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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2007

Summertime cooking with children

No matter what their age, summer is a perfect time to explore cooking with the kids in your life.

A child's cookbook offers adults opportunities to have a good time with their kids. Children learn about food, healthy eating, and cooking. They also learn teamwork, responsibility, and following directions and it keeps them thinking about math, science, and culture, even during summer vacation.

For the tiny ones there is Sesame Street "C" is for Cooking by Susan McQuillan (Wiley, $16.95). Elmo-loving children, with the help of their parents, can make Big Bird's Sunny Days Lemonade, Cookie Monster's Yummy Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce, and Ernie's Fruity Frozen Fun Pops. Even finicky kids will be tempted with nutritious dishes such as miniature burgers called Elmo's Baby Turkey Burgers, Bert's Tutti-Frutti Turkey Salad, and Oscar's Favorite Fish Sticks made with cod fillets.

Gadgets add interest to cooking for adults and children. Older kids will have fun with Gadgetology by Pam Abrams (Harvard Common Press, $14.95). For each of the 35 gadgets, the author has crafts, games, science experiments, and recipes. Familiar tools such as whisks, egg slicers, potato mashers, and rolling pins are featured, as well as more grown up tools which require safety precautions such as an meat pounder, a cherry pitter, and a battery-powered hand blender. Some gadgets are dangerous even for adults, such as the marinade injector, skewers, and the apple peeling machine: use extreme caution.

Recipes include a Watermelon Basket using a melon baller, Deviled Eggs using a pastry bag, and Sweeter Sweet Potatoes made with a vegetable peeler. Dog Bone Biscuits made with whole wheat flour, wheat germ, an egg, vegetable oil, chicken broth, minced fresh parsley, and cooked leftover poultry or meat can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.

To make more treats for a pet, consult Throw Me A Bone: 50 Healthy, Canine Taste-Tested Recipes for Snacks, Meals, and Treats. The book was told by Cooper Gillespie, a Welsh springer spaniel, to his companion, Susan Orlean (Simon & Schuster, $14.95) with recipes by Sally Sampson. Among the recipes is Go-Bananas Training Treats for dogs that can be made in tiny squares for training a Teacup poodle, or more substantial chunks for motivating a larger dog. Whole wheat flour, uncooked oatmeal, bananas, and black strap molasses and honey are among the ingredients.

I was always a purist - our dogs could only eat dog food. Check with your veterinarian on whether these recipes are appropriate for your dog. Still, the idea of training treats is appealing.

I am left wondering if feline pets need a cookbook, too. My daughter's cat is pretty fussy, and I doubt that it would do anything but turn up its nose at homemade food in its dish.

For kids, pint-sized inventors who love to cook will be interested in Nestle's top secret flavor lab. It's not too late for children to enter the Nestle Ice Cream nationwide search for "flavorful" kids. Children are invited to be a Flavorologist for a Day by submitting their idea for the world's coolest frozen pop (including a clever name, an interesting shape, and a unique flavor description), and a flavorful resume explaining why they are qualified for the position. Contestants must be residents of the United States and between age 6 and 12. Enter at www.IceCream.com by July 27.

Ten winners will be selected and notified the week of Aug. 20; in November, each winner and up to three family members will be invited to the Nestle Ice Cream Factory in Bakersfield, Calif. Each pint-sized Flavorologist will also receive a $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond.

Cooking can be worth your time and effort.

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