This week’s contributor for the Dinner Files is Sinéad from Shinners and the Brood. Sinead is a relatively new kid on the Irish blogging block (her first post was 1st September 2016) but she has fit right in and got named Britmums of ‘Bloggers to Watch in 2017. Check out her blog where she shares “dispatches from the Parent Zone” with her engaging and warm tone, and a healthy dose of humour.
Tell us about dinner time in your house- what time is it, where do you sit, who is there?
Ideally we are all at the table; Mr C, myself and our brood of three. We aim to have dinner at around six in the evening so that we can all eat together. Lunch is often eaten on the move or in a rush, between pick-ups and activities, so it’s lovely to get a chance for us to chat over food in the evening. My romantic notions of a happy family around the dinner table are rarely realised though!
Our four year old struggles to sit still for any amount of time and the youngest throws food a lot and generally shouts like a drunkard for the duration. The six-year-old is much better and he definitely enjoys it. In fact, mealtime conversations with him often highlight just how much he is growing and maturing, so we’ll soldier on in the hope that we are creating a tradition of eating together that will carry us long into the future.
How do you get dinner on the table in the evening- do you meal plan or do you decide on the day what’s for dinner?
Geek alert: I’m ALL about meal-planning. It’s something I started when I stopped working. Because our budget was smaller, we needed to be more mindful of what we were spending on groceries and we wanted to cut down on waste – I always seemed to be throwing out vegetables that I had optimistically bought but ditched for a quicker, unhealthier fix as the week progressed – so now I sit down at the beginning of the week and plan our
dinners for the next six days. We often get take-out or eat out once a week. Since I am at home full-time, I tend to do most of the cooking. Unfortunately I’m not one of those mothers who preps the dinner in the morning when the kids are at school. That’s a whole new level of organisation! Instead, I tend to make quick, simple meals that don’t take longer than a half hour to prepare. I’ve started to use the slow cooker more so that forces me to think about dinner before lunchtime which took a bit of getting used to but it’s so handy, especially on afternoons when the kids have swimming or something on. It takes the pressure off a bit. Thankfully Mr C. knows his way around the kitchen and he often bails me out when I’ve run out of steam!
What dishes regularly appear on your dinner table?
We eat a LOT of pasta; pasta with bolognese, chicken and pesto, tomato and bacon; pasta bakes, lasagne, carbonara, etc. All three kids love pasta and the toddler wouldn’t eat a spud if the entire county’s crop depended on it, so that’s probably why it features so heavily. Baby-led weaning meant that the toddler has always eaten what we ate and I honestly don’t think I would cope it I had to make separate meals for us all! We might have a roast dinner at the weekend and midweek we’ll have mild curries, stir fries, pizza (the Aldi base is a winner) and stews when the weather is colder. And you can’t beat a cooked chicken for handiness, with some oven chips and salad. (Obviously the kids evade the salad!)
What dish is guaranteed clean plates all around?
Chicken and pesto pasta is probably the biggest hit, which suits me because it can be whipped up in about 20 minutes.
Do you tend to cook the same thing a lot or do you try to mix it up?
I definitely cook certain dishes WAY more often than I should! We try to mix it up but sometimes it’s just easier to cook something you know the brood will eat. Mr C. loves Asian food and and he’s determined to get them eating spicier things. It’s hit and miss though. Sometimes they’ll eat it and other times they’ll give it a sideward glance and declare it inedible (in much less eloquent terms.)
What’s your favourite quick dinner solution?
Spaghetti Carbonara. It’s on the plate within 15 minutes. (The recipe is on the blog HERE. Yum.)
What’s your favourite junk-food dinner?
So. Many. Choices. I love a burger and chips. Especially if I’ve had a late night, euphemistically speaking! 🙂
Do you eat the same as your kids?
We try to. Sometimes, if we really fancy something they won’t eat, we’ll just make them an earlier dinner and then we will eat after they have gone to bed. On Saturday night we might have a couple of steaks and a bottle of wine. I’m also a big fan of the ‘M&S Dine In for Two’. Ridiculously good value. And since the wine is included in the price, it’d be almost rude not to drink it! 😉
What is your own, all time favourite dinner?
That is SUCH a hard question to answer! I love a good pie. Not very healthy though. It’s hard to beat roast beef with yorkshire pudding, horseradish and the works. In the summer I love salads. I really like pork. Shellfish will always be a favourite. And anything with ‘crispy’ in the title. A good Pad Thai. Nope, can’t choose.
Are there ingredients or dishes that face complete refusals at your dinner table?
How long do you have? Onions – no! Mushrooms – hell, no! Parsnips – they would rather die, etc. You get the gist. They eat broccoli and carrots so that will have to do, vegetable-wise. They won’t eat fish either but I’m not going to give up on that one. The battle may be lost but I’m sourcing tastier ammunition. I won’t be beaten.
Have you any tips to share on getting the family fed?
I’m in total agreement with your blog post dealing with fussy eaters (Bumbles: Aw, thanks). Children won’t starve. They are programmed to seek out food and eat to survive. In our house we keep try to keep snacks to a minimum, especially for the older ones – they would graze all day and eat nothing of substance if given half a chance. We try to keep mealtimes positive, enjoyable occasions (where possible!) If they don’t eat as much as we would like them to, then that’s ok. I try and look at the bigger picture, as in, what they have eaten over a couple of successive days. Once they are getting something from the major food groups, some fruit and/or veg and not too much sugar, I tend to chill a bit and stop being a wagon about it! The fruit bowl is a free-for-all zone so if they complain about being hungry, they are directed towards a banana. If they are genuinely hungry, they’ll eat it!
Who’s washing up?
It’s usually a joint effort to lob everything into the dishwasher. Sadly the children are too young to put to work yet! Soon though…
Thanks so much for taking part Sinead, I’m a sucker for crispy things too:) I need to take a leaf out of your book with meal planning I think. And your tales of the not perfect family dinners around the table sounded so familiar it was as if you were sitting in my kitchen!