Kids are notoriously picky eaters, and when my brother and I were little ones, we were no exception. During one particularly nutritionally deficient phase, my brother refused to eat anything except nuked hot dogs for weeks on end; I, myself, hated raw vegetables and didn’t eat a single salad until I was in my teens, when I discovered ranch dressing and proceeded to accompany anything green with copious amounts of the stuff.
Thankfully, I’ve since amended my eating habits, but I still cringe when I think about my attitudes toward food when I was younger. I wish someone could have handed me a copy of Nancy Mehagian’s The Supernatural Kids Cookbook, filled with 70 wholesome, mindful, kid-friendly recipes meant to inspire young readers and budding home cooks—and prove that healthy eating can be fun and delicious. (Even without ranch dressing.)
For the author, being a “supernatural kid” starts with developing an awareness of what one eats. She describes this as choosing foods that are organic, if possible, and free from preservatives and additives. “By eating organically,” she writes, “you and your parents might have to pay a little more and the produce might not look as perfect as what you’re used to seeing, but you’ll be investing in your own health and the health of the planet.”
Inside, colorful text and playful illustrations accompany how-to’s (such as how to cook brown rice, or chop an onion), explanations of cooking terms and kitchen equipment, and an informative section on food groups. Then, of course, there are the recipes, which are creative and fresh, ranging from simple twists on sandwiches and smoothies, to more complex meals like Ruby (beet) Soup and “Yankee Noodle” Casserole. Yet even the more involved recipes are simple enough for young cooks to undertake on their own or with a little assistance from an adult.
Unfortunately, nowadays, choosey eating and hot-dog-only phases are just the tip of the iceberg concerning kids’ relationship to food. Considering recent news that one in three American children is overweight or obese, and that family dinners have been linked to less risky behavior in teens, it’s clear that mealtime is a vital opportunity to provide nourishment—spiritually, emotionally, and nutritionally—to the next generation. Supernatural puts kids in the proverbial driver’s seat, giving them the freedom to experiment, concoct, play, taste, and get messy; it also gives families a chance to carve out some quality time, by making and/or sharing meals together. One can easily envision family traditions being inspired by this book: gathering on a weekend morning to try out the Whole Wheat Pancakes, for instance, or setting aside one day a week where the older children are responsible for making the family dinner.
As actress Bridget Fonda writes in the book’s foreword: “Anytime we have an opportunity to empower our children, we’re in fact guiding them toward a healthy path of confidence and self-sufficiency. Giving kids simple tools to feel comfortable in the kitchen and create food that enriches them can’t help but spread into other areas of their lives.”
RECIPE: PEANUT HONEY BALLS
Excerpted with permission from The Supernatural Kids Cookbook (Huqua Press)
1 cup thick honey
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
2 cups powdered milk
1 cup peanuts, chopped (they can be roasted and salted or unsalted)
Pour the honey into a mixing bowl and gradually blend in the peanut butter. Mix in the dry milk powder. (It’s probably best to mix with a fork.)
Form the mixture into small balls with your clean hands. Then roll each ball in the chopped peanuts and place on waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Chill in the refrigerator until they are firm and ready to munch on.