BEEF: From FIRST Food to FAVORITE Food
This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.
I love cooking and coming up with new recipes, but even I get a little burned out when it comes to cooking dinner every night. I think it’s because once you have kids, cooking dinner becomes more of a daily task on your “to-do” list. Not to mention that meals get elevated to a whole new level of expectations, and there’s no more deciding what to cook at the last minute or winging it – unless you want everyone to end up frustrated and in tears!
But, this “chore” is also really important to me as a mom and dietitian. One reason is that eating dinner with my kids is the one time when I get visual verification that vegetables were eaten. The other more important reason is because I know that eating dinner together and exposing Madeline and Griffin to new foods and flavors is the best way to raise healthy eaters as adults. They may not always eat those foods or think they like them now, but research suggests that continuously offering foods and letting them see me eat those foods is what has the biggest impact long-term.
So what’s my answer to the dinner chore dilemma?
It was a decision I made back when my oldest child was a year old: to only cook ONE DINNER for everyone.
Now to be perfectly honest, this ONE DINNER decision was probably heavily influenced by the fact that I was a sleep-deprived, working mom. But in hindsight twelve years later, it’s been one of my best parenting decisions!
I know there are lots of you reading this thinking ONE DINNER will never work at your house, but hear me out. Cooking ONE DINNER doesn’t mean that everyone eats the exact same thing. Instead, it means that everyone’s dinner is made up of the same ingredients. So as you prepare the components of that ONE DINNER, you then separate, cut or mash ingredient as needed for your child’s age and preference.
Still not sure about ONE DINNER? Let me show you how it works with a family favorite - FLANK STEAK FRIED RICE. I made this last week for my family along with my sister-in-law who was in town with her kids. Between us, we had four kids ranging in age from 2 to 12. Lots of little people preferences, but it worked!
ADULTS’ DINNER: Recipe as written below topped with a little extra soy sauce and green onions
MADELINE’S DINNER (AGE 12): Fried rice as specified in the recipes, but she asked for steak on the side rather than mixed into the rice.
GRIFFIN’S DINNER (AGE 9): My once adventurous eater is now picky and opinionated – at least when things are mixed together. But since he likes the recipe’s key ingredients, this just meant I needed to keep things simple and separated. To make his plate, I served him steak pieces, plain brown rice, and carrot sticks with Ranch dressing.
EVVY’S DINNER (AGE 5): Ate the fried rice just as the recipe was written, but skipped the green onions. Also, asked for leftover steak and edamame to be packed in her lunch the next day!
FOSTER’S DINNER (AGE 2): Cut a few steak pieces into smaller bites and served with a side of rice and a side of steamed carrots and edamame.
The beauty of the ONE DINNER rule is that not only are you prepping and cooking only one meal, but you’re also feeding your kids real food with nutrients they need like iron and B12 from the steak and fiber and potassium from the edamame, carrots and brown rice.
Steak may not be the first food you think of when it comes to being kid-friendly, but there’s no reason why it can’t be. Beef is a perfect first food for little ones – it’s a great-tasting protein option for them to grow up with since its unique bundle of nutrients, high-quality protein, iron, zinc, choline, selenium and vitamins B6 and B12, are essential for their growth and development.
Ready to get started?
Find a recipe that appeals to the adults in the house. Then you look for ways to deconstruct it!
Flank Steak Fried Rice
Makes 5 Servings
1 (3/4-lb) FLANK STEAK
4 tablespoons lower sodium soy sauce or tamari, divided
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoon minced ginger or ginger paste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
2 large eggs
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
2 (8.5-oz) pouches ready-to-heat brown rice
Freeze Flank Steak for 20 minutes. Remove from freezer, and place on cutting board. Cut Flank Steak against the grain into thin ¼- to ½-inch thick strips. Then slice strips into 1 to 1 ½ - inch pieces.
Whisk together 3 Tbsp soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add steak pieces; toss gently to coat meat. Let marinate at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Heat 1 Tbsp sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add steak pieces to hot oil, discarding any excess marinade. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes or until outside is lightly browned and meat is done. Remove from skillet.
Whisk eggs in a small bowl; set aside.
Heat remaining 1 Tbsp sesame oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots; saute 4 minutes or until carrots are just tender. Add edamame and rice to skillet, breaking rice pieces up with spoon if needed. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add cooked steak and remaining 1 Tbsp soy sauce to rice mixture; cook 1 minute or until hot throughout.
Using a spatula, scoot rice mixture over to one side of skillet. Pour whisked eggs into open side of skillet. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until just set, stirring to scramble and break into smaller pieces. Combine cooked egg with rice mixture.
Sprinkle with green onions, and serve with extra soy sauce, if desired.
Nutrition for 5 Servings (Serving size: 1 cup):
415 Cal | 15g Fat (3g Sat) | 26g Protein | 38g Carb, 4g Fiber, 3g Sugar (0g Added Sugar) | 650mg Sodium
What are your favorite ways to serve beef?
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