Keep Calm & Cook On: Reflections on Mealtimes with Small People.

I’m not really a big fan of all the cooking shows on the telly (and there as so many of them!) but last night I was thinking that there really should be a program called ‘Come Whine with Me’. Contestants would have to cook a nice meal that would satisfy even the fussiest and most discerning young food critics, while managing a school age child (who has homework to complete), a tantruming toddler and a grizzling baby (who would have to be worn in the front pack or backpack). Oh and they would have to make school lunches at the same time! Now that is a challenge. It could be quite an entertaining show.


Anyone with small kids knows that mealtimes can be a circus. A childfree friend had dinner with us recently and her comment was ‘Is it always like this?’. And my reply was ‘Pretty much’. Sometimes it can be a challenge making meals that my children will actually eat, however I’m a little old fashioned in that I refuse to make three different meals to suit different tastebuds. I don’t deliberately make things disgusting, but often when I present a meal, it is accompanied by a loud chorus of ‘yucks’. Even Miss 18 months has extended her vocabulary to the word ‘yuck’. And this can be a little exasperating at times. It is funny what children will eat though. For three years running now my six year old has not requested pizza for his birthday dinner, nor hamburgers (that’s another food group he dislikes), but…..chickpea curry! And the other night while pointing to the salad, he asked earnestly ‘How much of that do I have to eat in order to get ice-cream?’ You’ve got to admire the honesty of kids.

I attempt to be creative with what I present, and I’ve found for example that if you call quiche ‘cheese pie’ they’ll scoff the lot. And don’t tell them it’s salad and they’ll also scoff the lot. Pasta salad then becomes ‘Dinosaur summer pasta’.

See here for updates on fast, frugal & fun family meals minus the fat, that I’ve found my kids will actually (or usually!) eat. ‘Fast’ being imperative, because life is too short to stuff a mushroom.


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From our kitchen to yours

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This is my mother’s recipe, and satisfies even the most discerning young food critics. Furthermore, they are a pie minus the fat.

You’ll need:

500g lean beef mince

1 onion

1 packet brown onion soup

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 Tbsp flour

For the pastry:

1 1/2 cups flour

50g butter

1/2 cup milk

1 Tbsp vinegar

1/2 cup grated cheese

Combine all pastry ingredients to make a stiff dough. Need on bench and roll out into a circle. Combine mince ingredients and place 1-2 Tbsp filling spaced out in a line along one side of the pastry. Fold the other side of the pastry over and cut between each pieburger. Brush top of each pieburger with egg.

Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pot pie

Do you have a meal ministry? Do you love to cook for others, but often find it difficult to make time? I enjoy making meals for others if there is a need such as a new baby, illness etc, however it can be difficult to carve out the time when you have wee ones. I’ve found that the easiest way of making a meal for another family is to double up and make two of the same, one for our family and one for another family. This recipe is easy to double and can feed two families of five for around $20. This is a nutritious, tasty and reasonably frugal one pot meal.

You’ll need:

one large chicken (feeds 6-8)

500g or more bacon

2-4 cloves garlic

eight potatoes

2 leeks

6-8 carrots

400-500g mushrooms

1-2 red onions

2-3 brown onions

2-3 packets light brown gravy

fresh breadcrumbs

a few sprigs of parsley

Put whole chicken in pot with garlic cloves and a little water, plus a dash of soy sauce. When it is cooked through add red onion and all other finely diced vegetables and bacon. Remove all chicken off the carcas, then add made up gravy sauce, and season accordingly. In another saucepan sautee the brown onions in a few tablespoons of butter. Once they are browned, add breadcrumbs and parsley.

Put chicken and vegetable mixture into two casserole dishes, then top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees celcius for twenty minutes or until golden brown.

Creamy Curried Carrot & Corn Sausage Casserole

sausage casseroleThis is an old school one pot winter warmer that is sure to be a family favourite when the nights become colder. Simply make a white sauce, add 1 can creamed corn, salt, 8-10 sausages (precooked in the microwave), 4 finely chopped carrots and 1 chopped leek. Simmer gently until the carrots are cooked through. Then transfer into a casserole dish, top with croutons and grated cheese and bake in the oven until golden.

Zoo Safari Dinner

zoo safari dinner

When it’s feeding time at the zoo, how about a ‘Zoo Safari’ themed dinner? This is simple to make and great fun for the kids (and the big kids). Adding a little creative flair to family meals can make mealtime a whole lot of fun. Kids love chicken nuggets and while I was concerned about the ingredients, the Tegel Zoo Safari nuggets assure me that they are 100% chicken! They ought to be fine if consumed occasionally. You’ll need:

1 kg bag of Tegel SEriously Cool Zoo Animal chicken nuggets

5 potatoes cut into small cubes and covered with olive oil

3 carrots diced into sticks

A head of brocoli

A handful of peas

BBQ or tomato ketchup

Bake the nuggets and potato until golden brown. Steam the vegetables in a steamer until cooked through. Arrange on a plate with the potato cubes as rocks, the carrots as a bush and a sun, the brocoli as a tree, and the sauce as a cloud. Arrange the giraffes, elephants, seals and rhino’s on the rocks. Enjoy.

Friday fish and chip family night


We have a family night once a week in our household. We have a fun dinner and then we often watch a movie together. Here is a simple idea for a fish and chip dinner at home. It’s fun, frugal and minus the fat. Plus….there are no dishes! The kids really enjoy having their fish and chips wrapped in individual newpaper parcels. A simple idea that I got from my neighbour, and we’ve been doing this most friday nights since. Making your own fish and chips with fish fillets and oven chips from the supermarket may not be cheaper than buying them at a takeaway shop but they will contain far less saturated fat. And that’s a good thing for my husband who has genetically induced hypercholesterolaemia. And a good thing for all of us.

Dinosaur Summer Pasta

I love summer salads, I could live on them in summer and they are great for those summer BBQ’s. Not that we have had summer BBQ weather recently mind you. We often have BBQ’s ‘Dunedin style’, which is indoors with the heat pump on as it is ten degrees and raining outside. And I’ve had to gently convert my husband to the art of kiwi BBQ-ing; being British he has been a little slow to take to it. My young children love BBQ’s but they are not as enthusiastic about salad however. But here is a kid friendly salad I’ve devised, and I’ve found that if you don’t tell them it’s salad, they’ll eat it by the bowl full.

You’ll need:

1 packet Diamond Dino Shapes pasta

I tin chickpeas (my kids love chickpeas)

1 packet of mild beersticks (or mild salami)

1 tomato (my three year old loves raw tomato, the others pick it out)

A handful of finely chopped parsley (ok so this was picked out too)

A dash of olive oil

A sprinkle of salt and pepper

And for the adults you could always add a dash of balsamic vinegar and any salad vegetables that you like such as cucumber.

Cook the pasta, cool and then drain. Then add all chopped ingredients.


Nacho Salad


In our house we’ve recently introduced a theme for our dinners. It keeps life a little interesting and assists with grocery shopping if I know I need to get ingredients for one fish and chip night, one vegetarian night, one stir-fry night and so forth. There’s ‘Mexican Monday’ or sometimes ‘Meatless Monday’, ‘Thermal Thursday, (curry night), Fish and Chip Friday, and Stir-fry Saturday. For Mexican Monday this week I devised a new recipe (but a google search confirms that it’s not entirely original). It’s a twist on classic nacho’s with salad in the mix. And the kids even ate a little salad. It’s amazing what one will do to encourage one’s children to eat vegetables. We have been known to play ‘broccoli olympics’ at our dinner table.

You’ll need:

500g chicken or beef mince (I used chicken)

1/2 can baked beans

1 can mild chilli beans

1 packet taco seasoning mix

Mix & cook in a saucepan until cooked through

1/2 lettuce

2 tomatoes finely chopped

1/2 cucumber finely chopped

1/2 red onion finely chopped

1 avocado, finely diced

1/2 cup tasty cheese grated

1 packet nacho corn chips finely crushed

Arrange chips around outside of platter and mix with salad ingredients. Pour warm chilli mince mixture into the middle of the platter and top with grated cheese. Serve immediately, with guacamole and/or light sour cream if preferred.

Roast Vegetable Salad


I’ve been making this salad for years. It is quick and easy, and the kids will eat it (or at least they’ll pick at some of it). And you can add extras such as feta cheese or pine nuts depending on your tastes and budget.

You’ll need:

3 diced potatoes

2 diced kumara (sweet potato)

1 red onion

2 diced courgette

1 diced red or green pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 beetroot

1 eggplant (optional)

A handful of pumpkin seeds

1/4 diced pumpkin

4 rashers of chopped bacon

Arrange all ingredients in a roasting dish and cover with a lug of good olive oil, some salt (I used pink himalayan rock salt), pepper and some tuscan seasoning, Roast on 200 degrees celcius  or until crispy. Then serve on a platter with mesculun salad around the side. Serve with balsamic vinegar.


Valentine’s Day Family Dinner

On Valentine’s Day each year we have started a fun family tradition of a special meal together. We keep it fairly simple but we decorate the table with red roses from the garden and red heart shaped placemats that the children have made. We then have a theme of red food, usually spaghetti bolognese, with blackcurrant drink and strawberry jelly and perhaps pink custard for dessert. We might go around the table and say one thing that we love about each other and we might share a few bible verses that speak about love.

And here is the menu for our Valentine’s Day Family Banquet for this year. Because life is a banquet. I say banquet but we kept it pretty simple with two courses.


PicMonkey Valentine'sDay

Here is our Valentine’s Day Family Banquet for this year. I use the term ‘banquet’ because it is a lovely word, but really we kept it simple – heart shaped pizza and salad, and a red velvet cupcake for dessert. Oh and mocktails (raspberry cordial). It was fun. Here is a his and her’s valentine’s pizza. This is a seafood pizza with cheese for her and without cheese for him.

his and her pizza



One Comment on “COME WHINE WITH ME

  1. Pingback: Sarah Wilson | Kiwi Mummy Blogs

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