Weekly Menu & Food Prep with Toddlers (January)

This weekend I was honored to be ask to be on a panel of local, healthy blogging experts at the Whole Foods Health Fair.

whole foods charlotte health fair bloggers

I had a wonderful time catching up with Lauren (who writes for Food Babe), Lori and Diana. We could have talked for several hours, it happens when you get a group of us together, but I had some shopping to do!

whole foods market charlotte

Being toddler-less, I took my time perusing the aisles, making for one relaxing shopping expedition.

SundayBraised Short Ribs with Baked Potatoes and Wilted Kale
MondayKale & Quinoa Pilaf with Roasted Salmon
TuesdayBlack Bean Burgers & Curly Sweet Potato Fries
Wednesday– Homemade Spaghetti over Spaghetti Squash
Thursday– Homemade Vegetable Soup & Grilled Cheese
Friday– Homemade Veggie Pizza

braised short ribs

I thought the meal was ‘pretty good,’ and David loved it.

David worked Sunday and I had a long list of tasks to accomplish, including food prep for the week.

My true self is incredibly focused on time management and efficiency. I have an ever-evolving list of things to get done scrolling through my head and have gotten pretty darn good at managing my days to maximize productivity. It’s a trait of which I’m rather proud.

However, a beautiful thing about motherhood is that it challenges you daily because it isn’t all about you anymore. I promise I have a point…

Sunday morning I faced a decision. I could put Hailey in another room with Mickey and her dollhouse and whiz through food prep to knock it out, or I could embrace these fleeting moments and have Hailey help me.

kids in the kitchen- mess

This meant embracing a decent-sized mess, a longer amount of time to prep food for the week and the need to have to slow down, explain and be patient. With a deep breath for my sanity, I decided to go for it.

Turns out… It was awesome.

She was so interested in everything.

kids in the kitchen- dried beans

I loved how she counted the black beans as I explained how this ‘magical’ pressure cooker would make the beans bigger, softer and edible.

I loved how with each item we prepped she asked to try it by holding it to her mouth and asking ‘eat, mommy?

kids in the kitchen- sampling new foods

I loved watching her little mind soak up what each food was called and seeing the focus she had on performing her given task.

kids in the kitchen- dry kale

I loved how she grabbed on to my arm with both hands in anticipation of the food processor’s blaring motor, then would jump and giggle when I turned it on.

kids in the kitchen- food processor

I simply loved spending this time with her and watching her engage with the things I’ve fallen in love with- healthy food, cooking and the kitchen. 2 years old is an incredible age.

I’m a believer that early exposure to healthy foods and cooking is beneficial to kids. As we, as a society, spend more time watching cooking shows on TV than actually cooking ourselves, our nation’s (and world’s) health is suffering.

I want Hailey to be comfortable with real foods and how to prepare them. I want her to know it isn’t intimidating or difficult. I want her to enjoy the process. And if she chooses to not be interested in cooking later on, that’s fine with me. She will at least know what kale is and we’ll both have the memories of hours spent together in the kitchen, which are memories I know I will cherish forever.

Sure, everything took twice as long and the kitchen looked like a warzone, but in the end, prepping food for the week still was accomplished.

kids in the kitchen- sunday food prep

Washed & Dried Kale, LaraBalls, Hydrated Black Beans, Fresh Whole Wheat Bread

Did you help in the kitchen growing up?
Do you cook with your kids?

My mom is a great cook and made delicious dinners most nights when I was growing up. I wish I would have gone in there with her more because I would have learned a lot. I usually stuck to setting the table or clearing it afterwards. My loss! Trying to play catch up now Smile



  1. says

    Good choice letting her help! I love your safety tower. I’ve always wanted one of those. My oldest, Meghan used to love to help me in the kitchen. At 5, she’s sort of lost interest and would rather do a number of other things. My youngest is 2, though, and he’s so interested in whatever I’m doing in the kitchen. :) My parents gave me special nights where I prepared entire meals for the family at a young age and I’ll always remember that. When my kiddos get older, I hope to do the same.

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Oh wow, you prepared meals for your whole family? That sounds amazing! I’d love to do the same thing with something easy- maybe like pizza?

      I wish David had extra time to write a tutorial on how me made Hailey’s kitchen stand because we use it everyday!

    • Brittany Dixon says

      I cheat and use the bread maker that my parents gave us for Christmas! It’s about 2/3 whole wheat and 1/3 bread flour. I can send you the recipe if you’d like?

  2. Vanessa says

    This is a great post! My son is 5 and I can still get him to help in the kitchen. Has Hailey ever made her own pizza? You will have shredded cheese all over but they love it!

    • Brittany Dixon says

      So funny you mention that because I almost posted the pictures from last week of her making pizza. I let her roll out her dough with flour and you’re right- SUCH a mess, haha! She loved it though. I’ll bet 5 is a great age, too!

  3. says

    What a wonderful and patient mother you are! I have a 22 month old and I try to get her interested in cooking as well. Sometimes she just sits at my feet and “cooks” with her pots and pans we keep in the kitchen in her own special cabinet. My mother was always cooking and as a kid she would get us involved by asking us to grate cheese or wash the vegetables. By the time I was in high school I would sometimes cook dinner for the family!
    Sarah [My Full Home] recently posted..Meal Plan It Monday + a Recipe- Chicken with Grape Tomatoes and Green BeansMy Profile

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Oh, thank you, but don’t give me too much credit! Patience isn’t always my forte 😉
      I LOVE that you could cook your whole family a meal by high school.That is impressive!

  4. Lauren B. says

    Kudos to you for taking the time to teach her, and clean up after her! I can’t wait until Jackson is mature enough (maybe around 2?) to be interested in cooking with me. As of now, he loves to help me “stir” and clean up, so I guess that’s a start! Love this post!

  5. says

    I actually battle that in my head every time I food prep. In the end I usually do it by myself. I have two little ones and it’s always such a mess and takes me twice as long to do it. Plus they end up fighting over who does what. Maybe I need a better attitude about it! They do love to help me cook in the kitchen and they really enjoy watching.
    Kristen@Change of Pace recently posted..RECIPE: Paleo Hot ChocolateMy Profile

  6. says

    First off, you look great! Second, I love that Hailey wants to help you in the kitchen — that’s amazing. We’re definitely not there yet. Wyatt still isn’t too into eating food so it doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t have the patience to help me cook. I’m hoping we get there one day though!
    Jen recently posted..Pregnancy update: week 26My Profile

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Yes, a spiralizer! I used it for the first time last week and want to work on perfecting them. It’s so much fun :)

  7. says

    I loved cooking in the kitchen growing up. In fact, I was apart of the whole process: picking vegetables from the garden, cleaning them, helping can them, and then of course cooking them. My mom always got us involved and even though we were never on the super healthy side of things (the women kept a container of lard in the fridge for fried chicken), we learned the importance of family meals, which were always shared together at 5:30 on the dot.

    I definitely plan to cook with my kids one day, but I really need to give up the control I have over the kitchen right now, which I sadly will admit to. I barely let my husband get in there with me (though, to be fair, there’s really no room!) :) That’s why our next house will hopefully have an island!
    Maria recently posted..Christmas 2013My Profile

    • Brittany Dixon says

      It’s sounds like you grew up on Little House on the Prairie and I mean that in the most amazing way- what an awesome experience! I’d have loved to know how to garden and can foods growing up.

      PS- I’m a control freak in the kitchen, too. I always picture these cute date nights where David and I both play around in the kitchen. In reality it turns into me dictating tasks and cleaning up behind him. I’m trying to learn to CHILL out 😉

  8. Brenda says

    This is an example of why you are a great mom. Seriously. Keep up the good work!

    I enjoy cooking with my son who is two. It’s fun to have him help measure ingredients and pour them into a bowl. He helps me make curried carrot soup twice a week, and I think him ‘helping’ me is what got him interested in trying it. This kid will guzzle it down like it’s juice, but it’s mostly puréed carrots! After he does that I think, “Score- he got in a serving of veggies for the day!”

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Yes, that is such a great point! H is much more interested in trying something she helped make, too. And curried carrot soup sounds so delicious, by the way!

  9. says

    That’s so much fun that she helped you. I could have learned a lot from my mom growing up too, but I wasn’t really interested then. I’m with you – catching up now.

  10. says

    Enjoying those fleeting moments are amazing. I’m learning that as a brand new momma. I’m not cooking with my daughter yet, but I’m trying to soak in every moment I can. I know that soon enough I won’t be able to hold her in my arms and rock with her in the rocking chair. So I’m trying to let those moments sink in, because honestly what more important things are there than enjoying our kids??
    Alicia recently posted..25 Reflections from Age 25My Profile

  11. Kris says

    I grew up helping my mom, and probably by the time I was 13 or 14 I was responsible for making at least one meal during the week (my mom worked full time with three kids). I’ve always enjoyed time in the kitchen; it’s usually pretty fun and relaxing for me, and I really enjoy entertaining.

    Is your food processor a Hamilton Beach? Do you like it? I was looking at them today, needing to replace my workhorse Hamilton Beach food processor that is at least 30 years old. I like a pretty basic machine, so really don’t want to invest in a Cuisinart if a basic machine will do. Thanks!

  12. says

    So this post is like my perfect dream wold of having a kid. haha.

    Over Christmas we were at my parents cabin with my cousin and his two kids. His daughter is 8, but she’s so into cooking, and I loved her help and teaching her new things. She was so up for doing anything to help. Including grating a ton of cheese (which I hate doing!) with a huge smile. It made me so excited to do everything you talked about in this post.
    Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) recently posted..Baked Olive Scallion DipMy Profile

  13. jodie says

    I just read an article about this, how we, as Americans, need to include the children more in food prep. It was on mindbodygreen.

  14. says

    I can’t wait to get Nia involved in the kitchen (and using knives – that might sound wrong haha!). I totally agree with your train of thought!! I hope Nia does enjoy it though. I’ll just pretend that burning things in the oven is “all part of the learning process” if it happens when she’s older and understands haha
    char eats greens recently posted..being vegan in a very non-vegan classMy Profile

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