Monday, April 14, 2014

Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner {Review}

I often call myself a "stay-at-home" mom, even though I'm not sure I stay at home much at all, especially in the late afternoons and early evenings.

As Addison and Brennan have gotten older, I've started delegating some of the dinner preparations to them. Often I'll tell Brennan what time to start cooking some rice or quinoa to go along with the rest of the dinner that's been cooking in the crock-pot all day. 

Brennan was ready to cook something more than just risotto or roasted veggies. I was searching for new ideas, and I was excited to find a review opportunity for Cherilyn Dahlsten's new Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner book.

This cookbook is designed for kids (pre-teens and older) to start cooking real meals while they are waiting for their parents to get home from work. The finishing touches are done when it's time to serve dinner.

When I saw a note that this cookbook included 24 gluten-free recipes, I was hopeful that we would find some new dinner options for our family. Unfortunately, within a few days of receiving the book, we found out that Lauren needed to also eliminate corn from her diet. Many of the gluten-free recipes used corn tortillas or corn chips and were therefore no longer safe options for us. All in all, we found about as many recipe options in this cookbook as we do in any cookbook that wasn't specifically geared for our allergy needs.

Brennan's first attempt at one of these recipes was Salsa. If I were writing down this recipe in my own cookbook, I would simply list the ingredients. I would know how to prepare each ingredient and would assume that they all needed to go in the blender for a few seconds. Perhaps that's why my kids always ask so many questions when they want to one of my recipes.

Each step in this salsa recipe was clearly outlined so that Brennan could follow along without any mom supervision. For instance, it describes how to cut a jalapeno, flick out the seeds, and put half in the blender. It also reminds the chef not to touch his eyes after handling the jalapeno. Later steps teach how to squeeze a lime, wash green onions, and drain the juice off of the can of whole tomatoes. Brennan's only complaint was that the directions had a failed attempt at humor (in his opinion) when it says, "When Mom or Dad Gets Home: Explain why there is none left and start another batch!" He did eat some of the salsa immediately after making it, but there was plenty for both a snack and to use with our dinner.

Brennan's second cooking attempt was Vegetable Beef Soup. At first glance, it seemed like a rather complicated recipe -- 22 steps in all. Most of the steps were the directions for chopping each different ingredient. It wasn't complicated at all, just a bit time consuming. I worried because Brennan saved time by chopping everything into large chunks instead of small pieces. As it worked out, the large chunks didn't bother the veggie lovers in the family (Lauren and me) and the bigger pieces made it easier for the veggie haters to pick out their least favorite veggies.

After enjoying the soup that Brennan made, I used the recipe again last weekend to make dinner myself. As I worked through the directions, I noticed one major omission. Because this recipe was written specifically for children working after school hours, there isn't an exact time. The child is directed to start after school and then to simmer the soup with the lid on until Mom and Dad gets home. Unfortunately, I was left guessing at how long the soup needed to simmer before the potatoes were cooked enough for us to eat it.

I love the concept behind this book, and I think it would be helpful to many beginning cooks. I would recommend that a parent reads over each recipe carefully to make sure that the child doesn't need any additional instructions such as which soup pot to use, when exactly to start preparing the meal, etc.

Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner is available in paperback (100 pages long) from either the Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner website or from Amazon. It normally costs $20, but there's a coupon code on the website that will save you $3.

You can read more reviews through the links at Acorn Hill Academy. There is also an awesome cooking giveaway going on over there right now -- be sure to stop by and enter by midnight on April 15th (eastern time).

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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