Jane Kennedy
4 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
Mark Roper

I knew one thing — I didn't want to eat boring plain kids’ food.

Feeding a family. Every night. Is hard.

I know because I cook for seven people. Every single night.

It’s not so much the physical act of cooking, although that can get pretty draining. It’s coming up with the ideas for meals that everyone will eat.

It’s easy cooking for adults. We love spices and chilli and herbs and zest and can dress up a boring piece of chicken or fish or steak in a flash.

But kids don’t like spices and chilli and herbs and zest. Maybe your amazing worldly kids might, but most kids don’t. Not all mine do. Green bits. Orange bits. Hot bits. Weird bits. All received with a resounding thumbs-down. And even though you may think they’re being ridiculous or dramatic when they say ground black pepper is ‘hot’, it’s ‘hot’ to them. So there’s no point wrecking an otherwise delicious meal kids would have eaten by a careless twist of your pepper grinder.

So how do you feed everyone and keep the meal-peace?

I used to cook two shifts of food for our large family. Having five little kids at the dinner table was no Instagram moment. Dinner was NOT relaxing. There were tears, bickering, spilt drinks…often from the children as well. The banality of a 5.30 pm mealtime-slot finally led me to cook one dish for them, and one dish for us to eat later. I soon however accepted the fact my entire family should probably eat at the same time, preferably in the same postcode, possibly at the same table. I needed to shake that frying pan only ONCE a night to keep my sanity. Big Love.

There was, however, one thing I knew for sure.

There was NO WAY I was going to start eating ‘plain’ food just to keep the kids happy.

So I gave myself a challenge. What if I used the same base as a meal for everyone and simply jazzed it up or down? Serve the base of the meal to the kids, unadulterated if you like, but add spices and flavours and herbs to the adult version. One dish, two ways?

So here’s the result.

These meals are fast and easy and not too tricky. You might have to use two bowls instead of one and two baking dishes instead of one, which just means there might be less room in the dishwasher. Boo hoo.

I love to eat the non-boombah low-carb way but that doesn’t mean the kids have to. They love rice and pasta and wraps and tacos so I continue to serve it for them. Just be sensible about the amount and frequency. And if YOU don’t want to eat pasta or rice or wraps or tacos, you don’t have to. I’ve made alternative suggestions throughout the book. (Hello cauliflower ‘rice’!)

You also don’t need to pile your kids’ plates up to match yours. In fact you don’t have to pile your plate up with food. Children do NOT eat the same amount as adults. I don’t care if you say your six-year-old has the appetite of a man. He doesn’t have the stomach size of a man. Give kids a smaller plate than you. And this goes for everyone – enough of the second helpings please! This book does not encourage One Dish, Two Ways, Many Times.

I’ve only included dinners here. I don’t know many families, actually I don’t know ANY families who serve an entrée before a main course every night. And I’m sure you know how to make a dessert the family loves so I haven’t put a dessert section in here either. My children didn’t actually know what dessert was until they started going to other people’s houses. Bummer. If they’re lucky they may get a bowl of vanilla ice cream, which by the way, they think is AWESOME!!

Some rules

–Vegetables don’t always need to be cooked. Every night we have raw veggies on the table. Carrots, cucumber, capsicum, celery, snow peas. Crunchy raw veggies cut into sticks. SO much better than mushy overcooked unseasoned tasteless vegetables. And if your kids still won’t eat a veggie at dinnertime, chop up a green apple or some watermelon or a nashi pear and serve that.

–Minced meat is not just for kids. All it takes is a last-minute addition of a bit of spice and some fresh herbs and your plain meatball, hamburger patty or taco is adult-worthy. Beef, chicken, pork and veal. It’s also cheap.

–This is not a restaurant. It doesn’t matter if some of these dishes look a bit nuts; the half-and-half look does appear kind of kooky. But remember…you’re not a contestant on MasterChef. You do not need to ‘plate up’. Relax. There are no cameras in your kitchen.

–You don't have to eat the pasta. Or the rice. You’re the grown-up, eat what you like but if you want to ditch the carbs at dinner time, there are plenty of alternatives I’ve suggested.

–Kids can leave the table before you do. That extra ten or fifteen minutes while you finish a glass (or bottle) of wine at an empty table can be a game-changer. Make sure your kids take their own plates to the sink or kitchen bench.

–If you’re in a good mood… Ask your children to help you prepare dinner. It’s really this simple; kids who see their parents cook will most likely be able to cook when they become grown-ups. Grown-ups who cook for themselves are less likely to become obese. Kids who see their parents swerve through a drive-through every night to pick up the family meal DO become obese.

– If you’re feeling a bit cranky… Definitely, KEEP THE KIDS OUT OF THE KITCHEN until dinner is ready. And pour yourself a wine.

Kitchen notes

When I refer to olive oil, I mean extra-virgin olive oil. Salt is always flaky sea salt (Maldon or Murray River pink salt). Mayonnaise is always good quality egg-based mayonnaise, like Best’s. Greek-style yoghurt is always the thick, natural yoghurt found in supermarkets.

Oven temperatures

All oven cooking temperatures in this book are for fan-forced ovens. For conventional ovens, increase the temperature by 20°C.

Recipes in this Chapter

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