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black bean and goat cheese quesadillas

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been trying a new approach to the evening meal to increase the number of meals and range of foods the children will eat and enjoy.  This ‘operation’ involves trying 30 days of new meals for the whole family.  As I’ve mentioned before, both my children have no go areas with food.  I won’t go on about it too much, but a recent achievement was getting one of them to eat hot chips….so we’re looking at baby steps!

peanut chicken

Funnily enough, both of them love watching food and cooking shows.  Nigel Slater’s have been popular, as have the River Cottage shows, and they love Heston Blumenthal!  But I have to say they’ve just discovered a new hero, and his name is Alton Brown…  They’ve watched about ten of the Good Eats shows, and he’s even got Mr Minecraft admitting he might try salmon if we cook it like Alton 🙂

macaroni cheese and curried carrots

Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying there are all sorts of things that influence what we eat, and cooking shows seem to help with my family!  The other thing that works is involving them in planning and choosing meals, and this is where Operation 30 Days comes in.  It comes from a book called Dinner: the playbook* by Jenny Rosenstrach, who many of you will have heard of, if only because of a little bitty disagreement starting in the New York Times that I’m not going to mention further, except that there’s a good summary here.

Asian slaw with chicken

To let the kids have some control over the project, I showed them the book and let them choose 15 meals each.   We downloaded menu sheets from the website, and sorted the 30 chosen meals into week long menus, allowing for after school activities and how much prep time I would have.  The agreement was that we wouldn’t include things that anyone truly hated, but otherwise everyone had to at least try each meal.  Most of the meals are designed for busy weeknights so they’re all pretty quick and highlight the bits you can do ahead.

soba noodles with tofu

After each meal, the fun part, the children get to rate the meal out of ten, and then we all decide if it’s a keeper or not.  The kids have really enjoyed that part, and we’ve certainly found some keepers – the Korean ribs, peanut chicken and quesadillas were particularly popular.  I’ve linked to the website versions of the recipes where I could find them, though they’re not always identical to the cookbook.

preparing quesadillas

So, to the menus.  Week one looked like this:

Week 2 we had a night out so didn’t get to seven meals, but we made:

Menu plan and score card

We’re planning on doing the whole 30 days, and I’m hoping it will work as a bit of a ‘reboot’ to get us out of the dinner rut.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

So now to you –  how do you all deal with finding meals that are interesting, quick and that everyone in the family will eat??

*A quick note here to say that I follow a lot of food blogs and buy a lot of cookbooks.  I’ve found Jenny’s site and books useful for tips on getting the kids to eat more and eating together as a family, but have no other interest – financial or otherwise – with her or her site.  I just bought the book!

#Only eaten by one child

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