I’ve been thinking. Which as you all know can be pretty dangerous. Last time I got to thinking, I ran around on a cliff edge for a few hours to find a bit of headspace. Which let’s face it is not the most sensible idea I’ve ever had.
In my quest to look after myself a bit better, though, my thoughts have unsurprisingly turned to food. Our kids eat like kings. Their weekly meals are planned with military precision, we batch cook well balanced and delicious stuff for them so we’ve (almost) always got something nutritious to hand. We tempt them with lots of fruit, veggies and seeds.
We’re not always successful I hasten to add and there are many many (too many) mealtimes when they point blank refuse to eat the delicious offering we have so loving prepared (grrr). So they are definitely not poster children when it comes to food, but they generally eat pretty well.
So far, so healthy.
OUR diet on the other hand ….well, the only word to really describe it is shambolic. Busy working parents with a million balls in the air most days so looking after ourselves is pretty low down the list.
We start off the day really well – I literally cannot function without a bowl of porridge and seeds and a large glass of water. But things go rapidly downhill from there. Lunch is often scrambled together left overs or a poorly made sarnie, often snatched at my desk or eaten in a rush.
I frequently have a big energy slump in the middle of the afternoon (oh for an afternoon nap!) and by dinner time….well, we dig around in the fridge trying to cobble something decent together, look at each other a bit wild eyed, grimacing ‘any ideas?’ But we’re usually so knackered by that point any inspiration has long left the building.
A couple of weeks ago we realised that we hadn’t eaten a single vegetable all week.
If I’m honest, though, being busy is just an excuse in disguise. If we can organise the kids to eat well, we should be able to organise ourselves to eat well too. And actually even more amazing, would be organising our time better so that we can all eat great meals together more often.
By total beautiful coincidence, around the same time I was having these epiphanies and wondering what to do about it, I was contacted by Wren Kitchens. They are creating a new e-book – called Little Kitchens – with loads of fab ideas that help busy families like ours do more together in the kitchen, encouraging kids (and *cough* the parents) to get more interested in the food they’re eating. Ultimately helping everyone to eat a little healthier.
Would I write a blog about doing something in the kitchen with my kids for the book they asked? Of course, I said, what flipping perfect timing.
So last Saturday I had a plan. My family always get a little nervous when I make announcements like this over the breakfast table as it usually involves some sort of hair brained scheme. They were not wrong, but this time it would involve fun and food -winner!
The whole day would be about the whole family planning and preparing a delicious meal that we could make – and eat – together. Literally the whole day. The kids grumbled a bit but then they got to choose – pizza. Ok, not always the most healthy of choices but with some help from my lovely nutritionist buddy Claire Stone, we found a recipe that ticked a lot of ‘health’ boxes. Spelt flour, fresh veggies, a sprinkling of fresh cheese, a little Udo’s Choice Omega 3 &6 Oil drizzled on top. Sounded yummy already.
Our first task of the day was a creation of epic proportions. The menu. And then a sign for our ‘Peetser’ (sic) Restaurant – Poppies. And the shopping list carefully handwritten….Organic spelt flour, yeast, honey, tinned tomatoes, fresh basil, pepper, onion, sweetcorn, fresh mozzarella.
After several hours of assembling ourselves into the right coats / bag/shoe combinations (you know how long this takes, right?) and of course the obligatory nappy change just as we went to step outside the door, we were off. And we trundled round the corner to the high street to collect the stuff we needed. Local and fresh was on the list too.
The kids were very serious about choosing EXACTLY the right vegetables and counting out EXACTLY the right money….
And selecting exactly the right ingredients…
After a long and involved (and for once reaalllly enjoyable) shopping trip, it was off home and down to the equally serious business of chef-ing. This we discovered, really is a VERY serious business for a 5 year old and requires a full chefs outfit – or a spotty clowns hat will suffice if you’re 2 years old.
Our chefs got all the ingredients together….
And before we started any actual cooking, we got everything we needed in the right amounts into little bowls and pots. We had a little plastic knife for our 2 year old and he was quite happy stabbing bits of pre cut pepper. Little things like this help prevent full on warfare, which as we all know needs to be avoided at all costs.
And let’s face it, no pizza, even a healthy one that you’ve spent all day preparing for is worth a tantrum of epic proportions.
A bit of distraction later with some plastic veggies and his own big boy spoon and we were off again….
We put 450g of the spelt flour plus a sachet of yeast and a teeny pinch of sea salt in a bowl;
And then poured in – super slooooowly – approx 200ml of warm water (just from the tap, nothing fancy) and a teaspoon of the honey.
Then was the get your hands dirty bit, stirring it all together with a spoon first before deciding to just ditch it and just give it a good mix with our hands. We discovered spelt flour can be a little tricky, so we ended up adding a bit more water dash by dash and kneading it in until we ended up with a soft pliable dough.
We left the dough to ‘get really tall and fat’ in the bowl covered with a tea towel for about an hour, while we got the sauce ready;
Our 5 year old LOVED having the responsibility of tipping the tomatoes into the pan – it made a total mess, but my inner OCD was on holiday that day so all was well.
I then heated them up on the hob for about 15 minutes until they’d reduced down to a thicker sauce and put it to one side.
With some time to kill, we went and ran our cafe for a bit. Yes, we even managed to not rely on the dreaded ‘screens’ for the whole day which frankly is a minor miracle.
When the dough was finally ready it had doubled in size! We divided the dough into 4 balls – the kids had smaller portions than us adults – and it was time for some serious exercise. By which I mean energetic pummelling, pulling and rolling of the dough, a sneaky bingo wing workout doubling as cooking a family meal. Bonus.
Then we chucked some flour on the worktop and rolled them out into vague, kind of circle shapes with a rolling pin;
And of course Daddy gets to do all the fun stuff;
And then it was time to design our own toppings from the stuff we’d got ready earlier. Spooning over some of the sauce (trying to get it close to the edges otherwise these can get a bit crunchy) and then loading on the toppings we wanted;
And then into the oven (pre heated to 220 degrees) for 15-25 minutes, depending on your crispiness preference. Just time for a little bit more shopping related distraction;
Finally, a mere 5 hours after we started our ‘lets eat together more’ mission, our restaurant was open for business. Our pizzas were done. Fresh out of the oven we drizzled over a little Udo’s oil (packed full of super healthy Omega 3 and 6’s – and NO fish flavours I promise!).
And then, ta-dah!
I won’t lie to you, We ALL felt like we ate like kings that afternoon – delicious home made pizzas, freshly made salad of spinach, brocolli, tomatoes and avocado. And all the plates were virtually licked clean.
It may have taken a day to prepare but it was honestly one of the best family dinners I have ever eaten.
Involving the kids, making the shopping a fun activity instead of a painful weekend chore, finding ways to make sure ALL of us had a job to do…were huge lessons in how we can all eat better if we do it together. Busy or no busy.
There is nothing better in the world than sitting down to eat as a family too. It makes my heart a happy place.
And speaking of happy hearts. Simple things like the drizzle of Omega oil and changing the flour we used, just squeezes in a bit of extra good stuff without even trying that hard. Magic.
Next time….the healthier me, healthier family mission continues and I’ll be writing about some fun ways to build exercise into your family day (yay!).
Mel Bound is the founder of fast growing women’s running community This Mum Runs, with a dream to inspire women of all shapes, sizes and abilities to get their trainers on and just give running a go. To find out about fab women’s only courses and classes, check out the website www.thismumruns.co.uk . And to join in the fun of their Facebook community click here
Look out for the #littlekitchen campaign from Wren Kitchens. The downloadable Little Kitchen E-book containing a series of recipes, fun activities and presentation ideas for involving kids in the kitchen will be available for download in April. Check out Wren Kitchens www.wrenkitchens.com