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.

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

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.

the accidental attachment parent

This is me. I am the accidental one. I never intended to be a baby wearer, a co-sleeper an extended part of my baby but that is what has happened.

My first two children now seven and nine didn’t do any of these things, they slept in cots in their own rooms, they travelled about in a pram quite contentedly and in fact were quite independent from me – happy to go off and play, amuse themselves etc. Then we get to baby three. He’s an entirely different little personality, he is a complete attachment child. He can’t sleep unless he’s in our bed, he’s only content if he can see us, he detests being put into a pram, cot, play pen where he isn’t with us and so I’ve morphed into an attachment parent.

But thinking about things, is attachment parenting how it’s supposed to be? Is it right to put a tiny baby into a barred cot in a separate room from his mother or father? Is it right to put a baby into cots, playpens, prams etc so you can  get on with whatever it is you wanted to do? Is it right to send him to a nursery from a very young age to be cared for by a stranger.

If left to nature is attachment parenting not how things would be? Would the young sleep with the parents, travel around by being carried and held, observe the world from the arms of mum and dad?

Or… Is it because this is baby number three and our last baby that we’ve been so much more laid back and wanted the easy option? In the night when the baby has cried I honestly have not been able to be bothered sitting up in a chair rocking him back to sleep for what could be hours on end. I’ve wanted to sleep, I’ve wanted to be comfy in my bed and so have popped him in with me. I can’t be bothered listening to tantrums and unnecessary crying because he’s bored or wants to do something with me instead of on his own and so he is always kept happy by being with us and 99% of the time he is really happy and laid back in a way I don’t remember the other two being.

Also because we’ve had two other children we feel no pressure to be checking child development books to see if we are establishing all the “correct” behaviours and milestones at the correct times. Or is it simply that we’ve created a rod for our own back by being lazy and relaxed as many people like to tell me, daily.

Autumn seaside – National Trust – Formby

This post doesn’t need all that many words. Formby is stunning, the autumn weather gorgeous and the children happy*

*well when I say happy, obviously that incorporates a wide range of sulking, arguing, fighting, tantruming and general Veruca Salt style behaviour in amongst the happy. But the happy was very happy – paddling, shell collecting and for a certain small boy the sitting in the sea fully clothed experience….

Formby is a brilliant place to visit and an absolute must if you are around the Southport area. It’s so easy to spend a day here – picnics, walks, beach, red squirrels, forests and obviously ice-cream.

spicy tomato and lentil soup

Simple, easy to make, filling.

what you need (serves 4):

  • small onion
  • 2 carrots
  • a large ripe plum tomato or two
  • a couple of handfuls of puy lentils
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of dried sage
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a splash of red wine
  • salt & pepper
  • a small crumbled chilli

what you do:

  • peel and chop the onion and carrots
  • chunkily chop the plum tomatoes
  • add a splash of olive oil to a saucepan – slowly fry the onions, carrots and plum tomato with the garlic and sage for 10 – 15 minutes
  • add the red wine, tin of chopped tomatoes, crumbled chilli and puy lentils
  • top up the pan with enough boiling water to cover everything well (approx 1-1 1/2 pints)
  • season with salt & pepper and leave to simmer for an hour – do keep an eye on it you made need to top up the water depending on the quantity of lentils you use.

to serve:

  • my preference is sprinkled with a mound of double gloucester cheese with plenty of homemade bread to dip in. I also send this in flasks for the children’s packed lunch.

the ghost of bloody Mary

Halloween is drawing near and so talk at school has turned to ghosts, one ghost in particular, the ghost of bloody Mary. Not as I had assumed the vile hangover following a few too many tomato juice & vodkas but an actual ghost who haunts the boys bedroom.

She came home from school with him yesterday after a day filled with scary stories. She is now a firm fixture behind the curtains, possibly in the wardrobe and sometimes under the bed waiting to drag the boy from his covers in the dead of night and into the underworld. She casts all manner of terrifying shadows and has been known to whisper evil things in demonic dog like voices….

I’d like to thank Mary personally for making my bed even more crowded than usual. I just love it now there’s one more in there with us, sleeping with just the baby and a husband wasn’t quite squashed up and uncomfortable enough. I like to have half my body hanging off the bed, I enjoy sleeping with one foot on the floor in a desperate attempt to hold on to a remaining few inches of bed with my name on them and now thanks to bloody Mary that’s all the more possible.

cinnamon and raisin cookies

Perfect for autumn. They shout at you to pop your pyjamas on, snuggle up on the sofa with a cup of tea and tell you that it’s fine to eat a stash of these one after the other. They want to help you keep your strength up, to get you through cold tiring days. Yes, these cookies just want to be eaten.

what you need:

  • 4oz butter
  • 3oz muscavado sugar
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 6oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3oz oats
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 bar of Green & Blacks milk chocolate (my preference)
  • 3oz raisin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

what you do:

  • preheat oven to 180C
  • put the butter and sugars into a mixing bowl and mix together until creamy and fluffy.
  • add the egg and mix well
  • tip in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and oats & stir
  • add the raisins, chop up the chocolate bar into smallish chunks and tip in – stir well to combine everything
  • using floured hands – roll pingpong ball sized amounts of dough and place on greased baking sheet – well spaced.
  • using the back of a fork squash the top of the balls so they flatten slightly
  • bake for approx 10-12 minutes until just turning golden for chewy or browned for crispy.

to serve:

feet up, cup of tea or pop in packed lunches. One will never be sufficient.