The Small Victories and the School Lunches

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve always struggled to get my oldest to try different foods. I have always refused to call him “fussy” because I think it’s unfair to label a child as fussy, which is a label that will stick and become a self fulfilling prophecy. It’s more that he’s suspicious of foods he doesn’t know, and he’s still learning confidence to try things.

And it’s not always try NEW things, it’s try things you know and love but presented to you in a different manner. For example, if give him a boiled egg (known in our house as a dinosaur egg) in an egg cup with toast “soldiers”, he will demolish a full plate of 2 eggs and 2 slices of bread. However, recently he was given that same egg, mashed up in between the bread (egg sandwich), there was no chance of it passing anywhere near his lips. But I have learnt with Arthur ways around this. I’m going to try it with the egg sandwich next to test my theory further. Get him involved in the process. If he plays a part in taking the dinosaur egg, helping to take the shell off, mash it and spread the bread, then he will have more than just my word that “it’s the same thing as your dinosaur egg”! I’ll let you know how this test goes, but I’ve always had success with getting him involved in cooking in the past, as I have blogged about before.

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2C80FCA9-E70C-4ED1-89D7-1E24E5F1F6CBThat success might not look like him suddenly joining us in devouring a plate of stir fry, that might still be in my dreams. That sucess looks like him being happy to have things he doesn’t like on his plate. It might look like him scraping the potato off the top of his shepherds pie and eating it (something he wouldn’t have touched before). It might look like him being ok that he has got some bolognese sauce on his pasta and he’s still going to eat it, even though before he would have rejected that piece of pasta as yucky. And that sucess might look like him tasting a blackberry when we are picking them. Ok he didn’t like it, but the confidence to try things is massive. I would never pressure him to have another bite of something he didn’t like. But I always explain to him it’s good to try things otherwise we don’t know what we like. He recently discovered that he loves grapes, he’s partial to a jam sandwich, and when in character as peter rabbit, he can even tolerate a raw carrot.

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Which brings me onto school lunches. Arthur just started primary school in September. I knew he would get free school meals being in the early years of school (and knowing that hasn’t been taken away from us just yet!), and so most of the children would obviously be having this option, well because it makes sense! I was a bit anxious as to how he would react, but decided the best thing to do was not send him in with his “safe” packed lunch that he had at Preschool of cheese sandwiches, and to throw him in at the deep end with hot lunches. I thought that 1) he wouldn’t know he had the default cheese sandwich option if I had never given him that option and

2) he was much more likely to eat food if most of the other children were sitting down to eat it.

So after the first day of having lunch at the school, back on his settling in day  before summer, I tried to hide the anticipation in my voice as I asked “did you have lunch at school today?”. His reply “yes I had a jacket potato, with beans on the potato and cheese on the beans” filled me with relief and little surprise! At home if I put the beans on the potato, he would just refuse to touch it. Everything had to be separate on his plate. What a miracle school lunches had been and it was only day 1! Since then he has happily had foods touching or mixed together on his plate, and even had beans ON toast the other day. Not beans next-to-the toast, and I will only eat the toast if it has no bean juice on it. This is a small step but a very important step in his eating journey.

I don’t know how much of his actual lunch he eats at school. He always tells me he was “too slow to eat it all”. Arthur doesn’t like food when it’s hot, and always waits till it’s nearly cold before he starts it.  So I tell him that he will have to tuck into it a bit quicker tomorrow. I know he will get the hang of it! But it’s made a huge difference to how he eats at home in a very short space of time. He even looks at the options and chooses which meal he’s going to have with me, which is nice. He has a lovely range of food available, school lunches really have changed since my day. He even had salmon fish fingers the other day! And of course, the other change we have had since starting school is that he’s really hungry by dinner time. He even empties his whole plate of dinner sometimes, before he would pick at the bit  he likes the most and not touch the rest.

FD98CFD2-FD54-4B71-BA7A-7EDE1CE795F5So small steps, but steps in the right direction! We will look back and smile when he’s an adult and eats everything under the sun, like his Mum and Dad do!

My favourite ways to demolish a squash!

When I was younger squashes were for lugging to harvest festival or for hacking to bits at Halloween. Yet in recent years we have seen their popularity grow enourmously, in all different shapes, sizes and varieties, and now it’s to be eaten!

I’m sure the key to their growing success is their versatility. So here’s my favourite ways to squash!

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1. Roast it!

I have yet to find a squash that isn’t perfection when cut into chunks, drizzled with rapeseed oil, seasoned and roasted in a hot oven for 45 minutes. It’s so soft and sweet, and deliciously crisped and caramelised at the edges. Perfect accompaniment to a roast dinner, with sausage and mash, in creamy pasta dishes, with rice or quinoa, or in a veggie quiche.

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2. Souperise it!

There is little that tells you it’s autumn like a hearty squash soup. It’s filling and warming and carries those autumnal spices beautifully. I cut a squash into quarters, drizzle with rapeseed oil and season and roast in the oven until the flesh is soft. Then in a pan I sauté some onion and garlic, and scrape the squash flesh off of the skin and add to the pan with some veggie stock. I add warning spice like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, season and blend until smooth. You can add a little cream for a really indulgent soup. Perfect with some buttered allotment sour dough bread!

3. Add it to Risotto!

Its a great way to use less rice, or to make your meal go further. Peel and cut the squash into small dice and add with the rice. As the stock is added and the rice gets creamy and tender, so will the squash. It makes a lovely smooth and sweet risotto.

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4. Add it to veggie chillis!

Adding a squash to your veggie chilli really pads the mixture out to makes it go further, and who doesn’t love leftover chilli? It also absorbs the flavour of the chilli really nicely, and adds a little sweetness. A definite winner for our family!

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5. Bake with it!

You know I’m a baker at heart! Adding squash to baking was new to me when a customer asked if I could make them a pumpkin pie about 5 years ago. But the more familiar you get with using squash the more you discover it can do. Because it’s sweet you can reduce the amount of sugar that goes into a recipe, and like with the soup it carries those autumnal spices perfectly. I roast it until it’s soft and then mash it into a pulp. The pulp can be used in cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, muffins and more!

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I have had loads of sucess with squashes, these are just my favourites! I’d love to hear your best squash recipes too so please get in touch. Happy squashing and happy autumn!