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
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)