Thursday, July 14, 2011

Single parent cooking lessons

I'm not complaining. Yet. I only have Epsilon alone for a week, and there are no classes to teach. Come January, when I'll be teaching and single parenting for a quarter, I'll complain. But that's later.

I just discovered the wonders of pre-chopped vegetables. Go ahead, roll your eyes.

Up until now, my partner and I have sat at the extremes for what we prepare for dinner. We both enjoy the act of cooking and the ritual of going to the farmer's market each week, and once upon a time, canning. So when things are going well, its fresh (or home canned) ingredients, as much as possible. Or, if there are quals to be taken or exams to be graded, or presentations around the corner, or a bad cold, we flip to the other extreme and it's canned soup, bad take out and ramen.

Since Epsilon, it feels like there have been more tough days than not, and we really want to limit his exposure to ramen. When we have the luxury of cooking, its been mostly from scratch still. Needless to say, that up until now, cooking has occurred only when both parents are present. When my partner is single parenting, we've had the godsend of my mother preparing meals for the two of them. When I've had to single parent, we've made meals and frozen them. I'm considering these 7 days a dress rehearsal for January. So how to solve the problem of putting decent food on the table for a toddler?

Here are some recent discoveries:
  1. Pre-chopped vegetables and proteins are amazing for this purpose, and the wonders of modern packaging means that the cooked texture isn't ruined too much.
  2. Epsilon loves to cook. (Don't tell his grandparents, they'll kill me for letting him near the stove.) But when I ask him what he wants for breakfast, it's "Oaty* cook! Milk Cook!" How can I refuse? Especially when having him in the kitchen means I don't have to worry about him playing in the shared driveway?
  3. Epsilon likes cranberries. When helping with the salad, all the other ingredients went in the bowl. The cranberries went in his mouth.
If anyone has any suggestions of foods high in taste and nutrition, but within a toddler's attention span in the kitchen, please let me know. I'm collecting recipes. My usual meal preparation algorithm has become out of date, and I'm scrabbling for ideas of what to do.

* oaty := oatmeal


  1. Omelettes
    Stir-fry (you could let him cut up tofu with a small/dull type of knife, perhaps)
    Spaghetti with spaghetti sauce
    Spaghetti with peanut sauce (mix coconut milk with peanut butter; adding sriracha is good for grownups but maybe not toddlers)

  2. Omelets, should have thought of that one.

    Cutting tofu with a butter knife! Brilliant. And another one not to tell the grandparents. ;)