This week Tracey from Love of Living joins us. Tracey is a mum of one, the adorable Billy, as well as blogging she also vlogs,so check out her Youtube channel where she uses the tagline”diary of an honest Irish mammy”. Tracey is also a slimming world hero, winning woman of the year at her Slimming World class in August, and I’m sure her healthy ways will be evident from her dinner files and will rub off on us both.
Over to you Tracey.
Tell us about dinner time in your house- what time is it, where do you sit, who is there?
Dinner is usually a bit chaotic. Everyday I try to get my s** together and have us all sitting at the table eating the same meal. The reality is far from that though. It usually involves my other half eating at one end of the table (the closest to the back door) while the two year old stands in the garden screaming “BUHBALL” at him. Other half shovels the food down his throat while reassuring little man that he’ll be just one more minute “OK buddy”. Meanwhile I follow said two year old around said garden feeding him spoonfuls of dinner every couple of minutes. I kind of have my “happy amount” that I like him to eat. You know, the amount that constitutes no longer worrying that they haven’t eaten enough. As for me? I am usually eating while cleaning up and on my feet. Not ideal at all but there is ALWAYS enough time to demand that my other half tell me how gorgeous the dinner was. I know…..
How do you get dinner on the table in the evening (who cooks/helps, is it precooked and reheated etc)
I use the slow cooker a fair bit. Twice a week usually. I typically make a Spag Bol or a Chilli. Something tasty, filling and packed with vegetables. I love that the slow cooker makes the sauce thick and rich without the need for any packets or jars. I also love the smugness involved in knowing your dinner is cooking all day long. The smell makes me feel more “together” throughout the day and I feel like I’m not doing a bad job! Something like that anyway.
Do you meal plan or do you decide on the day what’s for dinner?
A bit of both but yes I am a massive fan of any kind of plan so planning our meals genuinely gives me a bit of a kick. It starts with the shopping list. We do our food shopping on a Friday evening randomly enough. Himself goes out and does it while I get the little man off to bed. He brings home a take-away then too. It’s our little ritual and it works really well. It means you’re all sorted for the week before any weekend treats or boldness happens. I’ll usually plan about five meals a week and the other two will be makey-upy things such as omelettes or bits and bobs using leftovers. I always know the night before what we are having for the next days dinner. That is more a case of my personality though. I need a plan!
What dishes regularly appear on your dinner table?
I make a nice cowboy stew. Partly inspired by this lovely blog actually. It is a crowd pleaser. Good sausages, tonnes of veg that is easily disguised and gorgeous with mashed potato. Comfort family food and a one pot wonder. Leftovers are fantastic too and come in very handy for a little freezer stock pile.
I also make a creamy honey mustard chicken dish which is devoured by all. Some kind of mince will always feature too. Home-made burgers or chilli for example. I am following Slimming World so all of their recipes are healthy, family friendly and made from scratch.
What dish is guaranteed clean plates all around?
Roast chicken or any kind of tomatoey pasta dish. So exotic!
Do you tend to cook the same thing a lot or do you try to mix it up? Where do you get inspiration for different dishes?
I love trying new dishes but more often than not I find myself writing the shopping list in a panic. Probably because I am over-excited for the take-away. I’ve started trying a new recipe each week and that is working out brilliantly. Once you’ve made it once it is easily remembered and is sort of added to the favourites. This week is a chicken supreme using Quark, Stock and mustard powder. You can use whatever vegetables you want and it works well with pasta, rice or potatoes so it’s a winner here.
What’s your favourite quick dinner solution?
An omelette is always a handy one. Leftover meat, whatever veg is hanging around and cheese. Quick and easy and super tasty. I make them at least once a week. Coleslaw on the side is a bit of a guilty pleasure too. My two year old loves coleslaw which is completely bizarre!
What’s your favourite junk-food dinner?
Home-made spice bag using smash and various herbs and spices. Processed I know but it’s lovely. I also love a Pizza or just beans on toast with tonnes of melted cheese and black pepper SO good.
As for a take-away, I love Thai. MMM salt and chilli deep fried prawns. Yes please!
Do you eat the same as your kids?
Pretty much. Less carbs during the week though. I’ll have salad or extra vegetables instead but that’s just because I am on a weightloss journey and like to go mental at the weekend and eat whatever I fancy.
Are there ingredients or dishes that face complete refusals at your dinner table?
My other half hates onions. I mean HATES. They must be totally cooked and invisible or blitzed in the dish. The gas thing is his sister is the exact same! A raw onion would literally make him gag. I adore onions so it can be a bit of a pain but we work around it. Our son bit into one like an apple recently and I genuinely think my other half reconsidered his love for the child. It’s quite an extreme aversion to be fair!
Are there any adventurous meals everyone at your table will eat?
We’re pretty good fish eaters which isn’t exactly adventurous but it is to some people. We love Salmon marinated in soy sauce, garlic and honey and then pan fried. So tasty!
We also all love Coddle. People either love Coddle or are totally afraid of it. We love it!
What is your own, all time favourite dinner?
My nanna used to make this beautiful casserole with Lamb gigot chops, soup mix (the one with barley, lentils and peas etc) and jars of baby carrots. She cooked it low and slow all day and served with potatoes. She would take the meat out and serve with the potatoes and then you would get a cup of the soup on the side. It brings me back to so many happy memories. I have never made it and unfortunately she passed away in December so I really should do it now so that it stays in the family.
Have you any tips to share on getting the family fed?
My rule of thumb is to never come home and ask the question “what will we have for dinner?”. I think that is the time of the day where everyone is cranky and motivation is low. You are more inclined to reach for convenience or order in. Make some semblance of a plan and you will feel a lot more in control.
Who’s washing up?
Not a dishwasher, that’s for sure. I can’t tell you how much I wish we had one!!!
Thanks Tracey, I think that’s excellent advice to never come home without knowing what’s for dinner. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail and all that. Now that you’ve mentioned making your nanna’s casserole you’ll have to do it and share the recipe. I think the onion aversion is very common, it’s definitely up there on the responses I’m getting back to the dinner files anyway! Now, who’s going to send Tracey a dishwasher for her trouble? Go on 😉
The dinner files is an interview series published weekly on Bumbles of Rice. If you’d like to take part email me firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t have to be a blogger, or a chef, or a celebrity, we’re looking for a look at how real people eat dinner, for real, no pretending, just real life dinners and honest sharing of the junk we enjoy.