Ella Loves: Dinner

Welcome to a new series on the blog, called "Ella Loves". Each post will focus on a theme with Ella's current favourites in that area. This post is all about her (and our) favourite meals at the moment.

Eating with a toddler can be pretty tricky, and Ella is no exception. We've been lucky in that she loves to eat, so I've never been worried about her not getting enough food. Dinners can be very hit or miss though, especially now that she is developing her own opinions around what she likes and doesn't like. Ella is also pretty typical in that she can completely devour a meal one day, and then push it away the next, with no logical reason why. Well, no logical reason to us, anyway. She also does this in reverse, so if she says one day that she doesn't like something I don't take that as an absolute statement. It's more like: "I don't like that right now" and she might be perfectly willing to try the same thing at another time.

I try really hard not to make a big deal about how much she eats. I know that toddlers can regulate themselves really well, and if she is not hungry I am not going to push her to eat more than she wants to, just because I some predetermined idea of what is an acceptable amount. There are so many factors to consider: growth spurts, how much she has eaten at daycare, whether she is feeling under the weather, tiredness. We don't give her something different to eat if she says she is finished after a few bites, and sometimes she will come back around to eating more when she sees Andy and I eating the same thing (though she usually wants some from our bowl instead of her own).

After dinner our routine is to take her for her bath, and then she comes back to the kitchen for a small bowl of blueberries and Greek yogurt, followed by a book or two on the sofa, some milk and then bed. Sometimes I wonder if I should stop giving her the berries and yogurt if she hasn't eaten a lot of dinner, as she probably knows that she can skip dinner and just wait for her bedtime snack. I'm reluctant to do this though, as our bedtime routine is so lovely and easy at the moment, and I am hesitant to turn into a stressful time. The portion of berries and yogurt is pretty small, so I am happy to stay with it for now, regardless of how much dinner she eats.

With all that said, here are a few meals we have been eating lately that have been a huge  hit for everyone in the household.

So you know how I said Ella can absolutely love a meal one day, and push it away the next? That never happens with this one. It's a pretty straight forward slow cooker meal, and my only advice if you are short on time would be to buy pre-diced lamb shoulder, otherwise it takes ages to cut up yourself.

Burrito Bowl via Woolworths
This is by far my favourite dinner as of late. Ella will eat most of it (she tends to pick around the pumpkin), and Andy prefers it in a pita or wrap instead of just the bowl. I recommend following this recipe for the perfect brown rice.

Bean and Cauliflower Soup with basil oil from the book Super Legumes
This soup is very easy to make and super yummy. The beans make it more filling than I was expecting. I wasn't going to bother with the basil oil but it definitely added to the overall flavour, so it's worth the extra couple of minutes it took to make. This is one where Ella pushed it away the first night, and refused to eat it. When I served it again she tentatively tried some of Andy's and then ended up gobbling it up. I was so happy as cauliflower is a flavour that she has refused several times. Also I highly recommend the book that this recipe is from.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 leek (thinly sliced) and 2 stalks of celery (diced) and cook for 6-7 minutes, until softened. Add in 2 crushed garlic cloves, stiring for 1 minute.
  • Add in 1 small head of cauliflower (cut into florets), 750ml of vegetable stock, and 1 tin of cannelli beans. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • While that is simmering make the basil oil by blending 1/2 a cup of basil leaves with 60ml of olive oil.
  • Blend soup, stir in 2 tbsp of freshly grated parmesan cheese, and season to taste.
  • Serve with basil oil drizzled on top, and garnish with basil leaves.

Lentil Bolognese via Woolworths
This one ticks all the boxes: it’s healthy, cheap and quick to make. It’s also vegetarian (or vegan if you leave out the cheese), but the lentils are so filling and tasty you don’t even notice that the minced beef is missing.

Hidden Veggie Sauce via One Handed Cooks
I pretty much always have some of this sauce on hand, frozen in cubes for the times when we have to work late and there is nothing to eat. I normally serve it with pasta and shredded cheese on top. It’s loaded with veggies and very tasty, and super easy to make.

I am so happy that Ella loves this soup as much as Andy and I do. It's my "go to" quick, easy meal, and I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. I use about half o the recommended amount of chili flakes to make sure it isn't too spicy for Ella. It is SO GOOD.


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