Dinner is the hardest meal when you have kids. It's the end of the day. They're tired and cranky. You're tired - but you've still got to feed them, get them into a bath, read a story and then off to sleep (hopefully!).
As a busy parent, the last thing you need is to cook two separate meals at night. There's a strong urge to serve them fish fingers, chicken nuggets or canned spaghetti - because you know they'll eat it without coercion. Don't do this! You'll be cooking two meals forever and they won't get used to real meals!
Take 10 minutes and give your favourite recipes a "make over" with your children in mind. You'll find plenty of recipes that need only a little tweaking to become child friendly - no chilli, no spinach or parsley, onion chopped finely so it ‘disappears'. Keep things plain for the kids but add the adult-only accompaniments separately, so it's acceptable to you without too much extra work. Here's two meals that work well in our house.
Dinner solution No 1. Satay chicken
The trick is to serve these threaded onto mini-size sticks. Cut bamboo skewers in half and then trim off the pointy ends for little kids (you don't want any casualties!). Make your satay sauce recipe without the chilli (or opt for a mild supermarket brand such as Taylors or Kan-tong). Then, chop up a small fresh chilli and some coriander to garnish your meal at the table.
Dinner solution No 2. Beef and bean nachos
Kids don't usually like kidney beans or any legume. But the mere sight of guacamole and corn chips - even unsalted - can 'blind' many children to the presence of beans.
Choose a reduced-salt Mexican taco seasoning like Old El Paso (or make your own in bulk from paprika, cumin and oregano) and team it with good beef mince, a can of peeled tomatoes and a big can of kidney beans.
This is finger food heaven! Leave the cutlery in the drawer and serve it up with crunchy corn chips, a liberal dollop of guacamole, some chopped up tomato and a little grated cheese. A big salad and some Tabasco sauce on the table give you your grown-up version!
Cook the one main dish and then adapt it for either adults or kids. Life then becomes one layer less complicated.
Written by Karen Kingham, Accredited Dietitian and mum to Sam and Ella