meal planning with children

As part of my lifestyle overhaul and effort to be more organised. I’ve been looking at every aspect of my life and obviously that involves food and the amount of time I spend cooking it, shopping for it and persuading children to eat it. Which some weeks can be an enormous chunk of my time.

Being the mum of really quite picky children whose likes and dislikes change on an almost hourly basis it is really difficult to know what to cook. Trying to balance my ideas, their ideas of what food they like to eat and trying to incorporate good nutrition as well as cut down on then time I spend on preparation and cooking. And also bearing in mind that often meals need to be reheated later for Mr ReallyQuiteFickle, well it’s all just got a little out of hand.

Things need to change, they need to be less complicated and I need to accept that sometimes I need to cut corners and that this is okay!

So I’ve started by signing back up to Ocado so that I don’t have to do food shopping with 3 children and I can also keep a firm grasp of costs. I’ve also had everyone in the family write me a list of what foods they like both for lunches and dinners and I’ve gone through the lists to make a meal plan which should suit everyone… hopefully.

I’ve cut corners on the amount I cook from scratch and I’ve allowed them to choose some convenience style foods which they like, working on the **little of what you fancy does you good** principle.

The shopping was delivered this morning, the plan has been actioned and I’m really hoping it makes things easier and leaves me with more time.

routine me…

It is chaos living in my house, I forget things, I can never find things, I can never decide on anything and I change my mind constantly….

It wasn’t always like this… well okay then it probably was but as the number of children has risen and my number of hours asleep diminished the time has finally come (as pointed out by my health visitor*) that I could really do with a little bit of routine in my days.

*once I’d finished being annoyed with her and thought about what she said I can’t help but agree…

The only routine thing in this house is the routine fact that there is none. Everything is done on a whim, from bedtimes to mealtimes to well everything. I think of myself as far too creative and free-spirited to be able to do routine but consequently I have no time to be creative or free-spirited as lack of routine means every aspect of my home life is hard work and utterly muddled!

So over the next few weeks I’m going to make positive changes to make things better and to create time. It starts with a complete overhaul of the house, a massive clear-out, a move around and thorough organisation of belongings and time. Yes. Martha Stewart is my new best friend.

rustic chicken and pepper pasta sauce

In my book rustic at the start of a recipe means you can chop lazily, and plate up sloppily. A lot of what I make is most definitely rustic.

This is a nice rich pasta sauce, ideal served with pappardelle or if you’re feeling particularly lazy and can’t be bothered swirling a fork a nice short fat pasta.

what you need: (serves 4)

  • 4 chicken breasts (skinless)
  • 2 peppers (red or yellow)
  • 2 red onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 big carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sprig of rosemary
  • olive oil
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes

what you do:

  • preheat oven to 180C
  • heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large oven proof pan
  • chop the chicken into bitesize chunks and start to brown in the pan on a low heat
  • peel and chop the onion and carrots add them to the pan
  • finely chop the celery and add to the pan
  • throw in the cloves of garlic whole and unpeeled
  • roughly chop the peppers and add them to the pan
  • once the chicken is starting to cook and the vegetables softened add the tinned tomatoes a tin of water, sprig of rosemary, bay leaves, salt & pepper.
  • place the pan into the oven and cook for around 2 hours.

to serve:

Swirl into cooked pasta, sprinkle with parmesan or a nice zesty gremolata of rosemary and lemon. Also nice just as it is with the addition of crusty bread, perhaps a glass of red.


lunch – 15th November 2012

I know I menu planned. Even whilst I plan it I know I’ll never stick to it, it’s like a rule telling me what to do and the second something becomes just a little bit bossy I lose interest. So lunch today was this…

French bread spread with Boursin, grapes, tomatoes drizzled in garlic infused oil and balsamic vinegar sprinkled with just a touch of seasalt. A few black olives, a dollop of caramelised onions, a dollop of leftover homemade hummus and some grapes.

Serving as a reminder that fast food never needs to be junk.

roast chicken pizza

I’m a huge fan of pizza as I’ve said before. It’s a great way of using up leftovers, which is exactly what the one above is – *leftovers pizza*

what you need:

– dough

  • 400g bread flour
  • 3/4 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • good fat pinch of salt
  • approx. 200ml of tepid water

– tomato sauce base

– the topping

  • leftover roast chicken
  • chargrilled peppers from a jar
  • 250g mozzarella
  • dried oregano
  • pea shoots

what to do:

  • put the flour, yeast, salt, olive oil into a large bowl and tip in the water drop at a time to mix the ingredients by hand into a stiff dough – turn the dough onto a work surface and knead for 5 minutes.
  • transfer back into the bowl and cover in cling film put the bowl into a warm place and leave for around an hour.

to assemble…

  • tip out your dough onto a work surface and split into two equal portions
  • roll the dough out thinly to the shape of your baking tray
  • transfer to a baking tray
  • top with the sauce, peppers and torn strips of mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano
  • bake until the cheese in golden and the bread risen
  • once out of the oven – top with shredded roast chicken and sprinkle with pea shoots

to serve:

This is nice with potato wedges and a rather tasty little dish of coleslaw

Of course as this is leftovers pizza just use whatever you have – roast beef & rocket, roast pork & chinese leaves….

Perfect Monday lunch or dinner.

parsnip and parmesan mash

Quick vegetable side dish – use in place of mashed potato or in addition too…. it’s entirely up to you.

what you need: – feeds 4

  • 4 big parsnips
  • 2 handfuls of grated parmesan
  • a big drizzle of olive oil

what you do:

  • peel and chop the parsnip and boil until soft
  • drain & tip in the parmesan and a good drizzle of olive oil and season.
  • mash together until smooth

to serve:

This is nice spread on top of cottage pie style filling and browned under the grill.

chicken thyme casserole

This is a basic, really easy to make and filling chicken casserole. It easily serves four with leftovers making a pie filling for four for another meal – it’s frugal!

what you need:

  • 4 chicken breasts – skinless (or use 6-8 thigh fillets – skinless)
  • 2 large onions
  • 6 big carrots
  • 2 leeks
  • glass of wine (if wish – otherwise make up difference with stock)
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • handful of thyme leaves or couple of teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • for the dumplings – 4 tbs plain flour, 4 tbs self-raising flour, 1/4 pk butter, tsp dried oregano.

what you do:

  • preheat the oven to 180C
  • warm a splash of olive oil in a large oven proof pan – chop the chicken in to chunks and throw it in the pan to start cooking.
  • peel and chop the onions and garlic and add them to the pan.
  • slice the leeks and carrots add to the pan
  • pour in the wine if using
  • add the chicken stock and a hand full of thyme leaves – season with salt & pepper
  • transfer pan to the oven and cook for around 2 hours
  • when there is 45 minutes remaining add the dumplings


  • put the flours and butter into a mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  • add the oregano and season with salt and pepper
  • tip in cold water and drop at a time and mix into a firm dough
  • take ping-pong sized chunks of dough and roll between floured hands into a ball shape.
  • add the dumplings to the stew when there is 45 minutes cooking time remaining – when adding them check liquid level and if necessary top up with boiling water.

to serve:

this casserole is lovely with parsnip & parmesan mash or simple mashed potatoes, chips or perhaps a roast potato or five….

leftover stew can be used as a pie filling making another meal – simply reheat filling – add pie crust & bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Nutella cakes

I love these little cakes. They serve as the perfect vehicle for transporting Nutella to the body and are ridiculously simple to make.

what you need: makes 12

  • 4 oz self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 heaped tbs cocoa
  • 4 oz butter
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs milk
  • approx. 6 heaped tsp of Nutella

what you do:

  • preheat oven to 180C
  • cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl
  • beat the eggs with the vanilla and pour slowly into the butter and sugar mixing well
  • sieve in the flour, baking powder and cocoa and mix well
  • add the milk and beat into a smooth batter
  • put a dollop of the cake batter into each cake case making sure it covers the whole of the bottom
  • add 1/2 tsp of Nutella to each cake
  • top with the remaining cake batter
  • bake for approx 15 minutes until well risen and set

to serve:

for me these really have to be straight out of the oven and served with ice-cream so the Nutella is still warm and runny. But you can eat yours however you like…

hash browns

This week today my fad is eating less bread and so breakfast today was hash browns. What’s not to like about fried salty potatoes?

what you need: serves 1 (well maybe 2)

  • 3 largish new potatoes
  • a small onion
  • 1 egg
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • olive oil for frying

what you do:

  • peel and slice the onion into thin moons
  • wash the potatoes and keeping the skins on coarsely grate
  • squeeze the moisture out of the grated potatoes using hands/kitchen towel
  • mix in the beaten egg and some salt & black pepper.
  • warm a splosh of olive oil in a frying pan – dollop little piles of the mixture into the hot oil and squash down the a fork a little to flatten.
  • fry on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes each side until cooked through.

to serve:

piled on a plate maybe an extra dusting of salt and definitely a cup of coffee not tea. You could always make this more substantial by adding a spot of bacon, maybe a poached egg or a splat of beans or perhaps throw a chopped chilli into the hash brown mix and drizzle over a trickle of maple syrup when cooked.