Tips for cooking with toddlers!

Luke loves to eat, and loves to help me, so we recently decided to try our hand at cooking together.  It was messy and a great deal of fun.  The highlight for me was when Luke crushed an egg in his hand after he watched me crack one into the batter.  The face he made while he was breaking it was like he was a superhero with super-human strength, until the egg guts rushed out all over his hands making them… big gasp… sticky!  Apparently, his kryptonite.

Some advice for you if this is your first time cooking with your toddler:

1. Have a backup plan for dinner.  It may work out just as you hoped, or you might find yourself sitting on the floor of the kitchen with a screaming toddler who is overwhelmed by frustration, fatigue, and hunger.  If you have a backup plan you can at least take care of one of these three troublesome emotions.

2. Plan what you are going to do before you do it.  Anticipate his participation and what it will look like.  Will he mix, stir, measure?  Anticipate the problems that might arise.  What will he do while you actually cook the waffles?  All of this comes from my first job as a high school Biology and Chemistry teacher… if you do not prepare, be ready for that screaming toddler mentioned above.  I am not saying write a lesson plan and suck all the fun out of it, but it will be much more fun for both of you if you have taken the time to prepare for it.  Trust me.

3. Choose something simple with toddler appeal.  While making pastry is one of my favorite activities, my toddler isn’t very detail oriented and hasn’t mastered the whole pastry bag thing yet.  Anything with raw meat?  I wouldn’t try that with him until he understands hand washing, not putting everything into his mouth and the basics of food borne illnesses.  Things that work well include mixing, stirring, pouring, measuring, cracking eggs, rolling dough, using cookie cutters, arranging things on a tray, setting the table, etc.

4. Make it comfortable for him.  You can reach the counter or table easily and he should be able to also.  Either bring it down to his level, or bring him up to yours.  There are benefits and drawbacks to both, but generally I prefer to bring him up to my level because he rarely sees the world from up there- so already you have an appealing new perspective on your side.  If bringing him up, be careful how you do so.  My little man is like a Brownian particle: in constant motion.  The seat of a dining room chair is way too small for his fidgety feet, so I use a leather ottoman which is about three times the size and easy to clean.  There are some really cool products out there to use which make all this much safer, but I like to live life on the edge and honestly, the ottoman barely fits in there.

Here is the recipe that we used, and LOVE.  It makes a delicious waffle that has more protein in it than many of the other recipes that I have found.  Barely sweet, nutty from the the whole wheat, and with a pleasing texture from the oatmeal, this is a winner in our book.  The only negative to waffles is that it takes a long time to cook since you can only work as fast as your iron.  These beauties freeze very well if cooled completely first and then arranged in quart sized freezer bags to go into the freezer.  We warm them up in the toaster so they get crispy again in the morning.  They go well with coffee and don’t need syrup or jam, but go for it if you’re a purist!

Yogurt Waffles: Everyday Food, April 2010

Ingredients:

3/4 c. flour

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. rolled oats

3/4 t. salt

2 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1/4 c. brown sugar

3 T. melted unsalted butter, plus more for the iron

3 large eggs

1 1/2 c. plain, low-fat yogurt

Directions:

In a large bow, whisk together flours, oats, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  In another bowl, whisk together brown sugar, butter, eggs, and yogurt until smooth.  Stir egg mixture into flour mixture and mix well to combine.  Let batter sit for 15 minutes.  Heat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions; brush with melted butter (or use some Pam).  Pour 1/2 c. batter onto iron and close; cook until waffle is golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack set on a baking sheet and place in low-temperature oven to keep warm; repeat with remaining batter.  Makes 6 waffles.  Each waffle has 272 Cal, 9.9 g. fat, 10.6 g. protein, 36.2 g. carbs, 2.3 g. fiber.

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