - it's easy to improvise and use shortcuts.

Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

What can I say about Ina Garten, except that I love her! I admire her most for the fact she is not a formally trained chef, but an intuitive and determined woman who grew her brand through customer feedback and mentoring from the likes of Martha Stewart.

I have every book she has on the market and am a big fan of her simple, fresh and classic approach to food. With a French influence, her recipes can be a little heavy at times, so I find myself making slight adjustments and substitutes where I can. The results are always perfectly delicious.

I chose this book for its classic comfort foods, but would recommend all of her books as staples for any cookbook collection. I particularly love the homemade granola recipe in Barefoot Contessa at Home.

In My Mother's Kitchen by Trish Magwood

This book reminds me of my childhood and the meals my mom would prepare for our family. Many of the recipes you may have seen before, but sometimes it's nice to go back to the basics with recipes you know your kids will love.

The modern approach to classic recipes makes this book easy to follow with convenient ingredients. For busy moms looking for simplicity and ease, this book is a winner.

Must tries include Buttermilk Scones, Ode-to-Ontario Pork Tenderloin, Jamaican Curry, Ginger Cookies (my daughter's favourite cookies of all time!), Chocolate Chip Cookies (my son's favourite!) and Pumpkin Pie (my favourite).

Jennifer Carlson

Founder, Baby Gourmet Foods

Jen is the mother of two well-fed children and has a passion for all things culinary. She is also an inspirational speaker to women, busy moms and entrepreneurs.

For busy moms looking for simplicity and ease, Trish Magwood’s book is a winner.

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