As a mum of two kids; one of which is hungry ALL the time and the other who is a right fussy little madam, mealtimes can be a nightmare. One likes something, but you can guarantee the other doesn’t. One likes sauce on their pasta…the other doesn’t. One likes their potatoes with the skin left on…the other doesn’t. The list goes on and on and on. And don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not one of those mums that gives in to their children’s every whim, they can either like it or lump it in my opinion.
The problem is, I’ve got myself stuck in a bit of a family food rut and the result is that we end up having the same meals every week. For example, on Monday’s I’ll do a stir fry, Tuesday’s are for fish and couscous, Wednesday’s tend to be slow cooker days so something like Bolognaise or meatballs, Thursday’s are pesto pasta or tuna pasta, Friday’s are for Greek salad, Saturday’s are always a curry for the adults and the kids have some kind of pasta earlier on in the day, and Sunday’s are roast days. It’s all yum, it’s all pretty healthy, but boy does it get boring week in week out!
The thing is, it’s easy. I don’t have to think too much about what I’m making, it makes shopping an absolute dream because my trolley always contains the same stuff, and most importantly it means I avoid the soul destroying scenario of having spent ages on preparing a delicious, nutritious, innovative new dish only to have to throw half of it away in the bin and then spend more time making back up pesto pasta!
So imagine my relief when a book turned up on my desk the other week packed with family friendly meals that promise to be tasty as well as ticking a whole heap of nutritional boxes. Feeling motivated and inspired I dived right in and mixed up the weekly meal planner…more on that later.
Kate Percy’s recipe book ‘Go Faster Food for your Active Family‘ is emblazoned with the positive taglines:
Have more energy
Eat delicious food
And indeed this book is aimed at those active families, who are ferrying kids left, right and centre to various sporting clubs, training sessions and events and are in much need of speedy food that the whole family will eat, but that also provide the correct nutritional balance of all the food groups for growing, energetic kids.
Kate Percy is herself a trained sports nutrition cook and she knows all too well just how important good nutrition is for peak performance. Back in 1997, Kate’s husband, Mark, was in training for the New York Marathon and he had hit a point where he was struggling. Kate decided to try something out and dramatically changed the way in which the whole family was eating, to help support her husband in his training programme. It was this decision that not only transformed Mark’s performance, and therefore enabled him to complete the marathon, but also gave Kate the impetus to hatch plans for her business, which would ultimately help spread her belief that real food fuels you better.
Since then Kate has released recipe books and education programmes that are used by Olympians, Great Run, 220 Triathlon and the GB Youth Winter Olympic Development Squad, and has also recently released her new product Go Bites; handy on the go nutrient dense energy balls.
But do you know what, in my opinion this book shouldn’t just be for those high performing active kids, no this book is a nutritional bible that would benefit all families, no matter what their energy levels. Because let’s face it, most kids are active to some degree, and those that aren’t would be able to use this book as a starting point to improve their lifestyle choices. I remember having a similar book when I was taking my Home Economics GCSE at school (literally decades ago, I mean does Home Ec. even exist any more?!?), but this is obviously much more current, much glossier and way more exciting to look at. And what I really like about it is that it talks in a way most kids would understand; it simplifies yet doesn’t patronise and I think that’s an incredibly important thing to do when relating to kids.
The first section of the book is all about nutrition with top tips about what to eat on competition day, before the event, how to hydrate etc. and each food group is explained in greater detail. Plus, and this is my fave part of this section of the book, there are mini interviews with active kids, asking them about what they like to eat, their favourite meals, why nutrition is important to them and so on. It adds a lovely personal element to it and I think makes a great inspirational read for any children looking through the book, either to help motivate and drive them within their own sports, or to encourage them to take up a sport or become more active. Healthy eating, cooking from scratch and enjoying the simple pleasure of sitting down together as a family to eat a meal are all fairly basic skills, but we’re all guilty of having lost them amongst our crazy hectic lives. This book helps instil that ethos of ‘you are what you eat’ as well as encouraging families to have a go in the kitchen; teaching basic cookery skills that is a core lesson to both children and adults alike.
Part two of the book is all about the recipes and they are split into five different categories:
Breakfast & Brunch
- Eggs etc.
- Prep and cook in under 20 mins (the dream!)
- Prep and cook in under 45 mins (weekend)
- Slow cook (leave it to work it’s magic)
- Energy Bars
- Energy Smoothies
- Recovery Shakes
As with anything in life, preparation is key and I would say the best way to use this book is to sit down with it on a Sunday evening, when you’re working out the rest of your schedule for the week, and plan your meals. Each recipe is marked with icons, which tell you for example whether it’s budget friendly, good for post-exercise recovery, as a pre-exercise energy boosting snack, or a high energy food that’s good for intense training. The photos of the food are truly beautiful, but more than anything each one looks achievable and let’s face it that’s what we want to see as parents. None of this fancy, small portioned, pimped up food that takes forever to make and costs a bomb, no we want simple, healthy, quick food that won’t break the bank and that our kids will actually eat and ask for again.
So let’s put some of them to the test…
Fresh Basil Pesto
Pesto pasta is a staple in our house, as I am sure it is in many households. It’s quick, it’s easy and you know the kids will eat it, simple! And of course I use the ready made stuff in a jar, because why the hell wouldn’t I?! But I know it’s riddled with salt and sugar, so when I saw the recipe for Fresh Basil Pesto in the Go Faster Food book, I knew it was a sign that I should deffo try this out on the kids.
This is so easy to make, like ridiculously easy to make, and the gorgeous aromas it gave off as I crushed all the ingredients together was literally to die for. The taste is fresh, fairly subtle, with a slight garlic bite to it that I’m fairly certain won’t put the kids off, although if your kids are OK with it you could deffo up the amount of some of the ingredients you use.
Fin literally demolished it, I mean it barely hit the sides and he said he’d deffo like me to make it again. Flo ate it (she loves a bit of pesto pasta!), but insisted on swiping out every teensy tiny bit of basil that dared make an appearance. All in all a winner, however when I make it again I’m going to try blitzing it up in a blender to help disguise the basil more. Truth is, I opted for the pestle and mortar, simply because I hadn’t used it in ages and I wanted to look all chefy!
This pesto makes a great addition to pasta, as a hot dish or cold as a salad, and I put a dollop on top of a seabass fillet for my dinner the other day, which was proper yum!
This could easily be made by young children and I think it’s the perfect way to get kids helping out in the kitchen, interacting with food and creating pride in the achievement of making a food that they can serve to the rest of the family. You show me one child who doesn’t like pesto pasta!
Chilli Chocolate Chicken
As I mentioned earlier, Saturday night is curry night, well for me and the hubby that is…the kids turn their noses up at the mere suggestion of the idea. I try to make sure that throughout the week we all eat together as a family (the perks of us both working from home), but Saturday night is adults night, a chance for us to actually have a chance to enjoy our food and be able to have a conversation about stuff other than Minecraft and My Little Pony. I made this Chilli Chocolate Chicken last Saturday as a replacement for the usual Saturday night curry, but this time we all ate together as I wanted the kids to try it out too – I just made sure not to mention the words spicy, curry or chilli!
This recipe is fab for busy families as it’s a slow cooking one, meaning once you’ve prepped it, it pretty much looks after itself.
Myself and the hubby loved it, it had a real depth of flavour and the addition of the dark chocolate gave it a smooth creaminess that felt like a proper weekend meal. Fin…well he kind of liked it, he shovelled it in at first then picked around it for a bit before deciding he didn’t like the sauce after all. I personally reckon if I made him eat it just a couple more times he’d eventually like it. As for Flo….well she ate the rice and dipped the tiniest bit of her fork into the sauce before declaring she didn’t like it at all, but then there’s no great surprise! I think it was a step too soon for my kids, but if your kids are fairly OK with sauces and the idea of mixing two different food groups together (is it only my kids who eat everything on their plates separately?) then they’d love this. Yes it’s got chilli in it, but it’s really not that hot and spicy, in fact if you’re serving it to older children you may want to add more.
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Maple Syrup Almonds
Risotto is my all time favourite meal, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it out. The thing is I’m fairly certain the kids aren’t going to like this one, but do you know what…sometimes mum gets to call the shots and I’m calling mine now!
This one requires a bit more time and effort, so I’d say it’s more of a weekend meal. Risotto needs time, patience, lots of liquid and constant stirring, but as Kate Percy pointed out to me on Instagram it’s the perfect time to stretch or get some squats and lunges going on. Plus the way I see it is, if you’re in the kitchen stirring the risotto you’re not the adult who has to break up the bickering going on elsewhere in the house!
The adults wolfed it down and it made enough to keep as leftovers for the next day’s lunch. I served it with roast chicken and broccoli plus I confess I made some back up pesto pasta for the kids. Let’s not beat around the bush, Fin hated it. I knew he would, he hates risotto. He can’t stand the texture, he doesn’t like butternut squash, this was never going to happen, but I refuse to give up on him eventually liking the stuff – it’s my favourite so you WILL like it! Flo…well you can guess what she thought of it. Yep, she wasn’t keen let’s put it that way, but all credit to her she gave it a go and had it not been for the chunks of butternut squash I reckon she would’ve been OK with it. Bring on the pesto pasta!
To be fair I tried out the recipes that I liked the look of, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I believe that kids should be encouraged to eat a range of foods, however at ages 9 and 7 perhaps I pushed them a bit too soon, who knows. Having sat down and looked through the book with them, they’ve told me they want to make the Chocolate Biscuit Cake, Banana and Chunky Chocolate Muffins and Chocolate Peanut Granola…hmmm now I wonder why that is? 😉
Summer holiday baking sorted!
Whether it’s better concentration in schools, increased energy levels, nutrition to help them through intense growing periods or to help them recover and refuel after exercise, this book draws across the whole spectrum of healthy food and sports nutrition, creating recipes that are exciting for both children and adults alike. Yes it may push the boundaries with what some children may consider acceptable to put into their mouths, but unless you try new foods on kids how are they ever going to learn. In my opinion this is a great addition to any family kitchen and I think this book will have a place on my kitchen shelves for years to come.
We’ve got two copies of Kate Percy’s ‘Go Faster Food for your Active Family’ to giveaway to two lucky winners. To find out more, check out the Art of Healthy Living Instagram feed this Sunday (23rd July) or head on over to our Competition Page to find out what you need to do to be in with a chance of winning!