Midweek meals: Chaos and simple cooking

Working full time and having two children means weekday evenings are a bit of a rush in our house. By the time I get home from work it’s all hands on deck to get tea made, change the boys into their pyjamas and fit in a bit of playtime before bed. It can be quite daunting on the way home knowing how much we have to do in such a short space of time, and it’s so tempting to just stop in the chip shop for a takeaway rather than having to cook.

When I went back to work from maternity leave I decided I was going to be one of those organised mothers who has tea prepared in advance, ready to heat up in the evening. I’d make a basic sauce on Sunday and use it for pasta dishes, chilli, etc through the week. That lasted until the first Wednesday before I was back to my chaotic, throwing something together mode. I’m lucky that Stew enjoys cooking and is happy to take charge in the kitchen most nights, but sometimes I feel like I have to do my share.

Anything I cook is super easy, and is usually my take on something Italian. Spaghetti bolognese is always a winner – quick, simple, and fun for our toddler to slurp on!

Lots of yummy veggies

We tend to use ready made sauces, and Dolmio is a winner as one jar has has a portion of vegetables each for a family of four. We then add some extras to bulk it out – pretty much any veg we have gets thrown in to give us a boost. It typically involves:

  • One clove of garlic,
  • One big mushroom,
  • Two carrots,
  • One courgette
  • One red onion
  • Half a bag of vegetarian mince

All chopped up nice and small so they can’t be picked out by fussy eaters. I’ve never been a fan of red meat so we tend to stick with veggie mince in our bolognese, and there’s always a bag or two in the freezer.

The best thing about bolognese is you can throw all the veg in one pan, brown it a little in some olive oil, pour the sauce on and just leave it. It’s simple enough even with a baby trying to pull themselves up on your leg or a toddler demanding you go and play! Just remind your children they are supposed to wait until the spaghetti is cooked before eating it…

In true Italian style, I like to serve our pasta dishes with huge amounts of grated cheese – and the stronger the better. Parmesan is a favourite of mine – and our boys. I would never have thought a nine-month-old would like it, but he loves it. We’re doing a mix of spoon feeding and baby-led weaning, so he practises picking up bits of spaghetti and cheese while we feed him the sauce. It’s good to know he’s getting plenty of vegetables in one meal – even if we don’t add any to the sauce.

There’s one thing you get used to quickly with little ones, and that’s mealtimes being a bit of a mess. Spaghetti is particularly hands on, and there are a lot of red hands and faces by the end of it. There’s usually a lot of seat swapping in our house, with baby bear getting bored of being in his high chair and toddler wanting to sit on someone’s lap. It’s not exactly peaceful!

As I said, our evenings are chaotic, and our mornings are even more so. I always try to make too much for tea so there’s plenty left over … it’s so satisfying realising lunch is already made for the next day!

This post is an entry for the #Dolmio #ThankGoodness Challenge, sponsored by Dolmio. www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness.

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