Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Feeding Fussy Eaters

There have been so many articles written about feeding fussy eaters that you might imagine there isn't much left to say, but the ubiquitous advice that you should make your food animal shaped or hide the vegetables leaves me with so much rage that I feel the need to post!!

I rarely buy magazines but recently treated myself to a copy of this months Easy Food magazine. There was of course a section on feeding fussy eaters, and yet again there it was, the picture of animal shaped sandwiches as a means of getting your child to eat better. I have no idea who peddles this nonsense but they seriously underestimate the intelligence of children. Not only is cutting the sandwich into an animal shape a horrendous waste of good food, I mean what are you meant to do with the rest of the sandwich, it also assumes that you can fool your child into eating something that they don't want to. Four children later I have learned that it is very hard to fool any child, especially so if they are entrenched in their want to reject something.

I was also a little bit horrified to see Jamie Oliver touting the idea of distraction  as a means of getting them to eat, as though shoving an iPad in front of your child while they are eating will result in a less fussy child. Yes, he does say it's as a kind of last resort, but the path of least resistance is often a one way route and once you head down this road it can be an almighty battle to get back to what's considered a normal mealtime, so my opinion would be to avoid this at all costs. It doesn't mean that you will have the type of family meal that you see on those ads for Italian pasta, with children sitting happily at the table, eating their delicious meal with out fuss. But it does meant that some level of this is achievable, and with patience and good example you will get there.

Now for the confession part!

We have had Christmas dinner with a small child sitting on the table for the entire meal.

I have cried at the table more times than I care to imagine.

I have yelled at the kids that there is to be NO MORE TALKING AT THE TABLE UNTIL ALL PLATES ARE CLEAN, not my proudest moment as a mother

BUT... we are getting there and while all four kids won't eat everything, they will try almost anything and eat a broad range of food.

Here are the tips that I've found work best.

* Don't assume that the 18 month old great-eater will continue to be that way. They are like little birds at that stage, mouths open and happy to be fed. Once they realise that they have some control over what they eat, they are like megalomaniacs and exercise that power at every opportunity, don't make it a war, believe me, they will win.

* Don't fuss when they fuss. This is tricky as you want them to eat, but its vital that you stay as calm as possible. Offer them a variety on their plate at meal times and focus on the things that they do eat, not on the things they don't.

* Encourage and praise them for tasting something, regardless of how small a bit they try. I find that talking to them about what they like about certain food encourages them to think about the food. If they say that they like the sweetness of carrots then ask them would they like to try sweet potatoes as they have a similar taste. It helps them to open their mind to trying something different. Yes certain sauces and soups are vehicles for hidden vegetables but if you pretend the whole time that the veg isn't there then when presented with the actual vegetable you will have a job to convince them that they like it.

*As soon as they are old enough ( probably from about four onwards) stop filling their plate for them. Put dishes on the table and encourage them to chose how much and what they would like, they will enjoy the sense of ownership over their dinner and are more likely to try more things. My children's favourite dinner is a 'snacking dinner' where lots of different dishes are on the table, a mixture of salad and meats and they get to help themselves.

*The easiest way to get them to try something new is not to offer it to them! Sounds bizzare but often on a Friday night my husband and I will have dinner later than the kids, something that isn't being dictated by the kid's taste. Invariably the kids swarm around as soon as we sit to eat and its endless request for 'just a taste'...only from me though coz Daddy doesn't share food *eyerolls*

* Don't give up. For 2 long years our youngest decided he didn't like the 'yucky bits' and further questioning about which bits were the yucky bits, his reply usually was 'all of it'. Any night that we had chilli, he had a plate of rice. He finally decided he would like to try the sauce and eventually has moved onto to eating a bowl full of chilli with peppers, onions, beans and chickpeas. I never said a word when he refused it and time and curiosity won him round.

* Lastly and this is the most important thing. Children must know that its ok not to like a certain food. Nothing kills an appetite more than the words 'you have to eat it'. We all have individual tastes and children are no different. Encourage, encourage, encourage but don't dictate, it sets up negative feeling towards food that are very hard to undo.

So this is how we deal with the terrorists at the table, don't do battle and definitely don't negotiate, coz all the best commanders know, you don't negotiate with matter how cute or adorable they are.

If you liked this post:

I was delighted to feature in Bumbles of Rice Dinner files, click here to have a read

Monday, 24 October 2016

Meal Plan Monday | What We Eat

There was no meal plan published last week, life sometimes gets in the way and it was a 'fly by the seat of your pants' kind of week, but everyone got fed so we survived.

Here's a look at what we are eating this week, might be a nice read if you are looking for dinner inspiration, something I'm always on the look out for!

It's chilli wraps today with a sharing platter of nachos on the table.

 It's pork steak with an apple, breadcrumb and onion stuffing. I will roast this in a dish with some sliced apples underneath and a half cup of stock to stop it drying out.
We have been given so many cooking apples recently that I'm using all my recipes to use them up. I prepared this today to have for tomorrow.
There is mashed potato left over from yesterday so we will have these and some roasted carrots and parsnips on the side.


Pasta day in our house so this week it will be a creamy tomato sauce with chicken and chorizo and pesto ( basically a clear out the fridge pasta) dish .

We are having Chicken and Broccoli pie, an avoca recipe which is a big favourite in this house and has converted the kids on the love of broccol, so a win win dinner.

It's this Aromatic Lamb Shank dinner, one of my favourite comfort dishes. It really is the weather for comfort food.

There will also be Mushroom and Tarragon soup there for after school hunger and some apple muffins for a sweet treat to use up some more of our apples.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Drowning In A Sea of Shoes

For as long as I can remember I have been a shoe addict, I would rarely take notice of the clothes a person was wearing but could describe in great detail their shoes.
A shopping trip was only a success if new shoes were purchased.

I have a very clear memory of returning from college one summer and while unpacking I thought it would be a good idea to line up ALL my pairs of shoes in my room. My father happened to pass the door and if I close my eyes I can still hear the exact pitch his voice reached as he ROARED at me about the ridiculous amount of shoes. The bluish-purple colour his face of rage turned was also a good indicator of how angry he was.
Putting four children through third level was bad enough but supporting someone's shoe habit almost pushed him over the edge. Thankfully my sisters jumped in and claimed that a lot of them were theirs and his blood pressure returned to somewhat normal levels.
But my smug, pre-earning self couldn't help but look contemptuously at him and declare,

"You can never have too many pairs of shoes"

Well, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then and a lot of lessons have been learned. Like the time I went on holidays with my then boyfriend and brought 14 pairs of shoes for a ten day holiday, he introduced the 'what you bring you carry' rule and 16 years and 1 wedding later that rule still applies, suffice to say I pack more carefully since!

My shoe addiction has been hugely curtailed by the arrival of four children, and society seems to have decided that they should wear every day! That's a lot of non-stop growing little feet.
And so now instead of a house full of my shoes, we have a house full of theirs.
They are literally EVERYWHERE.
Inside the door, on the stairs, under tables, under beds, under chairs. The very fact that we have a shoe press, wherein the shoes should live seems to have bypassed them, either that or they are playing some hideous game where they try see how long a pair of shoes can go without being put in the press or mum losing her sh*#e over it.

At least 267 times a day I ask them to pick up their shoes, they seem to hear this request on average once a day!

One of their favourite places to leave shoes is by the trampoline. This in itself would not be a problem if it wasn't for not one, but two, shoe loving dogs.
This pair seem to have an uncanny ablility to detect and select only the expensive shoes. Dunne's best or cheap as chips canvas shoes go untouched in favour of any pair that has caused my wallet to weep upon purchase. Case in point this week when the newly purchased Sketchers were chewed and are now unwearable.

"At least they only chewed one" said the 6 year old owner of said shoes. Clearly in The Land of Six you can buy shoes in singles, unfortunately in the land of reality you can't .

And so it would appear that Dad, if you are reading, you were right, you can indeed have too many pairs of shoes. And this is particularly painful if you are the constant picker-upper of these shoes and even more excruciating if you are the poor eejit who has to pay for them.

Sorry Dad!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Meal Plan Monday | What We Eat

So it's that time of the week again and meal plans are sorted. Here's what we are eating this week.


Today we are having Ham Hock Risotto. I had this on a night out a few months ago and it was delicious, so I'm trying to recreate it at home.


Lamb Rendang from Domini Kemps great book Dinner, recipe here. I like that it's a matter of sweating off some onions and then throwing everything in for a long slow cook, this will be served with rice and Naan bread and some spiced roast cauliflower.


A freezer dinner today of Chicken and Chorizo with spaghetti, you can find the recipe here


Italian Sausages with Puy Lentil, we will have potatoes and some peas with this. Recipe can be found here


I'm trying to ensure we have a fish dinner each week so tonight we are having Jamie Oliver's Pasta  Puttensca recipe here

In the fridge this week will be smoked bacon, leek and potato soup, some savoury scones and our 8 year old madesome delicious jam drops so we will see how long they last.

So that should keep us going for another week. As ever feel free to share what will be eaten in your house this week.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Meal Plan Monday| What We Eat

Although I did my meal plan earlier today I'm only getting round to posting this now!
It feels like I blink sometimes and suddenly it's Monday again and a new plan needs to be written. 
Does anyone else dispair sometimes at the fact that children have to be fed EVERY SINGLE DAY...or maybe that's just me???
Anyway since they do have to be fed, this is what we are eating this week.


Fish Pie. I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver's Naked Chef book for this. I was attracted by the fact that the fish didn't need a separated poaching/cooking and therefore cut down on wash up and time. I was worried about how this would go down as I hadn't cooked a fish pie for the children since those glorious days before they realised that they could reject food! Anyway, it was tolerated but not loved. The sauce was very rich but they ate all the fish out of it and left the sauce behind so not a total disaster. We had spinach and peas and sweetcorn with it.


Lemony Chicken and chorizo traybake, which is a great and very adaptable one treat wonder, you can find the recipe here.


Spaghetti and meatballs, which are batch cooked in the freezer.


Beef and Red Wine Stew, potaotoes, carrots and celery will be cooked in the stew so another one pot dish.


Homemade chicken Kiev with coleslaw and oven chips. 

That's the plan for this week.
 A little update on last week, I cooked Neven Maguires Beef Stroggenoff and it was a big hit, even the mushroom hating child loved it, although she still didn't actually eat any mushroom. It's definitely going to feature again on our menu.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Meal Plan Monday | What We Eat

There was no meal plan last week as the children were away for a few days, back to normality today and here's what we will be eating this week.

The usual rummage through the fridge and freezer revealed the following and from this the meal plan develops.

I try to include a new dish every two weeks or so but sometimes it doesn't work out. This week I'm trying a new version of a dish that we used to have frequently but fell out of favour a year or two ago, here's hoping that it's a hit this week.


The drop in temperatures means that comfort food is back on the menu again and today we will be having Irish Stew. It's actually a long time since I made this so I'm really looking forward to it.


Baked Cod, Hake and Salmon topped with pesto and breadcrumbs, we will have this with roast tomatoes, spinach and mashed potatoes,


This is the busiest day with after school activities so a quick dinner is required. This Chicken and Chorizo with spaghetti fits the bill. I will make a treble batch of this today and freeze two portions of it.


This Beef Stroggenoff from Neven Maguire, with rice, I haven't made this version before so hopefully it will be a hit.


Sticky pork stir fry with noodles ( or fried rice if there is a lot left over from the day before) I usually marinade pork fillet when I buy it and pop it in the freezer, it results in the tenderest meat ever! 

In the fridge/Extras

I will also be making Ham Hock and Lentil Soup, which is delicious and so filling, I found puff pastry in the freezer so will make some sausage and apple rolls for after school and I'm planning on making a batch of egg muffins to have for breakfast.

A girl I follow on Instagram sent me the recipe for a delicious sounding Chicken Pie which I'm hoping to make over the weekend.

So that's the plan, please feel free to share what you will be cooking this week, I'm always on the lookout for inspiration.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Love In A Time Of Parenting

Having children is a wonderful privilege, and it is one that I'm eternally grateful for. But it can be an exhausting time in the early years and even as you leave the baby years behind it is always busy. You are forever 'On' and every stage, while bringing its own rewards, also brings its own challenges.

One of the trickiest things to keep on track is your relationship. Exhausted parents of very young children are bombarded with 'advice' that they need to work at keeping the spark alive, when realistically they are just trying to keep the baby alive and enjoy those gorgeous baby moments through a fog of tiredness. They are told, in very grave terms, that they must somehow eeek out time for 'date nights' when a whole day could go by and you may not have found the time to go to the bathroom, and if the stars aligned and you somehow did, you can bet your bottom dollar you were not alone. When you are in the trenches of babyhood then this becomes one more thing on your never-ending to-do list, your relationship becomes yet another thing to 'mind' in a time when minding is all you seem to be doing! This stage passes quickly and I would feel it's much better to have faith in your relationship, to believe it's strong enough to withstand the attacks of sleeplessness and upheaval that new babies bring and to assume that your partner has got your back and isn't sulking like a big child waiting for attention.

Sleep deprivation passes and children get bigger and finding time together does get easier, but new challenges arrive. Children become part of every conversation, this is great but it also means having a full conversation becomes harder and even following a train of thought in a busy house can become difficult. Conversations become more about comparing schedules, organising drop-off and collections, sorting out who'll put the bin out, rather than anything you would have previously described as a conversation! 
You will learn more sitting across from one another in a restaurant than you will have in the two months previous of sharing the same house and bed! What's rare is wonderful and these nights out serve as a reminder of why you are together in the first place.

We recently had three nights, in our own house, while the children were away, thank you so much Supergranny and Grandad. Grandad hasn't reached they dizzying heights of Supergrandad yet as he didn't run the gauntlet of talking the four of them out for dinner. 
We still had work to go to and so in that way the usual routine continued. The house was eerily quiet, and fantastically clean, and of course we missed the children but something wonderful happened. We had full and uninterrupted conversations, with each other. We laughed together at nothing in particular, we had a cinema trip that required no forward planning, dinner in and dinner out and a last minute decision to meet for lunch, all so ordinary and all so lovely. I discovered that sharing articles out of the paper that I was reading still annoys him and he is still better at cross words than I am. 
We weren't in some fancy hotel where spending time together,while lovely, has an air of suspended reality about it. We were in our own home, doing ordinary things together. It was a glimpse back at the way we used to be, at what made us want to be and stay together. It was also a sneak preview of what life might be like when we reach the dreaded 'empty nest' phase which is no longer as bleak looking as it once was.

Half of the children returned, two choosing to stay on for another few days. The house was filled with noise and running and fighting and laughing and our home felt just right again, but those few days were perfect and needed. 

I fully believe that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outwards in the same direction but every so often it's nice to get a moment to look and check that the direction hasn't changed and that your partner is still there, at your side, looking out with you.