Cooking healthy meals and having stress free tea times can be difficult with young children, especially on weekdays. When they’ve been at school all day and walk through the door hungry and tired, you need meals to be quick and easy to prepare but also nutritious.
Birds Eye have a really good range of quick and simple tea time solutions for those kind of days! We were invited to try out some of the range and use it in our after school cooking to see what we thought.
The majority of the time we eat together as a family and we all have the same on our plates. Whether The Pickle eats it or not is a different story! He will not touch meat or most vegetables – apart from sweetcorn, carrots and sugar snap peas. His staple food is potato. Whether it’s mashed, roast, wedges or Birdseye waffles. We do keep introducing new foods to his plate but we try not to get too stressed if he pushes it away – we know he eats plenty of fruit and cereal and he’ll grow out of this phase eventually. Lots of preschool aged children are fussy eaters and unless they are eating particularly unhealthily or starving themselves, I don’t think there’s any need to be too concerned!
We usually eat as soon as Daddy gets home from work, which leaves plenty of time afterwards for homework, playing and relaxing before the bed time routine starts. We have the TV turned off and we all sit at the table, apart from one ‘treat’ evening a week where we have a relaxed buffet style tea in front of a family film. It’s something we all really look forward to each week.
After School Chefs
Getting the kids involved with cooking the family meals is a great way for them to learn about what they are eating and how to prepare healthy food. They also learn a lot more than just how to cook. Preparing meals together teaches them about hygiene and safety and it’s also good for encouraging team work and helpfulness (The Pickle loves to go and search for the ingredients in the fridge or freezer and recognises which food is which from the packaging). Looking at labels, instructions and recipes is good reading practise and counting out or weighing ingredients teaches simple maths skills too! Most importantly, cooking together can be great fun and usually The Princess and The Pickle are more likely to eat a healthy meal if they’ve helped to make it themselves.
Our Desert Island Pizzas are a really simple and fun idea. We used naan bread for the base (pitta bread or similar would also be fine) as it saved time. If you wanted to make your own dough and have time to do it earlier in the day you could leave it in the fridge so it’s ready to roll out when you need it.
The kids were then let loose with tomato puree, home grown tomatoes freshly picked from the garden, grated cheese and Birds Eye Field Fresh Supersweet Sweetcorn. We had kitchen roll on hand so they could clean up any mess as they went (this helps them feel more independent and also means there’s less mess to worry about at the end!)
We also used some Birds Eye Chicken Popstars and sugar snap peas to make palm trees on the island and of course, a Mashtag sun! The finished product doesn’t need to look perfect, as long as the kids have fun making it, but the presentation of this took minimal effort, so why not?!
We served the pizzas with colourful raw chopped vegetables, including peppers, sugar snap peas, celery and cucumber. Again, you could chop these earlier in the day if you have time and pop them in the fridge for when you need them. Cutting the veg into interesting shapes with small cookie cutters can make it much more appealing. We used ours to spell out words!
We also served up some Birds Eye Field Fresh mixed vegetables, which are so easy to pop in the microwave just as you start serving everything else up.
My top tips for the after school tea time routine
Have a healthy snack ready for after school to kerb hunger until tea time, but only something small so they are still hungry enough to eat their meal!
If you have fussy eaters, try to be inventive with their favourite food and gradually introduce different foods. For example, if they love mashed potato try mashing some carrot or parsnip in with it.
Plan your weekly meals in advance so you’re not worrying about what to cook each evening and searching the cupboards for ingredients! Let the kids help you plan the meals too. Maybe they could come to the supermarket and each choose a few fresh ingredients to use.
Ready prepared vegetables, such as Birds Eye Field Fresh, saves time and frozen veg also helps to keep the nutrients in!
Try to vary the menu each week – use new, different ingredients alongside trusty favourites.
I’m a big fan of the slow cooker, especially through the colder months. Pop some diced lamb, carrots, onions and gravy in there in the morning and leave it to cook through the day. Then all you need to do in the evening is cook some boiled or mashed potatoes to go with it. Perfect for when you have to balance cooking with after school activities too!
This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Linky Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye. Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook page.