We find ourselves in unusual times during this global pandemic. Many thoughts have been focused on reassurance for my children, keeping them on track with home learning tasks and focusing on the “nuts and bolts” of responsive feeding strategies. The same “nuts and bolts” that have helped survived a wider range of isolation-induced changes. These “nuts and bolts” include meal planning, family meal orchestration, schedules, food presentation variety and food skill building. Fussy eating can be exacerbated by routine change, yet, it can also be assisted when we get the opportunity to slow down and have more family meals, build skills and keep abreast of schedules. What have you been noticing for your family eating during this time?

Helping children with routine adjustment is definitely not easy. I’ve found visual schedules very important and lots of designated time-in. We are also mindful to reduce our news consumption, stress and speculations about the pandemic to a minimum around the children. They thrive on facts and reassurances and we are using key messages with the children like “we are all in this together”, “we are working to make sure more people don’t get sick, that is why we are at home so we don’t accidentally spread germs”, “all the children in your class are doing learning at home” etc.

The Danger Of CONSTANTLY Fetching Food for Kids

A key part of feeding families, is being organised about food. I use the word “organised” and “planning” loosley and think about food organisation as a skill that spans the week. From shopping, storing, preparing, cooking and presenting food, our days can get consumed with food organisation. So, it is important to segregate it into the times and pockets where it belongs. It does not help anyone if you are constantly getting snacks or preparing food for kids. Taking a breather from it is just as important as doing the organising.

So, my top tip here is to maintain having 4-5 meal opportunities a day. This will keep the act of eating to be about filling bellies and not an “I’m bored” response. My colleague Jo (we work together in our parent support hub: your feeding team) has written a great article here on why responsive feeding discourages offering foods constantly to children (ie. offering a child a 9 hour degustation menu and subsequently turning off any chance of being hungry at dinner time.)

How I Plan to Use Random Ingredients from My Pantry?

With supplies of ingredients and movements restricted, I thought I would step out my usual method for assessing my pantry and coming up with “new” foods to offer my family. Variety is a big part of family nutrition and finding a new presentation of familiar ingredients is an important strategy.

1) Research recipe ideas and pop them on a list – anything can go on the list! I usually do this in Pinterest or via a straight-up google search. This is a really basic brain-dump.
2) I sort the above ideas out based on number of family members that may like this version of the food.
3) Discard any ideas that none of us are likely to eat. A new food presented to fussy eaters should always align with foods your other family members are likely to eat to avoid over investment in the food being eaten by the child on the first presentation.
4) I meal plan one new recipe for the week (in a usual week) – at the moment I have some extra capacity for cooking new recipes (#stressbaking anyone?).

Finding your limit for NEW recipes on a weekly basis is very important. Not everyone will want to make a new recipe every day, every week or even every month and that is completely fine. You do you, when it comes to knowing what you are comfortable to take on!

Simone Emery

Working through this with a real life example: I found it stressful when I ordered a recipe meal box delivery that required me to make a new recipe every weeknight. I always find it is easier to cook something when I don’t need to look at instructions every 5 seconds! 

5) When the new food it goes on the meal plan, I always make sure it is with something else that everyone will enjoy or is familiar with. 


Worked Example: Ground Rice 

This ingredient was a random one in my cupboard. I bought it to make the “tiger” print on top of some gluten free tiger bread rolls. They were fine but very fiddly to make from scratch. So, now I have the rest of the ground rice box to go.

My research revealed this list of options for alternate uses of ground rice:

  • Ground Rice Pudding (Traditional)
  • Ground Rice Pudding (with ginger and apple)
  • Shortbread

To sort this list was easy, my family would definitely prefer the shortbread. I’m interested in trying the flavoured rice pudding. So, If I make that in the future, I’ll also serve some ice cream and fruit on the side as a family style afternoon snack.

Math opportunities with baking shortbread

So, given that we are doing “learning from home” at the moment. I have been using baking & cooking as a way to challenge the kids on some age-appropriate math concepts. We have made 1/2 batches of recipes where the kids have had to divide the quantity of ingredients by 2. This was great for my 8 year old when we were halving 1/4 cups of ingredients and talked about how fractions work.

This shortbread recipe used the scales. My 6 year old is learning about counting. And she could watch the scales go up to get to the desired weight. I also had her check what units the scales were set at before we started measuring – definitely a life skill to help with “estimation” of how much of an ingredient makes sense. I have written the below recipe with a focus on some of these math skills in the method. You may also want read more about some other skills (besides maths) that kids learn in the kitchen.

Shortbread

Course: SnacksDifficulty: Easy
Makes

12

pieces
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes
Total time

25

minutes

Ingredients

  • 40g Ground Rice (or Rice Flour or Corn Flour)

  • 120g Plain Flour

  • 100g Chilled Butter, Grated

  • 40g Caster Sugar

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 170oC and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Get out the FOUR ingredients and ONE mixing bowl.
  • Get out the kitchen scales, check that the units they are set to is “grams” or “g”.
  • Put the bowl on the scales and hit the “TARE” button to have the scales reset to “0g”
  • Add 40g of ground rice / rice flour or corn flour (each type of flour will change the final result from being a little bit gritty to very smooth in the mouth).
  • Tare the scales again and add 120g of plain flour.
  • Tare the scales again and add 40g of caster sugar.
  • Remove the bowl, tare the scales and weigh the block of butter. Chop it to where you estimate 100g is. Check your estimate. Correct it with more or less butter to get to 100g. Grate the butter into your bowl of dry ingredients.
  • With lightly wet hands, mix the ingredients to form a dough. Compress the dough together into slabs on your baking tray. The dough is quite crumbly and you may need up to 1 tbps of water to help bind it. Cut the slabs of shortbread dough into fingers. Prick the fingers with fork tynes.
  • Check that your oven is set at 170oC and Bake at 170oC for 20 minutes and the shortbread will start to go golden on the edges. Remove and let cool on a biscuit rack. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Wetting your hands during dough formation may help with the dough sticking to your fingers. Keep a spare wash cloth to wipe your hands on if you find touching the dough difficult. This lets you wipe your hands and keep on going!


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