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Our Favourite Meat-Free Family Meals Part 1

by Laura Donnelly on February 18, 2022

Recently I've become conscious about our diet and what we're actually putting into our bodies. Having a 4 and a 7 year old, one of whom can sniff out a vegetable before she even sees it, I've tended to rustle up something simple for them around 4.30pm and cook  a 'proper meal' for myself and my husband later on. All of us love to eat fruit but I felt we were eating a bit too much red meat and not enough variety of vegetables, seeds and pulses etc.

At the start of the year I realised things needed to change so I set about finding tasty, meat-free recipes, with a variety of produce we wouldn't usually eat, that would be tasty enough for the children to enjoy with us; meals that had 'hidden goodness' in them to hide from the 4 year old! 

The last few weeks have been a culinary delight! We have eaten the most tasty meals and looked forward to trying new recipes each week. I've stuck to my guns and given the same meal to the children, which has been a huge success. My son is loving the variety and has polished off everything I've given him. My daughter starts the meal with "Ughh that looks disgusting. I don't like that!" but with a bit of persuasion I've managed to get her to try a mouthful. She usually eats at least half which is more than I expected! 

I've also really enjoyed buying fresh produce from the market on a Saturday morning, whilst my daughter is at her theatre class, and I've loved cooking. The best thing about the meals is that they have all been quick and easy to make and it feels great knowing how many fresh ingredients you have used. In all honesty, none of us have missed the meat; not even my husband who is usually a meat-lover. 

I am going to regularly share our favourite recipes; starting with two hearty favourites that we have enjoyed this week. We have been on half-term with the children so it's been lovely eating our meals together and enjoying a bit of family hygge time. 

I would like to credit the new cook book 'Joe's Family Food' by Joe Wicks which you can buy here  

Joe's Family Food Cook Book Joe Wicks

Please take my word for it with the first one as, not particularly being a beetroot lover myself, I was wary whether we would enjoy Joe's 'Beetroot Risotto' on Page 114. Oh my goodness was I wrong! This has become our favourite weekly meal and we cannot get enough of it. Luckily it resembles rice pudding with jam so the 4 year old is non the wiser. I make an extra large batch of it so that I can enjoy it for lunch for the next couple of days so yes... I am happily eating this 3 times a week at the moment.

Ingredients: Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds (both giving a delicious bite), Shallots, Vegetable stock, Arborio rice, Parmesan, Garlic, 4 beetroots (cooked) that are coarsely grated into the rice, Lemon juice and the delicious toppings of crumbled feta and chopped dill. Et voila...heaven!

My second recommendation is the 'One-pan Mushroom & Kale Mac and Cheese' on Page 163. Creamy, filled with mushrooms, kale and a delicious fuss-free sauce. We used blue cheese rather than cheddar in the sauce (which is just milk that the pasta is cooked in) and crumbled a good amount across the top to be grilled. Kale is a nutritional superstar due to high amounts of vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium and potassium. Not only does the recipe include this fantastic vegetable but it also tastes amazing. Crunchy, sweet and "Not too vegetably" according to my son. We added a full pack of chopped, chestnut mushrooms that are good for your cells, blood health and your immune system. We were excited to get back from our morning walk today to enjoy the leftover portions for our lunch; reheated with another sprinkling of salty blue cheese. 

I have started to introduce a wider variety of fruits and milks (oat, soya, coconut) into our diet in the form of home-made smoothies. Visiting the market stalls on a weekend has become one of my favourite activities and I'm finding it an extremely hygge thing to do. The smoothies are especially going down well with the children. They now look forward to their fruity 'milkshake' once they arrive home rather than raiding the treat cupboard for sweets and chocolate. 

Next week we are trying Joe's 'Smoky Chickpea Jacket Potatoes' and 'Tomato, Spinach & Pepper Gnocchi Traybake' so I shall let you know our thoughts. I really recommend trying meals such as the above that might take you out of your comfort zone a little but promise to be a delight for the tastebuds. Already I feel like I'm less tired, more energised and I feel more focused. Whether this is down to the new diet, who knows, but I'm pretty sure it's playing a huge part. Ps we still enjoy 'treat night' on a Friday which usually involves no cooking! But now we don't feel as guilty eating it as we've nailed the vitamins and minerals during the week. 


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