Kids Can Bake

Kids Can Bake
illustrated by Esther Coombs
Button Books

Following on from Kids Can Cook comes another colourful book of step-by-step recipes for youngsters (under adult supervision of course). During the past eighteen months and especially during lockdowns lots of people turned to cooking, becoming enthusiastic about it and although we’re not under such restrictions now people’s enthusiasm for home cooking remains high, especially with so many cooking programmes on TV at the moment, so this is a timely publication

After the safety precautions, visual list of equipment and of some basic techniques; the book is divided into sections – Bread, Pizza & savoury snacks, Pies & tarts,

Cookies & other sweet treats, Cakes, cupcakes & muffins, Bars & tray bakes, Desserts and finally, Cake toppings.

There are alluringly illustrated instructions for making such things as soft pretzels and cornbread; many people’s favourite – pizza (choose your own additional toppings) and mini vegetable quiches; apple pie (and variations), cookies (with options for half a dozen different varieties),

as well as Swiss roll and several other family favourites. If your preference is perhaps for brownies or flapjacks, you’ll find recipes for those too. I’m going to try some vegan substitutes for the butter and other dairy ingredients.

With Christmas approaching all too fast, why not buy this for a child now and suggest they dip in and practice that yummy-looking marble cake or even the rainbow cake, so it can be offered instead of the traditional Christmas cake; and some of the other sweet delights such as caramel shortbread would make a good gift for a friend or relation.

Kids Can Cook

Kids Can Cook
illustrated by Esther Coombs
Button Books

During the lockdown period many more people have taken to cooking, be they adults or adults and children together. If you’re looking for an introduction to cooking then this is a good starting point. Similar in style to Plant, Sow, Make & Grow, it’s very visual and really does get down to the basics with techniques such as how to crack an egg, how to beat it and how to test if a cake is cooked.

Before any of that however comes a contents page, a vital page of safety instructions and another showing and listing essential equipment for the recipes included.

The main part of the book has three sections – Breakfasts, snacks and breads; Main meals and sauces, and Sweet treats.

All the recipes are straightforward starting with a list of ingredients, are clearly illustrated and provide step-by-step instructions.

A word of caution however, if you’re a vegan family then some of the recipes won’t work for you unless you adapt them; but in other cases vegan alternatives are suggested. For example in ‘Breakfasts, snacks and breads’ the fruit smoothies,

tofu skewers and the easy-bake bread are definitely suitable

and the veggie sliders in the second section are really tasty. However, no self-respecting Indian cook would tell you they are serving up ‘Curry’ as such – veggie or otherwise.

I have to admit that my favourite section is the ‘Sweet treats’, which includes fruit lollies and scrummy flapjacks (I’d want to use a non-dairy spread instead of the butter though).

If you’re currently home schooling Kids Can Cook ticks a lot of educational boxes: there’s maths in the weighing, measuring and counting; science, and of course, literacy, not forgetting fine motor skills such as pouring, kneading, chopping, whisking, rolling out and more.

Plant, Sow, Make & Grow

Plant, Sow, Make & Grow
Esther Coombs
Button Books

Absolutely bursting with helpful gardening information whatever the season (the book is divided into four seasonal sections), the enthusiastic author, who started a gardening club at her daughter’s primary school and still runs it, has created a super book that introduces children to the wealth of opportunities being involved in a gardening project offers.

Before the seasonal sections, readers learn what the essentials are to get started, including the idea of creating a planting plan – all vital if you’re to make a success of your garden. Re-using and recycling are a part of the former and I like the idea of using loo rolls to make seed pots (I’ve frequently cut the tops from cardboard milk cartons but never tried this idea before).

Spring seed growing suggestions include salad leaves, tomatoes

potatoes, strawberries (the purchase of a few small plants initially is suggested here), root vegetables such as carrots and beetroot, peas and sweetcorn make up the edible kinds. Growing some flower seeds is also suggested because flowers will attract pollinators to your veg patch.
Then come a page on thinning out seedlings and another on wildlife – good and not good.

The summer section focuses on pumpkin growing, companion planting and lots of ideas for making useful items including a hanging-bottle container for tomatoes, a protective cover for strawberries, a watering can out of a screw top plastic bottle, as well as some creative activities, the suggestion of measuring some of the especially tall-growing plants

and some bee-related info. Then of course, there’s the important ‘summer harvest’.

Autumn is the season when much is ready for harvesting: sweetcorn, potatoes, root crops should all offer rich pickings and diggings at this time.

Compost, potting on strawberries, harvesting wild flower seeds, carving a pumpkin, creating a seasonal wreath and a bug home are also covered in this section.

Winter is the shortest section and again it’s packed with great tips such as saving seeds to plant the following year as well as stems for next year’s canes; creating a bird feeder from a sunflower head and more.

Motivating and thoroughly down to earth, this alluringly illustrated book is one I wholeheartedly recommend for school and home.