The Mother’s Day tradition of breakfast in bed is the least we can do for moms who nurse cuts, ice bruises, kiss away tears, arrange carpools, shuttle lacrosse teams, coach soccer teams, run bake sales, wash clothes, fold laundry, make up to three-squares a day, every day and hold-down jobs. Nothing says, “Thanks, Mom, I love you” like a fragrant, goodie-filled breakfast tray. But, since dads and kids don’t cook all that much, the rose, sadly, is often best thing on the tray.
Sure, it’s the thought that counts, but moms deserve better than downing Pepto-Bismol chasers. To ensure that mom remains antacid-free, make her day with time-tested recipes from three of the country’s top children’s cookbook authors. These are their recommendations for foolproof dishes that mom will love and that dads and kids can actually make.
Matthew Locricchio’s Teen Cuisine targets the sophisticated post-tweener crowd with recipes like Grits and Cheddar Cheese Soufflé, Chocolate Fondue and pizza ranging from New York-Style to Chicago Deep-Dish. “These recipes are tailored to what teens like. They’re meant for kids to cook with parents assisting with draining pasta and handling blenders or food processors,” he says. Locricchio doesn’t over-simplify and is meticulous about steps and techniques. He assumes that adults know how to reduce stock, clean shrimp or prepare a pan for baking and that teens don’t. He urges teens, only half-jokingly, to “take over the vast empty space called the kitchen.” This is actually a good basic book for adults who want to start cooking.
Locricchio recommends Sunrise Muffins, made with carrots, spelt flour (ideal for gluten-allergies), eggs, vanilla and whole milk yogurt. “They’re beautiful to look at and the yogurt keeps them moist and guarantees they’ll always rise.” Serve with Irish butter and Mom’s favorite jam. Fresh Fruit Tostados require almost no cooking. Slice Mom’s favorite fruits and mix with strawberry jam and orange juice. Glaze store-bought corn tortillas with a butter, sugar and cinnamon and bake. Pile fruit on tostados and top with anything from honey to sorbet to yogurt. Make Hippie Granola as an added topping and save the rest, letting mom dodge the cereal aisle next week.
GastroKid started as a recipe swap between two dads, Hugh Garvey in Los Angeles, and co-author Matthew Yeomans in Wales, food-writers turned dads who wanted their kids to enjoy good food. “We wanted our kids to know where food comes from, that it’s best to cook food in-season, and to cook with minimally processed ingredients,” says Garvey. Their recipes let you cook for your kids the way you want to cook for your kids: Cherry Tomato Pasta with Marjoram; Foaming Butter-Basted New York Strip; Cornflake or Panko (those fluffy Japanese breadcrumbs) Chicken Nuggets. While moms still shoulder the cooking burden Garvey says that more and more dads want to cook. “Me and Yeomans might not be the norm,” he says, “but we’re becoming less abnormal.” Good to know.
Garvey suggests a savory “dinner for breakfast” flip, which will also spare mom the disservice of a sugar-high. Dice and sauté medium-hot Spanish chorizo sausage for his Shrimp and Chorizo Non-Paella and mix with onions, pimenton (Spanish paprika), garlic, canned tomatoes and shrimp. Canned chickpeas substitute for rice, which makes this a quick dish to whip up. For something conventional he suggests, Herby The Love Omelet, asparagus (which is sweetest in spring,) goat cheese, fresh parsley, fresh basil, salt and pepper. If Dad really doesn’t want to cook, make Mom a Smoothie Operator with non-fat yogurt, frozen fruit (eliminates ice), a ripe banana and orange juice.
When Hungry Monkey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) author, food-writer and restaurant critic, Matthew Amster-Burton, wanted to start cooking for his daughter, Iris, most books on feeding kids weren’t about cooking. They were “filled with all the stuff that can possibly go wrong (allergies, choking hazards) or with how to cut food into interesting shapes like cats,” he says. Because he couldn’t find a cookbook for a guy who loves food and loves to cook, he wrote one.
Amster-Burton’s approach is stress-free, guilt-free, often hilarious. “I find a vegetarian organic diet impressive in the same way as a David Blaine stunt.” “Your taste buds are smart… A diet based on values other than taste is, to use the swear word of the moment, unsustainable.” On introducing solid food: “Nothing would have pleased Iris more than being allowed to eat lint off the floor… We should have named her ‘Roomba.’” He admits that parenthood can be tedious at times—sidewalk chalk quickly bores and Candy Land is “the worst game of all time,” but he never tires of sharing food with Iris. “Enjoying food is how we get along,” he says. It’s how they roll.
Amster-Burton recommends Corn Pancakes with Pumpkin Butter. “It’s one of those anyone-can-make-it recipes,” he says. If you can’t do homemade, Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix works well he says, and Trader Joe’s has great pumpkin butter. These are fragile so dad should flip them. Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Glaze are essentially breakfast muffins that have lots of intense gingerbread flavor without being actively spicy. They straddle the line between pleasing kids and parents. If Dad’s feeling adventurous and mom likes spice, try Stacked Green Chile Enchiladas. It’s more involved but worth it, he says. Cook pinto beans with canned tomatoes and rendered bacon, then fry corn tortillas till crispy. Dad and kids layer the beans, the tortilla, shredded rotisserie chicken, green chile sauce, heap on Monterey Jack cheese and stick it under the broiler.
There’s something compelling about cooking with your kids, even if it is just once a year. For many people—not all the time, but certainly at times—cooking is a way of showing love. That’s why we cook for mom. Making something she’ll actually enjoy is icing on the cake.