Cooking with Kids: Irish Flag Stew & Whole Wheat Soda Bread

The following post by contributor Christen Babb and originally appeared in March of 2010.

Every parent intuitively knows that the more your child is personally invested in a project, the more likely he is to learn and apply the knowledge gained. One of our many jobs as parents is to foster fun learning experiences that will encourage critical thinking and creative expression. If you are anything like me, sometimes it is hard enough to get through the day without adding another “to-do” to my list. However, when I decide to make an otherwise humble, everyday task a learning opportunity for my child, both of us are deeply enriched by the experience, creating a wonderful memory together.

Today, the featured recipes are in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. These recipes create an opportunity to teach your child a little bit about St. Patrick’s Day along with some hands-on-cooking techniques.  Cooking can be an exciting and powerful teaching tool for your child. You can be creative with any of your favorite recipes, applying information about family heritage or religious faith, for example.  As a bonus, your child will be more apt to eat the healthy foods he’s helped prepare!

Recipe: Irish Flag Stew

Encourage your child to help you prepare this recipe, even if it is as simple as pouring the cut vegetables in the pot. Make sure that you point out the orange carrots, the white potatoes, and the green peas in the recipe – symbolizing the colors of the Irish flag. Your child’s involvement will help encourage healthy eating. Paired with the following kid-friendly recipe, Whole Wheat Soda Bread, your entire family will delight in this wholesome and delicious meal.

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. lean stew beef
1/4 cup All Purpose flour
1 large onion, peeled and diced into 1″ pieces
5-6 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 small red potatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pearled barley
6 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium boxed variety
1 cup frozen green peas
1 tsp. dried thyme
Kosher salt + pepper to taste, if desired

Heat oil in large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Dredge beef chunks in flour and place in hot pot. Sear beef for about 3-4 minutes or just until just browned , remove from heat, and drain on a plate covered in a paper towel. (Beef does not have to be cooked through as it will return to the pot at a later time.)

Add onion and carrots to pot; you may need to add a little more olive oil to the pot, depending upon how “dry” it looks. Cook on medium heat until onions are translucent and carrots are “crisp-tender”.  Add barley, potatoes, seared beef, chicken stock, green peas and dried thyme.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, allowing the stew to simmer until vegetables are fork tender (about 25 minutes).  Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Soda Bread

This recipe is based off the traditional Irish Soda Bread, but incorporates whole wheat flour for a healthier alternative. Unlike most bread recipes, this one is super simple so be sure your kids roll up their sleeves and get their hands in the dough! (I let my three year old “paint” the egg-wash on the dough.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. honey or agave nectar
2-1/2 cups of buttermilk*
1 egg + tsp. water (whisked together for egg wash)

*You cannot substitute regular milk for buttermilk. Buttermilk has a greater acidity level than regular milk and therefore reacts with the baking soda to give the bread it’s “rise”.

Mix first 5 dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add buttermilk and honey/agave nectar and mix with a wooden spoon  just until combined. Do not over mix. Divide dough in half and mound oval-shaped loaves onto a cooking stone or metal sheet pan covered with parchment paper. “Paint ” egg wash onto bread. Bake for 45-50 minutes until outside crust is a crunchy, dark brown. Serve warm with Irish Flag Stew.

While eating your Irish inspired meal, encourage your child to recall what he learned about St. Patrick’s Day. You might be surprised at how much he remembers!

What about you? What ways do you encourage your children to help in the kitchen?

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  1. Cooking is a wonderful tool for learning–and learning to cook will be a tool our children will benefit from for the rest of their lives!
    Great post, Christen. It gets a little more hectic cooking with 2 little ones, but it’s twice the fun. =)
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..How To Help Your Child Embrace Food =-.

  2. I love the colors of the stew and am looking forward to using it as a chance to teach my kids a little about their Irish heritage (on both sides of the family tree) 🙂

    The bread recipes does sound simple – and thanks for the tip about buttermilk. I probably would have just subbed regular whole and then wondered why it wasn’t working. I don’t cook very often (my husband is the cook in our house) but I love to bake with my kids – this sounds like an easy, yummy recipe to make together!

    Thanks, Christen!

    • Thanks Aimee and Kara!

      Aimee, I’m thinking the baby might make his entrance this week…hoping for today, but that might be wishful thinking. 🙂

      Kara, this “bread” recipe is almost more like a biscuit dough, so it is super simple. I have made the mistake of subbing regular milk for buttermilk many times and it never worked out right. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can add a tbsp. or so of lemon juice to the regular milk and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes. I remember my mom doing that as a kid and I never knew why until I experienced several failed buttermilk recipes myself!

  3. Mmm….I have fond memories of eating an Irish stew with my grandmother. If I’m not mistaken she made her version with a cut of lamb, but I love the beef in this one. My in-laws are Irish so maybe the kids and I should make this for dinner next week and invite them over for a March Break dinner!
    .-= Jan (Family Bites)´s last blog ..Butter Tart Muffins and a Love Story =-.

    • You are right, the traditional version uses lamb and you could certainly substitute it in this dish. Enjoy cooking with your little ones! 🙂

  4. Tonight we made manicotti and my 5yo surprised me by asking if he could help stuff the cheese mixture inside. He did two all by himself! I’m going to make more of an effort to get him involved in the kitchen.

  5. I love this post. My children will love preparing this special St. Patrick’s Day meal.

    Thank you!

    Ashley, with CWDkids

  6. yum!! thanks for the inspiration!

    as for kids helping in the kitchen…i follow the lead of my children’s wonderful preschool teacher and look for real tools that the kids can use (with my close supervision). hand-cranked egg beater, potato masher, wavy-cutter, special cookie-cutter, salad spinner….SO nuch fun!!!!

    .-= exhale. return to center.´s last blog ..deep cleaning + deep breaths =-.

  7. Christen,
    This Irish girl is excited to try your recipes! We have a St. Patrick’s Day family feast every year, although our newest babe had us distracted from our tradition last year. It’s not nearly as healthy as your recipe, but we love the soda bread from The New Basics Cookbook (dated in number only, I still enjoy cooking and baking from this book).
    Best wishes for a smooth delivery!

  8. I made this bread tonight! It was the first loaf of bread I’ve ever made (pats self on back)! I think I might bake it a little less next time. Mine came out super hard but it was still pretty good. I might try another loaf tomorrow!
    PS you can also sub. 1 tbsp white vinegar to one cup of milk and it will work ;o) for buttermilk.

    • Great point about the vinegar!

      To both Jenn-O and Becky (below) – I’m sorry that your bread came out hard. Perhaps my oven is a little slow. 🙂

      Take care and hope your St. Patty’s Day was a happy one!

  9. Becky Greenhow says:

    We made this dinner tonight too. And it went off without a hitch. Everyone was impressed. And it was so nice to cook with my 7 year old and the baby in the carrier on my back. Felt like a really family affair.

    Our bread came out with a really tough crust too. I think maybe I will bake the next one for only 40 minutes and see how it does.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  10. The stew looks really good and easy to make gluten free with a few substitutions. My two-year old has recently discovered she loves to help mommy make dinner. She can’t do much but pour the ingredients in but she has a great time. I’ve also discovered that she’ll eat the ingredients individually for meals that she won’t eat together. For instance, yesterday she ate a corn tortilla, cheese, and a spinach leaf even though she won’t eat the finished enchilada.
    Steph´s latest post: Four Things I Don’t Care About

  11. A wonderful meal to cook with your kids. You can try my recipe that I have posted today. It is a little more advanced and might be great for older kids to help make. Happy St. Patrick’s Day
    Diane Balch´s latest post: Foodie Friday Linky: Half Crocked Beef Stew

  12. My two year old helps by putting chopped up things in the bowl, putting his bib and utensils on the table and throwing things in the trash. For St. Patrick’s day tomorrow I plan to make a fruit kebab out of different colored fruits to represent the rainbow! I think I saw that idea on a blog and wanted to try it out too.
    Sleeping Mom´s latest post: The Whole-Brain Child: How empathy and storytelling help toddlers

  13. Tonight we are going to a St Pat’s dinner (based around watching England vs Ireland in the rugby) and I made a ‘veganised’ version of your Irish Flag stew. What a great idea! I am sure it is going to be a hit even with the non-veggies.
    Natalia´s latest post: Better Than College – support a great book-to-be

  14. That bread looks delicious, and i am looking forward to also creating a veggie recipe of sorts from the stew recipe! My 23 month old loves to “help” cook! Aside from handing me things, I give him his own cups, spoons, and ingredients (he loves flour) and he works away at the counter next to me! 🙂
    Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site´s latest post: Can the “Wake to Sleep” Method Help Lengthen Your Baby’s Short Naps?


  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  5. […] Whole Wheat Soda Bread: This homemade bread is made without additional yeast, so you don’t have to wait for it to rise. It’s a dense but soft bread, great for sopping up stew, and any leftovers taste great microwaved with a lot of butter and honey. This was our first attempt at any sort of homemade bread, and it turned out pretty well. […]

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