We are constantly evaluating and reevaluating what we eat at home, where we put our money (and therefor our support) and what we are modeling for our children.
When time allows we do our best to eat together as a family, making food that we all eat rather than one meal for the children and a second for the grown ups. There are times (like last Tuesday) when peanut butter and jam sandwiches alongside most basic of carrot sticks make their way onto the table (or over the kitchen sink, which is where I actually ate mine). And there are other times when we eat stir fries of brown rice, pumpkin seeds, savoy cabbage, purple carrots, peas and eggs. We attempt to do more of the latter, but it’s real life and not some glossy image from GOOP.
I don’t shy away from letting the girls try something new, even if I think they probably won’t like it. We do our best to market the new thing as either exciting, something we are all trying together as a new family experience, or not to give it any emotional attention at all (if we think things might go really south) and just see what happens.
Thankfully the girls’ have developed a fairly easy going nature with food, but it hasn’t happened overnight. We spent a good year with cucumbers or frozen peas (still frozen ONLY frozen) being the only acceptable vegetable to grace Isla’s plate. Not that it stopped me from continuing to offer (I refuse to let her out-stubborn me), I just accepted that the offering also came with a side of tantrum, and therefor chose the times I would offer wisely. One of my proudest wins: turning the cucumber-only situation into an opportunity to introduce homemade pickles, which thankfully were accepted. There’s always a sliver of a silver lining if you can get relentlessly creative enough to find it.
These days we are trying to eat more alternatives to beef for multiple reasons. Previously lentils had been met with some resistance, as they can have a rather grainy texture depending on how they are cooked. I think our success with this version of lentils was a combination of treating the dish as business as usual, making sure the girls were hungry when we sat down, putting the exact same thing onto all of our plates so there was no ‘kids’ version or ‘grown ups’ separation, and topping the sauce with parmesan and olives- two of our favourites. The addition of olives and pesto really give the sauce flavour, and the butter gives the sauce lovely silky and rich quality, mimicking to some extent what beef fat would do.
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
1 sweet yellow pepper (or other colour of your choice), finely diced
1 courgette (zucchini), finely diced
250g (11/4 cups) pre-cooked puy or beluga lentils (you can make this yourself from dried or buy them precooked and vacuum sealed)
1 tablespoon pesto
1 large handful green olives of your choice, pitted and sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 jar/500ml passata
1 tablespoon salted butter
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Begin by prepping all of your ingredients so they are sliced and diced and ready to go. Next, add 1 tsp oil into a good-sized sauce pan, followed by your shallot. Sauté for around 4-5 minutes until the shallot is well softened and fragrant (you could cook them for longer for a more caramelised flavour if you choose), then add in your garlic and fry for a further 30-45 seconds, mixing continuously so as not to risk burning your garlic.
Add in your finely diced courgette and pepper, stir through, and let cook and soften for around 5 minutes before adding in your prepared lentils and a tablespoon of pesto, continuing to cook for a further five minutes, allowing the lentils to begin to absorb the flavour of the vegetables and pesto.
Next add in your oregano, passata, butter and balsamic. Stir, reduce heat to medium/low cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. After fifteen minutes, give it a stir, place the lid partially on and simmer and reduce for a further 20-30 minutes. You want your sauce to cook down enough so that it’s slightly thick, earthy, and full of umami flavours from the tomato, pesto, and olives.
If you’re concerned about the texture of your sauce being well received, you can always blend it slightly with a stick blender.
Serve over your choice of pastas with plenty of Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if desired, and additional olive slivers.