There is nothing more irritating than taking the time to cook dinner, only to have a child turn up their nose at the meal placed in front of them. Even more irritating is if the child has previously eaten the same meal without fuss. Sometimes though, presenting the meal in a different form is enough to trick the little
blighters darlings into eating. Lasagna Cups are a great example of this; conventional lasagna in a convenient child sized serve.
Children are more likely to eat a meal if they have had a hand in its preparation, which is the core principle behind The Real Food for Kids Cookbook by Eloise Emmett. Meals don’t need to be complicated, however they should be nutritious, and this new cookbook is crammed full of easy recipes likely to tempt even the fussiest eaters. There are no long ingredient lists, and many opportunities for the kids to get their hands dirty. The absence of complicated ingredients, combined with simple to follow instructions, means it is easy to get the kids involved.
I have not been great about letting The Princess into the kitchen over the years, primarily as the thought of the mess makes me feel faint. Despite this, she seems to have absorbed the ability to cook by osmosis, and is able to rustle up simple meals on her own. Although she doesn’t seem to have had the same osmotic potential when it comes to cleaning up.
Which brings me to the real advantage of teaching kids to cook. Freedom. Whilst not normally a word associated with children, hear me out. I have not packed a school lunchbox since The Princess was nine years old. I buy sandwich fillings, and she puts her lunch together every day. She can rustle up a toasted sandwich if she is hungry, makes herself a tray of roasted potato chips as a snack, and has recently given up on me filling the cookie jar and has started baking her own cookies. None of this would be possible if she couldn’t cook. Cooking is a life skill that all children need, and the sooner the kids can cook, the better our lives will be. Selfish maybe, but so very true.
So if you are faced with a fussy child, try changing up the way the meal is presented, and get them involved in the meal preparation. Lasagna cups, one of the many easy meal ideas in Eloise’s new book, are a great place to start. This recipe will make many lasagna cups, however the leftovers are perfect for lunchboxes. Just close your eyes to the mess.
This recipe will make many lasagna cups. You can halve the recipe to make less, or make a large amount and freeze them until required.
I have also included Eloise's instructions for conventional lasagna if you feel faint at making lasagna cups. The lasagna will serve 6.
- 600g mince
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 800g tomato
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 200g flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 500ml milk
- 100g cheddar
- 50g Parmesan
- salt and pepper
- Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Add the eggs to the flour and combine.
- Turn out on to a clean surface or board and then knead well for at least 5 minutes until the pasta is smooth.
- Using a pasta machine set at number 1 (or at the widest opening setting) feed the dough through the pasta machine.
- Repeat this process 3-4 more times increasing the setting to a higher setting each time until the pasta is approximately 2mm thick and silky smooth.
- Dice the onion and crush the garlic, then sauté them in a heavy based pan until the onion is soft.
- Remove the onion with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
- Now add the mince and brown.
- Return the cooked onions to the pan and then add the tomatoes, basil and oregano.
- Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and add the flour and stir until combined.
- Add the milk gradually, stirring continuously until the sauce is thick and smooth.
- Add the cheese, stir through and season with salt and pepper.
- Firstly lightly grease a muffin tray and then cut the rolled out pasta into circles.
- Cook the pasta in boiling water for 1 minute then cool the pasta in iced water and drain.
- Place the pasta circles into the bases of the muffin tray and then add a few tablespoons of the meat sauce to each cup until ¾ full.
- Add the cheese sauce and bake for 20-25 minutes at 200C (180C), or until golden and cooked through.
- In a lightly greased baking dish or tray, layer the meat and pasta sheets and top with the cheese sauce.
- Bake for 30 minutes 200C (180C), until the top is golden brown and the lasagna is cooked through.
If you have a batch of my bechamel sauce in the freezer, you can substitute that for the cheese sauce.
If short on time, substitute the homemade pasta for ready made lasagna sheets. You can still get the kids to help cut out the circles and press them into the muffin tins.
*I received an advance copy of The Real Food for Kids Cook Book in accordance with my Disclosure Policy. All opinions expressed remain my own.
The Real Food for Kids Cook Book ($29) is available from Eloise’s website from the 16th October 2015. Pre-paid orders received before the launch will receive free postage within Australia, and a handy 4 pack of gift cards (retailing at $12).