For a long time – too long! – cooking has been very much at the bottom of my list. But even if I don’t often have the energy for a full on evening meal (thank you, Peter, for picking up the slack there), in recent months I’ve been feeling more motivated to get the cooking gear out and prepare fresh snacks and yummy breakfasts for the little one. This has been made hugely easier by the fact that I’ve recently discovered that Theo loves to cook!
Even after our first attempt together, where he burned his finger on the frying pan when I turned my back for one second to put something in the sink (oops!), he still loves to get involved. He’s 21 months now, and we’ve done a few recipes together so far, mostly baking related. I should say now that where I say he’s whisking or combining ingredients, he IS, but at this stage, I definitely need to do a second whisk/combine to actually get the ingredients mixed together properly!
My top three so far?
Pancakes! I make pancake with Theo almost every Sunday now. I used to use this as my go-to pancake recipe, but I’ve since found one that’s even easier. 1 cup of self-raising flour, 1 cup of milk, 1 egg, and a small knob of melted butter. Sometimes I add a bit of peanut butter, and I almost always add some kind of fruit to the mix or on top afterwards, to make this a vaguely healthy toddler meal. Theo loves whisking and pouring the batter into the frying pan. He points out the bubbles as they form on the surface of the pancakes and he’s not quite at flipping the pancake stage yet, but I think we’ll get there soon.
Scones. We made some sweet potato scones recently (adapting the recipe from here) (she’s a great person to follow, if you’re interested in recipe that are good to cook with kids, by the way!) and that was really fun. He got his hands in to combine the dough, helped me press it out on the table and then using a mini cutter to cut the scones out. This recipe involves a pretty hefty amount of sugar, which I’d normally try to avoid when cooking for Theo, but it also involves a vegetable, so it kind of balances itself out (ish).
French toast. Whisking again – whisking is the best, I think. Plus getting the toast all eggy and gloopy is really fun, and Theo seems to love seeing it transform from wet bread to browned and delicious eggy bread. Then, when you take the bread out, add some fruit into the frying pan and
And my one recipe to avoid? Well, I thought I’d get a bit more ambitious and make a fish pie. There were bits that he could get involved in (mostly around the potatoes – handing them to me to peel, ‘mashing’ them, adding the milk and butter to the mash, etc), but too many things I didn’t want him to do – handle the fish (actually this probably would have been fine, I just didn’t fancy getting fish juice all over the kitchen), make the white sauce (actually he did help make the white sauce, but it was the lumpiest white sauce I’ve ever made, so won’t be doing that again for a while!), etc. He got very fidgety during this experiment, so I’ll probably wait until he’s a bit older before trying something like that again.
Generally, anything where he can throw in ingredients, get his hands involved, do some stirring or whisking, is an absolute winner! If you need to prep ingredients, like grate cheese/carrots/whatever, it’s easiest to do that in advance, as the attention span of a toddler is not very long.
As well as the ideas above, things like stir fries are really great – he loves handling vegetables while I explain what they are and then chop them all up. And so far (maybe because of the finger burning incident), he seems to respond quickly to any warnings I give him about staying away from the knife, watching his fingers around the saucepans, etc. It’s really just the loveliest thing. A really great toddler activity AND results in a meal, too. Win!