Pretty much any parent I chat to starts the food conversation with “my kids are pretty good eaters”. I nod in admiration of their parenting prowess. But I wait (not smugly, I promise). Invariably a BUT is inserted next.
“But devil child won’t eat meat and Lucinda only eats greens if you let her hold a pink jelly bean and I sing ‘rock-a-bye-your-bear’. But apart from that, they eat everything”.
Battle weary parents tend to confuse ‘good’ with ‘normal’. Jumping through hoops every mealtime becomes just what you do and you forget that actually you might be able to tweak things and get away with doing much less. Like cooking one meal a night. Which would leave you more wine time and lower stress levels.
Which is something I aim for with my recipes. I’m too lazy (actually no, just too busy) to cook multiple meals, so I like to cook one basic dinner for everyone. Being a realist though, I understand that the same presentation won’t suit all members of the family, which is why in my books I often have tips for ways to convert a pretty basic dinner into something more gourmet for the adults.
This tomato & lentil pasta sauce recipe is the perfect example.
Mr VS & I like it with olives, tonnes of herbs, pepper and parmesan. It’s a healthy and yummy grown up meal. My kids will skip the accompaniments and have the sauce mixed through their current pasta of preference (spirals at the moment) with grated cheddar cheese on top.
If you have toddlers, take the time to spoon mouthfuls into large pasta shells and scatter cheese on top. Just serve them a few and watch greedy little hands shoving the mouthfuls straight in. No spoon middle-man to overcomplicate matters. Even if your fussy eater only eats a few, you’ve probably got some scraps of veg and a couple of lentils in, which should tide them over until next week.
I know it’s only Monday, but cheers. Here’s to you for being awesome.
Tomato & lentil pasta sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 large fresh tomato, diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
800g can diced tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste (or 1x2tbsp concentrate sachet)
400g can lentils, rinsed, drained
Optional extras: Fresh parsley or basil, olives, parmesan, crumbled feta.
Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and fry the onion for several minutes until softening. Add the garlic for a minute then scatter over the brown sugar. Keep stirring until well combined before splashing in the vinegar.
Mix in the dried herbs, fresh tomato, carrot and capsicum. Stir through really well before adding the tinned tomatoes, paste and lentils.
Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste. Serve however suits your family.