I love to cook. I mean, really love to cook. A lot of that comes from countless hours I spent in my Grandma’s kitchen growing up. She was always super patient with me, and always had something I could do to help. From my youngest years of simply stirring a bowl of dry goods set on a low stool so I could reach, to the last few years they lived in their house when I actually fixed most of the meal, Grandma’s kitchen was always a warm and welcoming place. And it was through my hours spent there that I came to the determination that my own kids are going to feel the same way about our kitchen. Which is hard… because on my own, I’m not a very patient person. God is working on me, but sometimes to gain patience we have to endure many hardships… and for an OCD mama who is very particular about where things go, I’ve received a LOT of stretching through being Becca’s mom. Most of which has occurred in the last year and a half.
She LOVES to “help,” which is fabulous! But also time consuming, tiresome, and not always real help. I started letting her be involved in the kitchen simply by helping me put away plastic containers into “her” drawer. She learned early on that the rest of the kitchen drawers and cabinets are off limits, and she doesn’t usually push that envelope any more. She knows what’s in the other drawers/cabinets, and nothing is as fun as the tupperware drawer! So, she’ll help me do the dishes by putting away containers in there, which will usually result in containers all around her on the floor as she plays while I finish the rest of the dishes. (See the adorable photo from my “Be Wiling” post here.)
But, I really want her to do more, and she is loving her kitchen helper that Cody built for her! She wants to help cook everything. So Monday I decided to let her help cook dinner. (I’ve also read that when kids help cook they are more likely to eat it…) So, we set out to make a breakfast tator tot casserole. I turned on the oven as she climbed up. We washed our hands, and found our recipe in the cookbook. I got out all the ingredients, and she helped by setting them on the counter as I’d had them to her. (No, mama’s, I wasn’t brave enough to hand her the entire carton of a dozen eggs. Mommy did that one.) Then, I did a very brave thing, and got out my glass mixing bowl – because it has a handle she could hang onto. I got out a little cutting mat, and her cutter (My Safe Cutter from Pampered Chef – not affiliated, but I used to sell… this is a link to my former director’s page! 😉 ), and let her start in on the butter. (The recipe calls for melting a stick of butter in the bottom of the pan.) While she worked on cutting the butter, I browned the sausage, coming over frequently to help her.
Ultimately, she needed help to slice the butter, but she worked hard on it, and it occupied her quite well while I browned the sausage. Then, while it drained, we learned about cracking eggs. She’s seen me do it a million times. I cracked the first one, and she watched. Then, she decided it was time for her to crack one. She did fairly well considering the fact that she’s two and had never done it before. Only one tiny piece of shell made it into the bowl, but she did end up with egg all over her hand. She didn’t seem to mind. We decided it would be awesome if she could stir the eggs while I cracked them, so she used her wooden spoon to “stir em up weal good” while I cracked the rest of the dozen into the bowl. Then, I whisked them to ensure they were all mixed, and she whisked them some more to make sure that Mommy didn’t miss anything. I added our milk, salt and pepper, and then the sausage. She stirred more with her spoon.
She had already added our butter and most of the tator tots to the pan, so Mommy poured the egg/sausage on top, and then she helped me sprinkle the last tator tots on top. She was SO proud of her casserole she made!
We talked about how hot the oven is, and she did a good job of staying back while I put it in. I put it in the bottom oven so she could go back and check on it throughout the hour that it was in. She checked it FREQUENTLY, to say the least. It was so cute to see how proud she was of her dinner she had made! So I know you’re wondering… did she eat it? Well… no. This is the girl who doesn’t like her food to touch. She LOVES eggs, sausage, and tator tots… but they have to be separate on her plate. Sigh. She ate a few of the tator tots that had been on top. But that was it. I’ll keep trying. This mommy isn’t giving up.
Want the recipe?
Tator Tot Breakfast Casserole
1 stick butter
1 32 oz (approx) package tator tots
1 dozen eggs
1 cup milk (I used coconut milk so she would try it – she knows regular milk in it’s uncooked form makes her sick, so I didn’t want her to think that this wasn’t made with her in mind… despite the fact that she has no problem with milk that is cooked in.)
2 cups shredded cheese (I did not use this baked in the recipe like usual – because she does have problem with cheese, even cooked. So, after it came out of the oven, I added cheese on top of half of it and it melted in.)
2 cups browned sausage or diced ham
Melt butter in a 9×13 pan. Spread 3/4 of potatoes in pan. Beat eggs and add milk, cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over potatoes, then top with remaining potatoes. Bake 1 hour at 350F if all thawed – if not, add 15 mins. Note: the grease from the butter and sausage will rise to the top, and can easily be poured off of the casserole before serving. You could also simply spray your pan with a spray and omit the butter – though I do believe it adds flavor.