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Chocolate Topped, Nut-Free Oat Bars

I’ve had the same 2 muesli bar recipes on repeat for the past three or so years, so I thought it was time for a bit of experimenting for the creation of something new.

Here we have Chocolate Topped, Nut-Free Oat Bars. Being nut-free, they are suitable to pack for the kids for school or kinder, however, if avoiding nuts is not essential, feel free to substitute some of the seeds for nuts, or use almond meal in place of the ground oats. Being a baked bar, these have a different texture to my lunchbox friendly muesli bars, which are set in the fridge. They are also more robust in the lunchbox as they hold together better and don’t need the cooler temperature to allow everything to stay in place.

Muesli bars are one of the foods that I see as really simple swap away from a packaged product, to a homemade, wholesome alternative. Muesli bars from the supermarket are a minefield, and while there are some products that have a good nutrition profile, there are plenty that don’t, and navigating this can be really tricky. Hence, why I am offering this wholesome alternative.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats, divided
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 cup linseeds
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried fruit – sultanas, raisins, currants and cranberries work well
  • 40g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Wet Ingredients:

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 120g honey
  • 50g tahini
  • 40g dark chocolate, melted, for drizzling

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a 20cm x 30cm pan with baking paper.
  2. Blitz 1.5 cups of the oats in a food processor until resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Place into a large bowl, along with remaining 1/2 cup of rolled oats, puffed rice, seeds, toasted coconut, cinnamon, dried fruit and chopped chocolate. Mix to combine.
  3. Place the wet ingredients into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Allow to melt and then bubble for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over dry mixture. Mix well to combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray and press the mixture down firmly. Take some time to do this well to help with the mixture holding together once the bars are cut.
  5. Place into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  6. Melt the remaining 40g of chocolate, and drizzle over the bars using a fork.
  7. Place into the fridge and chill until the chocolate is set. Cut into bars.
  8. These chocolate topped, nut-free oat bars can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature or in the fridge.
Featured

San Choy Bao

First of all, apologies for the lack of regularity posting new recipes. It has been a very busy time over the last 6 weeks. I have been working frantically, as well as juggling everything else in my life, to get my book to the printers in order to be available for Mother’s Day – something which I am pretty certain we have achieved. So I am thrilled to say that as of last Thursday, my book is officially at the printers!!

Moving on…this San Choy Bao recipe is one that I have been making for years and one which I have been meaning to post since the start of the year. Even though San Choy Bao is a delicious, light and fresh meal that is great for a hot Summer’s day, it is also pretty darn tasty all year round.

The colourful and flavoursome ingredients

The beautiful flavours that really sing in this meal include; ginger, lemongrass, Vietnamese mint and kaffir lime leaves, some of my favourite flavours. Traditionally San Choy Bao is made from a lettuce leaf, used as a cup or bowl, and filled with a sweet and salty mince meat concoction. I have used pork mince, but beef and chicken mince also work well. I’ve also added in some vermicelli noodles, more as a filler for the kids.

The kids actually really enjoy San Choy Bao even there is a lot going on in the flavour department. Mark happily helps himself to several, Claire usually has one or two and Elise can be hit and miss, often enjoying the noodles more so than anything else.

San Choy Bao ready to be assembled

This filling for the San Choy Bao can be made ahead of time, and reheated when ready to eat, making it a great mid-week meal when you’re short on time.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 spring onion, finely slices
  • 2 tbs ginger, finely grated
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 500g pork mince
  • 3 tbs Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs tamarind paste
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
  • 12 green beans, finely chopped
  • 15 mint leaves, roughly torn
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 100g vermicilli noodles

Method:

  1. Heat a large skillet, frypan or wok over medium heat. Add the sesame oil, garlic, spring onion, ginger and carrot and cook for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add pork mince, breaking up as it cooks to ensure no large chunks.
  3. Add Chinese cooking wine, fish sauce, lemongrass, tamarind paste, soy sauce and brown sugar leaves and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the vermicelli by covering with boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Set aside.
  5. Add the kaffir lime leaves and green beans to the pork mixture and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with peanuts and mint leaves.
  6. Assemble the lettuce cups, top with vermicelli noodles and pork mixture.
  7. Enjoy.

Featured

Grilled Peach, Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad

Salads really are quintessentially Summer. They are the perfect accompaniment to any meal, especially when the sun is shining and the weather is warm.

In December, I released an e-book dedicated to salads; Sensational Summer Salads, which is available here. Due to the work going into this e-book, I haven’t been so forthcoming with salads on my blog, so here is one of my favourite salads this Summer; a Grilled Peach, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad. I actually made this salad as one of our Christmas Day salads.

Ingredients ready to go

Not everyone is sold on the idea of a fruit in a salad, but trust me, when paired right, fruit in a salad can be a match made in heaven. Some of my favourites are: peach and rocket, apple or orange and fennel, zucchini and rockmelon, pear and rocket and apricot and any grain. If you’ve never tried fruit in a salad, do yourself a favour and give it a go.

This salad is really quick and easy to make and the peach and zucchini can be grilled ahead of time, leaving very little to do just prior to serving. If you can’t get mozzarella cheese then baby bocconcini also work really well.

You can use any type of tomatoes in this salad, however, a mixture of ordinary, heirloom and baby tomato varieties work well. Similarly, white or yellow peaches or nectarines would work, but I the yellow peach works best, in my opinion.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of rocket leaves
  • 2 cups butter lettuce leaves, roughly torn
  • 3-4 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 yellow peaches, cut into 0.5cm wedges
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced into ribbons
  • 1/2 a small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 large ball of buffalo mozzarella
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat a large griddle pan over medium heat, add the peach slices and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until tender. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Cook the zucchini ribbons for 1-2 minutes on each side until just soft, being careful not to overcook. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Put the rocket and lettuce leaves into a large serving bowl. Top with tomato slices, onion slices, as well as the grilled peach and zucchini (I like to roll the zucchini ribbons).
  4. In a small bowl, place the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and mix well to combine. Season to taste.
  5. Tear the buffalo mozzarella over the salad, drizzle over the dressing and gently toss to combine.
Featured

Spanakopita

We plant spinach or silverbeet in our garden pretty much every year, and each year, it goes crazy! Then, I am left figuring out new and exciting ways to incorporate it into our week of meals. Often it will be added to a risotto or served alongside eggs or added into a smoothie, but spinach and silverbeet are something that I find the kids don’t love raw, ie. a lettuce based salad is much better received than a spinach based salad. Enter spanikopita.

The filo pastry lining the dish, with plenty of overhang, ready for the filling

Spanikopita is Greek for ‘spinach pie’ and there are quite a few variations of how it can be made, but mine uses a good chunk of the spinach or silverbeet in the garden, eggs from the chickens, as well as fresh herbs. I have been known to use beetroot leaves too, and it works just as well.

The filling in the pastry

Do the kids really love it? Well, yes! Mark does, and will happily gobble up any leftovers the next day. The girls will happily try it and very much enjoy the pastry, and will often finish off a good amount of their piece. I don’t push it, but we do insist that they try what’s on their plate, and I will continue to make this as I am pretty certain that with time, they too will love it.

Ready for the oven

Spanikopita is a great meal for vegetarians, as it contains a good source of protein, from the eggs, cheese and spinach. The greens are also a rich source of plant based iron. Leftover spanikopita can be enjoyed for a couple of days, although, I definitely recommend taking the extra time to reheat it in the oven and crisp up the filo pastry.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 6

  • 4 cups spinach or silverbeet, finely chopped, washed and dried
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 375g ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbs mint, chopped
  • 2 tbs dill, chopped
  • 2 tbs parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 100g feta
  • 8-10 sheets filo pastry

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Place the dried spinach into a large bowl, add salt and massage through leaves for ~ 1 minute. The salt will cause the spinach to wilt, without adding the extra moisture that cooking the spinach would. Set aside.
  3. Heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil, along with the leek and spring onions, cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Remove from heat.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, ricotta, herbs, nutmeg, parmesan and lemon zest.
  5. Add the egg mix to the spinach, along with the leek and spring onions. Mix well to combine. Crumble the feta and gently fold through.
  6. Using a baking dish or skillet, prepare the pastry by laying down individual sheets of filo pastry, spraying or brushing with olive oil between layers. Overlap layers to allow the pastry to seal in the contents. Continue layering until the dish is covered, ensuring you leave some overhang.
  7. Place the spinach mixture inside the filo pastry and then fold the overhanging pastry back over the top of the spinach mixture.
  8. Place into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set and the filo pastry is golden brown.
Featured

Ham and Asparagus Frittata

First of all, Merry Christmas from my family to yours. I hope that everyone had a safe and enjoyable Christmas, and my heart goes out to those who were unable to share Christmas this year with loved ones, due to the year that has been, and the lockdowns, border closures and other barriers that have put limitations in place. Here’s for a better 2021!

So, here we are again, another Christmas done, guests have gone home, and we are now left with a fridge full of leftovers. The obvious option is the good old cold meat and salad for days on end, which is great, but can get a little but boring, especially for the kids.

Last night, I made a pasta salad using leftover roast turkey, and it was delicious. We have just finished up lunch, which was a spread of cold ham with condiments, leftover pasta from last night, a Peachy Caprese Salad, which is in my Salad e-book, some fresh sourdough bread and some other vegetables. With at least 500g of ham on the bone left, I will be making this Ham and Asparagus Frittata for dinner tonight. It is a good way to use up some of your leftover ham, as well as the eggs that we have accumulating, due to eggs not being on the menu due to Christmas, and the chickens continuing to do their thing and pump out an egg each day!

I made this frittata earlier in December and it was demolished, an absolute hit with the kids. If asparagus isn’t your thing, you could add in some roast pumpkin, zucchini or even some beetroot. You could even make it into a quiche, if you have a bit more time to make some pastry. I am all for the easy option at the moment, so we will be having it without the crust.

I hope you enjoy this really quick and easy meal. xx.

Ingredients:

  • 200g leftover Christmas ham, chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 50g tasty cheese, grated
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbs chives
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC and prepare a quiche dish.
  2. Heat a medium pan over medium heat, add the slice onion and cook until soft, ~5-6 minutes. Place into the base of the dish.
  3. Add the chopped ham and half of the asparagus to the dish and top with grated cheese.
  4. In a bowl, whisk the egg, chives and milk. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the egg mix over the top of the ham, onion and asparagus. Top with the remaining asparagus and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the egg is set. Enjoy!
Featured

Blinis

Blinis are little pancakes or pikelets that are usually served as an appetiser or starter, topped with various toppings.

Blinis are something that I love to serve on Christmas Eve with a glass of bubbles, watching the carols, or on Christmas Day as a starter. They can be as fancy or simple as you wish and the variety of toppings that can be used is endless.

Blinis are easy to cook and can be made ahead of time, and even frozen. Making them ahead of time frees up time on the day of serving, which is rather convenient, especially if it’s Christmas Day.

I made these recently and we had them for lunch. I wasn’t too sure how they would go down with the kids, but they absolutely devoured them, which really surprised, and delighted, me. They preferred those with prosciutto on top, most likely because of the blue cheese, but they were still impressed by those with smoked salmon.

If you’re lost for something simple yet impressive to make this Christmas, why not give these a go?

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Makes ~30

  • 1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
  • 1/2 cup SR flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 20g butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk

Method:

  1. Place the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix to combine.
  2. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Add the egg, butter and milk to the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.
  4. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat and add 1 tsp dollops of mixture. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. Flip and then cook for a further minute on the other side. Remove and place onto a plate. Continue with remaining mixture.
  5. Top with topping of choice. Some of my favourites are:
  • Smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, dill and capers
  • Caramelised onion, pear, rocket, blue cheese and proscuitto
  • Tomato, basil, bocconcini
Featured

Chicken, Lemon and Mint Stir Fry

First of all, apologies for my lack of recipes being posted on here, I have been busy creating an e-book – Sensational Summer Salads, as well as finishing off the photography for my hard cover cookbook, and trying to juggle day-to-day life in the lead up to Christmas. I will have more recipes coming soon, I promise!

A stir fry has to be one of the quickest, easiest and most nutritious meals going around. This particular stir-fry has been jotted down on paper, photos taken, waiting for me to post it for at least 2-3 months, and now with Christmas just a few weeks away, this Chicken, Lemon and Mint Stir-Fry is the perfect mid-week meal to break up all the indulgences that come with Christmas.

Some of the main things I love about a stir fry are:

  • All the prep work can be done ahead of time – the marinating, the chopping, etc, leaving only the cooking to be done at the business end of the day, which takes less than 10 minutes.
  • They are suitable to all times of the year.
  • They can be enjoyed on their own or bulked out with rice or noodles.
  • They are SO full of flavour.
  • They can be adapted to utilise whatever vegetables you have on hand.
  • And the list goes on…

This Chicken, Lemon and Mint Stir Fry is light and fresh and the perfect stir fry for a warm Summer’s night. The mint combined with the lemon provides a freshness like no other. We have had this stir fry with soba noodles, hokkien noodles and also with rice and all work really well. Toasted cashews would also make a great addition just before serving.

The kids are usually pretty good with a stir fry. They will sometimes pick out the veggies they prefer and then other times eat the whole meal without complaints. A stir fry provides a great opportunity to offer kids vegetables that they may not usually like, along-side vegetables that they are comfortable with, offering the chance for them to try something new.

I hope you find this stir-fry as delicious as we do.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 500g chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1 tbs ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 packet of ramen noodles
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, cut diagonally
  • 1 small bunch of broccolini, halved
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 15-20 green beans, ends trimmed, halved
  • 15-20 snow peas, halved diagonally
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup coriander leaves

Method:

  1. Make the chicken marinade by placing the ginger, garlic, lime zest, soy sauce, fish sauce and brown sugar into a bowl. Mix to combine. Add the chicken and mix to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the ramen noodles as per the packet instructions, usually about 6-8 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  3. Heat a large wok over medium heat and add 1 tbs of oil of choice – olive oil, sesame oil and peanut oil all work well. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, then add the carrot and cook for a further minute.
  4. Add the chicken, allowing excess marinade to remain in the bowl to allow the chicken to brown. Cook until the chicken is all browned then add the broccollini and celery and cook for a further minute.
  5. Add the water to the remaining marinade and mix to combine, then add this all to the wok and stir to coat. Add the beans and snow peas and cook for another minute or so.
  6. Turn off the heat, stir through the noodles, along with the lemon juice, mint and coriander.
  7. Divide between bowls and enjoy.
Featured

Orange, Pumpkin and Date Muffins

It’s probably pretty clear that muffins are something that are baked, and eaten, quite regularly in this house.

The reason I tend to go for muffins is for a few reasons:

  1. They are quick and easy to make
  2. They can be appropriately portioned into whatever sized morsel you want
  3. They freeze really well, meaning you don’t have to feel like you are eating the same thing everyday for a week
  4. They are the perfect size for lunchboxes

I had some quinoa flour in the pantry and some pumpkin that needed using, which resulted in the creation of these Orange, Pumpkin and Date muffins. The dates provide a natural sweetness, while the juice and zest of the orange give the distinct citrus flavour, while the mashed pumpkin provides a good nutrition boost but also allows the muffin to retain it’s moisture and compliments the spice profile nicely. If you were wanting to add some crunch to these muffins, some slivered almonds or chopped walnuts would work quite nicely. I have chosen to not put nuts in these muffins as the kids will take them to school and kinder.

The first time I made these Orange, Pumpkin and Date muffins, I used only quinoa flour, which left a distinct after taste, which wasn’t offensive and no one complained, but I thought that I would make a few amendments to allow it to be more suitable to everyones palate. Often flours such as quinoa, buckwheat and chickpea flour have quite a strong flavour, so it is best to mix them with another type of flour, such as a wheat, spelt or even rice flour for a gluten free alternative.

I hope you enjoy these muffins for something a little bit different. xx.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup peeled pumpkin, steamed and mashed
  • 3/4 cup quinoa flour
  • 3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup dates, pitted and chopped, I used 3 medjool dates
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare ~12-15 hole muffin tin.
  2. Peel pumpkin and chop into 1cm slices and place in a steamer basket and steam until soft. Allow to cool slightly and mash.
  3. Place the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spices, zest and dates into a large bowl and mix to combine.
  4. Add the eggs, orange juice, vanilla and the mashed pumpkin and mix well to combine.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tray and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Featured

Thai Fish Cakes

Thai fish cakes have to be one of the most flavourful foods I have eaten. So fresh and fragrant, these fish cakes are perfect as the weather is starting to warm up.

Ingredients for Thai Fish Cakes

I have had a few attempts at these fish cakes with different types of fish, using fish that is fresh and fish that has been frozen. From all of the trialling I have done, I have found that blue grenadier works best and using fresh fish as opposed to that which has been frozen, is definitely best. In one of my attempts, I used blue grenadier, which was frozen and I had allowed it to thaw. The freezing process resulted in it retaining a lot more moisture than the fresh fish. This meant that the mixture was too wet and when I cooked the fish cakes, they fell apart. So, if you are using frozen fish, ensure that you allow it to thaw completely and pat it dry, really well, with paper towel.

Thai fish cakes are really one of my favourite meals, but one that I have not made in a number of years, mainly because the kids were not too thrilled by them and all the different flavours going on. But, they are back on the menu, because if you don’t offer kids new foods, they won’t know if they like them, but if you offer the new foods, they might just eat them!! And they did! We have had these 3 or 4 times in the past couple of months and Mark LOVES them and they are growing on the girls more with each time we have them. We try to have fish at least once per week, so these have become one of our fish meals.

If you like a bit more bite to your Thai styled food, I would recommend adding some extra chilli into the fish cakes, as these are quite mild. You can also add a small red chilli into the dipping sauce, rather than the long chilli, for a real hit of heat. I, obviously, have gone easy on the chilli as I make these with small people in mind, but adjust them to your liking.

Thai Fish Cakes with dipping sauce and fried Chinese broccoli

These can be made ahead of time and formed into balls and kept in the fridge until needed.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 500g white fish, I used blue grenadier with the skin removed
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part, finely chopped
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander, loosely packed
  • 1-2 spring onions, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 long red chilli, finely diced
  • 1 tbs red curry paste
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 4-5 green beans, finely sliced
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated
  • Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
  • 1 tsp fish sauce

Dipping Sauce:

  • 2 tbs castor sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbs coriander root, finely chopped
  • 1/2 a long red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

Method:

  1. Ensure the fish is completely dry by patting it with paper towel and finely chop. Resist the temptation to put the fish in the food processor as it will result in a more rubbery textured fish cake. Place the chopped fish into a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
  3. Take heaped tablespoons of mixture and form into balls. The mixture should make 10-12.
  4. Place in the fridge for at least an hour for the flavours to develop. Remove from the fridge about half an hour prior to cooking.
  5. Make the dipping sauce by placing all ingredients into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and allow to bubble away for ~10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Heat a large fry pan over medium heat. If the frypan is not non-stick, add a drizzle of olive oil and add the fish cakes to the pan, pressing them down gently until they are ~1.5-2cm thick. Cook for 3-4 minutes then carefully flip each fish cake and cook for a further 3-4 minutes on the other side.
  7. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

Featured

Roast Pumpkin, Pesto and Bocconcini Pasta Bake

Every now and then when I get completely uninspired with what to cook, I end up making a pasta bake of some sort with whatever we have in the fridge. This unplanned meal actually turned out to be quite delicious, hence while I’m sharing it. I have made this pasta bake using the remaining pasta we had in the pantry, however, my recommended pasta type to use would be spirals as they will ‘mop up’ more of the pesto.

A pasta bake is a great meal that can be prepared in advance and the baking completed when ready to eat, or even fully cooked and then reheated when needed. The bonus nutritional benefit with a pasta bake is the higher level of resistant starch, compared with a usual pasta meal. Resistant starch is a type of fibre that resists digestion, passing to the large bowel, largely digested, and feeds the ‘good’ bacteria, or probiotics, that reside in the large bowel. These probiotics, which are trillions of bacteria, make up the microbiome. When fed well, these bacteria thrive and produce short chain fatty acids, acetate, butyrate and propionate, which regulate the permeability of the intestinal wall, preventing molecules, such as endotoxins, passing this barrier to where they should not be. This process plays a role in helping to control inflammation within the body.

Pasta bake prior to cooking

You may ask why I have bothered pre-cooking the pumpkin in this dish when a pasta bake needs to cook for long enough to cook the pasta? Well, pumpkin, when roasted, gives a delicious caramelised flavour, which disperses throughout the whole dish. If you are short on time, you can omit the roasting of the pumpkin, but trust me, it’s better when roasted.

If you wish, this could be made into a simple pasta dish by skipping the baking step and cooking the pasta until al dente during the boiling process. If you choose to cook this dish in this way, I would recommend serving with a good handful of fresh rocket leaves.

Most meals that contain pasta are a hit in our household, and considering the kids often turn their noses up at pumpkin, the fact that they enjoyed this meal made me happy.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pumpkin, chopped into 1-2cm cubes
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of pasta – spirals will work well
  • 3/4 cup of pesto
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 150g baby bocconcini
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water

Pesto:

  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Place pumpkin cubes into a bowl and add olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place onto baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Make pesto by placing all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until combined. Set aside.
  4. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than what the packet says – the pasta will cook more in the oven and you don’t want the pasta overcooked. Add the broccoli florets for the final 2 minutes of pasta cooking.
  5. Once cooked, drain the pasta and broccoli, making sure you reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  6. Place the cooked pasta and broccoli into a large bowl, and add the roast pumpkin.
  7. Mix the reserved pasta water and pesto together and pour over the pasta mixture. Gently toss to combine.
  8. Place pasta mixture into baking dish and top with baby bocconcini and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, if you with and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is nicely melted.
Featured

Apricot, Almond and Chocolate Millet Cups

Today the girls and I decided to do some baking and I was thinking about making some sort of slice, something apricot and almond, but not certain what. As we were looking through Claire’s bag of kinder activities for lockdown 2.0, we came across some Gruffalo inspired recipes, one of them was ‘Knobbly Knees’, essentially a honey joy with some nuts, dried fruit and chocolate. This was the exact inspiration I needed.

The main ingredient for Knobbly Knees was cornflakes, which we didn’t have, so instead we used puffed millet and didn’t really follow the recipe at all, but created these little Apricot, Almond and Chocolate Millet Cups. These little cups are the perfect snack for both kids and adults, they are versatile in that they can be made using whatever puffs, dried fruit and nuts that you have on hand.

These cups when made using millet are a gluten free snack, making them suitable for anyone who has coeliac disease or follows a gluten free diet. If you are making these for kids that need a nut-free snack for school, the nuts can be substituted for seeds and peanut butter can be swapped for tahini or more butter. The chocolate chips can be added before adding the butter mixture, however this will result in them melting and the whole mixture being a darker colour.

I hope you enjoy these quick and easy snacks xx.

Ingredients:

(Makes ~20-24)

  • 60g puffed millet
  • 40g almonds, roughly chopped
  • 40g dried apricots, diced into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 100g butter
  • 3 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease muffin tins or patty pans.
  2. Place millet, almonds, apricots and coconut into a large bowl and mix to combine.
  3. Place the butter, honey and peanut butter into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until melted and allow to bubble for ~1 minute. Cool slightly.
  4. Pour butter mixture over the millet mixture and mix well to coat. Add the chocolate chips and fold through.
  5. Place mixture into muffin tins or patty pans (I used silicone muffin trays) and press down slightly, sprinkle with a few choc chips and bake for ~ 10 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tray and store in an airtight container.