Menu planning used to be a bit of a foreign concept to me - I enjoyed going to the shops to see what was on special or what took my fancy. At home, I would spend time creating some new dish or adding all sorts of spices and sauces... well... that's how I like to remember my pre-allergy life. Perhaps I'm remembering them with rose-coloured glasses - I'll have to ask my husband. My pantry still has a full spice rack that we no longer use, jar upon jar of curry sauce that I bought on special once... note to self... must clear out pantry!
Since our second son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, my diet is so restricted that nearly all joy from cooking has disappeared. The restrictions on our food list are beyond ridiculous, and now just ensuring all bellies are full is an achievement in itself (especially my belly since I'm breasfeeding a ravenous monster of a 5 month old).
I realised not long ago, that actually the stress of cooking dinner each week has been reduced by having a few easy meals that can be rotated or by having a mix and match system. I'm not sure if you remember, but there used to be children's picture books where you could pick a head, flip through another set of pages for the body, then flip through for the legs of your choice. Our dinners follow this simple idea, and makes each dinner plate unique.
The meals aren't necessarily fancy, but they are nutritious and yummy. And with kids, an empty plate is a good plate. I don't plan each meal exactly, but provided my pantry and fridge are well stocked, I can choose my options based on how I feel that day, or how much time I have to prepare dinner. Typically I spend about 20 mins actually cooking dinner each day - doesn't sound much, but by keeping meals simple, I get to keep my sanity :-)
Pan fried beef steak - served with a side of mustard for my husband.
Pan fried lamb chops - marinated with maple syrup, salt and oil.
Sausages - we use a gluten free range from our local supermarket.
Pan fried salmon steaks
Sliced meat covered in crushed Red Rock Deli chips. You can also cover a whole roast chicken with the crushed chips and it keeps the chicken very moist and tasty.
Penne pasta - 10 mins boiling time
Rice - 30 mins cooking time
Spaghetti (rice/corn varieties) - 10 mins boiling time
Bread rolls warmed in the oven- this one takes 5 mins from freezer, to oven, to plate.
Mashed potato - if my hubbie is home, he can mash it for me.
Udon noodles or other asian style noodle - 3 mins in the fry pan to heat through.
Frozen chips or hash browns - takes 30 mins in the oven, so needs more planning.
Frozen/fresh peas or corn
Carrot - our son just has raw carrot sticks, while I microwave the adult portions
Aspsaragus/beans/snow peas/spinach/asian leafy vegetable - any vegetable that can be tossed into the fry pan and cooked in the meat juices to add flavour.
Grated raw carrot and grated raw apple - a yuumy combination actually!
Salad - our son loves raw tomatoe, so a few of those on his plate and he's super happy.
Lamb Roast with roasted potato, pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot.
Oven roasted chicken wings and vegetables, served with rice.
Slow cooked chicken with apple cider.
Slow cooker - Lamb shanks, carrots, ontion, potatoes etc with a tomatoe base. If you can't use tomatoes, a large tin of cherries works a treat!
Chicken one pot soup - chicken pieces, vegetables... and boil! Add rice noodles or pasta at the end.
For added flavour
Never underestimate the impact of a sprinkling of salt!
Tamari/Soy sauce - if you can use soy.
We can't use store bought stock, so we either make our own, or you can add grapes/plums/cherries to add some depth to the dish. These can be added to the fry pan, or to the slow cooker/pot. Think of it as a substitute for wine.
What are your family favourites? If you would like more specific recipes, please do let me know. I am always happy to help :-)