Family-Friendly Scandinavian Smorgasbord

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Once in a while we have a ‘theme’ night at dinnertime when we try food from another country.      It’s a fun way to be a little adventurous and learn about different cultures.  I sometimes simplify or adapt the original version to make it more kid friendly and not too overwhelming, so there is no need to completely stick to tradition.  Our latest theme dinner was a Scandinavian Smorgasbord consisting of smoked salmon and lemon wedges (the kids felt all fancy squeezing the lemon over the salmon!); potato salad made from boiled potatoes, capers and a little mayonnaise; and rye bread with butter (you can get rye bread from big supermarkets).

If you wanted to be even more authentic you could add meatballs, boiled eggs, crayfish, crackers, beetroot salad or dill and mustard sauce.  Or you could have a look in the Ikea food shop for easy inspiration (they even do vegetable balls as an alternative to meatballs).

There are endless possibilities for theme nights – we have had Italian pasta meals listening to opera and Mexican fajitas after watching the Pixar kids film Coco!  Google will give you lots of ideas.

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Fantastic Family Nachos!

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Here is a fantastic family-friendly Mexican nachos recipe that we all loved and takes only 5 minutes to prep (plus 10 minutes baking).

The tortilla crisp base is topped with kidney beans, sweetcorn, olives, grated cheese, avocado and coriander.  Put it in the middle of the table for everyone to share, and eat with hands!  You could have some salsa and sour cream on the side.

Fantastic Family Nachos (serves 4 but you might need dips and side salad to make it go further!)

1 large pack of plain tortilla crisps

1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained

1 regular sized tin of kidney beans, drained

Handful of chopped olives

1 reduced salt vegetable stock cube (I like OXO)

2 handfuls of grated cheddar

2 avocados, chopped

Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Spread out the tortilla crisps on to a casserole dish/baking tray.  Separately mix the sweetcorn,  kidney beans, olives, crumble in the stock cube and mix well. Spoon the mix over the crisps, evenly top with the cheddar and bake on gas mark 7/220 degrees for around 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Remove from the oven and scatter over the chopped avocados and coriander. Put on the table for everyone to help themselves, and eat with hands!

One-Pot Gnocchi Bake

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I am very excited to share this 20 minute, one-pot gnocchi recipe that went down great at tonight’s family dinner!  Gnocchi is a sort of bite-sized Italian potato dumpling that you can buy fresh from most supermarkets.  To make the bake, simply fry an onion, pepper and garlic for a few minutes, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, olives and the gnocchi and simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Stir in some torn basil, top with mozzarella and grill until golden!  It would be nice with salad on the side too.  And I might add spinach to the bake for extra goodness next time.   Brilliant!

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One-Pot Gnocchi Bake (serves 2-4 people)

Olive or vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped small

1 red pepper, chopped small

2 cloves garlic, crushed

400g can chopped tomatoes

Large handful of black olives, roughly chopped

500g pack of gnocchi (available at most large supermarkets)

Handful of basil leaves, roughly torn

Ball of mozzarella, sliced

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, pepper and garlic.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly.  Add the tomatoes, olives and gnocchi and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the gnocchi is tender and cooked (it doesn’t take much to cook it), stirring regularly.  Stir in the basil leaves, top with the torn mozzarella and grill until golden.  Eat straightway!

Cooking With Kids – Salmon and Green Bean Curry

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This is a gently spiced Salmon and Green Bean Curry recipe from the lovely Nadiya Hussain’s free kids cookbook for World Book Day.  It is all made in one pan so nice and simple.

My youngest son Robin (5) helped me make the curry using his new proper grown up chopping knife (the knife brand is ‘kitchen devil’, so obviously he was sold).  Luckily he is naturally cautious so I wasn’t scared for long!  I just had to make sure there was no loud music on and he and his brother were in different rooms and not distracting each other.  He helped me cut the green beans and salmon, holding one end with one hand (fingers curled in) and cutting slowly with the other.

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He also helped me put the ingredients in the pan and stir.  Great job Robin!  Hopefully Freddy will cook with me soon too.  Freddy and us adults loved the dish with some brown rice.  Robin wasn’t keen on the green beans but enjoyed the rest of it and we agreed to try it with peas next time.  Canned chickpeas would make a great alternative to the salmon.  Allow about 30 minutes to make everything!

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Salmon and green bean curry (serves 4 with brown rice)

Glug of oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Thumb of ginger, grated very small

1 small onion, chopped small

1 tsp tomato puree or 1 tomato, chopped small

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 1/2 tsp garam masala

Water

170g green beans, chopped

450g salmon, skin removed and chopped in to chunks

Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the oil, garlic, ginger and onion in a pan for 5 minutes, until the onions have softened.  Add the tomato puree or tomatoes, turmeric and garam masala and cook for another minute.  Add a 2 tbsp water and then the green beans.  Cook for 5 minutes, adding a little more water if need be, to just cover them.

Add the salmon and cook for another 5-7 minutes, adding a little more water to help them cook if necessary.  Take off the pan and stir in the coriander.  Eat with brown rice!

Family-Fun Asian Buddha Bowl

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You may have seen Buddha Bowls before – they are basically bowls filled with little mounds of different foods, usually vegan.  I decided to mix it up and put together a quick, non-vegan, family-friendly Asian Buddha Bowl: sushi (shop-bought of course!); edamame beans in their pods (just defrost them and cut off the ends for easy popping); chocolate covered rice cake; fruit; prawn crackers and salted peanuts.  Us adults also had kimchi (a sort of spicy, fermented Korean coleslaw – not sure what I make of this yet!)

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The kids loved having all the different bits of food in their bowl and especially enjoyed the sushi (they stuck with the more familiar rice and salmon option rather than the more complex filling).  They didn’t finish every single thing and I didn’t pressure them to, as I think the fun of experimental eating makes the little rascals more likely to be adventurous in the long-term anyway.

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I’m going to try some other Non-Orthodox Buddha Bowls in the future – the options are endless.  Suggestions are very welcome!

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Cracking Creamy Prawn and Spinach Pasta

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I recently had possibly the best pasta dish of my life at  Vapiano restaurant in London – a big, silky, comforting bowl of spaghetti, prawns, cream, pesto, onion, garlic, chilli and spinach.  The best thing about this experience was that the dish was cooked in front of me (you order your food then the chefs cook it behind a long counter).  I therefore realised that this AMAZINGLY delicious dish is easy to cook and only takes 15 minutes!

Within days my boyfriend cooked the dish himself at home and it was every bit as good.  The kids loved it too.  It makes a great family meal but would also impress friends.  Here is the recipe.

Cracking Creamy Prawn and Spinach Pasta (serves 2)

Approx 200g pasta

A little olive or vegetable oil

1 large clove of garlic, crushed/chopped small

1/2 onion or a shallot, finely chopped

Approx 150g large prawns

1/2 fresh chilli, chopped small (seeds included!)

1 tbsp double cream

1 tbsp basil pesto

Large handful of parmesan

Large handful of spinach, roughly chopped

Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions.  Meanwhile heat the oil separately in a pan, add the garlic, onion and prawns and fry on a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly.  Add the chilli, double cream, pesto and most of the parmesan.  Heat for a few more minutes then add the spinach.  Continue to heat for at least two more minutes, stirring regularly, until the spinach has wilted.

Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce mix.  Mix well and divide between two bowls.  Top with the remaining parmesan.  Enjoy every second of eating it.

 

 

Veggie Tortilla Soup (20 mins)

We love this Veggie Tortilla Soup!  It is hearty, tasty and perfect to slurp on a cold day.  The soup is Mexican and traditionally made with chicken but there is plenty of flavour and texture without it, plus a hit of protein in the black beans.  Allow 20 minutes to make it.

If you are making this for kids too then you could leave out the chilli in the cooking and have it on the table instead.

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Veggie Tortilla Soup (serves 2)

1 tortilla, cut in to thick strips

Oil

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1/2 green or red chilli, chopped small

1/2 red onion, sliced

Can of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp cumin seeds/ground cumin

Tin of black beans, drained

Salt and pepper

2 lime quarters

1/2 avocado, sliced

1/3 block of feta, to crumble

Small handful of coriander

Heat the oven to 20 degrees/gas mark 6.  Put the tortilla strips on to a baking tray and bake them for a few minutes on each side, until golden and crispy.

Separately heat some oil in a saucepan and add the garlic, chilli and red onion and fry for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Add the canned tomatoes, cumin, black beans and a little salt and pepper.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon the mixture in to bowls then top each bowl with a lime quarter, avocado, feta, the coriander and the tortilla strips.  Slurp!