It's that time of year: send your kids off in style
It's that time of year again....term time - a time that is filled with anxiety and a mad rush to get everything ready for that day when you wave goodbye to your little one and it dawns on you..they're a grown up!
One major worry is what the hell they are going to eat! Yep, I hear you, you're worried they're going to waste away, eat rubbish and not be able to concentrate on their studies. Well, worry not. My latest podcast provides an easy guide to constructing a balanced meal as well as how to batch cook and pimp up meals so that one cook up can become three different meals. I've taken some of those tips and put them in this post to pass on to your kids.
And that got me thinking, you probably want to send your kid off to uni with good food and some treats to put a smile on their face when they're missing home. So I reached out to my foodie friends, all small producers, to see if they had any nice treats to pack for your kids. And they didn't disappoint!
You know by now that I love sharing my cooking hacks but today I am going further and sharing cooking tips from each of these producers...yep they did feel the pressure when I asked them to contribute but I was thrilled with their hacks. And these hacks are great for "grown ups" too.
So here goes....happy reading 🙂
Breakfast is apparently the most important meal of the day. Whether you agree or not, it is one you don't want your kids to miss. So the key is to keep breakfasts simple....and prepare as much as they can the night before so that they can just grab and go in the morning if they find they don't have time to sit down and eat in the morning.
Cereal is an easy option. You can get containers that keep the cereal and milk separate which are great for taking breakfast out with you. Other options are overnight oats and porridge. If they have time and fancy baking ahead of time they can make breakfast biscuits or muffins...imagine how smug they'll feel when they devour them during class 🙂
And don't forget the drink. A hot tea is perfect for autumn and winter. Or if they are eating their breakfasts at uni they could also take a drink with them...in a cool flask of course 🙂
Breakfast time is the perfect time to have a treat...not necessarily unhealthy treat but a luxury treat - something to start the day off in a nice way.
Here are some examples breakfast ideas for you:
Want a caffeine boost without the jitters? Why not have a cup of Matcha? 100% powdered green tea, with the same caffeine content as coffee, with no crashes. And better still, they are consciously sourced, vegan and plastic free.
£4 on their website. Very Craftea
Lunch is an easy meal so I won't spend too long on it. But again, I must stress the importance of preparing it the night before so they can grab it and go in the morning. Yes, I know sandwiches taste better if they are fresh but prepping ahead of time is a good way to avoid chips and burgers everyday at the student union bar.
Another great idea is to take leftovers into uni. If it is a hot dish then there is a little prep to do in the morning: put some boiled water into the flask for a few minutes then pour out and put in your hot food - it will keep their food hotter for longer.
This is the big one. I can't list everything here - for the full lowdown listen to my podcast.
Components of a meal
It helps to think of meals as constructed of four elements: protein, carbs, veg and the "extra factor". The "extra factor" is the flavour e.g. the curry sauce, the spice rub, herbs seasonings and also the texture and visual appeal e.g. toasted seeds, yogurt, garnishes. Once you start thinking about meals in this way it becomes very easy to swap individual components to create completely different meals e.g. swap rice for cous cous, chicken for lamb, curry powder for tagine mix. The combinations are endless!
TIP from Gouri of Holy Lama Spice Drops: let's face it, you'll have the odd Pot Noodle. BUT try this hack to make it healthier...add spinach, an egg and a couple of drops of their spice drops if you have them. I've got to try this 🙂
A great idea is to cook three meals worth in one go: eat one there and then, eat the second for lunch, then repurpose the third portion into two new meals by pimping them up. I go into more detail in my podcast but briefly, they can transform a meal into something unrecognisable so that they won't feel like they are eating the same thing over and over again. So for tagine and cous cous, the cous cous can be turned into a salad and the meat from the tagine can be used in place of a burger (yes, it will be amazing) and the sauce can be used to pimp up rice and pulses for another meal. There are many more tips in my podcast and also on my Facebook and Instagram pages.
TIP: Here's a tip to revamp leftover pasta fro Vicky at Pasta and Play:
Mix together 100 grams diced cheese (something that melts) and 100g diced bacon with 2 tsp tomato paste. Add any leftover veg and mix. Add 400g leftover pasta, 6 eggs and if the mixture is too thick and half a glass of milk. Mix well, line a cake tin and bake for 20-25min at 180C until crispy on top - leave it for 5 more minutes if you want it more crispy.
Spice blends and sauces
When it comes to the "extra factor", it might be easier to start with a ready made blend of spices or sauce. Check out these options:
Here are some tips to get you in and out of the kitchen in super quick time:
Cut down on washing up
The sight of a sink full of dirty dishes after dinner is the last thing you want, but it is super easy to stop that from happening:
wash as you go.
- As soon as you finish with something wash or rinse it.
- It will take less time to wash as the food won't have had time to dry up and it will be more pleasant to cook without things piling up.
- and if you need it again you can always grab it.
use as few items as possible
- plan the order of your cooking so that you can reuse pans and bowls
- for example, if making a crumble, cook the fruit with sugar and cinnamon in the microwave in the dish you will be baking it. Once cooked, add crumble and bake.
- use freezer bags to mix things if the kitchen is really dirty - try to opt for reusable ones to keep it eco friendly
use stainless steel mixing bowls and utensils
- stainless steel is so much easier to clean
use non-stick pans
- wash as soon as you have finished with it
Learn to cook
So believe it or not, we all had to learn to cook. The best way is to get involved at home.
Learn at home
- start small: if you're not use to helping out then help for for 5 minutes and build it up.
- start with the basics: it can be overwhelming to start with a whole meal so pick something you can learn comfortably and replicate then move on to more complicated stuff
- watch your favourite dishes being prepared and slowly learn to cook the whole thing
Courses, books and online
The good news is that there are lots of ways to learn - cookbooks, cooking classes, cooking coaching, YouTube, Instagram. If you want to learn, there are ways to learn. Check out these options:
Sometimes they just won't want to cook, or they'll fancy a treat. At those times a takeaway might be a good idea. During these formative years it's a great time to try new cuisines to help develop the tastebuds and figure out how things are meant to taste so that when they do cook they know what they are aiming for. It's such a nice feeling to recreate a meal you've enjoyed.
Gadgets and utensils
If you can stretch your gadgets there are some brilliant gadgets and utensils out there. Here are a few of my essentials:
- these are amazing: use them to chop onions, garlic and ginger; make smoothies and soups; sauces and salsas.
- the great thing about them is that they save time and washing up.
- you can get pans of three plastic ones quite cheaply and they're great because they are colour coded and take up very little space
- keep separate colours for raw meat, cooked meat and veg
knife and knife sharpener
- you need a couple of knives ideally - one big one and one small one
- make sure you sharpen your knife each time you use it, it makes such a difference
silicone pastry brush
- I use this to grease baking dishes and also pans to cut down on how much oil I need.
- silicone ones are so much easier to clean
stainless steel items:
- grater: trust me when I say this, a stainless steel grater is so much easier to clean and will last a lifetime. It's really worth the extra money. And get one that is completely stainless steel - no plastic bits.
- mixing bowls: these are so easy to clean and stack really well together. They aren't expensive either. Get at least three. And different sizes if you can.: you can also use them as serving bowls
- peeler: once again, a stainless steel peeler will last a lifetime and can take on the toughest of veg. Mine is almost as old as I am, as is my grater.
- sieve: no need for a colander and a sieve. You can rest the sieve in a stainless steel mixing bowl. If you are getting a colander then a stainless steel one is a must.
- one frying pan and one sauce pan should do you. Non stick is perfect but it does help to have one stainless steel pan as well as not everything cooks as well in non-stick.
silicone spatula and wooden spoons
- you don't want to scratch your non-stick pans!
silicone baking trays
- they are so much easier to use and clean. They really are worth the investment.
- seriously worth having
- a must f0r following recipes.
- use the tare option at the beginning and after adding every ingredient: pressing tare resets the weight to zero.
- use them to measure liquid too - I usually assume that 1ml is equal to 1gram and it usually works out just fine. Oil is denser so I go for 0.85ml is equal to 1 gram. TIP: use the measuring cup that comes with liquid medicines to measure out teaspoons and tablespoons.
- Get a fold up one to save precious cupboard space.
The big night out
University isn't just about studying...socialising is a massive part of uni life. And you'll want them to get it right. What better way to cement friendships that to invite friends over for a pre-party and provide them with snacks they will remember and tell everyone else about too!
Here's a tip from Dewi of Oh Lily (the popped water lily seeds):
THE EASIEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE EVER!
1 can of chickpeas: for the brine only (now known as aquafaba), keep the chickpeas for hummus or a curry!
200g of dark chocolate
Oh ya that’s it! Ok you’ ll probably need an electronic whisker
1. Whisk the aquafaba until stiff peaks form.
2. Melt the chocolate.
3. Add the fluffy aquafaba into the chocolate little by little until all combined, folding in gently so as not to lose the bubbles of the aquafaba
4. Pour in a glass of your choice, sprinkle with some love and top it with your favourite chocolate popped water lily seeds.
ALCHOL FREE ESPRESSO COCKTAIL:
The morning after
A vital part of planning a big night out is to be prepared for the next day...yep, it's time to acknowledge that they'll be going "out out".
They can make the morning after that little better by making sure they have batch cooked meals in the fridge and breakfast prepared in case they are in no fit state to cook. They'll want to rehydrate so it's a good idea that they go to bed with a big glass of water by their bed and drinks that pack a punch. Tip: they'll be thankful in the morning if they put the drinks by the bed before they go out.
FEEL GOOD TEA
Gosh this packs a punch...full of warming spices and comforting cocoa and cinnamon plus a hit of chilli. You'll be up and about it no time. And it's eco-friendly with its compostable packaging.
£2.75 on this website. FEEL GOOD TEA
The essential: chocolate
When we went into lockdown, whilst others were loading up on loo rolls I was clearing the supermarket aisles of chocolate - to me it's an essential. Check out these wonderful ideas to show them you are missing them:
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