The summer is a such an important time for our family. With my son now at university, to have him home with us for 3 months is precious to us all.  We love being able to share family meals again whether it’s trying out my son’s student recipes or sharing a home cooked Sunday roast together.

We all miss him so much when he’s away, but I think his younger sisters feel it the most.

When ever Brook and Indie talk about missing their brother they cry and I can tell they are heart broken not to have him around all the time.  Family is important to each one of us, but more so to the girls. They are still to young to realise that one day they will grow up and leave home. They don’t realise yet it’s the natural order of things.

I have always found that it’s difficult to arrange days out and things all three of my kids can enjoy together because of the age difference. The one thing that works really well for us is family meal times.  They have always been an important aspect of family life here as it’s a time when we can all catch up with each other.  When life gets really busy, keeping up with what’s happening at school and work can be a challenge.  The family meal gives us an hour or so a day where we can relax together and chat.

I love how the girls want to talk about their favourite toys or who they’ve been playing with that day at school or holiday club. They want to share their stories with all of us, and become even more animated when their brother is home. They enjoy asking him questions about uni life and what he’s been up to.

During one of our last family meals together the girls asked their brother ‘who cooks your dinner?’.  He’s very patient with them and gently explained that he does these things for himself while he’s at university. As kids do, it was quickly followed by another question, like ‘what do you eat?’. I was particularly interested in the answer to that question, and it seems like pasta and chicken are pretty much his staple student meals while he’s away.

I’m sure my son has mastered the art of cooking chicken and pasta by know, but I thought I’d try and come up with some new student recipes for him to try. Our final family dinner together also seemed like a good time to make our own meals a bit more interesting.  Can you believe we’ve never made our own chicken burgers?

We headed to the local Co-op and picked up a few ingredients for our chicken, mozzarella and pesto burgers. It felt like one of those recipes that could work well for a family or could become part of a weekly student meal plan.

My son isn’t one for being told what to do, but if you show him the penny is more likely to drop. I bet he’s not the only teen heading off to university life like that! He’d not really thought of using pesto before, but actually it’s a great way to make the student meal plan a bit more interesting. As well as adding a delicious flavour to our chicken burgers, it makes a great topping for fish and can also be added to a pasta meal which we already know he loves.

You can see how we got on in our video! If you have a student starting university this September it’s well worth a watch!

The girls were super excited to learn that their big brother was going to be cooking for them. They couldn’t get to the table quick enough. Was it wrong of me to feel a bit jealous of him, as they never get that excited about my cooking!  Seeing the three of them enjoy this special time together was so comforting, especially as life is about to change again.

No sooner as we all get used to being together as it’s time to pack my son off again and drop him off in his new student house for his second year. We gently told the girls their brother would be leaving again soon, as it’s so important to brace them for this change. They already know how much they are going to miss him, so they showered him with hugs and kisses.  Enough to keep him going for a whole term I think!

My son is in his second year of university life now, but it still feels like he has a lot to learn about looking after himself.  When he first went to university, it really hit me how much I did for him and now he would have to do it all for himself.  My biggest concern was ‘would he eat properly’. The thing that made me feel so much better about this was getting him to cook for the family before he left.  At least once a week he would cook the family meal, and we’ve tried to continue this over this summer too.

If you think your son or daughter would love our chicken burgers for one of their student meal ideas why not get them cooking at home now. This student recipe is really simple to get them started and it’s a meal you can all enjoy together as a family:

Chicken, Mozzarella and Pesto Burgers Recipe


Co-op chicken breasts (1 per person)

Bread rolls

Co-op Pesto

Co-op Mozzarella

Red and yellow peppers

Salad leaves

Potato wedges

chicken pesto mozzarella burger recipe

  1. Heat oven to 200c and butterfly the chicken (see video)
  2. Slice pepper into rings
  3. Place wedges, slices of pepper and chicken in the oven
  4. Remove chicken after 12 minutes and top each breast with a slice of mozzarella and teaspoon of pesto. Return to the oven until mozzarella has melted.
  5. Toast you burger rolls slightly
  6. Check that the chicken has cooked throughout and serve
  7. Make burgers with salad, chicken and pepper. Serve with a side a potato wedges.

student shopping at the co-op

Of course, cooking is only one aspect of eating healthy student meals, and getting my son involved in writing the list, shopping and cleaning up have all been valuable lessons for him. I’m hoping that having practised a little on our family of five, that it will all seem a lot easier when he goes back to uni.  In those moments when it all feels a bit daunting, it will also give him some familiar family moments to look back on.

For more meal ideas and inspiration follow @coopfooduk on Twitter now.

This blog post is part of a paid project with The Co-op and BritMums to get students cooking and eating healthy meals sponsored by The Co-op. Visit to plan a meal that brings your family together!

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chicken pesto & mozzarella burgers recipe

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  1. It was at Uni where I really learnt to cook. Before I went I was able to bake quite competently but not really cook proper meals so it was rather in at the deep end for me … I can’t now remember what I used to cook but I didn’t starve so it couldn’t have been that bad. Now, as a Mother, I am trying to teach my boys to cook so when they leave home they be able to eat properly and healthily. One really quite enjoys it but the other is not keen at all. Wish me luck with him!

  2. I think your chicken burgers sound very tasty. My children are long past university but I did try to teach them how to cook. I found it made them very popular with their friends as well. My youngest son was a kitchen manager for Wetherspoon’s before he got married and can make a very tasty curry.

    They all liked making Pizzas and soups.

  3. I remember when i left home for uni almost 10 years ago now, i cried missing my mum and siblings but loved visiting during the holidays. This meal looks delicious, simple to make too.

  4. This is a great idea. Now your son can watch the video if he forgets how to make them. I love that you prepared him for uni by getting him to cook the tea one night a week. Mine are a long way off uni yet but I know I will worry like mad when they do go so at least this way, you know he will be eating properly.

  5. I used to cook at home with my mum before I flew the nest and headed off to Uni so I had already learned some really good tips. It’s a great idea to give students some new ideas to make their meals more interesting! I can understand how much you all miss your son when he’s away – I’m not looking forward to when my two leave the nest (thankfully, that’s quite a few years away!)

  6. Great recipe, my daughter is going next year, so we’re busy trying out recipes each week for her to try out, we’ll be adding this one to our list too, thanks.


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