Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 10th October

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It’s one of those weeks. I’m off to London tomorrow for a big event, back on Thursday for a meeting and off again on Friday morning only to try to get back by 3pm for pick up. By Saturday I’ll be collapsed in a heap, hopefully there will be vodka nearby.

For that reason we’re keeping it relatively simple this week – we value our sanity.

I started the week with what is fast becoming Pasta Mondays and the kids’ favourite – pasta and pesto. Max ate enough to keep him going for the rest of the week (although he did still seem to want some breakfast and dinner today unfortunately).

Today we have had pork steaks with potatoes, cauliflower cheese and carrots. It doesn’t sound too simple but I got home at 6pm with 2 kids on my own and did manage to have it on the table by 6.20pm – I can’t say that there wasn’t some crying and cross words in between but you can’t have it all. The cauliflower cheese was not of the oven-baked variety – I knocked up a quick cheese sauce on the hob and it was delicious (well I thought so, the kids wouldn’t touch it! All the more for me…)

Tomorrow I won’t be here for dinner so I’m leaving them with fish fingers. If you haven’t tried the posh Ocado variety I heartily recommend them. You almost feel like you’ve made them a fancy meal instead of just fish fingers, win-win.

On Thursday I’m back (briefly) to make everyone a quorn chilli with rice and on Friday I’ll have a little more time so I’m making a chicken cacciatore. It’s a lighter recipe that I took from BBC Good Food and I’ll post it up on our recipe page too. It really does taste fantastic and is great with pasta, rice, or pretty much any carbohydrate and greens.

Saturday is our day off and then on Sunday I’m doing salmon en croute. I’m having a bit of success with salmon at the moment after a period of fish hating so making the most of it. I do a very simple method of mixing some diced cooked veg (mushrooms, courgette, onion etc.) mixed in a little cream cheese, putting it on the salmon fillet and wrapping the lot in some ready rolled puff pastry. Then cook for about 25 minutes.

Have a good week!

Emma

How we tackled… (archive)

…Midweek Meals

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Out with a group of school mums last night conversation (which is obviously 99% kids-related) turned to the subject of what we manage to feed them on a midweek night. You know, those nights when you rush around collecting humans from various establishments, convincing them into car seats and arriving back just at the time when they realise they’re so hungry they might die.

It’s an almost exclusively thankless task. The digital babysitter can be a bit of help once they’re old enough to enjoy a bit of Peppa/Ben & Holly/Ninjago but you’re still inevitably trying to knock something up with someone permanently attached to your leg and someone else head down on the table crying because he’s “just so hungry” (true story).  No wonder that some days even heating up beans feels like a high stress episode of Masterchef.

To make life a bit less painful for myself I do tend to work our meal planner around the days where I know cooking is going to be hellish. Tuesdays in particular always seem to bring out the worst in my two for some reason – now that I’ve identified this trend I tend to do something simple that day.  Quesadillas which literally take 10 minutes to make, jacket potatoes in the microwave and 10 minutes in the oven for a bit of crisp, or pasta with a sauce that’s ready in the time it takes for the carbs to cook.

Talking to my sisters there are also a few other time-saving tips we thought worthy of passing on:

Pre-prepped

Whilst a bit sceptical about (and too tight for) pre-prepped fruit and veg, there are some exceptions that it’s worth making to this rule. Frozen herbs are a great buy as I find if I buy the fresh variety they’re the most likely thing to end up wilting at the bottom of the fridge by the end of the week.  Also, frozen chopped onions have been a bit of a revelation to me.  I can literally, walk in the door, turn the pan on and have the base of whatever it is I’m cooking on the go within 60 seconds.  Cara also mentioned chopped butternut squash, partly to save her 13 year old’s fingers but also, squash is genuinely such a pain to prep and sometimes you’ve got to give yourself a break.

Make ahead

Talking of the dreaded squash. If I’m making soup (and I am on next week’s meal planner) I like to roast the squash (or sweet potato, parsnips, carrots etc.) while we’re eating breakfast in the morning.  That way homemade soup is a real possibility on a Tuesday if you just mix the roasted veg in with some onion and stock and blitz it up.  I will also often make up some pesto in the morning so all I have to do is cook a bit of pasta when I get home and it’s done – that way Edie can fit in 10 minutes of doing my hair before dinner… It does involve a bit more thinking ahead which I have to say is not exactly my forte but when I do remember to do it I love myself at dinnertime.

And plan ahead

And on the theme of thinking ahead… There’s also a bit of this to be done at the meal planner stage. So if you’re making pasta with tomato sauce on a Monday you might make some extra for your homemade pizza on the Friday and bung it in the fridge.  If you’re having a roast on the Sunday, you can save a bit of the meat and knock up a curry or a stir fry on the Monday or you could save some of the veg that you’ve roasted for your soup and serve it up with a pork chop and some new potatoes the next day.

So I suppose the moral of the story is really thinking ahead and planning which is a habit it takes a while to acquire (I’m still trying) but a worthwhile one if you want to reduce the level of stress at mealtimes.

And if all else fails, there’s always beans.

Emma

How we tackled… (Archive)

… Kids’ Parties

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Having shipped off our eldest back to school this week I suddenly realised that it won’t be long until we’re back into the nine month long party season that is being an infant school-goer.

That glorious period when they’re old enough to have made lots of friends at school (and beyond) but not old enough to want to refine that list into a small group of mates for their special day. Instead, we spend many of our weekends at various different locations – soft play, farms, function rooms, people’s houses – watching a large group of 5 year olds eat sugar and run around until they all pass out from the excitement. Wondering when our son’s social life got so much busier than our own.

There’s a general structure that exists for most parties – arrive, go beserk, an activity, some food, cake and singing and then the always enjoyable attempt to extract – but there’s one thing that is pretty much a constant and that is… sandwiches.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no wheat-hating, salad munching sandwich hater. Far from it in fact. I believe a good sandwich (roasted turkey and emmenthal on sourdough for example) can be one of life’s finest joys and Max (the 5 year old) is also pretty partial. A couple of years ago his answer of “sandwiches” featured in a Huffington Post article on the most random thing your kid has asked for for Christmas.

However, these are not the types of sandwiches to be found at kids’ parties. Not at all. Instead the fare is of the let’s call it “simple” variety which I have no problem with aside from the fact that the kids don’t really want to eat them. So at the end of every party, including ones that I have catered I should add, there’s a pile of sandwiches with slowly curling up edges that the kids won’t touch.

And why would they? Most of the time they’re presented with a table full of the joys of crisps, biscuits, sausages on sticks, and many other such culinary wonders, and then, faced with this smorgasbord of amazingness, their parents try to persuade them to eat a bloody sandwich. They must think we’re out of our tiny minds.

So this year, when Max turned 5, I swore I wasn’t going to make another pile of sodding sandwiches. My mass catering sandwich making days were done. Instead I offered said table of amazingness alongside hot dogs – decent quality (meat and meat-free) sausages roasted, served in a bun and smothered in ketchup. And what a relief it was. All that was left was a few sausages for us to eat for lunch the next day and not a single bloody sandwich.

So I say let’s ditch the bloody sandwiches, find something that they really want to eat whatever that might be. And if you’re looking for inspiration I’ve included a few ideas below. Happy party season!

  • Pizza is always a winner and if you’re feeling like you’d rather make something yourself then these pizza puff pinwheels look really fab, are easy to make and you can add whatever different toppings you fancy. (If you’re at home and the numbers aren’t too overwhelming you can also get them to add them themselves).

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1463/pizza-puff-pinwheels

  • For smaller kids check out these cute teddy bear pizzas from Annabel Karmel:

Teddy Bear Pizzas

  • Just like hot dogs burgers are nearly always a winner with kids, especially if they’re bite-sized affairs like these sliders from Jamie Oliver.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/burgers-sliders/?family-food-category=10491

  • I bang on about quesadillas all the time but their similarity to pizza makes them a big hit with my kids – again you can do a variety of fillings, make them up before and keep them warm in some foil.
  • And if you really want to stick with sandwiches… As they get older and a bit more dextrous getting them to make up their own wraps can make it more interesting. Just put out a load of tortilla wraps with a mix of fillings and let them fill them up

Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 3rd October

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The title says it all really, I’m writing this through slightly blurry vision and wondering if I’m going to make it through Poldark before going to bed. Hopefully this week is going to be a quieter one and I can catch up on a bit of rest – ha ha ha.

I always find one of the toughest things about having kids is that they just constantly need to be fed. Pre-kids if I felt like this I might have gone to the effort of opening a bag of crisps before confining myself to the sofa for the night. Instead I’ve fed them a big meal of fish cakes, corn and beans and they’re still bloody hungry.

So the week goes on and tomorrow is pasta day which makes everyone happy. I’m making a carbonara for a bit of a change, it’s something I randomly learned to make whilst living in a backpacking hostel in Sydney about 10 years ago. I made that and some Japanese people made me some totally amazing gyoza, it was not a fair swap. Anyway, I stick to the eggs only recipe (no cream) and plenty of salty bacon of course.

On Tuesday we’ll have a veggie-filled coconut milk curry loosely based on a recipe from the Ella’s Kitchen red cookbook, as usual with plenty of naan to keep them happy and on Wednesday I’m going to do some salmon. Last week an Instagram follower suggested this method of marinating the salmon in soy and honey before baking so I’m giving it a whirl and serving with a load of veg. Instagram has been responsible for a lot of food inspiration for me but also, sadly, a lot of clothing inspiration which is costing me a fortune.

On Thursday it will be another easy day as we’re having quesadillas which everybody loves. I think I’ve just about perfected the art of quesadillas these days, now it’s all about making the fillings more interesting so I’ll see what’s left hanging around in the fridge on Thursday and report back.

On Friday we may have friends for tea so I’m making chicken and chips. I’m going to flatten out the chicken breasts, season and then griddle. Hopefully this is an acceptable food option for the five year olds of today.

Saturday is a day off to galavant around and then Sunday I’m finishing with potato, cod, prawn and chorizo pie which is a recipe from this month’s BBC Good Fod magazine, another of my great sources of inspiration. I’m not convinced this is going to go down that well although they do love prawns and chorizo so we shall see!

If you’re interested in the recipe for that one you can find it over on our new recipes page.

Have a good week!

Emma

Fruit and veg boxes

After a long long time of thinking I succumbed to the marketing and signed up for a fruit and veg box envisaging delighted kids with rosy cheeks eating hearty and wholesome meals as a result.

My opinions now are still mixed. In truth the kids (and I) did love the boxes. My youngest loved “snipping” them open to find out what was inside which was usually a veritable explosion of colour. It made me think much more seasonally as it was an easy prompt as to what I should be cooking with and when. And the fruit and veg was lovely – organic and so much tastier than supermarket options. Also as the box is delivered to your door you don’t even have to be in to receive it, so it couldn’t be any more convenient really.

But there are drawbacks too, with the major sticking point for me being cost, and more specifically the quantity of food I received for my money. I know that we can’t put a cost on our children’s health and well being, but in reality my food budget has a limit and I have to choose carefully with three ever hungry little mouths to feed. The box I went for was the large fruit and veg box, which comes at a cost of £26 and is intended to feed 3-5 people. In reality this should be enough as three of the five mouths in our house are fairly small. However, week after week I had to heavily add to the contents of the box with trips to the shop, which kind of makes a nonsense of getting it in the first place.

So I am giving it up and going back to hauling myself to the shop instead of receiving my lovely little parcel on my doorstep every Monday morning. To be truthful I will miss it, and can’t rule out going back, but we are very lucky to have a fabulous vegan cooperative down the road which is jam packed with organic fruit and veg that I can pick to my hearts content.