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Book Review
The Mash and Smash Cookbook

by Marian Buck-Murray
John Wiley & Sons, 1998
Softcover, 128 pages

Reviewed by Angie McCauley
Zurich Switzerland
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 6, November-December 2002, pp. 228

The Mash and Smash Cookbook helps children create great-tasting, healthy foods by mashing and smashing ingredients and jumping up and down to mix things together. Some of the recipes teach child-safe cooking skills, and others are just plain quick and easy. None require the use of sharp knives, mixers, or blenders. Intended to be used by children working on their own as much as possible, this book is most appropriate for those who are old enough to read. However, many of the recipes are also appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers working with a parent.

Recipes in The Mash and Smash Cookbook are marked with one, two, or three hands. There are 23 one-hand recipes, which don't require the use of heat or sharp tools. These are safe and easy enough for children to make on their own, even if they don't have much cooking experience. The 15 two-hand recipes may require the use of a toaster oven, vegetable peeler, cheese grater, or can opener, so children new to cooking should ask an adult to supervise. The child can complete most of the steps in the 19 three-hand recipes, but is directed to ask an adult for help with using the oven or stove. In each recipe, the step-by-step instructions specify exactly which steps an adult should do.

Ingredients include a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, yogurt, canned beans, peanut butter, tuna fish, and cooked rice, pasta, or potatoes. One of the recipes calls for refined sugar, but in the others, honey, jam, maple syrup, or frozen juice concentrate are used when a sweetener is needed.

The category names, such as "Goodwiches," "Side Dish Funnies," "Sweetie Treats," and "Freezer Pleasers," are fun and appealing while the instructions are clear and detailed enough for even beginning cooks to complete them with minimal adult help and explanations. The cartoon-style drawings of children making and eating the recipes often help to clarify a particular step.

Some recipes ask children to smash up things such as berries and bananas, using a plastic bag-covered hand. Others call for mixing ingredients with hands, or squishing or pounding them inside a re-sealable plastic bag. Sometimes ingredients are mixed together by placing them inside a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and jumping up and down with it.

Reading the introductory material before starting on the recipes will be especially helpful to children who have not had much cooking experience. The introduction covers safety rules for the proper handling of raw eggs, meat, and chicken; washing of hands, foods and tools; using sharp tools and hot appliances; and knowing when to ask an adult to supervise or help. There are descriptions and pictures of all the tools needed to make the recipes in the book and detailed instructions for commonly used cooking skills, such as cracking eggs, cutting foods, draining beans, grating cheese or vegetables, measuring ingredients (with US measurements), greasing pans, and peeling fruits and vegetables. Parents will appreciate that the basic instructions for preparing Mash and Smash recipes include asking for permission to use the kitchen and cleaning it up afterward.

For children, there is a lot to love about The Mash and Smash Cookbook. Because it was written especially for them, from the layout and graphics to the delicious and fun recipes, including "Squishwich" and "Nanaberry Smash," this book helps them to be more independent in the kitchen.

After reading the introduction, choosing a recipe to try, and getting permission to use the kitchen, your child will be ready to "smash, mash, bash, squish, smush, and shake up some fun!"

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