parents

5 dinner ideas that will go with your favourite wine (and the kids will love).

I’ve always wanted to have the kind of family that sat down together at night and shared dinner.

I always pictured my family around a large table filled with delicious food, lots of laughter, chatter and the unquestioned consumption of salads.

Sometimes that happens, if I’ve had a day off work and had time to make delicious food, if all three children are in a simultaneous good mood, if my husband makes it home from work in time to join us and if the salad is made of potatoes.

But more often than not it’s a bit of a struggle – but I’ll never give up on that perfect picture in my head.

A mum can dream…

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by SodaStream. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

As the kids get older it happens more often and my determination to be that family pays off. It all comes down to some well-honed skills I’ve developed to make it all happen exactly as I want it to happen.

They’ll thank me one day.

So here are 5 ways to make your family meals work for you, and for your kids, that will ensure the food is delicious, affordable, and healthy and goes really well with your favourite wine. You’re welcome.

1. Make more than one dish – but ones that complement each other.

A simple way to cater for different tastes each night is to cook more than one dish. At the same time, make sure they can all be eaten together. An example is the humble casserole. I make the casserole and then I make a couple of side dishes to go with it. Normally I make rice or mashed potatoes, quinoa or even just yummy, crunchy bread.

You just want to be a bit fancy sometimes.

My husband and I will eat the entire casserole with a side of our choice. We also love our wine, so we always try to choose a drop that complements the meal we are eating that night, although we are particular fans of a glass of rich and delicious pinot noir. The kids are less fussy, and are happy to drink flavoured sparkling water with any meal.

Our oldest will eat the rice or mashed potatoes with casserole sauce only, our middle child who is incredibly fussy will have plain rice or bread (sigh) and our youngest will have a little bit of everything, as long as none of it is touching.

The beauty of this is that you will have lots of leftovers which makes for healthy snacks the following day and it has the added bonus of saving you money, as you won’t be buying expensive and unhealthy pre-packaged snack foods. And as the kids tend to be quite fussy eaters, I make the ingredients they do eat count. I buy organic whenever I can and always try to cook according to what’s in season, using the freshest produce I can find. I also like to try out new recipes and methods often – you never know, the kids might love them.

2. Make meals easily adaptable.

All kids love spag bol, but isn’t it nice to have a pasta meal that is a little more sophisticated, and that parents and children can enjoy together? Enter the spaghetti sauce that goes with any pasta.

Make one sauce, but cook two types of pasta. You can make the sauce in bulk once a week and thaw it out when needed, which keeps you organised and saves time on weeknights. Then boil up good old spaghetti and maybe some nice, fresh ravioli as well. Mix the sauce into both and offer everyone both.

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When it comes to cooking sauces and any dish really that requires spices, use restraint. It’s always a good idea to put the spices such as pepper on the table for you to add before eating, because kids don’t normally like strong flavours.

Spag bol…Again.

3. Designate a cooking and preparation day one day per week.

Each week or even once a fortnight, designate a cooking and preparation day. The day you do the grocery shopping is ideal for this. Getting organised is the easiest way to ensure your family eats delicious meals together without it taking you hours each day to prepare.

So do the shopping and then pull out all the fresh foods and the stuff you want to use up. You can make casseroles, spaghetti sauce, pies, pizza dough and even chicken schnitzel in advance and freeze it for use during the week. Cut all meats and vegetables so they are packaged up for single meal use.

Get those veggies packed.

You’ll use up everything you’ve bought with a minimum of waste which saves money, and you’ll save time and always have a healthy and delicious option for meals.

4. Rules for ‘green stuff’.

My husband and I love ‘green stuff’. Our children do not. We still cook, serve and eat green foods but there are rules. For example, when using fresh herbs in sauces, casseroles and baked dishes I always use large sprigs instead of chopping them up and sprinkling them all over. That way I can take them out easily for the kids and put them on the grown up plates.

I grate zucchini into everything I can but I peel them so the kids can’t tell. But I also insist they try new vegetables all the time or no dessert. Always make sure you serve greens even if they don’t eat them, and set a good example by eating them yourself. They’ll catch on. Eventually.

By the way, I put white wine in sauces, casseroles and baked dishes because wine adds such delicious flavour to them all, especially sweet white wines. Try not to use it all up during cooking though. Save some to sip on during your meal.

Chuck ALL the white wine in.

5. Get the kids involved.

The easiest way to get kids eating healthier foods is to get them involved in the process. Take them shopping with you. Ask them to choose the fruits and vegetables they think look most interesting. Then get them involved in the cooking process, whether it be peeling or stirring. They are more likely to try the foods if they have proudly cooked them.

Children learn about eating healthily as part of their education in school, so half the battle has already been fought. They know fruits and vegetables are good for them. By encouraging them to help with the cooking process, you are educating them further on healthy eating and they’ll want to taste everything.

This has the added benefit of teaching your kids how to cook, so as soon as they are old enough, they can cook dinner for you for once a week (in an ideal world), which is the ultimate time saver.

Check out these health hacks for more ideas…(This post continues after the gallery.)

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