I have just got back from the school run and am absolutely drenched and extremely cold. No one tells you having a school in walking distance is wonderful until it is peeing it down with rain. Drowned rat is not a good look on me.
Anyway, this post is not about how to rock a raincoat and bedragled hair (although any tips would be most welcome) but is instead about warming up with some super yummy family dinners. This year one of my plans was to be more organised with my cooking and start preparing more family meals rather than just cooking the girls pasta and beans on toast for me. So far, with the exception of a week of flu, I’m winning.
As Edd works away a lot in the week I used to find I’d cook the girls dinner and then would just eat something rather boring like chicken and broccoli or jacket potato. Great for being frugal but not so great for exciting dinnertimes. I also tended not to eat the same food as the girls. They aren’t the most adventurous with food but are getting better as they get older. Their food also tends to be quite calorie rich with lots of butter, cheese and oodles of stodge. Mashed potato being a firm favourite! Instead of cooking different meals I am trying to adapt both of our dinners in to something we will all eat, picking recipes I know they like but with the healthiness I need.
I am also getting much better at my planning. At the weekend I work out a little plan of meals for the coming days based on what we are doing and who is at home. There is no point me planning an elaborate dinner on a Thursday when we have to rush straight from school to swimming and the girls and starving when they get in. I then only buy the ingredients I need rather than having veg festering in the fridge that never gets eaten. I’m finding I’m making bigger pots of things and eating over a couple of days or freezing portions for a later date. In the main it is working. I just have to be a bit more organised and stick to what I have planned.
I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite dinners with you all and I’d really welcome any suggestions from you on healthy but hearty meals for these cold winter days.
Jamie’s Super Shepherds Pie
I recently got the Jamie Oliver Superfood Family Classic book and it’s a firm favourite. Lolly has also purchased it after I recommended it as she was looking for some new veggie recipes for Ste. It is brilliant. All food you will love but with a healthy twist. I’m not going to pretend they take 30 minutes to make (although lets be honest his 30 minute meals take an hour!) but they are worth it. I’m trying to make things the night before or first thing in the morning so they are ready for teatime. So far a big hit was his super shepherds pie. Packed full of so much veg with a potato and swede topping. I did switch the minced lamb for lean mince beef but that’s just a personal choice. I was telling Lolly she could switch it for quorn or even lentils if she wanted a veggie option. You wouldn’t notice the lack of butter in the mash and the girls didn’t notice the veg either. As I type I am currently cooking up the cauliflower and lentil dahl and last night I tucked in to the vegetable chilli. They all make huge portions so plenty for everyone.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
My girls love gnocchi and I only recently realised how easy it is to make. You can make traditional potato Gnocchi but I’m opting for a butternut squash version. Halve a butternut squash, remove the seeds and roast in the oven until the flesh is all soft. Once it has cooled a bit scoop out the flesh and give it a good mash. If you want you can puree it to make it really smooth but I don’t mind a few lumps. Stir in one egg and about four heaped teaspoons of plain flour/rice flour/gluten free flour. You want it to be a doughy consistency and once you have this roll it in to a sausage shape and cut in to small chunks. Pop on a tray in the fridge for about an hour. To cook you can either heat in a pan with a little bit of olive oil or dunk in to boiling water for a few minutes. Delicious served with tomato sauce, Bolognese or just a bit of butter.
Cauliflower and Macaroni Cheese
Ok, so not low fat but this is a firm favourite in our house. Its great as a mid week supper as you can make it up ready to pop in the oven at tea time. First up I cook cauliflower florets and macaroni pasta. While it is cooking I’ll make a white sauce using milk, butter and a bit of plain flour. Once that is the right consistency stir through some grated cheese. Drain the pasta and cauliflower and put in an overproof dish. Pour over the sauce and cook for 30-40 minutes at about 160c.
Leek & Potato Soup
This is a proper winter warmer but chunky enough to be good for dinnertime. I made it for the Rock My Style girls when they came over the other day and they loved it. Its my mum’s recipe and I remember coming home to find this on the hob was always a good night. First up trim and slice 3 leeks and add to a pan with a little knob of butter. Once these have cooked down and are nice and soft pour over about a litre of vegetable stock (you can top up to get your consistency right later on). Slice or halve a bag of baby new potatoes and add in. I also pop a handful of red lentils in. Let this all cook down for about 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the lentils cooked in. Check your consistency and add a bit more stock if you like. I then stir through a couple of heaped tablespoons of cream cheese and the juice of half a lemon to add a bit of a tang. You can just reheat on the hob when needed. Obviously yummy served with crusty bread but just as good without.
Lentil Stuffed Peppers
This is one of my absolute favourite mid week suppers. Super quick and delicious and I always have the leftovers for lunch the next day. If your kids are more adventurous than mine you could probably get them to eat it but for now the girls tend to just have some of the lentil mixture. It’s great for younger ones too as it goes all soft and gooey. First up I put about 200g of red lentils in a pan. Cover them with vegetable stock and let them cook till they are thick and creamy. You can add in any veg you like to the mix too. I tend to grate in a courgette and sometimes some chopped celery. Let it all cook together. Meanwhile halve and deseed two peppers and place in an overproof dish. Chop some beetroot and feta cheese and stir through the lentil mixture. Pile this in and around the peppers and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at 160c until the tops of the lentils start start to brown.
Cheats Chicken Pie
This is one of those super speedy suppers that you can have ready in no time. If you kids love a bit of pastry on their pie then this is for you. In a pan cook up some chicken chunks with a little bit of garlic. Add a tin of sweetcorn and some chopped broccoli florets. Once cooked place in an ovenproof dish. Pour over a tin of condensed mushroom soup (yep cheating all the way!). Finally grab some ready made puff pastry and place over the top. I buy the frozen packs and keep ready for when I need them. Then cook in the oven as per the pastry instructions.
Lorna’s Chicken Sausage Casserole
Lorna popped this recipe on our group chat the other day and I’m definitely going to be giving it a go. I love a sausage casserole but it can sometimes feel a bit rich. Lorna opts for chicken sausages for a healthier version. Basically pop chicken sausages, chopped carrots, peppers, courgettes, red onion and celery in a casserole dish. Add a tin chopped tomotoes and then fill the tin with water to top up. Pop in some vegetable stock cubes, garlic italian seasoning, a bit of corn flower to thicken and pop in the oven for 1hour on gas mark 6 / 200 degrees. Apparently it goes down a storm with the kids.
I recently rediscovered this recipe after finding the Waitrose recipe card stuffed inside a cook book. You can get the full recipe here but I have changed it very slightly to not use the breadcrumbs. Mix two tins of tuna with one egg and four tablespoons of rice flour. You can add chopped spring onions if you like but the girls aren’t a fan. In the past I have added some finely sliced spinach or grated courgette to up the green intake. Shape in to small balls, about 16 is right. To cook heat some oil in a pan and gently cook through till they are brown on the outside. I serve it with some homemade tomato sauce. The girls have pasta and I make courgetti for myself. If your kids love pasta I have been buying the Pastella brand of fresh pasta for the girls which is made from 40% vegetables. They love it. Lorna also mentioned some amazing butternut squash lasagne sheets in her local Sainsburys that she uses in a turkey mince lasagne. I feel I need to make a visit.
That’s just a few suggestions for you but I would love to hear what you have been cooking up in the kitchen and any sure fire winners with the kids. Also, does anyone have any easy swaps for healthy alternatives to the usual ingredients?