BATCH COOKING FOR KIDS: QUICK, EASY AND NUTRITIOUS MEALS IN SECONDS
I'll make a confession: as a qualified child nutritionist, I often find myself surprised by what I see kids eating. Most frequently the reason given is that the parents are time poor or the kids are fussy (or dare I say it, both).
Truth be known, I struggle with many aspects of being a parent (that's more of an essay than a blog) but one aspect of this privilege called parenting that I seem to find relatively straightforward, is feeding my child nutritious and delicious food with minimal fuss. This is in large part due to monthly batch cooking - using REAL ingredients, which over the course of the last 6 years has meant, I've honed some pretty nifty hacks. Below are my top tips for efficient batch cooking and my top 3 meals to maximize nutrition for developing brains & bodies.
I recommend you set aside around 4-5 hours (to prep, cook and clear up) once a month. This should produce 15-20 meals dependent on portion size (and how much you siphon off in the 'tasting' process). My top picks are :
Wild Tuna Bolognese (ask fishmonger to mince tuna steaks or chop yourself)
Slow Cooked Chicken Casserole (I use organic chicken thighs for flavor, no skin)
Grass Fed Beef & Lentil Bolognese
The beauty of these three dishes lies not only in their powerful nutritional profiles but also in the shared ingredients which = efficiencies in preparation. I use A LOT of veggies in my meals, chopped very fine and many are added to each meal I'm cooking (ie carrots, celery, garlic and tomatoes). As preparation, finely slice all your veggies into piles and set aside. This is what I use but where vegetables go, most things will work:
2 x red onions
6 x large garlic bulbs
3 x carrots
2 x celery sticks
2 x courgettes
3 x frozen spinach balls (defrosted & finely chopped if kids are suspicious)
1 x large yellow bell pepper
1 x thumb of fresh ginger (tuna bolognese only)
Mushrooms (optional but I like to add these to the Beef & Lentil bolognese)
3 x large chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tin Tomato Paste
Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Tinned Tomatoes or homemade passata
At this point, you've done the bulk of the work, now it's time to get cooking. I'm sure most of my readers know how to make a bolognese and anyway, I'm not one for following recipes so suggest you ad lib or if in doubt, google! That said, I do have a few tips to trip the taste buds: use a little soy sauce & honey in the tuna bolognese (to give it an Asian flavor alongside the ginger), a dash of Worcestershire sauce with your beef dish and a few bay leaves in your slow cooked chicken will give the casserole depth. If you have leftover wine, a dash in the beef or chicken never went a miss. Oh and some balsamic glaze before you pop the chicken casserole in the oven (150 degrees for 3hrs then shred the meat) works a treat.
I recommend to cook one dish at a time. Set one aside to cool and commence with the next. Usually chicken first as that takes the longest, then the beef and lastly the tuna which is done in about 20 minutes. Once they cool, it's time for packing. At the time of writing I have not found a suitable alternative to the plastic zip lock bags but I'm open to suggestion. Bag up in individual portions with one or two double portions for when they have friends over. Pop in freezer and you're good to go. At least 3 times a week I'll grab a portion in the morning before leaving the house and let it defrost in the fridge ready for dinner. You can literally have a chicken casserole on riceberry ready to go within 2 minutes of walking in the house. Chicken nuggets BE GONE!!
One of the best aspects of all three of these meals is that they're incredibly versatile when it comes to the accompaniment. Always opt for a wholegrain when pairing with pasta or try lentil or chickpea alternatives. Asian style noodles also work with some great options like spirulina or spinach ramen. Riceberry, brown rice and wild rice all work, as do baked sweet potatoes and even bolognese on crusty brown bread. Grated cheese on top optional. All the above add to the nutritional profile and ensure kids stay fuller for longer.
For dessert, it's no stress: a probiotic yogurt all the way. Adding fruit is great but for optimal nutrient absorption, fruit is best eaten between meals.
Next blog we'll look at easy and nutritious options for other days of the week. In the meantime, does anyone have any tips for getting your child to eat a piece of (wholegrain) toast in less than 45 minutes....PLEASE?!!! I live in hope peeps, we all must :)
NB: if you'd like the full recipe for any (or all) of these dishes, please send me a DM and I'd be happy to oblige.