Family meal plan ideas

At the end of a long day, especially during the week, I love nothing more than sitting down as family and eating our evening meal together. It is a time when we all get to catch up and hear about each others day. Growing up, we more often than not ate all together at the table and this was something I wanted to make sure I did with my own children. Nowadays there are too many distractions: televisions, computers, phones and tablets, that stop us communicating as a family. On a rare occasion, usually at a weekend, we will eat our tea in front of the television but I do try to keep this to weekends only. I love laying the table (very sad I know!), cooking new dishes as well as some old time favourites and really make meal times a highlight of our evening. I do have a fussy four year old to contend with, who would happily live on a diet of some kind of processed meat in breadcrumbs but at least he does love his veggies! So when I am cooking I try to make something I know he will eat or at least eat part of. If he doesn’t like what we are having I do put something in the oven for him but we try to encourage him to at least TRY a new food. The baby on the other hand seems to be eating whatever we give her…fingers crossed this lasts.

I plan our meals for the week on a Friday when I do the food shop. This is also a great way to budget, save money and reduce your food waste by forward planning. Here are some of our favourite family recipes, (most of these meals are suitable for freezing, so are good for batch cooking for the days you can’t be bothered to cook.)

  1. Chicken Casserole 

For this I heat a tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil in a large oven proof pan and gently cook a chopped up leek. Once the leek has gone soft I add diced chicken (enough for four servings approx 400g) and cook for around five to ten minutes until the meat is sealed. Then I chuck in whatever vegetables need using up in the fridge but these usually include carrot, sweet potato and green beans. To make the sauce: melt two large tablespoons of butter in a small pan then stir in enough plain flour to make a dough ball. Add to this some chicken stock, a bit at a time, until you have the right sauce consistency. I like to add a small amount of black pepper at this stage. Pour this over your chicken and vegetables and stir well. Put in the oven at 180 degrees for approx fifty minutes to one hour. Serve with either rice or baked potato and broccoli.

2. Spaghetti Bolognese 

Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large frying pan or saucepan. Add a chopped up onion and two cloves of garlic. Saute until soft but not brown. Add mince (sometimes I use turkey mince for a healthier option), and cook until brown. Drain off excess liquid. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes (400g) and two large tablespoons of tomato puree. If I am cooking for just adults I often add a good splash of red wine at this stage but when cooking for the family I obviously leave this stage out.  Next I add some chopped up peppers, grated carrot and a good helping of mixed herbs. If it is looking too dry for your liking add a small amount of beef stock and let it simmer for around ten minutes. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti according to the packet and drain. Serve the spaghetti with the bolognese sauce on top and finish with either grated cheese or parmesan.

3. Sweet potato, spinach and chicken curry  

Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add a chopped onion and cook for two minutes then add diced chicken, (again around 400g). Cook until the chicken is sealed then add two garlic cloves (crushed) and half a jar, which is around two-three tablespoons, of korma paste. If you want a spicy curry obviously add the paste you prefer. Cook this for two minutes. Peel and chop a sweet potato into small cubes and add to the pan along with a tin of chopped tomatoes (400g), and around 150ml of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for half an hour. Stir regularly and top up with a bit of water if it starts to get too dry. Once it is cooked and the sweet potato is soft, remove from the heat and add half a bag of baby spinach, stirring until it is well mixed in and wilted. Serve with rice and naan bread.

4. Summer Spaghetti  

As suggested by the name, this meal is one for the summer.

In a large saucepan, cook spaghetti (enough for four servings) according to the packet instructions. When the spaghetti has six minutes cooking time left, add two large handfuls (as you can tell a lot of my ingredients are measured by judgement!) of sliced green beans and continue cooking. Meanwhile, fry five to six rashers of chopped up bacon in a small frying pan. Once cooked set to one side. Drain the spaghetti and green beans and return to the heat, on the lowest setting. Add the bacon and cooking juices to the saucepan along with 250g of sliced cherry tomatoes and finally stir in 170g of tzatziki and season with black pepper. Easy peasy!

If you are still looking for some more inspiration a few of my favourite cook books are listed below:  This is an Annabel Karmel book on weaning which has been my bible for weaning both children and has some delicious recipes that I find can be adapted for whole family meals too.  This is one of Tana Ramsay’s cook books, which is a favourite of my Mum’s and she bought me my own copy. This book is called “Hugh’s Three Good Things” and was given to me on my 21st birthday by my Auntie and Uncle, it has since been my go to recipe book when I am looking for something a bit different.

July 9, 2017
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