Following a meal-planner is unbelievably useful when you haven't got much time to think about what's for tea.
If you've decided in advance, then you can stock up on all the right ingredients which saves time and money.
Monday: Pasta with peas and fresh mint (see above)
Have a meat free Monday with this fresh yet comforting supper that you can rustle up in 10 minutes flat.
Preparation 5 minutes, cooking 10 minutes
2 handfuls of frozen peas
200g tub cream cheese
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
The juice of a lemon (grate the zest and freeze for another day)
Grated parmesan to serve
1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook your pasta according to packet instructions.
2. Meanwhile in a bowl mix together the cream cheese, chopped mint and lemon juice with a wooden spoon, season to taste.
3. Add the frozen peas to the pasta for the final two minutes of cooking. Drain, retaining a little of the water with the pasta. Add your cheese mixture and stir thoroughly until it's melted to form a creamy sauce. If it's too stiff and claggy then add a splash of milk to let it down a bit.
4. Divide between pasta bowls, scatter liberally with grated Parmesan and serve with a fresh green salad.
Tuesday: Ham, cheese and leek puff tarts
The beauty of this recipe is that you can chop and change the toppings according to your family's taste buds.
Try using tomato paste instead of mustard, substitute leeks for mushrooms, use mozzarella cheese instead of cheddar...
Preparation 10 mins, cooking 25 mins
1 x 500g ready rolled puff pastry
large knob butter
2 leeks, finely chopped
3 tbsp canned sweetcorn
4 tbsp 1/2 fat creme fraiche
3 tsp grain mustard
4 slices of good quality honey roast ham, torn into pieces
200g cheddar cheese
grated milk to glaze
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Grease a baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry onto it. Cut into quarters and then fold the edges of each portion in to from a 2cm border.
2. Melt the butter in a pan, add the leeks and soften over a gentle heat for five minutes. Add the sweetcorn to warm through for another minute then remove from heat.
3. Mix the creme fraiche and mustard together in a small bowl then spread evenly across the four tarts, then scatter a layer of the buttery leeks and sweetcorn over the top. Then divide the pieces of ham between the tights, finished with a layer of grated cheese.
3. Brush the borders with a little milk and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.
4. Remove and serve with a bag of salad - the grown ups might like like a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or chutney also works a treat.
Wednesday: Creamy curry
The coconut milk in this recipe is a great way to tempt little people as it's so sweet and creamy. Not all children like spice, so make sure you select a curry paste that doesn't make steam come out of their ears.
If you're not keen on quorn then substitute with chicken or for the quickest cooking time try prawns which only need a flash in the pan.
Timings: Prep 10 mins, cooking 25 mins
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pack of Quorn pieces
2 tbsps of your preferred curry paste
1 tin coconut milk (full or reduced fat depending on your diet)
handful of spinach, rinsed, stalks removed and roughly chopped
handful of frozen peas
1. Heat a tbsp olive oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan and then gently fry your onion for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute with the onion. Add the Quorn pieces along with the curry paste and gently cook for around 10 mins.
2. Add the tin of coconut milk and stir thoroughly to combine all the ingredients and allow to heat gently through for around 5-10 minutes. Add the spinach and frozen peas and cook until the spinach has wilted and the peas are cooked through.
3. Serve with fluffy basmati rice or naan bread - express pouches of rice cooked in the microwave are mid-week lifesavers or just heat up some naan breads in the oven quickly as they're great for dunking in the sauce.
Thursday: Sticky tarted up sausages
Give sausages a bit of a face lift. It's a very hands-off dish ideal for after-school playdates - once the bangers are in their sticky coating you can whack them in the oven and forget about them - giving you time to supervise the unruly mob of children ricocheting off the walls.
Timings: Prep 5 mins, cooking 25 mins
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp runny honey
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1cm fresh ginger, finely grated
1 pack of good quality pork sausages
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Put the sausages in a roasting dish. In a bowl combine the rest of the ingredients to form a sticky paste.
2. Brush each banger with the glaze until thoroughly coated, then whack in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Done!
3. If you're in a rush serve with a packet of flavoured couscous and some fresh steamed vegetables. Or you could try cutting up some sweet potatoes into wedges, drizzle with olive oil and whack in the oven at the same time as the bangers.
Friday: Pesto crusted salmon
This is my absolute go-to recipe which kids and adults both seem to adore. It's fool proof and makes a nice change from fish fingers. Salmon is also a great way of getting essential fish oils into your kids' diet.
Timings: Prep 10 mins, cooking 15 mins
4 salmon fillets
4 tablespoons of pesto
4 tablespoons of fresh breadcrumbs
Juice of half a lemon
1. Preheat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Line a baking sheet with foil, lightly oil and then place on your salmon fillets. Squeeze the lemon juice over each fillet and season.
2. In a small bowl mix together the breadcrumbs and pesto to form a paste, then spread an even layer over each fillet and finish with a scattering of parmesan cheese on top.
3. Bake in the oven for 10-15 mins, until the topping is golden and the fish cooked through.
4. Serve with salad and chunky chips, or new potatoes and seasonal vegetables – it goes with everything from rice to cous cous!
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