The Best Kid-Friendly Cookbooks

Parenting is hard enough, cooking dinner shouldn't make it harder

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Those of us who've raised our own set of sticky-fingered tikes know that getting dinner on the table (on a weeknight, no less) is already a mammoth feat. Throw in the fact that one kid doesn't like onions and another is going through a vegetarian phase, and before we know it, we're speed-dialing the closest take-out spot.

Luckily, these four cookbooks, which provide answers to any dinner dilemma your family decides to throw your way come mealtime, are here to help. 

For Every Family: Dinner Solved ($18)

One kid doesn't like spicy food, the other is a vegetarian and your husband wants bold, meaty meals. Rather than hire a full-time chef, get your hands on Katie Workman's latest book and, quite frankly, the most helpful and inspiring family-friendly cookbook on shelves today. In her follow-up to The Mom 100 Cookbook, one of the best weeknight cookbooks of all time, Workman shares another 100 recipes that will make everyone at the table happy. The trick:  "Fork in the Road," a clever tactic that turns one dish into two or more. Hohum weeknight chicken gives way to Chicken Tikka Masala-ish, a not-so-spicy version where half the sauce is set aside for vegetarian-friendly roast cauliflower. A stir-fried shrimp and scallions can please heat junkies and spice-phobes alike; only half gets spiked with black bean and garlic sauce with minced jalapeño.

For Allergic Kids: Pure Delicious ($30)

If your kids have allergies or food sensitivities, try Pure Delicious from blogger Heather Christo, who had to rethink everything she knew about cooking when her two daughters were diagnosed with severe food allergies. Pure Delicious offers 200 globally inspired recipes, all free of the major allergens (milk, egg, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, cane sugar and soy). Yet your kids will hardly feel deprived in the face of zucchini chickpea fritters with red onion marmalade, veggie summer rolls with spicy sunflower butter dipping sauce or Asian pulled pork with coconut rice.

For the Vegetarian Family: The Forest Feast for Kids ($20)

New York Times best-selling author and popular food blogger Erin Gleeson serves up kid-friendly vegetarian recipes—including full meals, snacks, party food and drinks—like pesto pepper pizza, lemon ricotta crostini, kale tacos and watermelon smoothies. Gleeson includes easy-to-follow instructions laying out techniques and other kitchen helpers, plus a stunning illustrated guide to kitchen safety and a glossary of culinary terms. The photos, mostly shot at Gleeson's fairy-tale-like home in the woods, make you want to sneak inside the pages and never come out.

For Stressed-Out Families: The Family Dinner ($30)

If you're a parent of tweens or teens, chances are you're not only having trouble figuring out what to serve for dinner, but you're finding it difficult to engage your kids in actual conversations. Written by Laurie David, the producer of An Inconvenient Truth, The Family Dinner offers a practical, inspirational and fun guide to mealtime, with 75 fantastic recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt, all paired with a Kids Can box detailing easy ways to engage kids in meal prep. Standouts include the frikadeller, the Danish version of Swedish meatballs, and the vegetarian enchilada pie, but what sets this book apart are David's gentle conversation starters (prompts like "Something I like about myself"), table games (which promise to engage even the shiest family member), expressions of gratitude and tips about ways to keep dinnertime alive even in the most difficult circumstances (like after divorce, for example). Warm, candid and real, this one's a game changer.

Andrea Strong has been writing about food for the past 15 years. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her two kids and her big appetite. Follow her on Twitter at @strongbuzz.