Shortlisted for the 2019 Taste Canada Awards! From the writer and recipe developer behind eat. live. travel. write comes a new cookbook for parents, children and Francophiles of all ages. Forget the fuss and bring simple, delicious French dishes to your home kitchen with Mardi Michels as your guide.
Twice a week during the school year, you'll find Mardi Michels--French teacher and the well-known blogger behind eat. live. travel. write --directing up to a dozen children in her school's science lab as they slice, dice, mix, knead and, most importantly, taste. Whether they're learning to make an authentic ratatouille tian or tackling quiche made with pastry from scratch, Mardi's students can accomplish just about anything in the kitchen once they put their minds to it.
In her first book, Mardi shows that French food doesn't have to be complicated. The result is an elegant, approachable cookbook featuring recipes tailored for young chefs and their families. From savory dishes like Omelettes, Croque-Monsieurs or Steak Frites to sweet treats like Profiteroles, Madeleines or Crème Brûlée, readers will find many French classics here. With helpful timetables to plan out baking projects, as well as tips on how to get kids involved in the cooking, this book breaks down any preconceived notion that French cuisine is too fancy or too difficult for kids to master. With Mardi's warm, empowering and encouraging instructions, kids of all ages will be begging to help out in the kitchen every day of the week.
Mardi is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write – a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far.
She was born in Adelaide, Australia and has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home, having followed Mr Neil back home after they met in Morocco in 1999. They are proud parents to Cleo, an opinionated 16 year-old Burmese cat. In 2014, they purchased an historic home in southwest France, which they operate as a vacation rental property so they spend a fair bit of time in France these days too!
As part of her job, Mardi runs cooking classes twice a week for 7-12 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. As well as writing on her blog, she has also contributed to JamieOliver.Com, written cookbook reviews for RecipeGeek.Com and currently contributes to FoodNetwork.ca. In her spare time she teaches French pastry classes around Toronto.
In the French Kitchen with Kids (Appetite by Random House, July 2018) is her first book.
Follow Mardi's culinary adventures, near and far on eatlivetravelwrite.com
Prior to receiving Mardi Michels' book In the French Kitchen with Kids from the publisher I couldn't think of anything less daunting than French cuisine. Maybe it's because the final results look so complex and elegant (hello croissants I'm look at you!) that I never believed I could master those recipes let alone teach my (or anyone's kid) to cook French recipes. Embarrassingly I do own cookbooks that are dedicated to French cooking and baking that I've never cooked from so what is it about Mardi's book that got me to change my mind?
Well, when I first opened the book and started to bookmark all of the recipes that I wanted to make I ended up starting really small -- with the Ratatouille Tian. It seemed easy enough for us and it turned out really well. Then her other recipes started to beckon me on a very personal level -- making her Omelette recipe reminded me of the first "real" thing my mom taught me to make. I remember when she taught me to make my own scrambled eggs I felt a joy and independence that has led to a life-long love of cooking. Why wouldn't I want to instill those feeling in my four-year-old daughter?
When I posted the picture of the omelette here's what I had to say: "[Mardi's book] offers a very easy and tangible way to [teach kids how to cook] with recipes that are simple and delicious. Each recipe offers different points at which young cooks can access the kitchen, learn skills, build confidence and, although my 4 yo isn’t quite ready for the stove even just following along and watching me cook one of her favs — the omelette — lets her see what it takes to make her favourite meals!" So while her book is being marketed for older children I think there are more than enough tasks and little jobs that young and aspiring cooks like my daughter can do under supervision (pour, mix, roll, cut, fold...). The more you practice cooking with you kids you'll eventually find there will be a gradual release of responsibility so that they can cook on their own. As children cook different recipes and cook more often they'll begin to develop an intuition about cooking/baking itself. What happens in the kitchen won't be a mystery and I think this is how we get kids interested in home cooking. I think the key to success is to start off following the recipe -- exactly. This will set up good cooking habits and build a firm grasp of important culinary fundamentals.
I'm good at cooking there's no doubt but there are things I've never tried because I thought they'd be way too difficult and totally above my skill-set. With Mardi's recipes, even the most challenging recipes for me -- croissants, pain au chocolat, and crème caramel -- became "doable" with the clear instructions she's given. Which means attempting something like, say, the croissants, with kids is very easy because she's broken up the different parts of the recipe. When the information is chunked in this way the whole recipe is completely surmountable. After making her recipe for Crème Caramel (something I'd never ever thought I'd make!) I really feel like I can make just about anything now! A completely empowering experience! It seems like there's been a lot of talk in this paragraph about me but this is where I'll tell you that even if you don't have children this is an excellent book to have in your kitchen!
Since this all started at Mardi's school (she's a French teacher!) with her after-school cooking group what I've notice about the recipes (we've already tried over 25!) is that you don't need any specialized equipment (not counting Madeleine pans), nothing takes very much time (unless you're talking about proofing dough but really that's inactive time because you're not actually doing anything at that point), and her ingredients are very simple and easy to source. In my former life I too was a teacher so it makes sense that her timing is accurate and cleaning a cinch because if you're running an after school program timing and clean up would be so essential! This is probably why we've made so many of her recipes already -- I haven't ended up with a messy kitchen and everything is very easy to make. She's conveniently provided weighted measurements (along with metric measures) for her recipes so that the recipes are easy to clean up, there's a precision that helps to create a consistent finished product, and (I think most importantly) kids can get a sense of weight. What I mean is if you're making the Crispy Vegetable Cakes you don't have to rely on the descriptors "small," "medium," or "large" when deciding on what produce to use. Learning how much each produce size weighs is really helpful to children in my opinion because size is very subjective.
What's interesting about Mardi's book is that unlike other books that focus on cooking with kids hers offers interesting, enticing, and challenging recipes. Many kid's cookbooks offer recipes that are (in my view) too simplistic and therefore provide no challenge. Her recipes are challenging yet not impossible and offer real satisfaction to a young cook for trying something that took effort. The whole family can be included in this endeavor and from what I've seen on social media everyone is getting involved from first time cooks to the most seasoned of home cooks. In the French Kitchen with Kids gives an honest way for kids to build their skills while cooking with their parents (or other adults in their lives) from the book.
I really appreciate is that the book is well organized. The beginning of the book is full of helpful tips about how to get cooking with kids, French pantry staples, and essential kitchen equipment. But as I mentioned earlier there aren't too many things you'll need to get -- I purchased some heart ramekins so that I could make the Coeur à la Crème but I could have easily made them using regular ramekins. One item that she suggested that I don't have is an adjustable rolling pin or one with spacers. Although I did roll out the dough semi-thin enough for the Butter Cookies and tarts I think I would have had an easier time and ended up with more uniform consistent dough if I'd had one.
The remainder of the book contains the recipes which are divided up by meal: Breakfast (Le petit déjeuner), Lunch (Le déjeuner), After-School Snacks (Le goûter), Dinner (Le dîner), Dessert (Le dessert), Special Occasions (Pour les grandes occasions), and Basic Pantry Recipes (Racettes de base de pâtisserie). The entire book is filled with absolutely delicious recipes! As I mentioned before her recipes are very precise this allows for the cook to split recipes in half in order to try two recipes simultaneously! For example you can totally make the Croissants and Pains au Chocolat together, as well as the Jam Tarts and Galettes or both versions of the Coeur à la Crème! Undecided? Make both! Seems like a very reasonable compromise. The recipes in the book are also balanced -- not all dessert. In the French Kitchen with Kids offers a way for kids to learn how to properly cook meat, poultry, and fish if this is something they eat. If you or your children aren't into eating meat there are lots of vegetarian dishes to try (like I said before we've tried 25+ and haven't exhausted the vegetarian options). For those who observe gluten-free and/or a vegan diet I would recommend checking out this book (from the library) before you buy it. The book doesn't offer substitutions so it would be up to the cook to decide upon and implement them and since this is a French cooking book centered on working with kids in the kitchen I don't think it really needed to address this aspect (a single cookbook can't be all things to all people imho).
In the French Kitchen with Kids is a great cookbook (and not just for families)! While I enjoyed spending time with my daughter trying recipes I also loved cooking solo from the book. The food is so delicious and easy it's a great start for anyone wanting to cook more meals at home or those who need a change up from their same old weekly meal rotation.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Appetite by Random House / Penguin Random House for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
I had a wonderful day in the kitchen with my best friend and her daughter, who is nine, making recipes from this book. Both the simple macarons and the cheesy pasta bake were easy to make and really delicious. The recipes were kid-friendly and it was a great way to have an interactive day together where we were all learning a few new things. I think the food tasted even better because we'd worked together to make it!
I simply cannot say enough about this fabulous cookbook by fellow Canadian author Mardi Michels, who runs cooking classes in Toronto and also has a house in France.
In a clear and visually pleasing manner, she lays out the steps to achieving all kinds of French cooking prowess in a manner that is simple enough for a child, but also refreshingly uncomplicated for us adults who are not Cordon Bleu chefs.
This cookbook has been in heavy rotation in our kitchen ever since I bought it, and I recommend it to everyone.
Tonight I made Pork Chops with Apples from the great cookbook "in the french kitchen with kids" by Mardi Michels, author of the blog, 'eat, live, write'. The recipes are easy to follow and the cookbook is filled with luscious photographs. You don't need to be a kid to try this book, but if you have kids it would be fun to cook with them. Bon Appetit!
Cooking French food with kids might sound like a recipe for disaster. But with veteran kids cooking teacher Mardi Michels as a guide, your tiny chefs will soon be whipping up everything from poulet rôti to profiteroles! With a clear, concise, and friendly directions – filled with practical advice, and luscious photos – In the French Kitchen with Kids makes French cuisine easy and accessible for all ages.
It is always a treat when reviewing a cookbook to receive a real, paper copy in the post; I’m convinced the whole cookbook experience is improved by flicking through the pages, reading an ingredient list here, looking at photos there and then selecting something you know you need to try out. I spent many a happy moment with my morning coffee, this cookbook and my notebook close to hand.
My first thoughts were how straightforward the methods were, with clear and concise instructions, which is perfect when encouraging children to get involved. The selection of recipes; from snacks and light bites, to main meals and desserts, gave far more variety than I was expecting from a cookbook aimed at children but did ensure all the French favourites were present. Choosing something to try out proved far trickier than I imagined. Should I give the ‘quick’ croissants a go or choose a ratatouille dish to help me use up my courgettes, or maybe now is the time to give crème brulee a try?
In the end my selection was Financiers as I don’t believe I’ve ever tried one, let alone tried to make them, despite living here for fourteen years. The recipe was easy to follow, structured nicely into separate, defined steps, and quick and easy to prepare. The batter it produced was almost elastic, making it easy to work with and it cooked like a dream. What looks deceptively like a little sponge cake is actually slightly crispy on the outside, but moist and almost soft and chewy in the centre. They are sweet and delicious, and although designed as an after-school snack for children, worked perfectly well with my morning coffee too. Just to be sure I had got it right I took some into work with me to see what a real Frenchie thought of my attempt. C’s eyes misted over at her first bite as she declared them delicious and with a taste that transported her back to her childhood. Thanks Mardi, I know I will be making these again.
I am sure adults and children will both get a lot of pleasure out of this book.
This is a wonderful book - nicely illustrated, full of interesting facts and anecdotes and, most importantly, a damn useful publication for anybody who loves French food but who has been too afraid to tackle it. The author has clearly gone to a great deal of trouble and, in the process, has portrayed a deep love of French food and confidence that, if you give kids a chance to get involved, they won't be spooked at all. I bought the book with some trepidation but I needn't have worried. It's a great read and, because of the layout and photography, inspires confidence to have a shot at making even dishes that, at first glance, might look somewhat daunting. Fantastic effort.
This book is nothing short of awesome. My 12yo (boy) picked it up and read it cover to cover, bookmarking what he wanted to cook. In the last 24 hours he has turned out the no-knead bread (delicious) and the Berry Galette (super duper yummy). The easy-to-follow recipes are challenging enough, but not overly so. The results are outstanding and really help kids build kitchen confidence! In my opinion, this is the best 'kids' cookbook I have ever come across. Recommend for adults too! Yum!
My 7yo and I are loving this book. In the past two days we’ve made the macarons, croissants and pains au chocolat and as someone who bakes quite often I’m impressed by the quality and ease of these recipes. Highly recommend!
*** edited to add we also made the celery root salad and I mean, who doesn’t want their kid to ask for celery root for lunch?