My toddler is killing me at dinnertime! But I totally had an epiphany — if I wanted a more harmonious dinnertime we needed to eat earlier. Not too early, but earlier. Lately I’ve been feeling down in the dumps because my two year old pretty much says “Yuck!” to everything I place in front of her (and I as you can probably guess I put much time and effort into cooking, so I try very hard not to take it personally). My secret hope is that it’s just a phase (new molars perhaps?) but I’m worried that this will last longer. As far as I can remember I’ve always eaten everything, my sibling on the other hand was/is super picky (I think it’s a texture thing). So my fingers are crossed that it’s just a phase. But I’m not very convinced… I mean, “yuck” to cheese pizza?? Really?? Who doesn’t like homemade cheese pizza?? If I was a kid I know I’d be thrilled!
I’ve tried many strategies — even have her help and watch me in the kitchen. She loves that but when it comes to enjoying the fruits of her labour even her own dishes turn her off (except for “Princess Pudding”**, which I’ll get to later). Another strategy I’ve found moderate success with is eating at 5/5:30 instead of 6/6:30. Eating earlier makes things easier because more often than not her mood is much better and she seems more focused on mealtime. But eating early is more challenging because that means I have to be organized and on top of things. While I haven’t yet gotten to full-blown meal planning, I do think about what we’ll be eating the night before so that I can be ready to start making supper around 3:30/4 (irl I’m a stay at home parent so I realize that many families don’t have the luxury of beginning supper at 3:30 — if this is the case I totally recommend checking out The Sweet Potato Chronicles because they have all of the strategies and recipes for busy families whether you’re working in or out of the house ).
Having simple, delicious recipes to cook from is essential to getting dinner on the table without a lot of fuss. Two recently published cookbooks that I find great are The Love & Lemons Cookbook and Minimalist Baker‘s Everyday Cooking. Both of these books strive to making meal prep easy by using simple, fresh ingredients. What more could you ask for? (This being said, full disclosure, my friend with kids always asks when I email her links for my favourite recipes: “Yeah, but does your kid like it? Is it kid approved?” and I’ll be honest and say that the recipes I’ve cooked/made from these books haven’t been entirely “kid approved” but, really, my darling child is not liking much of anything right now so I don’t let that stop me from making new/different things. Lately I make a simple meal that I know my huz and I will eat — for example, lasagna*** — and I offer it to my lil one. If she eats, she eats. But I don’t make two — or more — meals. I totally sound like my mom but I tell her “it’s not a restaurant!” Maybe it’s because she eats lots at breakfast and lunch but not so much at dinner, idk. I feel like if she’s hungry she’ll eat. And in case you’re wondering she’s the correct size and weight so she’s flourishing, not to worry).
I really love the way the Love & Lemons Cookbook is organized — alphabetically by fresh ingredient. So when I had a huge bag of mushrooms I needed to use up, I just turned to the section on “mushrooms” and I was set. Also this is really a vegetable cookbook, not a cookbook marketed specifically at vegans or vegetarians. So many of the dishes could be paired with a quick grilled piece of meat if that’s what you’re in to. Some of the best recipes I’ve made over the last month have come from this cookbook — and when I made their lasagna my husband told me “this is the best lasagna you’ve ever made.” Now you know that will be the only lasagna I make from now on! I liked the recipe because it was quick to assemble and the tofu “ricotta” made it a little bit more filling than your average vegetable lasagna. A total win in my books.
So far I’ve only made a few recipes from Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking — mainly snack-y stuff. What I like about this cookbook is that there are usually 10 ingredients or less (and they’re not difficult to find or very expensive) and most often you can get away with using one bowl. I know when I read the Amazon reviews someone accused her of being gimmicky, but think about it! How great is cleaning up from one bowl? It’s fantastic! Even when I made her Peanut Butter Cup Puffed Rice Bars I didn’t even need a food processor. It felt both strange and refreshing. On one hand, I use my food processor at least once a day (so my first instinct is to use it) but on the other hand it was great making a dessert to take to a friend’s place and not have a tonne of kitchen equipment to clean up. The Beet and Green Apple Yogurt Smoothie I made was a hit — even my toughest critic loved it (and for someone who could live off foil pouches of puree, you’d think that she would love my homemade-with-love smoothies. You’d think but that’s not always the case).
I think both of these cookbooks are a good step for anyone who is 1) busy 2) loves to cook and 3) needs quick and delicious recipes. If you want to check out what I’ve made already have a gander at these hashtags: #minimalistbakercookbookse and #loveandlemonscookbookse. As you can see with the Love and Lemons recipes I’ve also tried them as written but I’ve also enjoyed them in, “off-book,” kinds of ways (like granola cups or ricotta spread). Can’t help but love recipes that can pull a double duty!
**So I promised to divulge the secrets of the “Princess Pudding” — here it is: it’s basically oatmeal that I let my toddler “make” and it’s something she enjoys eating. The key — giving something mundane a great name and acting super excited while talking about it. I usually measure the quantities and then she puts it in her “big girl bowl” and mixes it. At least it’s something, like those darn “squeezies” (foil pouches of puree), that she’ll usually eat.
For Princess Pudding:
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract
a sprinkle of cinnamon (I always do the sprinkling but I let her smell the jar…)
1 heaping tbsp nut butter
a drizzle of honey (again, I’m the drizzler but she has to see it being drizzled. It’s like a tree falling in the woods — does it actually happen if there are no witnesses? My huz found out the answer to this the hard way when he whisked the bowl away into the kitchen to put the honey on while she sat at the table.)
***I’ve made the lasagna a couple of times and so far we’re 50/50. Someone once told me that it takes a toddler 20 times of tasting something before their mind is made up so even if I get a “yuck” I keep at it just in case.