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)

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.