As that parental Halloween candy reality settles in -- no matter how you try to limit the caramels, kids (and adults) are going to find a welcoming candy bowl somewhere this time of year -- we offer two trick-or-treat alternatives: The just-released SpongeBob's Kitchen Mission Cookbook for the elementary school set and The Best Bake Sale Cookbook for older bakers (and their parents).
The idea being that when you're surrounded by candy corn food-additives and corn syrup, it's better to march the kids straight into the kitchen. With these two books, you'll actually keep their (and your) attention.
SpongeBob's Kitchen Mission Cookbook: The Battle for the Best Bites in Bikini Bottom
The subtitle says it all. SpongeBob and friends go head-to-head in an Iron Chef-style cooking battle for kids, with enough side humor to keep the rest of us on our toes. "The Almost Naked Chef Battle" chapter theme? "With recipes this delicious, who needs pants?" Gotta love it.
These are elementary school-friendly recipes for things like "savory sundaes" (grits topped with spinach, corn and tomato sauce), "rockets" (frozen chocolate-covered bananas) and "surprise fries" (breaded baked zuchhini). The parental-directed sarcasm is great -- "I often eat food. Sometimes even more!" from the "Glazed and Confused" chapter -- making this one of the better books aimed at 7 to 9-year-olds.
The Best Bake Sale Cookbook: Cookies for Kids Cancer
When we first got this book, which comes with an OXO non-stick spatula, we were skeptical. Boy, was our gut response to the "Be a good cookie" inscription on the spatula wrong. This baking book by Gretchen Holt-Witt isn't aimed at kids as much as at supporting pediatric cancer with bake sales. All author proceeds benefit CookiesforKidsCancer.org, an organization Holt-Witt founded after her toddler was diagnosed with cancer. She raised $420,000 for cancer research with those first New York City brownie sales and ignited a national trend of similar bake sale fundraisers.
Alongside many of the recipes in the book are stories about those affected by pediatric cancer (Warning: You'll need a cookie or two for solace) as well as stories about those supporting their cause, including a large number of middle and high school kids who have held these bake sales. That's why we're putting this book in the "older" kids baking category (middle + high school), even though it has universal baker appeal.
What's great is that this book isn't just a collection of recipes for cookies, brownies, cupcakes, scones and other treats that work well for a bake sale. It's a great collection, though with the do-good cause, it didn't have to be in order to sell copies. Yes, there are classic chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles and cream cheese bars here, but also espresso brownies, walnut butter cupcakes with chocolate ganache, pine nut brittle and Palm Beach brownies with chocolate-covered mints from Maida Heatter (!). There's even a scone recipe from "the famous Lucques restaurant in Los Angeles" -- all the more surprising as most of the recipes are not from well-known chefs.
The bake sale sidebar tips are also handy. Some are cooking tips (choosing sturdy desserts, offering samples, making log cookie dough several days ahead). Others are practical sales advice, like taking a tip from high school girls and using your car windows as mobile signage the week before the bake sale. Or remembering to target the "mini" muffin and cookie customer (those with a take-home guilt complex can eat on the run and then hide the evidence).
This isn't just a cookbook that supports a good kid's cause, it's a great baking book for all.