THE BLOG

Mealtimes Don't Have to be a Hassle- Involve the Kids

27/08/2014 13:55 BST | Updated 27/10/2014 09:59 GMT

From a young age I've been interested in food and cooking. During the school holidays I would follow my mum around the kitchen and accompany her on supermarket trips, watching and learning how to create a family meal. When I was a teenager I persuaded my parents to let me take over the kitchen and would have real fun experimenting with food, creating weird and wonderful meals and treats for my family to enjoy.

Now as a mum myself, I really enjoy sharing the fun of food with my own children. Although, like many parents, I lead a very busy life and it can be easy to get stuck in a rut with weekday meals. Most people have a bank of easy meals they feel confident cooking for the family, and sometimes the thought of trying out a new recipe, when you don't have loads of time, feels like too much of a challenge. Churning out three meals a day can be tough even for the professionals like me! A new study by Gold from Flora found that over a third of parents cook the same meals more than once a week, which as a working mum myself, I can definitely sympathise with. The pressure to create exciting weekday meals increases during the summer holidays, when parents have an extra 30 midweek meals to make; which is why I've partnered up with them, to provide inspiration and help for time-poor parents to liven up their weekday meals. These meals are not only tasty and healthy, so the whole family will enjoy them; which immediately cuts down on time and hassle- who knows you might even be able to inspire your children to get in the kitchen and give you some help too.

I think it's really important for children to be involved in food preparation, as the more they know about cooking and healthy eating from a young age, the more likely they are to use those skills in later life. It's great that more primary schools are now teaching basic cooking skills, but it's also lots of fun to get children involved at home. Even though it may seem daunting to begin with, it's really easy to get your children into cooking and there are so many tasks they can help with. My daughter Rosa loves weighing out ingredients, and my son Olly is a big fan of stirring sauces and taste testing along the way! I'd recommend investing in some aprons or grabbing old t-shirts first, as if you're children are anything like mine, they are rather enthusiastic and a child-friendly job such as sieving flour can result in a flour volcano erupting in the kitchen!

My secret weapon is planning ahead. I like to cook extra portions on occasions when I've got time, and pop the extras in the freezer meaning I've got an instant home-made meal when I need it. Although mornings can be chaotic, I try to do food preparation where I can for the evening meal. Doing food preparation in the morning means you can pop the meal in the oven as soon as you get home from work, and then have more of the evening to enjoy with your family.

Whether you're an early riser or a weekend batch-meal maker, wherever possible I'd definitely advise getting your kids involved in cooking family meals. Not only is it great for kids to know how much time and effort goes into creating family meals it's also excellent for encouraging fussy children to try new foods. My children were so curious with all the different ingredients and flavours I was putting in our family dishes they were tempted to try things I've have never got them to eat if I'd just put it on their plate! Try my simple recipes below.

Mexican piñata potatoes

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes-1 hour 5 minutes

Serves: 4

Skill level: Easy

Cost: £4.25

Ingredients:

For the baked potatoes:

• 4 baking potatoes

• 4 rashers smoked back bacon

• 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated

• 100g cooked sweet corn

• 4 spring onions, chopped

• 25g Gold from Flora

• ½ -1 tsp mild chilli powder or paprika

Serving suggestion

• ½ tsp ground cinnamon

• Guacamole

• 1 sliced green jalapeno pepper

Salsa:

• 2 ripe avocados peeled and cut into 1cm dice

• 100g cherry tomatoes, quartered

• 4 spring onions, chopped

• juice of ½ lime

• 1 tbsp olive oil

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200°C fan/gas 7. Prick the potatoes several times with a fork and place in the oven for 45-60 minutes they are cooked through and have crisp skins.

2. When the potatoes are near the end of cooking, put the bacon on a wire rack over a baking tray and put in the oven to cook for 10-12 minutes until golden. Remove and cut into small pieces.

3. When the potatoes are cooked, switch the oven to the grill and set at high.

4. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the potato flesh into a large bowl. Add the Gold from Flora and mash with a fork. Gently mix in the bacon pieces, half of the cheese, sweetcorn, spring onions, chilli powder and, for an interesting variation, cinnamon. Spoon back into the potato skins and scatter over the remaining cheese

5. Sit the filled potatoes on a baking sheet and put under the hot grill for about 5 minutes until the cheese has melted.

6. This dish is delicious if served with an avocado salsa. To make the salsa, simply mix everything together and season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Here's a top tip: if you want to save on a little time, serve with some shop-bought guacamole and some fresh tomato salsa. For the grown ups with a mature palette, you can try scattering over some sliced green jalapeno chillies from a jar.

Asian Saucy Salmon on Oodles of Noodles

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 - 20 minutes

Serves: 4

Skill level: Easy

Cost: £9.89

Ingredients:

• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

• 2 tsp finely grated fresh root ginger

• 4 salmon fillets, skinned, about 150g each

• 400g fresh stir fry vegetables

• 4 tsp reduced salt soy sauce

• 50g Gold from Flora

• 8 tbsp rice wine

• 4 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

To serve:

• 250g-300g dried egg noodles

• 20g Gold from Flora

• Small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Serving suggestion

• 1 lime, cut into quarters

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Place a baking sheet in the oven to pre-heat.

2. Put the 50g Gold from Flora in a small bowl and mix together with the garlic, and ginger. Spread equal amounts over the top of each salmon fillet.

3. Tear 4 long sheets of foil from the roll each measuring approximately 30x60cm. Fold in half to give you a square and seal two of edges by folding/scrunching together, giving you a parcel with one open edge. Repeat until you have 4 parcels.

4. Divide the mixed vegetables between the four parcels, cutting any thicker vegetables such as baby corn or baby carrots in half or quarters first, to ensure even cooking.

5. Sit a salmon fillet on top of the vegetables in each parcel then pour over the rice wine, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce. Seal the top of the parcels, making sure there are no gaps for any steam to escape then place on the pre-heated baking sheet for 15-20 minutes.

6. In the meantime, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and immediately toss in the 20g Gold by Flora, which will melt over the noodles.

7. Remove the parcels from the oven and split each one open directly onto plates. Scatter with fresh coriander and serve with the hot noodles. For added flavour, serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over.