1. I should maybe title this “Cooking Despite Kids,” because let’s be honest, this is what the 4 o’clock witching hour typically looks like:
So anyways, clearly I’m no wizard when it comes to keeping everyone happy, well-nourished and salmonella-free within that horrible hour of 4-
5 6 7 p.m. But I have noticed some things that make for somewhat smoother sailing, so, well, here we go:
2. A couple weeks ago, Lucia was playing with the plastic, toy gun that one of her friends had left at our house. I watched her, knowing she doesn’t really know what a gun is, so I was curious to see how she’d play with it. She placed it on the floor and started arranging a burp cloth over it while muttering something about “resting.” And how it would then start to “rise.” She had turned it into…bread dough?
So, yes, my toddler likes to help bake. Which brings me to my grand revelation of the past nine months or so: When baking with a very young toddler, quick breads are your friend. Mix it in one bowl, pour it in a loaf pan, and bam, in the oven, done. Bar cookies/brownies/anything else you can pour directly from the mixing bowl into the pan are also good. Muffins are your friend only in proportion to how much interest said toddler has in placing liners in the tins, as well as restraint for not snatching away those liners just as Mom’s dolloping a huge spoonful of This-Is-Healthy-Pinterest-Told-Me-So muffin batter into the hole. Cookies….I hate cookies. The shaping. The spooning. The approx. 17 extra steps past Lucia’s attention span it takes to deliver baked goods that don’t look like they’ve been mauled in the oven. (Granted, as she gets older, I’ve noticed her take a slight more interest in things like rolling out dough and cutting shapes, but even then, once the first batch of dough’s rolled out and attacked with cookie cutters, it’s all on me to do the rest. While fending off small fingers trying to steal raw dough).
3. Currently on our counter: This Moist Whole Wheat Banana Bread. Let a toddler peel apart the bananas, toss them in the mixer and watch with maniacal glee as they get pulverized.
4. But if you really do like muffins, I’ve become a fan of my mini muffin pan. Portion-wise, they’re perfect for toddler snacks…no more large muffins abandoned and half-smashed into the kitchen table.
5. I agree with Hayley from Carrots for Michaelmas that slow-cookers can really make the difference between sanity and nuclear meltdowns, especially when everything can be prepped either in the “everyone’s fed and still happily cooing to each other on the rug” morning bliss of, say, 7:30-7:35, or during naptime. That said, I use my slow-cooker in spurts, having come to the realization that just because something can technically be made in a slow-cooker….doesn’t mean it should. These baked beans, however, were a winner a few weeks ago: Slow Cooked Boston Baked Beans.
6. Lesson learned this week: (to be shelved in the “Stop Killing Yourself” File) When deliberating dinner options on a day when everyone was up at 5:30 a.m., no one napped at the same time, the toddler is regressing with potty training (see Exhibit A, pee-filled rainboot), and the baby is clinging to your legs like his life depended on it, the answer is TAKE-OUT, not sweet potato gnocchi from scratch.
At the same time, there was something therapeutic about rolling out the ropes of dough and cutting out little uniform pillows of orange gnocchi. (Moaning baby swaying against my leg notwithstanding). And leftovers were heartily appreciated by myself and the piglets after coming in from the snow this morning.
Read more weekly exploits at ConversionDiary.com.