Posts tagged Quick dinners

Sometimes the simplest things truly are the best

A few weeks back, while chowing down on a very tasty bibimbap, Miss F turned and said, “when I have kids, I’m not going to feed them all this fancy pantsy schmansy stuff. I’m just going to cook them simple stuff. Cause that’s what we like.”

And she may have a point. In my quest for new and interesting ways to get vegies into my kids, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet, or exotic, every night.

To fulfill her minimalist dreams, I made the kids this super-simple beef mince & macaroni dinner and it was hoovered up. I made it again the next week and in the rarest of rare moments, both kids asked for SECONDS.

They love it. It’s one of those deadset simple, family dinners that ticks ALL THE BOXES. It’s easy, tasty, nutritious (five vegies), can be gluten-free (use rice pasta), it’s perfect for toddlers, stores well in the fridge or freezer, is full of affordable ingredients AND it gets gobbled up. Every. Single. Time.

Self-effacing food.

Self-effacing food.

Pasta & mince basic bolognaise

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, grated
1 small eggplant, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 tsp Italian herbs
500g beef mince
400g can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato chutney
1/2 cup water
Salt & Pepper

To serve: Cooked macaroni, cheese, parsley

You need a large pot or frying pan with a lid.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and stir often for 6-8 minutes until golden. Place the mince into the pan. Use the spoon to break up lumps and brown it all over (takes 5-6 minutes).

Pop in the garlic for a minute until fragrant then add the vegies and dried herbs. After a couple of minutes, the vegies will be starting to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes, puree and chutney. Cover and bring to a strong simmer. Then lower the heat let it bubble away for 10-15 minutes.

Season & serve with pasta of your choice (I like macaroni). Adults can add olives, dried chilli flakes & capers!

Serves 2 adults and 2-3 kids.

This recipe is from my Kitchen Collection cookbook!

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My dirty-little-secret pantry dinner…

Generally I’m ALL FOR cooking with lovely fresh produce in creative and interesting ways that promote vibrant good health, happy bowels and an I-never-eat-processed-food glow. At other times, say later in the term (mainly on a Thursday night) when all I’m really looking for is wine and a bit of silence, I’m happy to bend my rules to create a healthy dinner with the minimal amount of effort.

So here it is, my dirty-little-secret dinner that is perfect for those nights, later in the term when everyone has their grumpy heads on. All the ingredients can be stored long-term in the pantry or fridge (most of you can crisper-dive to find a squishy carrot & soggy spring onions, I’m sure). All you do is mix it up and bake, then serve to kids who adore this easy-to-eat, comfort-food dinner.

So easy and a total hit with the kids.

So easy and a total hit with the kids.

Thursday night tuna & rice bake

1 microwave bag of rice, cooked (about 1 1/4 cups cooked rice)
180g tuna in water, drained
440g can cream of mushroom soup (YES, TRULY!!!!!)
125g corn kernels, drained
1 carrot, peeled, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
3/4 cup frozen peas
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 cup grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a pie dish with spray oil.

In a large bowl, combine everything, except 1/4 cup of the cheese. Season. Add in parsley or chives if you’re feeling fancy. Tip into the oven dish, spread it evenly and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids.

 

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Like this recipe? Check out my digital cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

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My latest (gluten-free) can’t-be-bothered dinner

I’ve had a couple of weeks of working four days a week and it’s always a good reminder about the challenges that working parents face. Finding the time to whip up a healthy dinner when you’re struggling in late with wretched kids, lunchboxes to clean and repack, clothes to wash and life to organise is hard.

By later in the week I’m grateful for a dinner of wine and a carrot, but surprisingly enough the kids aren’t as keen on this combination. They want, you know, like food that tastes nice and fills up their tired bones after a few days of racing about. So this dinner has been making a few appearances. It’s my latest favourite-thing-to-do-with-a-BBQ-chicken (see my previous favourite here). Mix up a super easy salad and wrap it and some chicken in a rice paper roll and you’re done. Once you get the knack they’re easy to do. Watch this video if you don’t know how.

Another advantage of this dish is you can make them and store them in the fridge, perfect for those nights when people are coming and going and need to eat on the run. AND they are still ok the next day, which makes them a pretty great gluten-free lunchbox addition.

vegie smugglers BBQ chicken rice paper rolls

A bit of dipping sauce and you’re away!

BBQ chicken rice paper rolls

1/2 BBQ chicken – bones removed & discarded
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1/2 cup fennel, finely shredded
125g corn kernels, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Juice 1/2 lemon
Pepper

Rice papers

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, carrot, fennet, corn, mayo and lemon juice.

Soak a rice paper in warm water for 10-20 seconds until pliable. Place on your chopping board. Pile about a 1/4 cup of salad onto the paper. Top with chicken (adults might like coriander & vietnamese mint). Roll up (watch the video link above if you don’t know how). Eat.

Makes 12.

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Can’t cook? Or too tired to cook? Try this.

Now where is this year going? And how did this term slip by so quickly! I don’t know about you, but for us this last week or two of term is a bit fraught. Possibly the cupboards are empty, the kids are tired and motivation is low. But there’s no need to hang up the healthy food towel. Before you dial a takeaway, make the most of your pantry stash. This shakshouska, is way cool and is more compiling than cooking. Served with a bit of bread, it keeps everyone in my house pretty happy.

A nice alternative to toasties or baked beans.

A nice alternative to toasties or baked beans – and just as easy.

Pantry tuna shakshouka

Younger kids might like a version of this with just a few spoonfuls of tomato, an egg and scattered ham.

800g crushed tomatoes
180g tuna in oil (with chilli, too, if your family like it)
4 spring onions (I’ve usually got some hiding in the bottom of the crisper drawer)
1/3 cup roasted capsicums (also tip in a bit of the flavoured oil)
Sprinkling of capers (if you like them)
4 eggs

To serve: parsley (from the garden), salt, pepper, sourdough (for dipping).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Place your individual dishes or ramekins on a baking tray (to make handling easier).

Divide the ingredients between your dishes, in quantities that will suit each diner. Finally, scoop a bit of a dent in the mix and quickly crack in an egg.

Bake for 15-25 minutes until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Serves 4

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A simple (gluten-free) mix and bake

Is there anything better than a dinner that gets mixed up in one bowl, then pressed into one tin and cooks in one oven? Perhaps only the addition of Bono, sitting up on the benchtop in his onesie, belting out a little acapella version of ‘One’ while I sip one wee glass of vino while I’m wearing my onesie. That’d be nice, if a little weird.

If you’re free Bono, pop over tonight and we’ll whip this zucchini slice up together.

One piece.

Just one piece.

Zucchini & rice slice (Gluten free)

There’s no smuggling going on here really, since pretty much the whole dish IS vegies. Smuggling vegies within vegies…

2 zucchinis, grated
1 carrot, peeled, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
125g can corn kernels, drained
1 cup cooked rice (white or brown) – I always make extra rice whenever I’m cooking a stir-fry, so I can make stuff like this the next day
2-3 tbsp fresh chives and/or parsley, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (plus extra for the top)
1/2 cup mild feta, crumbled
4 eggs, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a 20x30cm slice tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything well. Press the mixture into the tin, top with a handful of grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes until set.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids

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Like this recipe? Why not try out my Baked tuna & tomato rice.

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Chunky vegetable & bean soup

So how am I going with the pressure cooker that Kambrook sent me? Well, it took a bit of courage to tackle but after some experimentation, I’m happy to report that I’m digging it.

The poor old slow cooker is gathering dust while I romance with its whizzy, fast cousin. They’re perfect for the same kind of dishes, but something that would cook for 8 hours in the slow cooker, is done in 20 minutes. Seriously. So while you do still have to do all the prep work (chopping, browning, sautéing etc), you’re not doing it at 8am when the smell of browning meat can be a little nauseating.

I rate it.

Here’s my first win – a vegetable and bean soup that borders on a stew. Always a sucker for a really chunky soup, I’ve kept the liquid minimal, but if you want it wetter, add an extra cup of stock.

Also, if you want to make this in the slow cooker, go ahead. I’ve not tested it myself, but think it would work using HIGH for 3-4 hours. (**If anyone wants to play recipe tester and let me know accurate timings, I’ll send you a free e-book of your choice.)

Soup + winter = cosy.

Soup + winter = cosy.



Chunky vegetable & bean soup (in the pressure cooker)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups sweet potato, peeled, cubed
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 zucchini, diced
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can four-bean mix, rinsed, drained
1/4 cup fresh herbs (any or all of – parsley, chives, basil, thyme)
2 cups beef stock
1 cup frozen peas

Baguette & grated cheese (optional)

Set the pressure cooker to ‘sauté’. Add the oil and heat before dropping in the onion, carrot and celery. Stir regularly for several minutes until all are starting to soften and onion is starting to turn golden.

Pop in the garlic and cook for a minute until everything is fragrant. Stir in the rest of the ingredients (except the peas). Combine well. Lock on the lid, bring to pressure and cook for 20 minutes.

Carefully release pressure, remove lid and toss in the peas.

As an optional extra, top with slices of baguette with the cheese melted on top.

Optional: Make dippers with baguette slices topped with melted cheese.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids.

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Mmmmmmm mince

It’s just a fact, isn’t it, that once you have kids, you start filling your trolley with all sorts of new things. Actually, even the fact that you have a trolley and not just a nifty, easy basket is a dead-set giveaway that times have changed. No more baskets with pate, marinated feta and Brie for dinner. No, now it’s nappy boxes, huge bunches of bananas (no matter what the price) and MINCE.

Generally it is the easiest way to get meat into kiddies. You can make patties, meatballs, stir-fries and fajitas. And these days you’ve got a choice of flavours to rev things up a bit.

While I try my hardest to keep my recipes as appealing to adults as possible, I do admit that this savoury mince is more of a ‘kid’ dish. Adults might be uninspired by a lack of sophistication here, but doubts will be eased by the flexible nature of this dinner. It’s easy to make and can be made ahead and popped into the fridge, ready to be served with pasta, on potatoes, in toasties or over rice (my favourite choice). It also freezes really well in little containers that can be defrosted quickly on tricky days when You. Are. Only. Just. Holding. It. All. Together.

Best yet, you can switch vegies to suit your family. And while you won’t find it on the menu at any restaurant anytime soon, with enough coriander and fresh chilli on top, it’s yum enough for an adult mid-week meal too.

Yes, i know, a watermark. Hope this doesn’t bother anyone too much.

Savoury mince

500g beef mince
1 onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 zucchini, grated
1 carrot, peeled, grated
¾ cup mushrooms, finely diced
½ green capsicum, finely diced (red capsicum is also yum and makes a more colourful dish)
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 tbsp BBQ sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp corn flour
½ cup peas

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Brown the mince, stirring and breaking up lumps as you go. Remove and set aside.

(If you pan is now dry, add a bit of oil) Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until starting to soften. Throw in the garlic for a minute before adding in all the rest of the vegies.

Once they’re all mixed through and starting to cook a bit, return the mince. Once that’s all mixed through, pour in the stock and sauces. Combine really well.

Put your corn flour in a cup or small dish. Spoon some of the cooking liquid into the cup and stir until you have a nice, runny, lump-free paste. Pour that back into the mince mixture and combine well.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until everything is cooked through. Remove from the heat and mix in your peas.

Serve with rice or pasta. Use to top baked potatoes or fill toasties.

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Quick. Make-ahead. Cheese.

After a far-reaching day on Facebook yesterday that stretched from poo jokes to fat kids, some of you may have concluded that my birthday is not my best day of the year. The day after however is like a renewal. I’ve accepted the new age and am ready to move forward.

With that in mind, let’s stick straight to food today. No pfaffing or spamming, just a delicious, healthy, snacky meal that will come in handy throughout December as life gets more and more frantic.

It’s a good one since you can make the filling ahead and leave it in the fridge for a few hours or a couple of days, then spread it over a tortilla, sprinkle some cheese then either cook in the pan, or just fold one tortilla in half and cook in your sandwich press. It smuggles a bunch of good stuff, is a hearty vegetarian option and has enough oozy cheese to charm even the toughest tiny food critic.

Onions, carrot, capsicum, tomatoes, kidney beans, avocado. YUM.


Bean & vegie quesadillas

1 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large carrot, peeled, grated
½ capsicum, seeded, finely chopped (any colour)
2 tomatoes, chopped
400g can red kidney beans, rinsed, drained, roughly mashed
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp barbecue sauce
10 bought tortillas
Grated cheese
Sliced avocado (optional)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Pop in the garlic, carrot and capsicum and continue cooking for 2–3 minutes or until everything starts to soften.

Mix through the tomato, then add the beans, sugar, cumin and barbecue sauce. Cook for another couple of minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

Warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave according to packet directions so that they separate easily. Spread some of the bean mix over one tortilla. Top with cheese and avocado. Place another tortilla on top and slide into a warm non-stick frying pan over medium heat. When toasted on the bottom, slide out onto a plate, place your hand on top and flip over. Return the tortilla to the pan until both sides are golden. Repeat with the remaining mixture and tortillas. To serve, cut into quarters.

MAKES 5

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Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

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What the kids eat in… Mexico

Rest assured Victorians, I’m not talking about you, but that colourful, warm territory to the south of that big scary country (the bossy one that cruises the world picking fights with little countries, pushing freedom and the right to eat donuts for breakfast, get morbidly obese then craned out of our house by emergency services). The territory of Dora and Frida Kahlo, where there’s a fantastic cuisine that stars in the Vegie Smuggling atlas. It’s healthy, with lots of legumes and salad, often served snugly in tortillas that hide the worst of the healthy stuff and leave the kids seduced by cheese and guacamole.

This Australian/Mexican quesadilla recipe warms my heart for many reasons – 1. It’s quick to make. 2. It’s fun to eat. 3. You can pretty much keep everything you need long term in the pantry, which makes it a perfect last minute/after work meal.

Another factor which makes it a VS winner is that it can be easily adapted to suit various members of the family which means you can get everyone eating the same meal with a minimum of fuss (add chillis or bottled jalapenos, leave out the coriander or add extra cheese).

Here’s a tip – the first time you make it, the flipping can be a bit nerve wracking. Mini tortillas make it much more manageable.

Tuna quesadillas

Dora eats these tuna quesadillas, and so should you!

Tuna Quesadillas

185g can tuna in springwater
185g can tuna in olive oil
125g can corn kernels, drained
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
125g can four bean mix, rinsed, drained
¼ red capsicum, deseeded, finely diced
Black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar or mozzarella
10 ready-made tortillas

Drain the tuna in springwater and place in a mixing bowl. Add the undrained tin of tuna in olive oil and the rest of the ingredients except for the tortillas. Mix until combined.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.

Carefully separate the tortillas (heat for a few seconds in the microwave if they are sticking). Place one on a chopping board, cover generously with the tuna mix and top with another tortilla.

Slide the tortilla sandwich carefully into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Using a spatula, ease out of the pan onto a large plate, hold the top with your hand and flip over. Carefully place back in the pan to cook for 3-4 minutes on the other side until the tortillas are crisp and the cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining mix and tortillas.
MAKES 5

 

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Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

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