Toddler to Teen | Pork Tenderloin Melts
Family life is busy. Serving one home cooked meal, that the whole family can enjoy – toddler to teen, plus us parents, is not only a big time saver, but it is often a much healthier choice.
I think one of the biggest traps we can fall into as parents, regarding meal time, is thinking that we have to serve the children “kid food”. First of all, a lot of food that is marketed as “kid food” is processed food with an ingredient list a mile long and with loads of additives, preservatives and sugar. Things like boxed mac and cheese, mini yogurt and many cereals. Serving one home cooked meal for the whole family, using fresh ingredients, is definitely the healthier way to go – not to mention a huge time saver.
Between my own family and the children I care for during the day, there is an age span from toddler to teen. Ages 1 through to 19 years old, plus my husband and me. And I don’t make special “kid food”. Don’t get me wrong, we have fun with food. Making lunch fun for the kids goes a long way toward encouraging them to try new foods, but I don’t cook different food for the different age groups, instead I simply present the same food in different, age appropriate ways.
Let me show you how, using some pork tenderloin melts as an example. These melts are fast becoming a favourite around here. It’s a great way to reinvent dinner leftovers for lunch, or even a quick and easy second dinner. Two of our favourites are Pork Tenderloin Melts with Pear & Arugula, which you can see in the picture above, and Pork Tenderloin Melts with Apple Slaw which you can see in the picture below. Both use pork tenderloin leftover from dinner (I always make extra at dinner, so we will have leftovers).
For toddlers, cutting food into small pieces is key. To reduce the choking hazard, so that it is easy for them to pick the food up in order to feed themselves and so that the task of eating is not overwhelming.
In pictures 01 and 02 above, I cut the pork into small cubes. The size of the cubes depends on what is appropriate developmentally for each child. How well each child can manage chewing, texture, size etc.. So I keep a close eye on the kids while they are eating, and make adjustments as needed.
In picture 01 I served the pork and the apple slaw separately. In picture 02 it is mix together. Some kids like things separate, some kids like things mixed. And in both pictures I left out the baguette completely.
Picture 03 is what I do as the kids are able to handle larger food. I make up the melt using a slice of baguette, a slice of pork tenderloin and shredded cheese, but I cut off the crusts and then cut the melt into manageable strips. Again serving the apple slaw on the side.
Picture 04 is how the older kids and my husband and I would eat the melt, with the apple slaw piled on top.
So what would my workflow look like for preparing the Pork Tenderloin Melts with Pear & Arugula?
- Cut carrots and cucumber into sticks. If needed, steam some of the carrot sticks, then dice. If needed, peel and dice some of the cucumber.
- Slice pear and, if needed, steam (only if pear is not really ripe), peel and dice some too.
- Slice baguette and cooked pork tenderloin. If needed, cut a few slices of tenderloin into small, age appropriate cubes.
- Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and top each with a slice of pork tenderloin and some shredded cheese.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted.
- If necessary, cut off crust and cut a few melts into strips. Top remaining melts with a slice of pear, some arugula and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Toss diced steamed carrots, diced cucumber, diced pear and some finely torn arugula in a small bowl and arrange on a plate with either the cubed tenderloin or one or two melt strips – for younger kids.
- Arrange pork melts with pear & arugula on a plate with some carrot and cucumber sticks – for older kids and adults.
The great thing is that you can adjust these steps, as your child(ren) grow and are able to manage different foods.
So you can see, that although I present the meals differently, I am using all the same ingredients. Simply making slight adjustments, as appropriate, in the way I prepare the food along the way. One meal that the whole family can enjoy – toddler to teen, and parents too!