While I like the idea of having a family dinner time, it’s not really practical for our family at the moment. My kids are young and like to be in bed between 6.30-7pm, they still get messy enough at dinner to need a bath afterwards, and my husband isn’t generally home from work until around 6pm. So, for the moment, the kids have dinner around 5pm and my husband and I eat later. For the kids I often heat up some of our leftover dinner from the night before or serve a portion of our dinner to them and keep it warm for us to eat later.
Although I always serve vegetables with their dinner, I do often ‘hide’ pureed vegetables in the meal too. I still have a stockpile of frozen veggie puree cubes in the freezer so they’re easy to add. Curries are great for hiding veggies in, and I add pureed cauliflower to bechamel cheese sauce. Finely grated vegetables are also a great addition to many meals – I use a microplane grater to get really fine shavings of vegetables. I mix microplaned carrot and zucchini to tomato paste, dried italian herbs and seasoning for use on pizzas and pizza scrolls. I also add them to the pot when cooking my asian 2 minute noodles.
The other night I was cooking chicken and leek pie for dinner. This dish is delicious but when I serve it to the kids as leftovers it ends up looking a bit like mush! I don’t have a microwave so generally reheat it on the stove and have to mix everything together. Feeling inspired I cooked up the sauce in the TMX with the chicken steaming on top (one of my daughter’s mostly eats vegetarian food so I often keep the meat separate). I top the pie with feta and filo pastry then bake in the oven for dinner, but to serve early for the kids I decided to bake some puff pastry ‘pie tops’. I just used frozen puff pastry, cut circles with a large cookie cutter, placed on a lined tray, brushed with egg and baked for 12-15 min at 200C. I served the pie filling in the kids bowls, let them add their own feta and chicken, then popped a pie top on. It was a huge hit. My general rule is that the kids have to clean their bowl before they get another serving with another pie top. I use the same rule for soup and bread – clean your bowl before getting more bread. It usually works well but can end with tantrums so be prepared to stand your ground!
Of course, I don’t have the time and energy to make little pie toppers and the like every night, but it is fun from time to time. I try to have a few quick kids meal options on hand too for those nights when you come in late and need a fast, nutritious dinner. Some ideas include having frozen pasta sauce in the freezer, I always have my winning pasta sauce and bechamel sauce frozen in cubes ready to use. Asian 2 minute noodles are really quick and easy. Of course you can’t go past eggs on toast for dinner either. Another quick and delicious recipe is Quirky Cooking’s Baked Beans – so good you’ll be wanting them for dinner too. I often save leftover mash to go with these beans. I also try to have mini frittatas or quiches in the freezer – you can pop these on a baking tray and heat under the grill to make a yummy dinner. Last, but not least, pesto of any kind is great to have frozen or in a jar to mix through pasta or spread on flat bread, sprinkle with cheese and bake like pizza.
Well, hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas. All the recipes I post on this blog are things I cook for my family, and most of my kids eat most of the dishes! Hope yours like them too 🙂