Calvin is always very eager to “help” me in the kitchen. Usually I’m hurrying to try to get supper on the table and would rather not dance around him. However, I do try to set time aside to let him help me a couple of times a week. I view baking time with a preschooler as the mathematical equivalent of story time for literacy. I’m convinced that cooking or baking is a great way for kids to learn mathematical concepts.
Up to this point, I usually find the recipe we’re going to make, do any necessary prep, and then allow Calvin to dump the ingredients into the mixing bowl or pan. Calvin does enjoy dumping things in. However, he really would prefer that I give him more autonomy. For the last couple of weeks Calvin will dutifully dump ingredients in but then sneak off to the side and start making his own “recipes.” These are usually charming but inedible as he’s making due with whatever odds and ends are left on our counter1. This last week, I decided I should try to create a structure where Calvin could make the majority of the recipe decisions but we would hopefully end up with an edible product.
A couple of years ago I ran across The Magical Loaf Studio. Jennifer McCann is the author of two awe-inspiring cookbooks with recipes for vegan lunches. Her stuff is amazing. I’m completely intimidated by her adorable menus. Anyway, many years ago now she went to a vegetarian cooking class put on by an Adventist church. One of the things they handed out was instructions on how to create your own vegetarian loaf. One day when bored, Jennifer automated it and the Magical Loaf Studio was born. To be honest, I’m not that much into vegetarian loafs (and Jaeger believes they are evil). However, the setup seemed ideal to give Calvin a lot of options while still creating something that was edible-like.
Today Calvin and I tried the vegetarian loaf experiment. I pulled up the page and started out with the “protein” box. I pulled out every protein option that was listed in the box and that we had in the house and let Calvin choose which one he liked best. Predictably, he chose tofu. Then we moved on section by section until we got to the end. Calvin tried to get away without choosing any vegetable or seasonings but I insisted he select at least one. At last, we had a recipe:
Here’s Your Very Own Adventist-Style Vegan Dinner Loaf!
program created by Jennifer McCann for the Vegan Lunch Box Blog
1/2 cup pecans
2 TB margarine
One large carrot, peeled and grated
2 cups mashed firm tofu
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 to 1/2 cup tomato juice, as needed
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
2 TB nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp. salt
Preheat the oven to 350º. Spray a loaf pan or 8×8 square baking pan
with nonstick spray and set aside (an 8×8 pan makes a crisper loaf).
Grind the pecans into a coarse meal using a food processor or
spice/coffee grinder. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Sauté any vegetables you’ve chosen in the margarine until soft. Add to
the large mixing bowl along with all the remaining ingredients. Mix
and mash together well, adding only as much liquid as needed to create
a soft, moist loaf that holds together and is not runny (you may not
need to add any liquid if the grains and protein are very moist). Add
more binder/carbohydrate as needed if the loaf seems too wet.
Press mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour,
or until cooked through.
Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto
a plate or platter and slice. Serve with potatoes, vegetables, and
vegetarian gravy, if desired.
Cold leftover slices of make a great sandwich filling.
I had told Jaeger yesterday that for dinner tonight we were going to have a recipe that Calvin created. However, I believe he hoped I was kidding. Jaeger was not amused to come home and discover that we really were having a Calvin concoction. To be honest, it wasn’t particularly good. Calvin only took a couple bites of it though Jaeger and I both ate reasonable servings. The recipe could have used a lot more seasoning and potentially more baking (I’m not entirely sure what the texture was suppose to be like). However, it was certainly edible.
I’m not sure I want to try the loaf generator again with Calvin. I’m certain good recipes can be made from it but it probably takes a lot more cooking intuition than Calvin has at the moment. So, I wouldn’t call this experiment a disaster but neither was it a success.
Maybe Calvin would feel more in control if he got to choose the recipe. He does own a cookbook specifically for children that I caught him looking through one night when he was allegedly going to bed.
We’ll figure out something, eventually.
- Calvin is always very careful not to add eggs to his recipes, and tell me he’s not adding eggs, as he likes to taste them and knows you “can’t” taste raw food once eggs have been added ↩