It’s mid-year toy sale time again and the house has been flooded with catalogues full of crap that the kids had never heard of yesterday but are now DESPERATE to own. Things have been circled and bookmarked. Much discussion is taking place during every spare minute about how the toys will integrate seamlessly into our home.
The thing is though, my kids don’t actually spend much time playing with toys. Lego is still popular, and Pokemon cards have been all the rage but apart from that it’s all drawing and craft. Between netball practice, swimming lessons and homework there isn’t much down time. Fridays they get to play unlimited PS3 and then on weekends they’re having play-dates and family adventures.
At a school dinner last night, there was interesting chat about how childhood and adulthood are crashing together. Kids seem to believe in Santa for longer (thanks to all the technology making him so real), they’re under close supervision for years longer than we were and Government guidelines promote the mollycoddling culture (did you know that they aren’t even supposed to cross a road alone until they’re 10?). But then it’s just a few months before they’re off to buy bras, join Facebook and start getting down with the opposite sex (48.4% of boys and 46.3% of girls aged 15-19 have had oral sex. – US source here.)
No wonder teens are so stressed out – we’ve got them wrapped in cotton wool for so long and then we unleash them (mostly unsupervised) into such a complicated digital world. As I read on facebook the other day, “the best thing about being over 40 is that we did all our dumb stuff before Facebook”.
With worlds colliding and them growing up so fast, let’s take the time to enjoy them now. While I generally aim for meals that please the whole family, this recipe is much more popular with my kids than myself. But sometimes that’s ok – especially when I’m greeted with the simple joy of an empty bowl at the end of dinnertime.
My kids’ favourite chicken pasta
250g pasta (I use the large spirals for this)
1 1/2 cups small cauliflower florets
500g chicken thigh fillets, sliced (you can use breast meat – but it will end up drier)
175g bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
3 clove garlic, crushed
1 zucchini, grated
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley and/or chives
1 tbsp plain flour
2 cups good quality chicken stock, with 1 tbsp Dijon mustard mixed in
1 cup peas
Parmesan (or cheddar) cheese
Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and set aside.
Place the cauliflower in a microwave-proof bowl, add in a splash of water, cover and microwave on high for a minute until mostly cooked. Set aside.
Heat a large saucepan over medium/high heat. Add the oil and when hot, toss in the chicken and saute it, stirring often until just cooked through (this takes about 5-7 minutes for thigh meat, less for breast meat). Remove and set aside.
Reheat the pan and add in the bacon and onion. Cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until the onion is soft and the bacon cooked. Add in the garlic for 30 seconds before tossing in all the vegies (except the peas) and the herbs. Stir really well for 2-3 minutes.
Scatter over the flour, and quickly combine it in (you don’t want any lumps, obviously). Cook that off for a minute, then gradually add in the hot, combined stock/mustard, stirring constantly.
Return the chicken to the pan, bring it to a good strong simmer and keep it simmering until it’s a nice glossy thick mix (about 4-5 minutes). Taste and add salt & pepper (I think this dish needs a lot of both).
Stir in the peas and pasta. Heat them through then serve topped with grated cheese and even more pepper and parsley for the adults.
Serves 2 adults and 4 kids.