I WAS ON MY OWN for dinner the other night with the kids, so I knew it had to be good. Wary of my two-highchairs-to-one-adult ratio, this wasn’t the time to experiment with exotic flavors. In times like these (or when I’m so tired that I might tip over, not unlike a giant Weeble Wobble in terms of shape and physical prowess), I pull out a trusted favorite: burgers. Or in this case, a spin-off of a dinner that almost always gets eaten.
First, I made everything miniature. She talks a good game but Phoebe has never eaten a full size burger and I hate be a waster. So I split the size of a regular patty in two. Our “buns” are really an Italian snack called pizza bianca, which is a lot like focaccia bread, and more importantly, something they both love. You could use any small buns.
Then I switched our usual ground beef to ground turkey, but juiced up turkey. To it I added salt, pepper, finely chopped rosemary and Worcestershire sauce. Then it was to the grill pan because I hate grilling outside, and also I don’t have a grill outside. Meanwhile, all of this was done before the little guys came in from nursery school so a screaming hot pan wasn’t a concern the way it often is when my “helpers” are on hand. Once the burgers were charred and cooked through, I just turned off the pan and covered loosely with foil until dinner.
Rounding out this meal was another trusted friend in the family dinner department, roasted potatoes with rosemary. And finally, a pan of roasted peppers because I like them and the oven was already on, so why not? There are a few tricks to getting great roasted veggies though:
- Use a hot oven (425-450 degrees)
- Don’t skimp on the extra virgin olive oil. Slather it on and be sure to coat everything
- Ditto for salt. Don’t overwhelm the little guys with sodium but add enough to make the flavor pop. You can always add more as needed to adult plates
- Flip a few times to ensure that everything cooks evenly
- If the veggies don’t have crispy brown edges, they’re not done. That’s carmelization…and it’s delicious
- Also try: Brussels sprouts, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower and asparagus
And as usual, we had fresh fruit for the
bribe dessert. Tonight it was a little bunch of organic strawberries that smelled so good at the store, I really had to choice but to buy them. Our house rule is that you don’t have to eat everything but you do have to try one bite to be eligible for dessert. It actually works better when our preschooler knows and sees the sweet treat ahead of time, a visual incentive. But be warned, the moment some kids catch a glimpse of that banana (Estelle, for example), it’s all over for the burger.
It’s an easy meal, one that can be cooked or at least prepped hours in advance. And best of all, it works for everyone. (In my semi-Weeble Wobble state I can’t even imagine making several dinners for everyone’s liking.) So, if you’re cooking for a variety of ages and eating stages, try this:
- Pureed for babies: Put a serving or two of turkey and potatoes into a blender with enough water to liquify (omit peppers unless your baby has already tried and likes them, without any allergies).
- Deconstructed for toddlers: Cut up small bites of burger plus cubed cheese and place next to the bun, but totally separate. Let them gum/eat the potatoes with their fingers and throw a pepper on her plate for good measure. Add fresh tomatoes as a fallback option full of vitamin C.
- For preschoolers or otherwise picky eaters: Put the burger together but for heaven’s sake, ask if they want ketchup and mustard BEFORE you put it on, even if they’ve had and loved it every single time before. (I learned this lesson when a screeching 2 1/2 year old turned up on my floor, muttering something about not WANTING ketchup and the need for it to be “clean like Stellie’s”. Noted.) Do challenge them to try one bite of peppers before dessert.