3 International dinners that even I finished in time – male au pair life

It is loud, it is tiring, it is stressful. Cooking while being with kids is everything but easy and the last thing you need is another cooking-blog-post to tell you how simple that vegan lobster-soufflé  will be. It won’t. The only result you will get is the pizza you ordered because that cooking-time suggestion was ridiculous. Believe me, I’ve been there!

Not many internet recipes actually work out the first time. Or the second – provided, the kids give you another chance, of course. The best cooking-success rate will come with either expensive cookbooks or personal experiences, both goods that are hard to gain.

That’s why here are my personal evergreens: 3 international, kid-proofed dinner recipes that even I, an absolute cookbook-dyslexic didn’t mess up the first time.

1. Italian Gnocchi with Arugula and Lemonbutter

Kids rating: 4/5

4 People
Preparation Time: 5 min.
Cooking time: 12 min.

fresh from the stove

You will need:

  • 500 gram (1lb) refrigerated potato gnocchi
  • 50 gram (2 oz) fresh arugula
  • 1 (organic!!) lemon
  • 50 gram (2 oz) butter
  • 3 tsp. capers
  • 1 garlic clove (minced or pressed)
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
  1. Slowly melt the butter in a small sauce pot on low heat. Add the juice and the zest of the lemon (after you washed it with hot water). |Tip: roll the lemon after you zest it but before you press it, that makes it easier.
    Stir in garlic, salt and pepper and set the sauce aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan and roast the gnocchi for about 7 min. on medium heat until browned. The next two steps have to happen relatively quickly, otherwise the dish will turn out to be dry. Add the arugula and let it shrink a little (not for too long!). When it’s about 3/4 of the original size, stir in the butter sauce. Turn off the stove and let sit for no more than a minute. Serve with Parmesan and capers.

This recipe is perfect,

if you don’t have that much time to cook. It works best, if you buy the ingredients either the same day, or the day before, otherwise the gnocchi will stick together and the arugula loses its taste. For the next recipe, you can buy the ingredients a couple weeks in advance.

2. German Potato Soup

Kids rating: 4/5

4 – 6 People
Preparation time: 40 min.
Cooking time: 30 min.

I served it with roasted pine nuts and Balsamico

You will need:

  • 8 medium-size potatoes
  • 6 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 1 liter (4 cups) vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. chives
  • 4 tbsp. Creme Fraiche (e.g. whole foods) alternative: sour creme
  • 1 tbsp. Balsamico vinegar
  • nutmeg
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • roasted pine nuts or croutons for serving
  1. Wash, peel and cut the onions, potatoes and carrots into chunks (they will be pureed later) |Tip: I let my hostkids do the chopping. They learn how to use a knife (with supervision) and they are more likely to eat what they cooked.
  2. Get the biggest pot you can find and roast the onions in olive oil for about 2 min. Then add the potatoes and carrots. Stew the vegetables for another 5 min. and season with salt and pepper, before you put in the vegetable stock. The whole thing should now cook for 15-20 min until the potatoes are tender.
  3. Blend the whole thing with an immersion blender.
  4. Add Creme Fraiche to make the soup creamier and season with minced chives, nutmeg, parsley, oregano and balsamic
  5. Put the soup into bowls and serve with more balsamic and roasted pine nuts

For recipes like this,

I use a ceramic dutch oven. My host dad bought this quite a while ago; it’s 6 years older than me!

our Dutch oven, over 24 Years old!

With that, I’ve never burned anything, there’s no teflon scraping off and mixing into the food, it doesn’t deform and it holds temperature. These things are the best, you can get, it really does make a difference for people who cook a lot. The only problem is, that they are quite expensive. Click here to check them out on Amazon, if you want.

3. Japanese Ramen Noodles

Listen: I don’t claim to know anything about how original Ramen noodles are made or what kind of Ramen noodles you should use. There’s a ton of Ramen-etiquette out there and I’m probably breaking 80% of the rules. But if you’re like me and forgot to think about dinner, didn’t go shopping or just don’t have the time to cook, this is the perfect, healthy, quick recipe – and it tastes delicious

Kids rating: 5/5

2 People
Preparation time: 10 min.
Cooking time: 10 min.

a little messy but delicious

You will need:

  • 4 tsp. (or 3 cloves) minced garlic
  • 3 tsp. minced ginger (best with ginger mincer)
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • Sesame oil
  • 1 – 1.5 liter (4-6 cups) vegetable stock
  • carrots for topping (I use 2)
  • spring onions for topping (I use 2)
  • hard boiled eggs for topping (I use 2)
  • mushrooms for topping (I use 10 champignons)
  • 2 packs (a 3oz) dried Ramen noodles
  1. Peel and mince the ginger and garlic and put the eggs into the egg cooker. |Tip: If you don’t have an egg cooker, well.. get one! It doesn’t have to be this one, (we are using that) it probably doesn’t really make a difference what kind you get. But coming to America, that was one thing that I noticed nobody has. Eggs come out perfectly, just set it and forget it and you won’t waste water. It really is a lot easier.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a soup pot and roast the ginger and garlic. Stir in the soy sauce and the rice wine vinegar and let it simmer for about a minute, before you pour in the vegetable stock. The whole thing now has to cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. While the stock – mixture simmers, you can start washing, peeling and cutting the vegetables for the topping. You can add any vegetables to your ramen, I used mushrooms, carrots and spring onions.
  4. Throw your ramen noodles and the vegetables you’d like to have a little tender (e.g. carrots and mushrooms) into the stock and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  5. Divide the soup into 2 bowls and add the remaining toppings (your eggs should be ready now) for serving

After all,

cooking is a question of taste. If you are a 3-star chef, who wrote a blog about vegan lobster-soufflé and you feel insulted by this article, I want to tell you: I’m sorry. Maybe I really am less talented in the kitchen than all the other au pairs, moms or dads. Maybe your recipe actually is super easy to cook and I’m just to stupid to get it right.

But maybe there is that one person out there who has the same problem as me and maybe my post could help a little.