What's for dinner?

 I was helping out at school tuckshop the other day and during a rare break I enjoyed a slice of lasagna cooked by the tuckshop convenor.  As I was eating, I glanced over to another mother munching on a carrot and suggested she might like to try the delicious lasagna instead? She was quick to reply with a definite ‘no thanks’. Then she started with the story that I could definitely relate to.…. ”My kids loved lasagna so much when they were little, that was all I cooked, I cooked and ate so much of it that no one in my house can stand to look at it, eat it, or even say the word”.

Her story hit home with me. My middle child was called the capsicum kid as it was the only vegetable she would eat. I would slice up red raw capsicum for her no matter what was for dinner; sausages and capsicum, pasta and capsicum, meatballs and capsicum. Now she can't look at capsicum and red is no longer her favourite colour (which I kind of feel responsible for). 

Cooking for small children can be a frustrating business. Finding the perfect meal that satisfies adults and toddlers is so difficult that when you find that perfect recipe we all tend to flog it to death to the point of everyone losing interest.Those eating it and those cooking it.

It's a thankless task trying to come up with dinner ideas that will please the whole family. I cringe when I hear those words “what's for dinner mum?" My youngest asks this every morning and if it's something he won’t like he will moan and groan all day, until he wears me down and I change my mind. I am aware of his tactics so now I respond with “broccoli or brussels sprouts”, so whatever I dish up is considered a far better option than the plate of green vegetables he was expecting for dinner.

I remember seeing a pediatrician with my eldest child a few years ago and at the end of the appointment he kindly asked if there was anything else troubling me. Yes I replied, “my daughter won't eat anything!” His advice was priceless. He told me not to worry, and even though I might say “she never eats” you’d be surprised at how much she does actually consume. If she's happy and has energy she's obviously getting the right amounts of nutrients and vitamins. He went on to say that it was a common concern amongst parents. He said not to fuss and kids will eat when they are hungry – just make sure when they are hungry they are eating the right things. I did relax and now my daughter, that would never eat, loves to try new flavours and is happy to poach her own eggs for breakfast (and one for me too).   

Even though it worked out for my eldest, and she is a good eater – I am still finding it hard to get the right balance between a family meal that caters for adults and children. A bit of experimenting can sometimes lead to the feeling that you have found gold when you strike the 'crowd pleaser'. The meal that everyone in your family loves is a rare find, but remember the biggest challenge is to control the temptation to cook it too frequently or like my friend at tuckshop we will all be munching on carrots, and dreaming about a life without lasagna!

Here's one of my favourite crowd pleasers. It doesn't please my entire crowd just yet, but I'm working on it!

Smoked salmon stir-fry

This is great dish for busy families. You can alter the flavour depending on the tastes of your family. You could substitute the smoked salmon for smoked sliced ham and use whatever green vegetable you have in your fridge. It is best to cook this in a fry-pan.

150g spiral pasta
Olive oil
1 small onion
1 zucchini (or a bunch of broccolini)
300g smoked sliced salmon
365g quark, european style cottage cheese, a lot smoother and tastier than regular cottage cheese.
200g snow peas
1 lemon
Cracked black pepper
  1. Cook pasta.
  2. Cut snow peas into halves and lightly steam, then set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to fry pan then cook onion until it is glassy. Then add zucchini and cook for a further minute.
  4. Cut the smoked salmon into 3cm squared pieces and add to pan and heat through.
  5. Add the quark and stir through for 1 minute, then add the cooked pasta and snow peas.
  6. Your children may not like lemon juice or cracked pepper added to their servings so add that to the adult’s plates afterwards.
Louise Gaspar is a Brisbane based blogger and mum extraordinaire 
This blog was greeted or shared for the enjoyment of visitors to Little Kisses baby gifts and baby hampers www.littlekisses.com.au