Cooking With the Kiddos



Lately H has been asking to help me cook dinner, and I decided that it was about time to let her.

She is five and a half, and has helped me with measuring ingredients, mixing, and baking, but she hasn’t ever helped cook on the stove. I’ve been a little scared to let her near hot pans, but I have been reading a lot about how helping kids have positive attitudes about food and eating involves letting them participate in food making.

She may not be ready to chop vegetables or mince garlic, but there are a lot of prep and cooking jobs that she can do with a little instruction and supervision. Since she is so interested in participating in the cooking process, I thought that today was a good day to start. This is what we made:

Lettuce Boats

  • 1 Tbl. coconut oil or fat of choice
  • 1 med. yellow onion, diced
  • 1-1½ lbs grassfed ground beef (or other ground meat)
  • 2-3 Tbl beef or chicken liver, chopped finely (this is easier if it is frozen)
  • ½ 7oz. can diced green chilies
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • whole romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 avocados, mashed
  • shredded cheese (optional)

 To make the meat:

  1. Heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook over medium-low heat until soft and translucent. Stir occasionally.
  2. Let onions cool. Meanwhile, combine grassfed ground beef, chopped liver, chilies, garlic, and spices. Mix well (use your hands!). Add in onions once they have cooled.
  3. Heat up pan again and add meat. Cook over medium heat, stirring often and breaking up the beef into small pieces.
  4. When meat is almost done cooking, add chopped spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and to desired doneness.

To assemble the boats:

  1. Place a romaine leaf on a plate.
  2. Spoon some of the meat mixture onto the lettuce.
  3. Top with chopped tomatoes, avocado, and cheese (if desired).
  4. Fold sides up and eat! This can get messy, but it is soooooo good!

H scooped out and mashed the avocado, and she also helped to cook the meat mixture. She really likes standing on her step stool and stirring whatever I am cooking, from pancakes and muffins on the counter to vegetables or meat on the stove. This was her first real experience standing at the stove and she handled it like a pro!

These lettuce boats were a hit with both of my kids, probably because they include foods that they already like such as ground beef, tomatoes, and avocado. H liked assembling the boats, but she didn’t end up eating the lettuce. Most kids would like this since it allows them to put what they want in each boat and then eat with their hands.

Not only are lettuce boats tasty, they are a nutrition-packed meal. Adding spinach and liver to the ground meat gives the meat mixture more nutrition without altering the flavor much (a plus when feeding kids). I don’t like liver much myself, but since it is a superfood, I try to include it in our meals from time to time. I don’t even notice it in ground meat, and neither did the kids! And by now my kids are so used to me adding spinach to whatever I can (ground meat, scrambled eggs, smoothies, etc.), so a bit of green didn’t faze them.

Now I’m a bit more comfortable letting H join me in preparing meals, and I look forward to her becoming more proficient as she gets older. It is good mommy-daughter time, too. Love my little helper!

Scooping avocado–easy for little hands!

Mash, mash, mash!

Ground meat filling–spinach and liver add extra nutrition

Adult-sized lettuce boats

Kid-sized lettuce boats

  1. Your daughter is so so cute! :-)

  2. I am going to try your recipe it looks really good….and your daughter is going to be a good cook.

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