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It was a real wakeup call when I was told several years ago that some kids don’t know where potatoes come from, because in my day it was babies – as I was convinced they were left behind a bush by the Stork!!

Seriously though, Jamie Oliver has improved children’s awareness of fresh food by his campaigns in schools, but there are still families who rely so heavily on frozen fries and convenience food through necessity, that they have missed a major trick which is less expensive, far more nutritious and psychologically sound – cooking together as a family.

We all know that time is not always on our side when both parents are working, or if you are a grandparent only seeing the family at weekends, but any time put aside to get everyone involved from the ages of five to ninety-five, will be incredibly beneficial.

I did it recently with my young grandkids – yes still can’t believe I am a grandmother – far too young, but here I am and making the most of it!

I hatched a plan with my daughter, who struggles to cook an array of meals with her three young children all under 8 with different tastes and demands, and her husband who is also quite particular about his food.

We decided to consult each member of the family and find out what they would like for a special lunch at Nanna’s.  The youngest said chocolate and the older twins wanted pizza and my son-in-law a vegetarian dish.

So we set out to incorporate all of the ‘tastes’ and opted for a vegetarian pizza full of health giving fresh vegetables followed by a fabulous dessert of fresh fruit and meringue with a chocolate topping.

I set up the kitchen with music themed to please everybody, from Thunderbirds to Peppa Pig & Taylor Swift to Michael Buble and then set out the vegetables and home grown tomatoes and herbs, the latter still in pots for the kids to see.

There was a good selection of salad and fruit to be chopped up, and the little one was given the task of setting out the table and folding up the napkins, as well as stirring the chocolate topping, under the watchful eye of Dad in case of too much ‘secret tasting’.

Once the vegetables had been chopped and whilst waiting for the meal to cook, the twins entertained us with their wooden spoon air guitars as we bopped around the kitchen.

The event went off without a hitch and I threw in some subliminal information about where and how long the ingredients had taken to grow, some of them in my own garden, and everyone was happy.  Plus it had given my daughter ‘food for thought’ of how to tackle meals times in future – with a bit of planning and lots of imagination.

FOR THE PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 6 small mushrooms, halved
  • 1 small courgette, sliced
  • 1 small yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons  dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 ready made 12″ pizza crust
  • 1 can pizza sauce
  • mozzarella cheese

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, courgette, peppers, onion, vinegar, water, 3 teaspoons oil and salt & pepper. Transfer to an oiled backing tin and grill on a medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until tender, turning once halfway through.
  • Brush crust with remaining oil, spread with pizza sauce. add the grilled vegetables and cheese. place in oven for 8-12 minutes at 180c or until edges are browned and cheese is melted.

FOR THE FRUIT & CHOCOLATE TOPPED MERINGUE

INGREDIENTS

MERINGUES

  • large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 oz choc chips

CHOCOLATE SAUCE:

  • 1 can Evaporated Milk
  • 6 oz choc chips
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • Fresh fruit or berries (blackberries, raspberries, peaches or strawberries etc)

INSTRUCTIONS

FOR MERINGUES:

Pre-heat oven to 150º c. Lightly grease a baking sheet.Beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in large mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar; beat until sugar is dissolved. Gently fold in morsels. Spread meringue into ten 3-inch nests with deep wells about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until meringues are dry and crisp. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

FOR CHOCOLATE SAUCE:


Heat evaporated milk and bring to boiling in a thick bottomed saucepan.
Stir in choc chips,
Stir constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened and smooth.
Remove from heat; stir in sugar, vanilla extract and salt.
Drizzle meringues with Chocolate Sauce and fill with the fruit & serve.
Enjoy
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