The fun is messy, the lessons sound

Cooking with your child can be fun and educational. And if you're lucky, the kid may learn something, too.

Just in time to dispel the summer doldrums, author Tina Davis has come out with Look and Cook (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004, $19.95), a new cookbook for kids.


The easy-to-read book contains 50 classic and kid-friendly recipes. All of the dishes are made from scratch, which will prove revelatory for children accustomed to frozen fish sticks.

Grown-ups will enjoy the drawings that Davis has gleaned from vintage cookbooks, although kids accustomed to colorful computer games and big-screen TVs probably won't be impressed. But if you can get the kids to actually read the book, you may find them excited by the possibilities of what they can make with just a little help from a grown-up.


Davis has included recipes for meatloaf, hamburgers, spaghetti, French toast, waffles, macaroni and cheese and even a chocolate birthday cake. There are chapters on how to measure and on safety precautions to take in the kitchen.

The cooking lesson in our house started after my 7-year-old son skimmed through the book and decided he wanted to make tuna casserole and chocolate pudding.

I steeled myself for the expected mess and we began. I diced the bell pepper and helped him open the cans of mushroom soup and tuna; he plopped them into a bowl and began to stir. The recipe took just a few minutes to assemble and a half-hour to bake.

He declared it the best tuna casserole he had ever eaten, and seemed proud that even his picky little brother ate it without complaint.

The second cooking lesson was the dessert of chocolate pudding. This lesson transpired after a baseball game and before bedtime, so his interest in cooking was waning. My patience was fading as well. I frowned when he dumped as much of the cocoa on the counter as he did in the pot. The lesson almost ended early when he broke an egg that ended up falling onto the stove and dribbling onto the floor.

He stormed out of the kitchen in frustration. I took a deep breath and reassured him that all cooks drop things. The lesson continued.

While the pudding simmered on the stove, I explained to him one of the great and delicious cooking mysteries: the secret to making whipped cream.

For some reason, he had thought that whipped cream was made from mixing milk and ice cream (at least he didn't think it just came from a can).


I poured a cup of cream into a bowl and gave him a small hand mixer. In a few minutes, he had made the whipped cream and was happily licking the beaters.

The chocolate pudding ended up not being as well-received as the casserole, and he hasn't asked to cook anything else. But I'm hoping that is just a temporary setback and that I'll be eating tuna casserole again before long.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 4

one 10 3/4 -ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup milk


two 6-ounce cans tuna, drained and flaked

1 cup frozen baby peas

1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced

3 cups cooked pasta (such as elbow macaroni or egg noodles)

1/2 cup bread crumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons of melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 9-inch-by-12-inch baking dish, combine the soup, milk, tuna, peas, bell pepper and pasta. Bake for 20 minutes.


Remove from oven and stir the mixture thoroughly. Top with the bread crumbs and butter, return the dish to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes longer, until the topping is nicely browned and the casserole is bubbling around the edge of the dish. Serve hot.

Per serving: 449 calories; 32 grams protein; 14 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 48 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 44 milligrams cholesterol; 1,309 milligrams sodium