Tuesday 11 October 2016

Three meal mumma

Lion licking lips

The hilarity of our mealtimes is something to behold, reminiscent of feeding time at the zoo. My kids eating habits are so different and so without even including my hubby and I in the dinner rota, I seem to be required to concoct three meals at most sittings. It's not all the kids 'faults' that they are fussy eaters, but there is little denying their differences.

Anthony, is our resident lion, though only at the dinner table.  Unlike the lions who lounge around all day, Anthony has spent it more like a gazelle on the run.  He literally is jumping around the room when he comes to eat his dinner.  But just like the lion he eats... a lot!  He can easily clear adult size portions, with his favourite food being lasagna.  Though true there are few cows around the prairie, I think he would be fine with a wildebeest or buffalo version of the meal as long as there was lots of it smothered in a tomato based sauce.  It takes him an age to eat it. This is all good as far as I'm concerned. Anthony has long had a relatively restricted diet due to not liking certain flavours or textures, like many autistic kids and as he's on medication for his ADHD he's at risk of loosing weight.  This means I keep my lion topped up with mountains of food.

fussy looking penguin

Jane prefers different food. One could consider her our penguin.  Penguins are apparently the most popular zoo animals (who knew though as I used to fancy being a marine biologist as a child maybe I'm not really surprised).  And this is Jane because she must think she is the favourite to get away with the misery she creates when she decides she doesn't like something. Sweet cute little face looks up and says, "I don't like that mumma", and I haven't the will left to fight her on it...plus, she's the only one of our kids who will allow a fish finger on her plate and then gobble them up too.

Panda eating

And that brings us to our most rare of species... our panda impressionist David. Panda's diet is made up of 99% of bamboo plants.  David's sometimes feels like it's 99% Tesco chicken nuggets.  He's  always had a restricted diet.  It's just part of his difficulty with sensory processing, routine and the busy time that is our evening meal. There's clanging plates and talking, lights, cooking smells etc etc, it's all a bit #TMI - too much information for his autistic body.  As he still doesn't really talk  at five and a half years old, it's difficult to tell exactly what he doesn't like about various foods - but it's pretty obvious he's not interested in eating them.  He'll slouch down and take a lazy seated position, but if it's not to his liking he'll go hungry.  He's too just fussy, he literally can't eat it. Dinners consist of one key item - mostly bread and chicken nuggets (yes, I know, it's awful).

So what to do... make three separate dinners every night?  I am in many ways a zoo keeper during the day but I ain't cooking three separate dinners each night (four if you count one for my other half and me).  So this means thinking about similar cooking methods or meals with constituent parts that the kids can each eat.

Recently we were sent a delicious Organic Box by Tesco with our weekly Click & Collect shop.  It consisted of ingredients to make creamy organic mushroom and spinach spaghetti.  And after I'd made this for me and my hubby, I had plenty spaghetti and cheese left over.  Time to come up with three meals for dinner so each got a variation on spag bol and garlic bread.

Now I'm all for using up what I've got in the fridge so my spag bol is rarely exactly the same twice. Once I've browned off the mince, I usually add passatta, some herbs, including dried oregano, some of the lovely fresh basil from the window pot and finely chopped garlic (often left over from our Hello Fresh boxes).  I also like to add in bits to try and get Anthony to eat some kind of vegetable. Grated cauliflower has worked well in the past, but this week I had a couple of carrots that were beginning to look a bit bendy, so one was grated and went in too.  Once that's all cooking I put on the organic spaghetti we'd been sent.

boiling pastapart baked baguette

I was taught how to cook pasta by a lovely Italian girl I met when I was volunteering at a turtle rehabilitation centre in Athens. The most important thing is that your water is hot and the pasta should be able to swim in there.  Lots of hot water.  If your pot isn't big enough, it's better to snap your spaghetti and drop it into the pot in one go. This way you get great consistently cooked pasta.  Yum.  We do like consistency in our autism household!

Half way through the pasta cooking I've thrown a part baked baguette in the oven.  Great tip for this if you like it crunchy - turn off the oven but let it sit in there for another minute after it's cooked.  I've got some leftover garlic butter from the Pizza Express dough balls we bought and that together makes me some garlic bread. I've also grated some of the organic cheese and have some cream cheese out.

grated food cooked baguette

Then comes the bizzare part.  I dish up three different meals.
  • Anthony (the lion) gets a monster serving of pasta and meat, meat, meat (with ssshhh hidden carrots), with a slice of garlic bread
  • Jane (the penguin) doesn't want the mince so gets pasta with a cheese sauce made from a dollop of cream cheese and grated cheese mixed together until in melts in the hot pasta, and as she loves them some of carrot cut into sticks with a slice of garlic bread
  • David (the panda) , gets a mountain of garlic bread in the middle of a segregated plate, with some grated cheese on one side (that he will ignore) and a couple of carrot sticks on the other (that he will ignore).
Sometimes I think David just focuses on one food to limit what he is having to process from the dinnertime experience. At least with spag Bol the other half and I can also have spag bol later after the kids have gone to bed.  Other ways around the problem of three fussy kids is to cook everything in the same way, eg chicken nuggets, fish fingers, chips and pizza can all go in the oven and produce three mostly separate meals too.

It seems a bit daft,  But what else is there to do?  Whilst I hope Jane will become less of a princess penguin over the years, drop the toddler attitude and eat a bit more, David is likely to always find eating difficult.  We went through a horrendous time last year, trying to expand his diet by force feeding him.  It wasn't pleasant and it wasn't very successful.  So until he's able to understand or tolerate more, I guess I'll just have to continue with the zoo keeper style attitude.  At least I get to have lovely variations in my life.. and let's face it, we all like going to the zoo.

Are your kids or are you 'fussy' with good? What are mealtimes like in your home?
This post supports The Makaton Charity #wetalkmakaton sign of the week.

Linked in:
Mr and Mrs T Plus Three Island Living 365



  1. Well done you, I am beyond impressed with your culinary creativity and ability to create all those different meals from the same basic ingredients :-) #MMBC

  2. Wow impressive dining skills. I bet you worry a lot that they are all eating enough but you have a great attitude and I seem relaxed? My daughter adores Italian meals too. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x

  3. Oh Ann I recognise so much of this I have a lion too and my little man up until recently had a very restrictive diet so I very often made 3 meals. However, this has improved lately and we have started meal planning too which has helped. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  4. Hi Anne, where there's a will there's a way. You seem to have dinner times nicely under control. My sons sensory disorder used to make dinner times a nightmare, not that he made a fuss, bless him he did used to try, but certain foods and textures make him gag as do certain smells and topics of conversation. He has got better as he's got older, so fingers crossed yours do too.... He's never learned to eat quickly though, a meal can take well over an hour for him to eat!

    Thank you for linking to the #MMBC


  5. Very impressive dining skills! And as someone who is also a mother to fussy eaters I bow down at your ability to cater to everyone. Those Princess Penguins don't know how lucky they are! #FridayFrolics

  6. Our house often resembles a zoo at feeding time. We have just transferred form a highchair to a chair. And teaching the little one to stay still is a challenge! I'm impressed at how you turn one meal into three. Thanks for linking up to #FridayFrolics

  7. Wow well done on mastering dinner time! What a juggle with a penguin, panda and a lion! Not easy...#KCACOLS

  8. This sounds so much like my house! Why oh why can't everyone just like one meal the same? Please!! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

  9. Ugh, dinner! A stressful time in this house, too. Tyger is better than he used to be and since he'll eat pasta (plain and dried with kitchen roll!) and raw carrot and cheese he will eat things that almost resemble an actual dinner. Bear, on the other hand, lives on a diet of 90% Cheerios right now. I do try. I make them pizza where the base is sweet potato mixed with flour to get a little veg. in them but dinners here often look more like snacks.


  10. My son is a very picky eater. Trying to get him to eat anything different is like pulling teeth. I recently read a study that a child's pickiness is more related to genetics than parenting so at least I can blame my husband for this one ;) #bigpinklink

  11. So know where your coming from. My instratgram photos are always full of odd looking separated food. My eldest has ASD and struggles with new food and takes us a long time to get him to try something new xxx

  12. Ahhh just like my house! I hear you hun! #DreamTeam

  13. I think most houses with kids are like zoo's at feeding time lol. We often end up cooking more than one meal a my son is so fussy, now I get him to help with the cooking which has made things easier.

  14. That sounds like an awful lot of stress but you obviously handle it really well to make sure that your children all have food they will eat every day. Thanks for joining us at the #bigpinklink

  15. My son is such a lion, I am autistic and struggle with meal times as an adult with children. I hate waiting at the dinner table after and get so frustrated X #spectrumsunday

  16. Ha ha ha awesome!! I sometimes feel like its feeding time at the zoo they all come grunting to the table!
    Thanks for linking to #foodiefriday

  17. Its often like a zoo here - although everyone eats everything, even Pudding wants a lion sized portion these days! Great that you are finding ways to fit your meals to all tastes #eatsleepblogrt

  18. I love how you are able to make sure everyone gets something they want at meal times, pretty impressive. My mum used to have to make 4 different variations of the same meal when I was growing up remembering who did and didn't like certain things! #kcacols

  19. SpagBol is a favourite in our house and your recipe sounds great #KCACOLS

  20. OMG - very similar to our place! I've been starting to push Gilbert more at mealtimes as he is our pickiest and most stubborn eater. It's slow going but we are making progress now I understand his sensory needs better - I'm just looking forward to that eventual day when we may all just eat the same meal!

  21. You do what you need to do! My children all like different things, Jude would quite happy live in pasta in any form whatsoever. He has sensory issues but seems to like food you can shovel such as big bowls of pasta!

  22. Oh I'm in awe of you...we only have one and I struggle to get any food down her these days! Spag bol is often a winner though and if all else fails, get the potato waffles on the go haha. Thanks for linking up to #dreamteam


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