Pork and Fennel Bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese, a winner in every household!

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Spaghetti bolognese, along with homemade pizza, sausages and tacos are guaranteed meals that we can enjoy without encouraging (nagging) the kids to keep eating. So, I decided to mix it up a bit. We only had pork mince in the freezer, so I thought I’d use that in place of the usual beef mince and add some different flavours and here we have the pork and fennel bolognese, also a winner!

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Pork and fennel are a fabulous match, whether it is fresh fennel or fennel seeds, it works, which is why this dish works so well. And the chilli flakes, a necessary addition (maybe not for the little people though), however, you could use fresh chilli instead if wanted and add it in before adding the meat.

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Whenever I make a pasta dish, unless we are having a salad with it, I like to add in veggies wherever I can to make sure that we all get close to our 5 serves per day and so that we get out portions right – 1/2 plate veggies or salad, 1/4 plate protein and 1/4 plate carbohydrate. With a pasta meal like this, it can be a bit tricky to get the portions right, which is fine, as long as you’re aware of it. This bolognese has onion, celery, zucchini and spinach, which work really well with the flavours. I was contemplating adding eggplant, but decided against it….maybe next time.

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The best thing about this meal is that it is quick and easy and it can be made earlier in the day or the night before if work, family or life commitments mean that you are time poor just before dinner. It also freezes well, so you can make a double batch and have a meal waiting in the freezer for a later date!

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If you’re looking for a delicious alternative to a regular spaghetti bolognese, this is your dish.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (plus more to serve
  • 500g pork mince
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 x 400g tinned crushed tomatoes or passata
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves, roughly torn
  • 250g spaghetti
  • Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Method:

  1. Heat a large frypan, with a lid over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, celery and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, chilli flakes and fennel seeds and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the pork mince and cook until browned, ~ 5 minutes, breaking up the big chunks as you go.
  3. Add the tomato paste and stir, followed by the tinned tomatoes and balsamic vinegar as well as 1/2 a tin full of water and stir. Bring to the boil and once boiling, reduce the heat to low, place the lid on and allow to simmer away for about 30 minutes.
  4. With 10 minutes to go, remove the lid to allow some of the liquid to evaporate. Cook for a few more minutes if needed.
  5. Stir through the baby spinach leaves and mix until wilted. Season to taste. At this point the sauce can be frozen or refrigerated.
  6. To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook as per the packet until al dente.
  7. Divide the pasta between the bowls and top with sauce. Serve with parmesan cheese and extra chilli flakes.

 

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

Lasagna hasn’t always been a favourite dish of mine, but the more I play around with the way I make it, the more it is growing on me and now I can say that it is something that I look forward to eating…sorry Dad 🙂

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Before Elise was born, I made a big dish of lasagna and froze it for quick dinners once she arrived. That batch had a pretty basic red meat sauce with layers of pasta, grilled vegetables and a béchamel sauce. Then, recently, I made a lasagna for good friends of ours, who are vegetarian, so I made a vegetable based red sauce and added in a spinach and ricotta layer. I received excellent feedback from that, and then this lasagna was born.

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This lasagna has a dozen layers, including red meat sauce, packed with veggies, pasta layers, grilled vegetables, béchamel sauce and layers of the spinach and ricotta mix. The result being a delicious and very nutritious lasagna that is probably heavier on the protein than the carbs, as there are only 3 layers of pasta. With all the veggies in here, this lasagna can be eaten on its own, as a meal or if you want more veggies you can serve it with a salad.

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If you are concerned about the creamy sauces in this lasagna, the bĂ©chamel and the spinach and ricotta mix, don’t be. BĂ©chamel is simply a small amount of butter and flour and the rest is milk, which I would recommend using low fat milk to keep the overall fat content down, and similarly with the ricotta, use a reduced fat variety to lower overall saturated fat.

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The best part about this lasagna, and any lasagna, is that the kids absolutely love it! They are also fans of salad at the moment, with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, so I try to basic lettuce, tomato, cucumber, etc salads quite often to keep them interested in them. Claire especially likes it when she can add her own dressing!

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Lasagna does take a little bit of time to make, but I suggest that you make a full baking dish worth whenever you make it and have leftovers in the coming days or freeze into portions for a later date as it freezes exceptionally well.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 1 tbs EVO oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 swiss brown mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 x 400g tinned diced tomato
  • 1 tbs basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs sage, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 375g lasagna sheets
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 0.5cm slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced into 0.5cm slices
  • 300g pumpkin, sliced into 0.5cm slices
  • 20g grated parmesan cheese

BĂ©chamel

  • 30g butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 2 cups milk

Spinach and Ricotta

  • 250g fresh or frozen spinach
  • 375g reduced fat ricotta cheese
  • 30g grated parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Start by making the meat sauce. Heat a large pot, with a lid, over medium heat and add olive oil, along with the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for ~5 minutes. Add diced zucchini and eggplant and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the beef mince and cook, stirring to break up any lumps. Add the mushrooms and chopped herbs and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  4. Add the red wine and tomato paste and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, along with about 1/2 a tin of water. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir well to combine.
  5. Increase the heat to bring to the boil. Once boiling, place the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about an hour, checking every 20 minutes or so and stirring if needed.
  6. Meanwhile, place the sliced pumpkin, eggplant and zucchini into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Stir to coat. Arrange on baking tray and cook for about 30 minutes or until tender. Once cooked, remove from oven and set aside.
  7. After an hour, the meat sauce should be relatively thick with little excess liquid remaining. Remove from heat and set aside.
  8. To make the béchamel, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and allow to melt, add the flour and stir continuously for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Add the milk, about 1/2 a cup at a time, whisking vigorously to prevent the formation of lumps. Once this milk has been absorbed, add another 1/2 a cup and repeat until 2 cups of milk have been added. Season to taste and set aside.
  9. The final element to make is the spinach and ricotta. If you are using fresh spinach, roughly chop the spinach and cover in boiling water to cook. Drain. If using frozen spinach, cover in boiling water to defrost, then drain.
  10. Place the spinach into a medium sized bowl, add the ricotta and parmesan cheese. Stir well to combine.
  11. To assemble the lasagna, place a layer of lasagna sheets on the bottom of the dish. Top with 1/2 of the meat sauce, followed by 1/3 of the béchamel, then a layer of roast pumpkin. Top with 1/2 the spinach and ricotta mix and then another layer of pasta. Repeat with meat sauce, béchamel, zucchini and eggplant and spinach and ricotta mix and another layer of pasta.
  12. By this point, there should only be meat sauce and béchamel left, so top pasta with remaining meat sauce and béchamel then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  13. Cover the dish with foil and place into the oven for about 40 minutes, removing the foil after 20 minutes.
  14. Eat once cooked or refrigerate or freeze for a later date.

Roast Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad with Tahini and Orange Dressing

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On Sunday night, I went out for dinner with 2 of my closest friends. We went to a place in East Melbourne called The Tippler and Co, right near the MCG, it is a place which if not for its sign would be very easy to miss, as it is just a door. They have a great menu of share plates and we had a lovely Cauliflower Grain Salad, which has inspired me to create this dish.

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Quinoa is a great addition to a salad as it adds some protein and bulks out the salad, making it suitable as a meal on its own, if desired. It also adds some warmth to a salad, making it suitable to all seasons of the year, especially Autumn. By adding the small amount of cumin to the veggies, it really lifts the flavour and adds a hint of Middle Eastern flavour, which pairs really well with the tahini dressing.

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The night that we had this salad, I didn’t even attempt to offer it to the kids as I was having one of those days where I wasn’t feeling like another battle, so I asked them what they wanted with their fish and they asked for a normal salad, so thats what they got. Not surprisingly, they both wanted to try some of this salad off my plate, especially the feta. I think if I served it up to them, it would have been one of the dishes that they say they don’t like, but go ahead to eat it and enjoy it.

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This salad is quite simple to make and it can be made ahead of time, just leave the dressing and the nuts until just before serving. It is great by itself, or with some form of meat, chicken or fish.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 300g pumpkin, cut into 1-2cm cubes
  • 300g cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 3/4 cup tricolour quinoa
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbs coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbs dill, chopped
  • 1 tbs parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 50g feta
  • 1 tbs pinenuts, toasted
  • 1 tbs flaked or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 tbs pepitas, toasted
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Dressing

  • 2 tbs orange juice
  • 1 tbs tahini
  • 1 tbs natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the cut pumpkin and cauliflower into a bowl and add 1 tbs olive oil and ground cumin and mix to coat. Place onto baking paper and cook for ~35 minutes or until starting to turn golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa, by placing rinsed quinoa into a small saucepan along with 1.5 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat once boiling. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the quinoa starts to fluff (see picture above of fluffed quinoa). Place into a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Place the currants into a small bowl and cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add to quinoa.
  5. Chop the onion and herbs and add to the quinoa, along with the currants. Add lemon and orange juice and olive oil and stir to combine. Add the pumpkin and cauliflower, gently toss to combine and place into serving dish.
  6. Toast the nuts and seeds in a small frypan over medium heat until they just start to colour. Sprinkle over the salad.
  7. Crumble the feta and sprinkle over the salad.
  8. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients into a small bowl and stir to combine. Drizzle over salad and serve.

Rice Paper Rolls

Rice paper rolls are a fantastic little bundle of flavour! They are a Vietnamese dish, which are so light, fresh and nutritious. The only negative is the time consuming nature that is rolling individual rolls, especially when making them for more than one. I used to make these every one or two weeks, but since having kids this is the first time we’ve had them. The kids enjoyed them a lot, but theirs did fall apart.

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These rice paper rolls have been made with shredded chicken, but pork or chicken mince works well as does prawns, and they can also be made vegetarian. I also will sometimes include the peanut dipping sauce into the actual roll itself, for a greater spread of flavour, and other times use it as a dipping sauce.

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There is an art to soaking the rice paper and successfully removing it from the water without it sticking to itself. This is something Aaron has always struggled with – this and getting the amount of filling right so that the rice paper doesn’t break :). The key, I have found, is to use hot, not boiling water, so that the rice paper slowly softens and you can handle it in the water without burning yourself. Less is more when it comes to the filling of the rice paper rolls. Too much filling and the rice paper will definitely tear, leaving quite a mess.

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As far as portion goes, for dinner, I will usually have 3-4, Aaron will generally have one more than me, and the kids had 1.5-2 each. If you wanted to reduce the carbohydrate content, you could omit or minimise the vermicelli noodles and pack it out with the salad  and add a bit more of the chicken.

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If you’ve never tried rice paper rolls, please try these – you will not be disappointed!

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Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 1 chicken breast fillet
  • Rice paper rounds
  • 1 small packet rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1 medium sized carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 medium red capsicum, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup coriander leaves
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds
  • 1 long red chilli (optional)

Cucumber and chilli salsa

  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, diced
  • 1 long red chilli
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs lime juice

Peanut dipping sauce

  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup peanuts, chopped

Method:

  1. Heat a medium frypan over medium heat, add ~1tbs olive oil and cook the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Set aside, and once slightly cooled, shred the chicken.
  2. To make the salad, place the bean sprouts, mint leaves, coriander leaves, chilli, sesame seeds into a large bowl and toss to combine.
  3. To make the salsa, place cucumber, chilli, fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice into a small bowl and stir to combine.
  4. To make the peanut sauce, place sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice into a bowl. Mix to combine. Add the chopped peanuts and stir to combine.
  5. Prepare carrot and capsicum.
  6. Place vermicelli noodles into a medium sized bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to sit for 5 minutes or until the noodles are soft. Set aside.
  7. To assemble the rice paper rolls, fill a large bowl with hot water. Place rice paper rounds, one at a time, into the water until soft. Remove, using two hands to keep it flat and place onto a plate. Place a small amount of noodles, salad, salsa, a couple of sticks of carrot and capsicum and peanut sauce (if desired) into the centre of the rice paper, being careful not to over fill.
  8. To fold the rice paper roll, fold the side closest to you over the filling, followed by the left hand side then the right hand side and roll away from you. Repeat with remaining rice paper rounds.

 

 

ANZAC biscuits

Anzac biscuits….A classic biscuit that have stood the test of time. Delicious! Simple! Lasts ages! Lots of boxes ticked. Last time I made ANZAC biscuits, I added some chocolate and they were great, recipe here.

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As most people are aware, the good old ANZAC biscuit is associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, which were established during World War 1. The ingredients used in ANZAC biscuits do not spoil easily and transport well, so were made by women back home and sent as a food source to the soldiers fighting at war. Today, ANZAC biscuits are made for enjoyment and commonly sold all year round.

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The ingredients are oats, flour, sugar, coconut, golden syrup, butter, water and bicarb soda. Once combined, these biscuits will last for quite sometime and I’d be very surprised if an ANZAC biscuit ever went bad, unless it wasn’t cooked properly.img_0188.jpg

There are 2 types of ANZAC biscuits that people migrate to – crunchy/crispy or chewy. If you like your biscuits crunchy, then I suggest flattening the mixture out to a thinner biscuit before cooking and make sure they are golden before taking them out of the oven. If you prefer them chewy, then don’t flatten them out before cooking and cook them for a few minutes less. Everybody can be happy!

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I’ve always been amazed at the ‘science’component to ANZAC biscuits. When the boiling water is added to the bicarb soda then poured into the butter and golden syrup mix, it bubbles up and you need to make sure your vessel is large enough or you will have a big mess! The kids love this part.

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If you are yet to make a batch of ANZAC biscuits this year, here’s your reminder.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups traditional rolled oats
  • 1 cup plain flour (you can use wholemeal if you wish)
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup
  • 125g butter
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 2 tbs boiling water

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine oats, flour, sugar and coconut into a large mixing bowl and mix to combine.
  3. Place the golden syrup and butter into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture starts to bubble slightly.
  4. In a small bowl, place the bicarb soda and the boiling water, mix quickly and pour into the golden syrup mixture. This will start to bubble and foam. Quickly pour this mix into the dry ingredients. Mix well to combine.
  5. Form mixture into balls the size of a ping pong ball and place onto the tray. Press each biscuit down gently with a fork.
  6. Bake for ~10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave on baking tray for ~ 5mins before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Store in an airtight container until they are all eaten!

 

Tuna, Lemon and Dill Fritters

I have been making these fritters for about 6 months now, but for some reason, have not yet posted about them. They came about around September last year when I wanted to make some lunch using tuna. I threw a few other bits and pieces in, cooked them in the pan and we had some fritters, and they were delicious! The only downside is that Aaron doesn’t like tuna, so I don’t make them as often as I’d like to.

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If you haven’t yet realised, I am a little obsessed with fritters at the moment, and here are some reasons why:

  1. They are a great way to get some extra veggies in.
  2. They’re an excellent alternative to a sandwich at lunch
  3. They are suitable for all meals of the day
  4. They also make a great snack
  5. They freeze very well, so can be popped into lunch boxes
  6. They are pretty quick and easy to make
  7. The kids LOVE them

The final point is the most important and also the reason why I am making so many of them at the moment. I figure that while the kids are enjoying them, I’ll keep making them at least once a week because I also enjoy them and if the exposure is regular then they will keep liking them…hopefully!

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Adding tuna to fritters means that they are higher in protein, which helps to fill everyone up. It also provides and excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA (good fats), which deliver many health benefits, such as improved cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced levels of depression and improved brain health. Oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, sardines and cod, should be consumed at least 3 times per week to ensure that you receive adequate amounts of these good fats.

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Which tuna should you use? This is completely up to you. My preferred tinned tuna is the Sirena tuna in oil. I like it because it doesn’t taste too fishy and I prefer the plain tunas over the flavoured ones.

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If you haven’t yet tried one of my fritters recipes, I strongly suggest this one, you won’t be disappointed. The dill and lemon zest really make it as well.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  •  185g tin of tuna
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp dill, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cob of corn
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp chopped dill
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

  1. Grate the zucchini and squeeze excess liquid out. Place into medium sized bowl.
  2. Remove the corn kernels from the cob of corn and add to the bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
  4. Heat and medium sized non stick frypan over medium heat. Place heaped tablespoons of mixture into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Continue with remaining mixture.
  5. To make the sauce, mix the yoghurt, 1/2 tsp of dill and lemon juice together.
  6. Serve fritters with the yoghurt sauce and salad, if desired.

Pumpkin, Caramelised Onion and Feta Frittata

A frittata is a delicious simple lunch or dinner. It is a great way to use up left over veggies you have in the fridge or, in this case, can be planned.

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I like to keep lunches interesting when I can, not only for myself, but also for the kids. Sandwiches, bits and pieces (deconstructed sandwiches) or toasties are our go to’s but at least a few times per week I like to add something different in there. Common alternatives are my sweet potato and corn fritters, zucchini and corn fritters or eggs on toast/eggs with soldiers or wraps.

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Frittatas really are very easy to make. It’s as simple as throwing whatever veggies or meat you like into a baking dish, topping it with an egg mix and baking. With this one I have caramelised the onions and roasted the pumpkin first, but you could just pop all the veggies in a frypan to cook them a bit before topping with the egg and baking. The caramelised onion gives a great sweetness to this frittata and balances out the saltiness of the cheeses.

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Healthwise, a frittata is a great source of protein, from the eggs and cheese, as well as any meat that is added, helping to keep you full for longer. By packing in veggies it means that you can get a good serve or 2 of veggies per serve of frittata, and more if served with a side salad. It is also a low carbohydrate option if you are watching the carbs. It is a good vegetarian option, but cannot easily be converted to suit a vegan diet.

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We have had this frittata a few times in the past month or so and the kids really enjoyed it. The leftovers will keep well in the fridge and can be reheated within the next few days.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 400g pumpkin, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 100g ham or bacon, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
  • 50g feta
  • 2/3 cup basil leaves
  • 5 eggs
  • 150mL milk
  • Pepper

 

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray and baking dish with baking paper (I used a loaf pan).
  2. Place diced pumpkin into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Place onto baking tray and into the oven. Cook until golden brown, ~25-30 minutes.
  3. To caramelise the onion, heat small saucepan over low heat, add 1 tbs olive oil and sliced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Place the lid on to allow the  onions to sweat. Check after 2-3 minutes and stir. Continue until translucent. Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the balsamic vinegar, stir to combine and remove from the heat.
  4. Heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat and add the ham/bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally until the zucchini starts to colour and is tender. Add the spring onion and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  5. Into a medium sized jug or bowl, place the eggs, milk and pepper and beat to break up the egg yolks.
  6. Place zucchini mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with caramelised onion then pumpkin. Add grated cheese and basil. Crumble feta over the top. Pour egg mix over the top and place into the oven for 40-45 minutes or until the egg is cooked through.

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