Family dinners #1 – Oat, cheese and veg meatballs

What are family dinners??  Essentially meals that work for both children and adults – without being too scary for the child and too boring for the adult. Meals that are quickly prepared, healthy (give or take sometimes!) and tasty. Often the protein side of the meal is the same for both little and big and by simply substituting the side dish the whole meal becomes more adult friendly. I hope you will find it useful and inspiring…and with some luck…cut down on your need to think of two evening meals a day (hence also more economical). And who could not do with saving a bit these days…

Why this blog series?

Whether or not my memories are correct I cannot say, but in my mind evening meals (when I was a child) were had together – mother, father and siblings – and it was a time to catch up and be together. No different plates of food for different individuals around the table, not one parent eating alone later. No – one meal. No fuss (or maybe there was but I have erased that bit!).

When we had our first daughter my husband purposefully changed (or managed) his working hours so that he would always be around for dinner time. We sat together every evening. With our second child we managed to keep this going – maybe not every night, but most. The third one – slightly more tricky. We try. We try very hard because we believe it is fundamental to our family’s happiness that we have this time together around the table.

For one it is a great and relatively pain-free way of teaching table manners – they always watch us eat and hence learn by looking. Secondly, it means they always have a varied and healthy meal – one I put quite a bit of energy and attention into making as I know my husband and I also want to enjoy it. Lastly, and most importantly, I really enjoy sitting around a full table and looking at my family. Makes me happy.

I know that not everyone is able and lucky to be home early enough to eat with their children. I know many find it painful and prefer eating alone with their partner. But I am pretty sure that those cooking the evening meal would love to just cook ONE meal a day and not have to find inspiration for two…(one for children and one for adults!).

Hence this blog series.

This first recipe I love. I have made meatballs since I was 12 or 13 and it is easy. Very easy. You can throw pretty much anything into the mixing bowl and not ruin them. Make them tiny and put them on skewers to make it fun for the children. Make them large and flat, stick them into pita bread with some salad and they become burgers. Make them small and round and they go well with pasta and tomato sauce. Make them standard size and they are lovely with a salad, oven baked chips, rice, cous cous…. They are even great cold – I often have them on rye bread for lunch the next day. Oh and almost forgot – they are healthy!! At least the way I make them.

This particular combination is relatively new – oats being used rather than flour to make them healthier and lighter in the tummy. Enjoy!

Oat, Cheese and Vegetable Meatballs

500g mince (I often use 250g beef and 250g pork as this gives great flavour. 500g minced beef can be used though)
2 grated carrots
1/2 an onion finely chopped
1 crushed garlic clove
1 egg
125g porridge oats
1-2 tsp salt
1 big handful grated cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
Milk to combine – 1 small cup maybe – trial and error!
Lots of fresh, finely chopped herbs – whatever you have! I love sage and thyme (my garden is full of it)
 
  • Pre-heat oven to 200C (by using the oven you cut down on fat (no frying) as well as wasted time spent in front of the hob.
  • Let the children pick the herbs if you have a veg garden – mine love chosing which ones to use. They are getting really good at it. Let them pick the leaves off the stems (hateful job honestly but they seem to love it. Keeps them occupied for ages!) – chop them finely.
  • Place all the ingredients, except the milk, in a big mixing bowl
  • Stir….let the children stir…
  • Add milk slowly until the mixture comes together to form a huge meat ball.
  • Depending on what shape/size you want there are a few ways of making your meat balls. Two table spoons work well for the perfectionist… Hands work well for those that don’t mind getting stuck in, and teaspoons great for making tiny ones.
  • Dip the spoons in water, scoop up some meat mixture, shape between the spoons and lay on a lined baking tray (greaseproof baking paper works best, aluminium OK).
  • If using hands, scoop, cup – lay on tray. Remember to wash hands well afterwards….
  • Place the baking tray in the hot oven and cook for 20ish minutes – if tiny a lot less, if huge a bit more…The best test is to take one out, slice in half and if the meat is no longer pink they are done.
  • Serve with anything!!! I usually serve mine either with pasta or with home-made oven chips and salad.

(You can really experiment with this one! Chilli works, mozzarella ball stuffed into the middle probably yummy, grated courgette, mushrooms – sky is the limit)

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Blueberry Delight – guest blog by Sienna aged 6

Sienna, my 6 year old, is clearly affected by my always taking pictures of food and blogging about it! This morning she asked if she could write a blog – with her very own made up recipe… The best part for me was watching my three doing something together without my intervention. It was great and made my day!

Here is the result! She created the recipe, made it, directed the photography shoots and wrote the blog herself! Enjoy!

Warning to parents – as all three children crowded around the table, in Sienna’s words, as they were “cooking” – “oohh this is messy”….. 🙂

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This is my first blog recipie, and my brother and sister love it, so I hope you do too! It is only for children!

you will need   

blueberrys

icing sugar

honey

what to do

dip a blueberry into the

honey and get your hands in to turn

the blueberry and make it sticky!

now take it out and drop it into

the icing sugar, roll it to make it sweet and pretty then…you’re done!

if you want to, try with jam and strawberrys.

Pomegranate #4 – Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad

If you are scared of fennel and/or believe you do not like it – try this recipe! It will bring you round to the absolutely gorgeous fresh and crunchy taste that is fennel and you will never look back!

A few words about fennel, if nothing else than to broaden the mind and make you appreciate this little, fat, white bulb!

  • Fennel is widely cultivated for its edible, strongly flavoured leaves and fruits and its aniseed flavour comes from anethol, an aromatic compound also found in star anise. Its taste and aroma is therefore similar to this, though not as strong.
  • Health benefits of fennel include relief from anemia, indigestion, wind, constipation, colic, diarrhea, respiratory disorders and menstrual disorders.
  • Using fennel in food helps protect eyes from inflammation this due to the presence of both ani oxidants and vitamin C which are both very beneficial for the rejuvenation of tissues and prevention of aging – read more about vitamin C here and anti oxidants here).
  • If you suffer from indigestion, or bad breath (or both!), try chewing fennel seeds after your meal – this is apparently common in India.

I have used a few recipes as inspiration (telegraph, bbc, woman’s hour website) but combined my own favourite bits to make this a really stunning starter, a quick lunch or even an afternoon bite of food (if you are going to be having a late dinner maybe?)

The best thing about the recipe is the seasonality of it – it is a real winter salad with oranges being at their best at the moment, and fennel readily available. Furthermore the children love the sweet crunch – and it looks beautiful with the emerald pomegranate seeds scattered around. It is bright and fresh, in taste and colour, and will bring a smile to your face.

Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad

1 fennel bulb – medium – washed, centre removed
2 oranges
Seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate
Lump of feta cheese
 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp runny honey
 
(fresh chilli is a lovely addition as are a few fresh mint sprigs)
 
  • Wash the fennel bulb and core it – this is easily done by cutting the bulb in half and removing core as you would that of an apple
  • Slice the fennel thinly – julienne style strips – and throw them in a bowl
  • Peel the oranges with a knife removing all of the white pith. Cut in between the membranes to release each small section of orange – do this over the fennel bowl so as to catch the juices as they drip
  • Break the feta into small pieces and throw into the fennel bowl
  • Clean and prepare the pomegranate seeds (read more here) and add to the bowl
  • In a jar combine the olive oil lemon juice, red wine vinegar and honey and shake – pour this dressing over the salad and toss gently
  • Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled – if you want to, add the mint for presentation and flavour and the chilli for an extra kick! It is lovely on its own but also gorgeous with fish or meat.

Pomegranate #3 – Delicate White Chocolate Cheesecake

I am a lover of cheesecake – any kind – fluffy, light, a bit of crunch, lovely to look at….

This one does not disappoint, with the ricotta and white chocolate combination being spot on – the addition of the pomegranate creates a really beautiful asset to any table top!

Adapted from a BBC Good Food Recipe

White Chocolate and Ricotta Cheesecake

75g melted butter
75g amaretti biscuits
200g digestive biscuits
 
200g white chocolate – melted
5 leaves gelatine
6tbsp milk
500g ricotta
300ml double cream
50g icing sugar
2 large eggs – separated
 
Handful pomegranate seeds
White chocolate stars
 
  • Heat oven to 200C
  • Melt the butter
  • Crush both types of biscuit finely (bag and rolling pin!) and stir into the butter
  • Press the combination firmly into a greased tin – mine was 25cm in diametre
  • Place in oven and bake blind for 6 minutes – let cool on wire rack
  • Soak gelatine in a few tbsp cold water
  • Melt chocolate and milk over a pot of simmering water – stir together
  • Squeeze gelatine and add to chocolate mixture – stir to combine
  • In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, ricotta, cream and sugar together
  • In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff
  • Combine the chocolate with the ricotta mixture – then gently fold in the egg whites
  • Pour this batter onto the cooled biscuit base in the tin
  • Cover with cling film and leave cold – overnight if you can
  • When ready to serve, remove gently from tin and scatter generously with chocolate stars and pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate #2 – Quick dip!

Girls night in? Afternoon snack? Buffet lunch? This is your recipe!

Stunning in colour and taste, very quick to make, stress free preparation = more time time to ENJOY what really matters!

150g soft goat cheese
250g ricotta
Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
1 bunch of chives
1 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
(Found on BBC Good Food website)
 
  • Mash the goat’s cheese and ricotta together in a bowl
  • Roughly spread over a large plate
  • Wash and prepare the pomegranate seeds (read tips here) and chives
  • Scatter chives and seeds over the goat’s cheese and ricotta and set aside until ready to serve
  • Stir together the honey and vinegar –  drizzle over the plate just as you serve it
  • Serve with crusty bread, thin crisps, bread sticks or toasted rye bread

Rye #3 – Quinoa, rye and seed quiche pastry

This third rye recipe I have used for years and come back to again and again. It is really easy, looks beautiful, tastes great, is healthy and can be used for many different occasions – buffet lunch, breakfast, brunch or an easy dinner when served with a side salad.

Prepare the pastry the night before and leave in a cold oven with a tea towel over it until needed. This will make it stay crisp as well as reduce stress levels if you are making them for a special occasion. Simply pop the filling in 45 minutes before you want to eat and stick it in the oven.

Everyone in our house has their own favourite filling so I often make two or three. They taste great cold the next day and you can also pop it into the lunch box if you fancy.

Filled with rye (read benefits here) and seeds as well as, depending on your choice of filling,  fresh vegetables, cheese, eggs or bacon, it is hard not to ENJOY!

Quiche Pastry – makes 1 quiche

110g plain flour
55g rye flour
Handful of quinoa
1 tbsp of both sunflower and pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
Cold water to combine pastry
 
  • Preheat oven to 200C and grease and line pastry tin.
  • In a bowl combine flour, seeds, salt and quinoa. Slowly add olive oil and water and knead by hand until all ingredients form a dough ball that is not sticky.
  • Lightly flour your working surface and roll out dough with rolling pin. Transfer into pastry tin, it does not matter if this happens in smaller pieces that you mold together in the tin, ensuring that the dough not only covers the base but also goes half way up the sides – this to ensure your filling does not overspill. Save a small piece of the pastry for “mending” holes – see below!
  • Prick with a fork and pre-bake (empty) for 15 minutes (should be light brown).

  • When out of the oven you may notice that the pastry has contracted slightly in places – mend the holes with a bit of the raw pastry if this is the case – to ensure no holes.

Egg/cream topping mixture

This mixture goes on top of the various types of quiches – depending on filling. If you do not eat eggs, or want to avoid the calories from eggs and cream – I suggest making the spinach quiche as you can omit the topping for this one and simply sprinkle with some cheese. The spinach is moist enough on its own.

4 eggs and 200ml double cream (for egg/bacon, leek/bacon and tomato/onion quiche)
2 eggs and 4 tbsp double cream (for spinach quiche)
Grated cheddar cheese
 
  • Simply beat the eggs and cream together with a fork in a bowl

Filling Ingredients

Egg and Bacon quiche – great for breakfast or brunch

200g pack bacon lardons
200ml creme fraiche
Pinch ground nutmeg
 
  • Pre-heat oven to 200C
  • Fry bacon in a pan until brown
  • Put on paper towel to dry off excess oil
  • Add bacon and creme fraiche to egg/ double creme mixture (as above)
  • Season with nutmeg
  • Pour the filling into the pastry in the tin and sprinkle cheese on top
  • Bake in pre-heated oven for 40-45 minutes

Egg and Bacon

Simply egg is also good 

Spinach, feta and sun dried tomatoes quiche – great lunch or dinner

500 g of chopped, frozen spinach
20 sun dried tomatoes – or more if you like
Feta cheese to taste
Salt, nutmeg
 
  • Thaw spinach in a bowl
  • When defrosted add chopped sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese broken into pieces (quantity depends on your personal preference)
  • Season with salt and nutmeg
  • Put filling into the pastry in the tin
  • Pour over egg/cream filling and sprinkle cheese on top – or simply sprinkle with cheese and avoid the egg and cream all together.
  • Bake for 35 minutes if you added the egg/cream but only for 20 if you did not.

You can omit sun dried tomatoes and add pine nuts as I did here 

Onion and tomato quiche – brunch, lunch or dinner

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 onions – sliced thinly
3-4 ripe tomatoes
 
  • Gently fry sliced onion in a little olive oil until soft
  • Spread onto pre-baked pastry base
  • Pour over egg/cream filling
  • Slice tomatoes thinly and layer on top of the egg/cream mixture
  • Sprinkle cheese on top
  • Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes

Leek and bacon quiche – lunch or dinner

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 leeks – sliced
200g pack of bacon lardons
 
  • Cut the leek length wise, not all the way through – enough to open it slightly. Rinse it under cold water to ensure you get any dirt out. Leek is often full of soil!
  • Slice the leek thinly and gently fry it in a little olive oil until soft but not brown
  • Spread onto pre-baked pastry base
  • Fry bacon in a pan until brown
  • Put on paper towel to dry off excess oil
  • Sprinkle the bacon lardons over the leek
  • Pour over egg/cream filling
  • Sprinkle cheese on top
  • Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes

This one was eaten too fast to get a picture!! The leek goes ever so soft and slightly sweet…beautiful!

Rye #2 – Muffins with Rye,Raspberry,Strawberry and Quinoa

Eat and be very, very, berry healthy! Literally!

I discussed the benefits of rye in my blog a few days ago – if you missed it read it here – and this recipe is a fabulous example of a treat that is a deceptive bomb of healthiness! My children, and us adults, love them and I make them for after school snacks or as pudding when they have play dates.

Raspberries actually deserve a blog of their own but for now I will just mention a few of their benefits:

  • help to sustain energy levels
  • promote more youthful-looking skin
  • promote weight loss – this because raspberries have a low glycemic load which stabilises blood sugar thus keeping those bursts of “cravings” at bay! I am sure we could all benefit from a few handfuls of them after December’s food mania!
  • rich in vitamin C
  • fat, cholesterol and sodium free
  • high dietary fibre content
  • contain more antioxidants than any other fruit – thus helping to combat the free radicals created in our bodies by our consumption of:
    • Fried food
    • Excess consumption of alcohol
    • Irradiated foods
    • Air pollution
    • Smoking
    • Ultraviolet radiation from the sun
    • Excessive exercise

A few became many – sorry – but I was amazed at how good raspberries actually are for you! So go ahead, make these very easy and quick muffins and enjoy a treat that for once is really good for you and your children as well as gorgeous to look at not to mention smell – mind, body and soul fulfilled! 🙂

Rye, Raspberry and Strawberry Muffins – adapted from an Easy Living Magazine recipe

Makes about 8 large muffins

75g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
150g rye flour
100g plain flour
2 tbsp quinoa
50g chilled butter
175ml milk
1 large egg
100g raspberries
75g strawberries – halved
 
  • Heat oven to 200C
  • Place sugar and baking powder in a bowl
  • Sieve in the two kinds of flour – tip the grains left in the sieve into the mixture – don’t want to lose the goodness there!
  • Grate the butter – this is always really funny – strange feeling! Combine into the flour mixture using a fork – children happily do this bit

  • Add the quinoa – can be omitted but gives a nice crunch and is so so good for you!
  • Beat the egg and milk together in a separate bowl
  • Add egg/milk to the flour mixture and gently combine – do not overstir as this will make low, hard muffins. The mixture should be lumpy – far from smooth
  • Add the berries and gently fold them into the mixture
  • Spoon the mixture into muffin cases and cook for about 25 minutes – or until risen and golden brown!
  • Let cool on a wire rack before enjoying – they are also good day 2 but probably won’t last!

Enjoy, once again, the feeling of being the best mum or dad in the world when you hand your children these!

Read more on raspberries and berries in general here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry

http://superberries.co.uk/berries/