There are several days a week where I end up having to cook dinner after our toddler comes home from his childcare provider. Usually, Dan is great about preparing things that can be just put in the crockpot so I don’t have to worry about entertaining Aiden, but sometimes dinner is up to me. Now that he is a bit older, I love involving him in the process. Cooking with our toddler keeps him occupied and busy but also helps us get dinner prepared without relying on screen time. We made this Shepherd’s Pie recipe for St. Patrick’s Day and Aiden loved it so much, we have done it a few more times. Here are tips for cooking with a toddler to make shepherd’s pie.
Tips for cooking with a toddler to make this Shepherd’s Pie Recipe:
For best results, it takes a little planning and some advance prep time for this to be successful. Dan made the filling in advance using this recipe. However, we have adapted it to make it a bit healthier for everyday eating. You can make the filling a few days to the night before or even earlier in the day you plan to make it.
Shepherd’s Pie Filling
- 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1/2 parsnip, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 2 large fresh bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
- Brown the turkey and put in a bowl.
- Sweat the vegetables (4-5 minutes) in the pan you cooked the turkey in.
- Stir in the flour and allow it to brown lightly (about 2 minutes). Add the chicken stock. Stir in the turnips and parsnip, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
- Return the meat and its juices to the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Discard the bay leaves and transfer the stew to an 8-cup baking dish.
Once our toddler came home he helped with the mashed potatoes that top the filling.
Potato Topping for Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
- 4 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered — we sometimes use sweet potatoes instead
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup almond milk
Cooking with a Toddler Instructions to Make Shepherd’s Pie Potato Topping
Dan peeled the potatoes and Aiden “helped” with the peeling. I think this is a skill he will have to continue to practice (of course using a peeler not a knife and with careful supervision).
Next, Dan or I chop the potatoes into smaller pieces and Aiden drops them to a large pot (away from the burner). He loves this part! We wait for them to boil — cooking is a great activity to teach and practice patience. While we wait, Dan or I portion out butter, cream, and seperated egg yolks for the next step. I also pre-heat the oven.
Once the potatoes were cooked I drained them and added them to a smaller bowl to cool off a bit. The little guy and Dan used a potato ricer to add the potatoes to the standing mixer. Then he added the butter, cream, and egg yolks (Dan or I separate them in a bowl first).
Aiden turned on the standing mixer to mix it all together. This is one of his favorite kitchen activities!
When everything was mixed we had him scoop out the potatoes and we placed them on top of the pre-made filling in dollops. Don’t forget to taste test.
We put the dish in the oven and practiced more patience while we waited for it to cook.
Does anyone else have a toddler that loves Daniel Tiger? He was doing “ugga mugga” to his reflection.
Have you ever tried cooking with a toddler? What is your favorite thing to make? I would love to hear about it in the comments.