Rebecca Wilson, author of What Mummy Makes, is back with her brand-new book championing the healthy side of comfort food for the whole family. Here she shares her top tips on family meal planning and explains the surprising benefit the pandemic has had on our eating habits.
After over a year of lockdowns and social distancing, the restaurants opened back up again this summer and we’ve been browsing new menus and tucking into takeaways non-stop. But, with the back-to-school season in full swing and the cooler, cosier Autumn months on the way, we’re craving some home comforts; and ones the whole family can enjoy. When it comes to family meal planning, Rebecca Wilson – author, influencer and certified foodie – knows a thing or two about keeping the whole family well fed.
We caught up with Rebecca ahead of the launch of her brand-new cookbook, Family Comforts: Simple, Heartwarming Food to Enjoy Together, an homage to comforting, home-cooked meals the whole family can enjoy. Rebecca’s recipes are suitable for all ages and can be adapted so the whole family – right from weaning tots to bigger kids with bigger appetites – can enjoy them together.
So, tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your new book Family Comforts?
Comfort food my most favourite way to eat. Food that makes me feel warm and happy, and brings a smile to my face. So, I wanted to create a book full of delicious recipes that I love to share with my family. I wanted to change the narrative that comfort food always needs to be unhealthy. The recipes in Family Comforts definitely aren’t! But [they] still give you all the feels as if you were eating something naughty!
What’s your favourite recipe from the new book?
Oh, it’s such a tricky one, I reckon it would have to be my Chinese style slow-cooked ribs – soft melt in the mouth meat that just falls off the bone, in a sweet sticky sauce that gets glazed over the top of the ribs before blasting in a hot oven to get those edges caramelised and flavours to intensify. These are so, so good!
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What does comfort food mean to you? What’s your ultimate comfort food?
Comfort food to me is home, happiness and nostalgic family moments. My ultimate comfort food is my mum’s goulash. She made this all through my childhood, so I knew it was going in my book. I’ve adapted her recipe to make it a little simpler and suitable for the slow cooker so that it really is as simple as it is tasty.
What are some of the common problems parents might face at mealtimes?
Problems and difficulties during mealtimes occur for every family, even for the healthiest of appetites. The trick is to try not to let it dampen your love for the family eating environment. A smile goes such a long way in helping little ones to enjoy their food.
What can parents do to cope with fussier toddlers when it comes to mealtime?
Eat Together as a Family
Try to eat together at every meal, eating the same food and around the dinner table. The more your little one sees you having a healthy attitude towards the same food they are presented with, the more likely over time they will want to join in.
Avoid Providing Alternatives
Try to avoid offering an alternative meal if the dish is refused, this will set a president, and you will find it is trickier to get out of the refusal habit.
Try to Relax
But most importantly, try to relax! Have fun at the dinner table – chat, sing, dance on your seat. Mealtimes are to be enjoyed, if they are a chore, nobody will want to eat.
What about parents struggling to come up with family meal planning for children with allergies. Can recipes in Family Comforts be adapted for those with special dietary requirements?
100%! This was very important to me [when creating recipes for the book]. I want everyone to feel included, so I have put an emphasis on helping you adapt the recipes to suit your own dietary requirements through a handy key system on each recipe.
Do you think the pandemic has changed family eating habits?
There are countless terrible impacts resulting from the pandemic, but it has done one positive thing. It has shown people how lovely it is to spend family meals together. It created more of a love for home cooking, and now we are coming out of it craving to spend time as a family. Family Comforts is the perfect book to help feed every loved one at the next family gathering.
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What was your biggest personal challenge during the pandemic?
I found the lack of childcare tricky. Rebecca Wilson, the brand, was growing, and I struggled with focusing my time on my business as well as caring for my 3-year-old, Nina, at the same time. But we got there, as did everyone. We should all be so proud of ourselves!
It’s back-to-school season, what are your tips for family meal planning, when it may feel as though you’re busier than ever?
Try to spend half an hour each week planning your family meals for the next seven days. Get the shopping in and then you will feel all set and organised for your week ahead. My What Mummy Makes Family Meal Planner is the perfect tool to help you if you need it to get started.
Why do you think it’s so important to eat as a family? And to create meals the whole family can enjoy?
Not only does it save you valuable time and money, but it helps little ones learning the physicalities of eating, exposes them to a healthy varied diet, shows them how our attitudes to food should be, and above all builds happy family memories.
If you could only have one meal or dish together as a family for the rest of time, what would it be?
A Sunday roast, with all the trimmings. Mainly because it’s delicious, but the leftovers give you so many possibilities you won’t get bored of eating the same thing all the time!
What’s your favourite meal of the day and why?
Dinner, I’ve been looking forward to what I’m going to cook all day, and I enjoy it more when the time comes around.
Family Comforts: Simple, Heartwarming Food to Enjoy Together by Rebecca Wilson. Published by DK on 16 September, £18.99. Follow Rebecca on Instagram at @rebeccawilsonfood.
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