Yesterday afternoon I cooked beef stew with Munchkin 1 and Munchkin 2 as an attempt to get Munchkin 2 to eat some veggies (he claimed that he would eat it if we cooked it together). That said, here are my tips for undergoing a cooking project like this with a couple of little guys under the age of five:
- Cut EVERYTHING bite-sized for THEM: When Mrs. Munchkin brought the stew meat home from the butcher it was what us adult-types would call normal size. The only problem with this is that little guys have little mouths, and the LAST thing I wanted, especially with a picky eater, was for someone to take a bite of something, have it be too big, him choke and that be the end of it. So, while the munchkins were napping/playing on their own I took every piece of meat and cut it MUCH smaller for them. I also did this with all the potatoes and most of the carrots that were needed.
- Do most of the prep work you need to BEFORE hand: Before Munchkin 1 came down I made sure that I had the majority of things chopped, peeled, and poured. This made things MUCH easier since I didn’t have to worry about little ones being underfoot when I was wielding a big knife. My attention could focus on what they were doing instead of trying to have eyes and ears on them instead of the knife — which I do think saved my fingers! I also floured 95% of the stew meat before because of short attention spans, which worked like a charm.
- Give THEM a job(or five!): I discovered during the previous week when we made carrot cake muffins that Munchkin 1 LOVES grating carrots, so since carrots were an ingredient in the stew I set him on the task of grating some, which HE thought was totally awesome! Also, the grated carrots hide in the stew making it harder for Munchkin 2 to pick them out 😉 When I set them up to flour the remaining meat both of them thought THAT was oodles of fun because they got to take the raw meat and make it change color! Also, shaking the heck out of the containers with the flour produced LOTS of giggles and you would have thought from their excitement that it was their birthday and christmas all at once!
- Don’t force things: After shaking the flour Munchkin 2 had NO interest in the actual cooking part of the activity, he just wanted to sit down and drink some water, which was totally fine! He’s 2, and you can only expect so much out of someone that age. This meant that Munchkin 1 had a BLAST adding everything to the pot and stirring. Though, during the entire process I kept asking Munchkin 2 if he wanted to do something or help. His response was always some variant of “no” or “you do it”, but I kept the offers coming just in case he changed his little mind. Though, I will say that his interest was kept longer than I expected it to be!
- Have a back-up plan: Like I said at the beginning, Munchkin 2 is a bit of a picky eater, and after everything was said and done he didn’t TOUCH the stew – Munchkin 1 had a couple bites and then moved on – so I made sure that I boiled some pasta as a back-up. I didn’t realize it, but before last night Munchkin 2 didn’t like pasta! And I totally got him to eat it WITH cheese on it. Go me! Granted, in a small way I felt like a failure because they weren’t too interested in actually eating very much of the stew after everything was said and done, BUT at the same time it provided an afternoon full of activity to them, and Mrs. Munchkin said that she plans on reheating the leftovers (I made a TON! I seriously don’t know how to make a small batch of stew…) Sunday night for dinner and will try to get them to eat it again. So win! 😀