Posts tagged tuna

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.



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

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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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Do your kids love each other?

Love is all around, just not easily spoken about.

Love is all around, just not easily spoken about.

Possibly suffering from an overactive fourth (heart) chakra the other night, I decided it was time for the kids to express their love for each other.

Earlier in the day it had occurred to me that while I am effusive in my gushing love for them both, they never tell each other any of their feelings other than “you’re hurting me,” or even the odd “I hate you.”

Cosied up on my bed after bathtime, we snuggled away and I listed through my usual love chatter. It goes like this….
“Do you know how much I love you?”
“No” they say in unison.
“I love you more than all the trees in the world.”
“Aaawwww” they say.
“No! Wait! I love you more than all the leaves on all the trees in the world.”
“Awwwww” they say.
“No! Wait! I love you more than all the trees and leaves and bugs on those leaves and bits of dirt that those trees grow in.”
“Awwwww” they say. And it doesn’t matter the area we’re covering (we’ve quantity surveyed most areas of matter over the years), their answer is always the same… “I love you all that PLUS infinity.”
And I say, “I love you all that PLUS infinity PLUS one.”

And then we skew off into a discussion of theoretical mathematics and things descend into general confusion.

But the other night I finished up by saying, “Miss Fruitarian. Do you love Mr Meat & Potatoes?”
“Yes” she said.
“Well then, you should tell him.”
“I love you sometimes… Mr M&P”.

Mr M&P smirked his way through that exchange, but then it was his turn.

“Mr Meat & Potatoes, do you love Miss Fruitarian?”
“So you should tell her. It’s important to tell people that you love them.”
He actually giggled before spitting out, “I love you Miss F, when you’re not being annoying.”

Being a MASSIVE tell-people-you-love-them type (don’t come too close after I’ve had a few wines), I was slightly appalled at how difficult they found this simple task.

I’m vowing to enforce more of a love-in so that they can share positive feelings naturally and without me around.

So now I’m curious. Do you tell your siblings that you love them? And do your kids comfortably express love for each other?

Here’s something else they do both love…

Full of love (and tuna, egg & vegies)

Full of love (and tuna, egg & vegies)

Tuna, egg & vegie pastry pockets

180g can tuna in springwater, drained, flaked
2 boiled eggs, peeled, mashed
1 small carrot, grated
Handful green beans, ends removed and finely sliced
1/2 cup spinach leaves (english spinach or silverbeet), very finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh herbs, finely chopped (dill, chives, parsley are all good), optional
1 cup firmly packed grated cheese
5 sheets store-bought puff pastry
1 egg, whisked, for sticking and glazing

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two oven trays with baking paper.

Separate out your sheets of frozen pastry and leave to thaw.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the tuna, eggs, carrot, beans, spinach, herbs and cheese.

Either cut each of your pastry sheets into four squares, or go all fancy and use a small saucer to help you cut out four circles. Divide the tuna mix between each of the 20 bits of pastry (ends up being about 2 tbsp per piece).

Use a pastry brush to spread some egg mix over half the circle edge. Ease over the pastry. Seal with your fingers then press down on the edges with a fork to secure them. Pop onto your baking trays. Brush with extra egg.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden.

Makes 20

Toddler Recipes: What (and how) to feed fussy eaters

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Just because

Miss F and Mr M&P were outside on the weekend, setting the ground rules for an imaginative play game. Being a Virgo, Miss F likes to have the back-story fully told, with characters thoroughly fleshed out before the playing begins. Usually she will transform herself and her brother into animals, so the species, colour, familial relationships, full names, colour preferences and purpose of journey/adventure will all be established before she get into character (and the dirt) ready to play.

Mr M&P is a less complicated fellow but happily goes along with it all. He was nodding away, agreeing to all the details and finally added his own, “and all their last names will be ‘Doodle’”. Smirk smirk snigger.
“Why?” demanded Miss F, more than a bit annoyed by his flippancy.
“Just because” said Mr M&P with such a sense of finality that I was impressed.

I loved evesdropping on perfect a moment of childhood. Just because. There is no reason. Just because doodle is a funny word and it makes him (and me) laugh.

I realised that I don’t do much ‘just because’. There doesn’t seem to be much room for ‘just because’ when you’re an adult. Everything seems to need a reason, a justification for why I’m spending energy on it. Things can be fun, but they are usually with purpose.

Perhaps this is why I love summer so much. There’s a whole lot more opportunity for ‘just because’. Sure you have a swim for the valid reason that you need to cool down, but while you’re under water it’s nice to have a glide about and pretend you’re a mermaid (if only for a few seconds). Just because it’s good for your soul to have a bit of silly fun from time to time. And I’m thinking that the pursuit of ‘just because’ might be one of my new goals for 2013.

Before that though, we’ve got the Christmas season to get through. The barrage of upcoming events is likely to cause havoc to your usual routines, which is why I’m proposing a pasta salad this week. Make a batch of it and you’ll have instant dinners and lunches ready to go whenever you need them. Should give you more ‘just because’ time.

Basic balsamic salad dressing
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all of these ingredients and mix well. Keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

pasta salad

Ready, delicious and waiting (in the fridge)

Tuna pasta salad

500g pasta (I like orecchiette)
½ quantity basic balsamic dressing (if you like really glossy salads, you may want to use more)
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
5 spring onions, finely sliced
400g can tuna in spring water (drained) – Omit this ingredient for a vegetarian salad!
1 large carrot, peeled, grated
½ red capsicum, finely diced
400g can corn kernels, drained

(other yum ingredients include fennel, cannelini beans, red onion, artichoke hearts, green beans and banana chillis)

Cook the pasta according to packet directions. Drain quickly and return to the hot pan. Pour over the salad dressing and toss through the tomatoes and spring onions (the residual heat of the pasta cooks them slightly).

Mix through the rest of the ingredients. Season well with pepper. Serve warm or pop straight into the fridge and enjoy later on, cold.

Serves a family of four for dinner, then enough for lunches the next day too.

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Let the festive season begin

Perhaps I’m allergic to my new house, because it seems that I’m waking up on most Sunday mornings with a headache. You see my new house is quite FESTIVE with a nice deck and views and I find myself entertaining a lot of FESTIVE FOLK. And we drink wine. And being a bit of a drinking lightweight who can only safely imbibe 2-3 glasses of chardonnay before I’m in the hangover zone, I’m finding myself spending most Sunday mornings with a slight haze of discomfort and a new appreciation of the clever R&D teams who masterminded Nurofen zavance.

Perhaps there is something in the water of this big dry land that does predispose the population to a love of getting drunk. There is something GREAT about the sense of fun that comes with a warm afternoon, good friends and a cold glass of something that makes you giggle.

Yet again on the weekend, I served up something yum for the adults, but left the kids to run amok with a sausage and sauce in a slice of bread. Not even any onions. I know it’s a top Aussie BBQ tradition but with a full two months of festivities ahead, I think I need to do better and lift my nutrition game. No more mumblings about ‘fridge space’, ‘easiest options’ blah blah blah.

So I’m rummaging through recipes and thinking about ways to keep the upcoming summer parties slightly more healthy for the kids. Or at least providing good options for them that are enticing for the adults too. Probably a chip or two fewer wouldn’t hurt any of us.

The first thing that sprang to mind was this sushi slice. Most kids will eat some kind of sushi – it’s easy to adapt the filling to suit your family’s tastebuds. This recipe is a classic avocado and tuna combination which seems like a good place to start. Do you think your kids will eat this? What fillings will you try out? I always like to hear your opinions on my recipes.

And why sushi slice? Well, it’s perfect for folks like me who adore Japanese food but never quite got the hang of the whole rolling a sushi roll thing. Just two lamington trays the same size and you’re done. And it’s great party food, as you can make it a few hours ahead and refridgerate it. The less I have to handle sharp knives after a wine the better.

Anyway, let’s clink glasses and ‘kampai’ to the upcoming (healthy) party season. And of course, if you do find that you’re waking up with a headache EVERY morning, you might want to look over at AA and have a think about whether it might be time to pass the mineral water instead.

No sausage? No bread? Heresy!

Flat-pack sushi squares

1½ cups sushi rice (short-grain rice, available at most supermarkets)
2¼ cups water
100ml sushi seasoning
(or make your own: 90ml rice vinegar, 3 tbsp caster sugar, 1 tsp salt)
4 sheets nori seaweed
½ cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed, grated
1 small carrot, peeled, grated
95g can tuna in brine, drained
125g can corn kernels, drained
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 avocado, very thinly sliced, covered with a drizzle of lemon juice

Pickled ginger (optional), to serve

Give the rice a really good wash under running water until the water is no longer milky. Drain. Pop the rice into a saucepan and add the water.

Place the (well-fitting) lid on the pan and bring the water to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 10–12 minutes or until the water is nearly all absorbed. Turn off the heat, leave the pan covered and let it sit and steam for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the vinegar, sugar and salt (if needed). Pour over the rice and use a wooden spoon to mix through.

Prepare a lamington tin by lining it with plastic wrap. Place a layer of the nori seaweed paper over the bottom (use scissors to cut them to fit).

Mix together the cucumber, carrot, tuna, corn, soy and mayonnaise. Pour off any excess liquid and discard.
Use wet hands to place half the rice over the seaweed. Evenly top with the vegie mix and the avocado, then carefully top with the rest of the rice and another layer of seaweed.

Put a second layer of plastic wrap over the top. If you have another pan of the same size, place it on top, weighted down with a couple of cans. Place in the fridge for 1–2 hours to firm.

When ready to serve, use a really sharp knife to cut the sushi into bite-sized squares. Serve with pickled ginger (if using).


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End of term fatigue (and the rot sets in)

As we saw in NSW over the weekend, all good things must end. And before they end, they will usually become corrupt, festering things, self-interested and spoilt. And so endeth the first school term of Miss Fruitarian. Without checking the calendar, I knew when week 8 had dawned.

The mornings have been getting progressively tougher. Teeth brushing is taking a good 15 minutes, even with me keeping a watchful eye over proceedings. Uniforms are being put on back-to-front, school hats left in the car and the reading folder is never ready for return on time.

The exhaustion comes like a wave and finally crashes down to shore. Today, Miss F has collapsed and is in need of a day at home. Luckily, being a WAHM, I can accommodate it. In the olden days it would have been tears all around as I forced her into a uniform and off to early morning care. These days, it’s just tears on my part as I try to get work done around a complaining patient who has perked up considerably since I announced she didn’t have to go to school.

Dinner tonight needs to be something comforting yet healthy, that I can make whilst being constantly interrupted. This baked rice dish fits the bill – and it uses up the last of the eggplant and basil from the garden.

A more-ish, pick-me-up dinner for tired kiddlies

Baked tuna & tomato rice

Butter, for greasing
4 cups chicken stock
1½ cups arborio rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 finger eggplant, very finely diced
1 medium zucchini, grated
500ml passata (bottled tomato puree found in the supermarket near the Italian pasta sauces)
½ cup boiling water
150g cheddar cheese, grated
125g can corn kernels, drained
185g can tuna in oil, drained
Handful of basil leaves, torn
Black pepper

Parsley sprigs, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a lasagne or casserole dish.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the stock to the boil, then add the rice and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times until par-boiled. Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and eggplant and cook for 3 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid sticking.

Add the drained rice and zucchini and cook for a minute or so, stirring. Add the passata and water. Stir until well combined. Add the cheese, corn, tuna and basil and mix thoroughly. Season to taste and remove from heat.

Spoon into lasagne dish and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until the top is golden. Top with parsley sprigs and serve with green salad.


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Love is… having someone to check you for nits

Adult-only ingredients and wine? Check. Kids in bed early? Fingers crossed

It’s safe to say that my better half and I have never been overt romantics. We have our special moments, of course, but rarely the prearranged kind. So Valentines Day flowers and gifts has never really been our thing.

However, one night last year, my best-friend arrived home with a romantic brown paper bag full of presents that touched my heart and got me all teary – chocolates and a Tiffany’s box? No, it was nit treatments and a matching pair of his ‘n’ hers nit combs.

Even for us it was a pretty unromantic moment, but looking at him, home after hours out in the big bad world, earning all our money and then running our errands, I had never loved him more. Perhaps it was his commitment to our family through good times and bad that got me all ‘awwwww’ over it. Or maybe I was just pre-menstrual. I can’t remember. But I do know that I look at single parents and wonder just how they cope during the dreaded nit infestations, night terrors or emergency dashes to hospital.

I’m hugely grateful that I have a lovely partner. And to say thanks, this Valentine’s Day he’s getting something special. A little special romantic dinner pour deux.

Our relationship history is littered with memorable meals both in restaurants and at home. Possibly no dish means more to us than this Tuna & Mango Salsa recipe. I made it for him on our first proper dinner together after we moved into our first apartment (almost exactly 11 years ago). Apparently this dish smoothed over any apprehensions and made him think that maybe he’d made the right decision, after all.

So try it on your man (or woman). It’s easy, but special, and with the chilli and coriander, definitely an adult’s dinner. For this night of the year, feed the kids fish fingers and pop them into bed early. Hopefully they won’t re-emerge too many times, you’ve got some serious romancing to do…

Adapted from the Family Circle 1997, ‘Tex mex’ cookbook.

Coriander Tuna with mango salsa

1/2 cup coriander leaves
1 small red chilli, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp olive oil

2 tuna steaks

Mango Salsa
1 mango, peeled, diced
½ small red onion, finely sliced
½ cup coriander, chopped
2 tbsp lime juice

Crush up the first five ingredients in a mortar and pestle until you have a paste (you can also do this in a blender). Smear it over the tuna steaks, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Combine all of the salsa ingredients together in a bowl.

Heat a char-grill pan, bbq or frying pan until really hot. Sear either side of the tuna for 3 minutes or so, until cooked to your liking (I like mine still raw in the middle).

Serve with the salsa, fresh salad and wine.

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