Stop and Smell the Pepperoni

In one of the previous posts I described a recent battle over hand-washing before dinner.  Turns out, hand-washing has become something of a trigger point in our routine.  Using my keen observational skills, however, I am slowly but surely getting better at recognizing the signs that may presage a hand-washing meltdown, and I have developed a handy trick for skirting the issue (which, I have no doubt, will cease to work the very minute I hit “Publish” — because that’s how toddlers roll).

You see, a good chef always washes his hands — before he can put on a “cooking glove” (pot-holder) or stir anything in a bowl.  So on Babyman’s testier days, I appoint him my Sous-Chef.  The Sous-Chef washes his hands because his Very Important Job requires it (not because Mommy wants him to), then he helps Mommy make dinner, then he gets to sit on the counter while I finish up.  Then we take the meal He Helped Cook out to the table, and the hands are already clean!  Voila!

In my humble opinion, the very best meal for the Sous-Chef to prepare is the toasty pizza, a loose recipe for which is outlined below.  I like the toasty pizza for several reasons: it’s tasty, it’s relatively quick, and it affords several opportunities to be sneaky about vegetables — and you know I love me some sneaky chef action.

Set up is fairly easy: I get the base of the meal all set (in the case of the toasty pizza, I cut the bread into a shape of some kind, and spread the veggie puree and pasta sauce).  Then I take a couple of minutes to chop the toppings and put each one in its own little bowl — my Sous-Chef’s mise en plat, if you want to get technical/French.  I arrange everything on a big work surface or cookie sheet.

When I’m ready for my Sous-Chef to work his magic, we wash hands, then scoot his stool over to the work area.  One by one, Babyman dumps the toppings out of their bowls onto the pizza — at which point it’s a race against time to spread the toppings out a bit while Babyman attempts to eat all of them.

I use a toaster oven so we can watch the cheese melting through the window.  (Wow, I really just wrote that.  It’s amazing the things I find exciting now that I don’t get out much anymore.)

Sitting together on the counter (and yes, watching cheese melt) leads me to the real benefit of having a Sous-Chef: it’s an easy way of shoehorning a fun activity into an often rushed, post-work evening routine.  We’re getting dinner on the table but we’re doing it together, rather than coming home and drifting into our own spheres: he playing with race-cars on the floor, me standing above him and doing What Needs to Get Done.  Sous-Chef evenings are some of my favorites, and I am going to spend some time devising new ways to get Babyman involved in meal prep (if you have any ideas, please let me know!).

Toasty Pizzas

1 stool for easy access to the counter top
2-4 small bowls
Five minutes to get everything ready

2 slices of bread, an English muffin, or a larger flatbread
Tomato/marinara sauce or pesto
Spinach puree
An array of toppings, cut into small pieces and arranged in little bowls:

  • 2-3 green olives
  • sausage or hot dogs
  • bell peppers
  • grated cheese
  • etc.

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange bread, muffin, or flatbread on a cookie sheet (if I’m using plain old sliced bread, I cut off the crusts and sometimes get creative with shapes — circle, heart, stars).  Spread slices with a layer of spinach puree (broccoli puree works for this too, if it’s super-smooth).  Add a layer of marinara or pesto (or both!).

Enlist your Sous-Chef to sprinkle the toppings over the pizza.  Put in oven for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melty and starting to brown on top and bread is crusty.

Cool, cut, and bon appetit!


  1. Mmmm, I don't even have a toddler, but now I want some toasty pizza!

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