Last week we were so blessed to have friends bring meals by EVERY DAY!! I was feeling pretty good, and the baby has been doing great, so I felt a little guilty. Surely, I could be making dinner for my own family and my friends didn't need to be out in the freezing cold delivering meals for me. Then on Saturday I went to Target and on Sunday I was tired and sore. I realized that the only reason I've been feeling so good is because I'm not standing in the kitchen for an hour or more every day for cooking and cleaning. Thank you, friends!
It made me realize that once the meals stop, I need to have some quick and easy options. Whether it's because I'm sore or tired or the baby is wanting to eat during meal prep time, or whatever the case may be, I need to have some things that are ready to go at any time. In fact, it would be great if the meals were ones that my kids could make. Since they are 3, 5, and 6 you might thing I'd be relegating my family to cold cereal and microwaved foods. (check out my cereal giveaway!) Actually, all three of them have some basic cooking skills. As long as I'm there to read the recipe and tell them which measuring cup to use, they can pretty much make anything I can make!
Here are some great meals to start your kids out on. I like things that require minimal cutting and one pan- even when I'm the one cooking! The children need to understand the concepts of "hot" and "don't touch" and be capable of immediate obedience. The kitchen becomes a dangerous place during cooking, and we want to make sure that everyone stays safe. Their first helping experience comes in the form of stirring something at the table (about 18-24mos). Once they've demonstrated capability for following directions, they are allowed to help with quite a variety of things, as long as I'm standing right next to them- oatmeal, eggs, pasta (around 3). At first this is more work for me, but they quickly master the art of boiling water and stirring things that are browning and I can leave them at the stove (around 5) and work on another task while that's being taken care of. It won't be long and they'll be planning menus themselves!
Hot dogs, Mac and Cheese
Teach them that bubbles means boiling and you can make almost anything from a box! A great way to teach them about steam and water vapor, too. Hot dogs could be cooked in the microwave or in a frying pan.
Sausage and Potatoes
Brown a pound (or two) of sausage. (There's a neat tool from the Pampered Chef for browning called the "Chop and Stir" (I think) that is great.) Add cubed potatoes, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. An easy one pan meal. Cutting potatoes is hard for little ones, so I tend to do that part while they taking turns stirring the sausage. Serve with something green!
If you have a mixer or bread machine, it's easy for the kids to throw in the ingredients for the dough. Or have some prepackaged mixes on hand. They can learn about measurements and fractions on this one, too. Of course, their favorite part is adding the toppings!
Not quite a one pot meal, but pretty close. Boiling water yields pasta and warm up some sauce in another pan. We've even browned hamburger right in the sauce pot to avoid getting a third dish dirty! It's even nicer if you've previously gone to the work of browning several pounds of meat for your freezer. Just hand them a bag and dump into the sauce!
What could be easier than throwing a chunk of meat in the crock pot? Add some potatoes and carrots and there you go!
Scrambled eggs are an easy first meal for kids to make. You can do breakfast for dinner and add some bacon or sausage. Or you could roll up with cheese and salsa in tortillas for a tasty variation of burritos.
I hope this gives you some ideas for having your kids helping you out in the kitchen. What are some of the things you have your kids help you out with? Check out Organized Junkie's page for more menu ideas!