[tasty review] 20 Recipes Kids Should Know by Esme and Calista Washburn


What classic comfort food reminds you most of your childhood?

A stack of fluffy pancakes dripping with butter and maple syrup? Maybe it’s some creamy mac and cheese, pizza with your favorite toppings, or a warm slice of homemade apple pie.

I’ll take a serving (or five) of each, please — yum!

New York City sisters Esme and Calista Washburn serve up all these kid friendly favorites and more in their new cookbook, 20 Recipes Kids Should Know (Prestel, 2019).

And they are definitely “in the know,” as Esme (who wrote the recipes and text) is just 12, while Calista (who took the photographs) recently graduated from high school. Esme, an amateur chef, learned to cook from her grandmother. Calista is an aspiring photographer who helps out in the kitchen and loves to eat whatever Esme cooks. 🙂

Color me amazed.

They did a beautiful job with this appealing starter cookbook, which is perfect not only for budding kid chefs, but novice home cooks of any age who’d like to make these classic recipes from scratch with fresh ingredients.


Esme (left) and Calista.


Esme’s introduction includes measurement conversions, safety tips, and a glossary of cooking techniques. Recipe categories are: Breakfast, Lunch, Appetizers, Mains, Sides, Desserts, and More.



What I especially love about this book:

  • Recipe layout is clear, concise, easy to follow, with American Standard as well as Metric measurements.
  • Gorgeous photos of every recipe that’ll make you want to lick the pages.
  • Skill level varies from simple (grilled cheese sandwiches) to average complexity (banana bread), to more experienced (yeast bread, pizza dough).
  • Good descriptions of basic techniques using standard kitchen equipment  (how to bread chicken cutlets, how to make hummus in a blender, how to make pasta, pesto, tomato sauce, rolling out pie crust, baking and frosting a cake).



I also enjoyed Esme’s recipe headnotes, which added a nice personal touch to the book. She provides interesting context for the recipes, tells us how she likes to eat them, and offers tips and tweaks for the classics (adding cranberries, chocolate chips, and/or walnuts to banana bread, tricking out mashed potatoes with cream cheese and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano).

We learn a little about the Washburn family, too: Sunday night is their traditional pizza night, Esme especially loves her grandmother’s Black Bean Soup, Marinated Steak is a family favorite, and fresh pasta was the first thing their grandmother taught them to make when they were little (there’s a sequence of photos showing you just how to do this).



The finished recipes are plated on pretty pastels, with Calista’s close-ups showcasing all the mouthwatering colors and textures. Never have roasted veggies, dark chocolate cake, or strawberry shortcake looked so appetizing. If you have a pulse, you’ll be salivating. And those popovers really POP! 😀


Calista at work.


It’s wonderful that more kids are getting busy in the kitchen learning practical skills that will serve them well for a lifetime. With the decline (or eradication?) of home economics classes in the schools, it seems TV cooking shows and an increase in the number of children’s cookbooks being published have helped to fill the void.

But as you probably know, some children’s cookbooks are chock full of cutesy illustrations and diagrams that fill you up on eye candy instead of substance. The content in this book is solid — 20 fun, accessible, tried and true standards that everyone should have in their culinary repertoires, recipes to make again and again.



In this day and age of fast food, microwave meals, vending machine “lunches,” and obesity epidemics, it’s important for kids to learn about good nutrition and kitchen basics, and who better to learn from than their peers?

20 Recipes Kids Should Know is perfect for gift giving too — not only kids, but college students, first-time apartment dwellers, newlyweds, or even yourself. Just seeing the photos will make you want to start cooking. Hmmm, I seem to have a sudden craving for fresh pasta with pesto . . . 🙂




written by Esme Washburn
photographs by Calista Washburn
published by Prestel Junior (April 2019)
Cookbook for ages 8+, 52 pp.



This review is being linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food related posts!

Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

21 thoughts on “[tasty review] 20 Recipes Kids Should Know by Esme and Calista Washburn

  1. Very impressive! A great family project. We recently made a low-histamine cookbook (posted as a pdf on my blog) and it was fun for me, Elena, and Ariana’s boyfriend to work on it together.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like another winner, Jama, one for the granddaughters, but maybe also a great one for my new-to-college grandson! He actually has a kitchen and could cook some of these! It looks terrific, and I enjoyed reading about the sisters, young, but showing off their passion and expertise!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I bet your grandson could probably make these recipes. It’s wonderful that some of the dorms have kitchens. College students are usually too busy to actually cook (aside from heating stuff up in the microwave). I hope your grandson makes good use of his kitchen. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I imagine he will be too busy most of the time, but he does like to cook, makes a wonderful pulled pork, so he may love a “few” new recipes! Thanks again!


  3. Isn’t this book amazing. So are the sisters. I *love* this one and have recommended it to so many people. The best part is that the recipes are childish, even if children can make them. So happy to see you reviewing it here.


  4. Your review has some very interesting details that I haven’t seen in previous discussions of this book, which looks like it’s becoming a new classic for kids. I love your choices of photos to show us what you are describing. Thanks for a great review. I would buy it for any kids I knew but sadly I don’t have any candidates right now.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw this book on Beth Fish Reads and am waiting for my great nieces and nephews to be old enough to get into the kitchen. So cute.

    Liked by 1 person

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