When she’s not designing the Queensland Theatre posters that capture the attention of Brisbanites (and visitors to the River City), you’ll find Aleesha Cuffe enjoying time as mum to Patrick (10) and ‘pigeon pair’ twins Bonnie and Tom (6). From serving up ‘world food’ to her approach to lunch box packing, we go into Aleesha’s kitchen to find out if life in her home is just as colourful and captivating as her designs (spoiler alert: it is!).

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I am a colourful Brisbane based graphic designer who has been happily working with Queensland Theatre for the past five years, creating everything print and digital for our theatre productions, education and youth development and anything and everything else that needs to be designed for QT. Somewhere in between juggling a zillion projects, I have managed to add three kids to my gallery of impressive creations.

Who does the cooking in your house? What is the go-to meal when you’re short on time, that you know everyone will love?

Being a single parent, I have to manage my career with taking care of household chores, getting the kids to school/sport/extracurricular activities on time and make sure that the food I’ve served up is nutritious, delicious (or at least edible) and quick. To be prepared for the week ahead, I cook up a storm on the weekends and freeze into meal sized portions. A big meat bolognaise chock-full of vegetables can be used for both a quick spaghetti or spiced up for Taco Tuesday’s – which is the most satisfying meal in my kid’s eyes. If I’m really time poor and the panty is bare, scrambled eggs with avocado on a wrap is a quick healthy crowd pleaser.

Are your kid’s fussy eaters? What are their favourite meals at the moment?

Although my children aren’t fussy eaters, they all have things they turn their nose up at. I try not to make a big deal of them not eating but encourage them to at least give everything a go. I have a great group of mums which share winning recipes and ideas, so we are constantly trying new things.

Is dessert a nightly occurrence in your house? What’s your current go-to?

We don’t have dessert except if we visit their Mama and Papa, or it’s a special occasion. My kids will eat at least two banana’s each after dinner or I offer them any type of fruit if they are still hungry.

Does the lunch box packing usually happen the night before school, or the morning of?

The only way to stop the craziness of the morning rush is to pack the lunchboxes the night before while making dinner. I can them pull them out in the morning, throw in a banana and we are ready to roll.

It’s a busy morning, and you’re in a pinch. Are your kids getting “tuckshop money” for lunch?

Tuckshop has to be ordered in advance at our school and is only available on a Friday, so we rarely have tuckshop.

How do you store your lunchboxes, and how many do you have in your collection right now?

Each child only has one lunchbox, it’s their responsibility to pull it from their bag and deliver it to the kitchen. I wash it and then fill it up straight away, and it’s stored in the fridge full ready for the next day.

What is one food that is always included in your kids’ lunchboxes?

My kids are BANANAS for bananas – yes, we must go through about 60 bananas a week! Lucky they are ripe with lots of key nutrients.

You’re throwing your kids a birthday party: do you outsource or are you one to plan and prepare it all yourself?

While my cooking skills aren’t at a chef’s level, I can cook up a storm quickly. Things like fruit platters, sausage sizzle and home-made sushi (if I have time) always seem to impress.

Do you have any family traditions? What are they?

When I was living with my parent’s, they encouraged us to eat the meal at night together, and I’ve continued this now we are living alone. We sit down and eat as a family, and chat about the day we’ve had. I find this has really helped my kids enjoy their dinner, try new things and not be so fussy.

How do you deal with mum/dad guilt?

I think it’s normal to have mum guilt, there’s never enough time to really spend quality time with each child and manage the expectations of work/school/sport/finding time for me to exercise, not to mention the constant side balls thrown with sickness, injury, school assignments, etc. However, if you surround yourself with supportive people (and I have the most supportive group of family and friends), you know you’re not the only one feeling this way — you can then just learn to shake off the rest.

What’s your top mum/dad hack?

World food. This started when they were very little. I tell my kids: if you eat Indian food, we might go to India one day, the same as Malaysian, Thai, Mexican or Brazilian. From curry to wraps, buffalo wings with coconut rice, spaghetti with a lot of vegetables, Korean meatballs with mashed potatoes. Not that we are going anywhere right now, it’s a good incentive to try some new flavours.

I find kids eat better when they share a meal with others, so we have dinner with other families at least once or twice a week, they tend to try new flavours and communicating around the table is a real benefit too. Plus, another benefit is it saves time both for cooking and cleaning up if you are sharing the load with another mum.

Did you love going into the kitchen with Aleesha Cuffe, and are looking for more? You can read our other blog posts right here!

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