Revenge of the Meal Plan

The captain sat, brow furrowed, as she stared at the blank paper in front of her. This was possibly the most grueling of her regular duties. Due to budgetary constraints, she was also chief cook on board. As such, the weekly task of meal planning fell to her.

It should be easy. All she had to do was select seven meals. How could it possibly be this hard?

That was far too simplistic an understanding of the task at hand. Firstly, the meals had to be easy enough to prepare when both she and the junior officers were tired and running short on patience.
Secondly, they had to be nutritious and healthy.
Thirdly, they had to cater for a range of tastes in order to be acceptable to all. She understood the argument for simply making the meals regardless and insisting they get eaten, but she wasn’t overly interested in arguments over food every night.
Finally, she wanted variation. It would be easy to simply select the same seven meals week in, week out; but she wanted something different.

The biggest challenge, of course, was getting the junior officers to eat a balanced diet. The smaller one had previously been easy as his diet was completely liquid; now the captain had to factor in feeding him an appropriate amount of nutritious mush everyday.

It was a messy process. The laundry black hole had been mercifully free of Kleenexite incursions, but now she was faced with the prospect of soaking orange goo off clothing on an almost daily basis.

The real challenge lay in convincing the older one to eat what was placed in front of him. Some days were excellent – every last mouthful was virtually inhaled. Other days – well, she tried not to think about them.

She had some meals in reserve that she knew he would eat. These made up the bulk of her menu planning. The catch was that overexposure to the same meals could lead to a sudden, unexpected rejection of that meal on a night she was counting on it going down well.

I need inspiration, she thought in frustration. She opened the Book of Faces, a communication portal that connected her to a countless number of other captains. Ideas flowed in and she was able to finally construct a basic outline for the week.

She sighed and sat back in her chair. It wasn’t all bad – there had been recent successes in ensuring vegetables were consumed. She had put her humble grater to work and shredded almost any vegetable she could and cooked it into oblivion. Combined with a healthy amount of garlic, the extra ingredients had gone unnoticed.

She smiled. Her co-captain had shared a smile with her over the table as they watched their junior officer eat a veggie-laden meal recently. He knew her secret.

Or so he thought. She had smiled back at him as she are her own meal. Her secret was safe and her whole crew were eating vegetables they would not normally eat.

Mission accomplished.

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How to bake muffins with a toddler in 19 easy steps

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Einstein could have been talking about almost any aspect of parenting. In my home, insanity is cooking with a toddler and expecting less washing up.

1. Place baby down for a nap. Decide to bake muffins to entertain toddler and provide afternoon tea. Begin clearing kitchen before informing toddler of your plans. Get ingredients out as you go (get as far as baking powder).

2. Suddenly hear “what are doing, mummy?” from entrance to kitchen. Realise the game is up. Tell toddler to go and get his step. Check all sharp and poisonous items are out of reach.

3. Bring toddler into kitchen. Wash hands and don child-size apron (thanks Grandma). Put toddler on step in front of clear area of bench and preheat oven. Continue collecting ingredients.

4. Hear toddler say “my mix it!” Turn to discover he has upended a full bottle of salad dressing (not an ingredient for the muffins – it was left out after lunch) over the cardboard container of baking powder. Quickly tip excess into an empty sippy cup and hope it doesn’t soak through.

5. Begin following recipe by mashing two bananas. Collect third banana after toddler eats second one.

6. Weigh frozen raspberries and set aside to defrost.

7. Ignore the fact that you have no muffin cases.

8. Assist toddler to break eggs into bowl.

9. Remove entire eggshell from bowl and scoop egg off counter. Throw paper towel on floor to mop up excess egg white.

10. Beat eggs and sugar together, keeping a close eye on all toddler digits.

11. Recipe calls for sifted flour. Realise you used the sifter to strain chickpeas at lunch and sits unwashed in the sink.

12. Briefly consider the wisdom of filling the sink with hot soapy water while the toddler is in the kitchen.

13. Decide sifting is for the weak and lumpy muffins are character building. Add flour and baking powder.

14. Stir in banana and raspberries. Realise there are less raspberries before. Suspect your crimson-lipped assistant is the culprit.

15. Hear baby start to cry. Rapidly spoon mix into pan and place in oven.

16. Feed baby as muffins cook.

17. Allow to cool. Ignore washing up.

18. Offer one to excited toddler.

19. Sigh as it is returned pre-chewed to your hand.

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How to make pizza with a toddler in 19 easy steps

Cook with your toddler, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

1. Make yourself coffee to drink while quietly preparing dinner by yourself.

2. Discover toddler at child gate demanding to help ‘took dinner’. Think to self ‘why not?’ Instruct toddler to go and get his step from the bathroom.

3. Assess kitchen for visible hazards. Bring toddler into kitchen.

4. Watch in horror as toddler morphs into hungry, inquisitive octopus, reaching for all the things including (but not limited to) the Recently Boiled And Extremely Hot Kettle, the Equally Scalding Coffee Plunger (ooh coffee…should drink that), a pair of Ridiculously Sharp Kitchen Scissors and Knife With Enormous Blade.

5. Maintain resolve and put apron on child. Ask toddler what goes on a pizza. Assure him you will put pineapple on the pizza but it should probably come out of the tin first.

6. Smile at toddler calling pizza bases ‘pancakes’. Realise the word following pancakes is ‘hoopla’. Remember seconds too late that he learned everything he knows about pancakes from Peppa Pig (Daddy Pig flips his pancake too high, yells ‘hoopla!’ and his his pancake gets stuck to the roof).

7. Retrieve pizza bases from floor. Begin to place topping on pizzas. Idly wonder why one base has an uneven edge shaped suspiciously like a small bite.

8. Observe that there seems to be less ham on the pizzas than there was two seconds before. Give extra piece of ham to toddler.

9. Experience moment of mummy guilt when toddler calls the cheese grater a sword (note to self, must do this more often).

10. Teach toddler to grate zucchini (don’t look at me like that – I’ll get veggies in anyway I can). Silently congratulate self that all twenty fingers involved remain intact.

11. Make mental note to vacuum after another round of hoopla involving grated zucchini.

12. . Chop capsicum with toddler’s ‘help’. Realise toddler is eating capsicum faster than it can be chopped. Get second capsicum and carry on.

13. Drain tinned pineapple. Offer toddler sip of drained juice.

14. Tell yourself you didn’t actually want to drink any of that juice anyway. Start placing pineapple on pizza while methodically blocking toddler’s attempts to eat it all. Realise moments too late you’ve made it a game.

15. Decide it might be nice to have a pizza without pineapple for a change. Start covering pizza with cheese. Distract toddler with small handful of grated cheese. Make mental note to mop after more hoopla.

16. Place pizzas in oven and turn on timer. Rescue full carton of eggs from small individual raiding the fridge. Banish toddler from kitchen. Vaguely recall making coffee. Place in microwave to reheat.

17. Lean against oven while you drink coffee. Realise oven is strangely cool Discover toddler managed to drop oven temperature from 200 to 140. Rectify problem.

18. Finally serve dinner half an hour later than usual. Decide that shouldn’t be a problem as toddler should wolf down the food he helped make.

19. Imagine yourself banging head against a brick wall when toddler eyes food suspiciously and declares it to be yuck without tasting. Count minutes to bedtime.