Any time you want your kids to eat something slightly different. Or try something new. Let them help you in the kitchen. This is not an earth-shattering, rock-you-to-your-core discovery. It’s something I have practiced since Nick was Madeline’s age. Because it works. Each and every time. Without fail.
The kids, more often than not, ask to help in the kitchen. I don’t always say yes. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to deal with the extra mess. Because Lord knows, there’s a lot of it. But I try to let them be engaged when it makes sense. If I’m hurrying to get dinner done because we’re running late, then they might just do the final toss of the salad or wash and plate the fruit. That way they’re at least involved in the process and learning more kitchen tips and tricks along the way.
But the times when they really dive in and get their hands dirty? Awesomesauce. Because then they’ll try just about anything.
Mystic’s daughter came over after work and Nick was busy hanging out with her, so last night when I was making dinner, Madeline took full advantage of her brother being out of the picture. I heard the familiar sound of her dragging the little chair over to my side, as she declared she was going to cook.
“Well, I have already started. How ’bout you help me instead?”
Luckily she was ok with that, since I was already way behind schedule, and still wasn’t even sure of what I was making.
I knew I was making vegetarian burgers. With beans. I just hadn’t decided the exact plan yet.
My first thought was to use quinoa with it. One of my co-workers loves the stuff, and I’m trying to use it more. But apparently I used up the last of my quinoa. My eyes scanned the cupboard and landed on the couscous.
Hmmm. Similar beasts. Similar effect? I was hoping for the best.
I love couscous. Nobody else I know does. I love it as a light Spring or Summer salad, mixed together with chick peas, feta, and Kalamata olives. Delish.
But as a binder?
I started dumping all the ingredients in a bowl and instructed Madeline on mixing first, then mashing it into a paste. I stuck a spoon in it midway to test for seasonings, and she went right in with her fingers.
She looked at me, deer in headlights.
I was just messing with her, because I knew she had washed her hands right before we started.
“Oh this is so good,” she exclaimed, as she went back for more. “I want two tonight. And I want it for my lunch tomorrow.”
We mixed and mashed, formed the patties and started cooking them up. Nick wandered in to see what we were having for dinner. He thought it was a black bean and rice burger. I didn’t correct him.
The table got set. And we finally sat down. Toasted whole wheat buns. Caramelized onions. Sliced avocados. Cheese. And a random assortment of toppings.
Madeline went with just the burger and the bun.
I went with the burger, bun, a slice of cheese, half an avocado, caramelized onions, hot sauce, and ketchup. I’m all about the toppings. Always.
Guys, I have never seen the kids devour burgers the way they did these. Which kind of shocks me. I mean, they’re definitely good, but such a huge departure from a regular beef burger, I was ready for resistance.
It just reinforces the truth that I already know. COOK WITH YOUR KIDS. Madeline was so proud to tell Nick that she made the “black burgers” (which is why they are so named). Because both kids love black beans, I knew I had a little bit of an in. And they always love something they can customize themselves.
Winner, winner, black burger dinner.