Zucchini Slice

Zucchini slice is an easy and convenient meal for the whole family. A meal that I grew up eating and one I am now feeding my family.

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With a baby who has recently started solids in the house, finding meals that all 5 of us can eat can be tricky, which leaves me preparing meals for Elise (8 months) and she ends up eating the same thing several days in a row. I made this zucchini slice the other day for the first time in over a year and she LOVED it! As did the older 2, although I did sell it to them as egg and bacon slice, mainly because they think they don’t like zucchini (even though they eat it ALL the time)…next time we have it, I am going to ask them to tell me what they think is in it and all will be revealed!

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Zucchini slice is a very nutritious meal. It’s a great source of protein, from the eggs, bacon and cheese, it’s full of veggies – I have used zucchini, carrot, onion and corn, but you can also use sweet potato, which provide plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. It can be enjoyed both warm or cold, it freezes superbly and is great for a picnic or in lunch boxes. When we have had this, I have served it with a side salad as the kids are loving salads at the moment, but it is nutritionally balanced so is fine to have on its own.

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This recipe uses self raising flour, but if you are after a gluten free option, I would recommend using almond meal in place of the flour and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. You could also use a gluten free self raising flour if desired.

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Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bacon rashers, fat trimmed and diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated and excess moisture squeezed out
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 cob of corn, kernels removed
  • 100g tasty or cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50g feta, crumbled
  • 1 tbs chives, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup SR flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tomato, sliced (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 20cm x 25cm slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally for ~ 5 minutes.
  3. Once the zucchini has been grated, remove excess moisture by placing into a sieve and squeeze/press the zucchini into the sieve. Quite a lot of moisture will come out.
  4. Place zucchini, carrot, corn, herbs, cheeses and flour into a large bowl and mix. Add the bacon and onion and mix.
  5. Crack the eggs into another bowl, add the milk and salt and pepper and lightly beat.
  6. Add the egg mix to the vegetable mix and mix well to combine.
  7. Pour into prepared tray and top with slices of tomato and bake for ~35 minutes or until it bounces back when touched lightly.
  8. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving as is or with a salad.

This will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator or will freeze exceptionally well for up to 3 months.

Nut Free, Lunchbox Friendly Muesli Bars

For quite sometime, I have been thinking about changing the way I make my Muesli Bars. I find that the baked ones are sometimes perfect and cut into nice muesli bar shaped pieces and other times they crumble, so I wanted to make a reliable muesli bar, one that cuts perfectly everytime, and here we have it!

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This muesli bar does not need to be baked, it sets in the fridge and it is also nut free, meaning it is suitable for kids to take to kinder or school, and perfectly safe for those allergic to nuts, which is great. You can, of course, add nuts in in place of some of the seeds if you wish, which I personally think makes them better and also makes a more solid bar when cut.

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It took me a couple of goes to get these right and there are a few key things to note:

  1. Coconut oil, alone, will not set well enough to hold together, it needs something else, which is why I have used butter and honey.
  2. Honey that has crystallised, needs to be heated and boiled for about 1 minute in order to get the crystals back into solution to help it to hold the mixture together well. One batch I made, the crystallised honey was not heated well enough and this batch crumbled when cut.
  3. The mixture needs to be pushed down very firmly into the pan with the back of a spoon before placing into the fridge to set.

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Seeing as these muesli bars aren’t cooked, you can use any dried fruit. I find with the baked muesli bars that sometimes the dried fruit can go a bit too crunchy and almost burn. I have used dried blueberries and cranberries, but dried apricots, sultanas, dates or even apple would work well also. I have included some dark chocolate in these muesli bars, which melts when the hot mixture is added, making them taste a little bit like a chocolate crackle, but this is optional. You could also omit the chocolate in the mix and melt and drizzle it over the finished bar.

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My kids love my homemade muesli bars, and the first time I made a refrigerated batch, they had nuts in them and Mark tried them and said “Mum, can I take these to kinder”?, and my response was obviously “No, they have nuts in them”, which is where the motivation for these muesli bars came from.

Give these a go and you’ll probably find you won’t buy muesli bars again.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats, toasted
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice (rice bubbles will work also)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup pepitas, toasted
  • 1/4 cup linseed
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I used 1/2 blueberries, 1/2 cranberries)
  • 70g dark chocolate, chopped (optional)
  • 65g butter
  • 60g coconut oil
  • 105g honey

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a slice tray 20cm x 30cm with baking paper.
  2. Place oats, sunflower seeds and pepitas onto the tray and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until just starting to turn golden. Add the coconut for the last 5 minutes, keeping an eye on it. This adds some crunch to these ingredients, but can be skipped.
  3. Place toasted oats, seeds and coconut into a large bowl and add the linseed, chia seeds, sesame seeds, puffed rice, dried fruit and chocolate and mix.
  4. Place butter, honey and coconut oil into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Once coconut oil and butter are melted, bring to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer for at least 1 minute, ensuring honey has dissolved.
  5. Pour honey mixture into the oat mixture and mix well, ensuring the wet mix coats the dry mix well.
  6. Place into lined tin and press into the tin well with the back of a spoon.
  7. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight then cut into bars.
  8. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

A good pie is perfect for a cold Winters day, especially one that is super easy and quick to prepare.

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This chicken pot pie is packed full of vegetables and has more of a gravy to it rather than a creaminess like my Chicken, Pumpkin and Leek Pies. Both are tasty in their own right, but this pot pie has more nutritional value and at the end of the day they are very different. I have topped this one with filo pastry, which enables the filling to be made in advance, requiring only the pastry to be added in the evening, just before going in the oven.

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People often view a pie as a poor choice, which may be the case when the pie is highly processed and the filling doesn’t resemble meat. Homemade pies do not fit into this category. Yes, they contain pastry, which isn’t a food we should be eating all the time, but it does form part of a healthy BALANCED diet. A homemade pie is essentially a casserole with a case. So, when you think of it like that, a pie filling can be whatever you like and the more veggies you can pop in there, the more nutrition you will get out of your meal. If you feel like making a beef and bacon pie with no veggies, then do it, just have some veggies or salad on the side.

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The kids enjoyed this pie and they especially liked the crunch of the filo pastry on top. As the filling is at least half veggies, it is a suitable meal to be served on its own. Having said this, we did eat it with steamed green beans last time, but you could also add some roast or mashed potatoes as a side if you are looking for a more filling meal.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 400g chicken thighs, chopped into chunks
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 tsp thyme, chopped
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cob or corn, kernels removed
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8-10 sheets of filo pastry

Method:

  1. Heat a large frypan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the leek, carrot and garlic and cook for ~5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and spring onions and cook for a further 1 minute.
  2. Add the chicken and cook until all sides are browned. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring so the flour doesn’t stick. Add the chicken stock and stir to form a gravy. Add the corn and the spinach leaves and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper and place into pie dish and refrigerate.
  3. 50 minutes prior to eating, preheat oven to 180°C.
  4. Remove the pie filling from the fridge, cover the dish with foil or a lid and place into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until heated through.
  5. Once the filling is heated, remove the pie filling from the oven. Scrunch up sheets of filo pastry, one at a time, and arrange on top of the filling. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and crunchy.
  6. Serve as is or with greens or potato.

Sweet Potato, Thyme and Polenta Chips

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Polenta chips are a good alternative to your normal potato chip. They are simple to make, but do require a bit of planning as the polenta needs to set before the chips are baked. The final product is a crunchy outside with a soft inside that has a slight sweetness due to the sweet potato.img_1713.jpg

Polenta is an Italian staple that is also known as cornmeal. It is gluten free, making it suitable with individuals with Coeliac Disease or gluten intolerance. It can be consumed hot and soft, almost like a porridge or can be left to set, as I have done in this recipe. The sweet potato, thyme and parmesan cheese give these chips a bit more pizazz and flavour than a normal polenta chip. Polenta chips are a great accompaniment to a piece of meat, fritters, rissoles, or even on their own as a snack. If you were having guests, they could take a spot of another carby dish, such as a potato salad or roast potatoes.img_1714.jpg

Initially, the kids weren’t too sure about these, but once they tried them, they were hooked, which is great, as polenta chips make a good snack or lunch food for the kids. These chips can be made and refrigerated or frozen prior to baking, making them quite quick and easy to make once they have been prepared. They will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge and 1 month in the freezer, so I’d suggest making 1-2 batches and freezing what you don’t need so you can just pop them out and into the oven to crisp up.

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img_1718.jpgEnjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Line a 30 x 40cm baking dish with baking paper.
  2. To make sweet potato mash, peel and chop sweet potato and cook in a steamer basket over boiling water. Once soft, mash sweet potato and set aside.
  3. Bring 4 cups of water to the boil in large pot. Once boiling, add the polenta and cook over low heat, stirring regularly, for 15 minutes. Once cooked, add the sweet potato, thyme, butter and parmesan and stir until smooth.
  4. Pour the polenta into the baking dish and smooth out evenly. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until polenta is cool and firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  6. Remove the polenta from the fridge and remove from the tray onto a chopping board. Cut the polenta into chips, about 2cm thick, and place onto baking tray. Once all chips are cut, brush with oil, taking care when turning them, and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Place into the oven for 30 minutes, turning the chips after 15 minutes.

Minestrone Soup

Winter is well and truly here in Melbourne, which means that soup is definitely on the menu again.

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Minestrone soup is a well known, hearty Italian soup, which can be made in many ways with many different ingredients and I would like to share mine with you.

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Minestrone soup can be made using any vegetables really, from potato and pumpkin to zucchini and squash, as well as carrot, peas and broccoli. There is always a carbohydrate component in minestrone soup, usually pasta or rice, and meat is completely optional. I have used bacon, but other recipes call for pork or pork rind (same animal!). Minestrone can often go gluggy or mushy the next day, which is due to the pasta or rice continuing to take on water, losing its structure. What I would recommend to avoid this is to cook the pasta or rice separately and add to each bowl before serving. If you have enough for leftovers, store the extra rice/pasta in a separate airtight container in the fridge and add to the bowl of hot soup just before serving.

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I think that the key to this minestrone is the pesto. I added a teaspoon of bought pesto, although I have included the recipe for pesto below to each bowl, along with some shaved parmesan just before serving and it enhanced the flavours immensely.

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The kids absolutely loved this soup, Mark even said “Mum, this is the best soup I’ve ever had” and asked a second bowl after his first was demolished in about 2 minutes. Claire enjoyed it as well and was asking for it for days after it was all gone….time to make some more!

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This soup really is very easy to make, it uses up whatever vegetables are in the house, it is hearty, nutritious and filling and it is great for leftovers. You can serve it with crusty bread if desired, although, it is not necessary as there is already a carbohydrate component in the soup.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 6

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 rashers bacon, fat trimmed and diced
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 150g savoy cabbage, sliced (purple cabbage also works)
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1 tbs thyme, chopped
  • 400g passata
  • 2.5L chicken or vegetable stock
  • 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 150g spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta
  • Grated parmesan cheese to serve
  • Pesto to serve (recipe below)

Pesto

  • 2 large handfuls of basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Make the pesto by placing all ingredients into a food processor and blending until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and blend for a further 30 seconds. Place into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat a large pot with a lid over medium heat, add olive oil and bacon and fry for 2-3 minutes until the bacon begins to caramelise. Add the leek, carrot, celery, parsnip and cabbage and cook for a further 2-3 minutes to allow the leek to caramelise.
  3. Add the chopped herbs, passata and stock and season to taste. Bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and place the lid on, slightly ajar and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil and once boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  5. Once 30 minutes has passed, add the zucchini and cannellini beans and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the chopped spinach and cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Place 1-2 tbs of pasta into each bowl and top with soup. Add a small handful of grated parmesan cheese and 1 tsp of pesto to each bowl and enjoy!

Pumpkin Velvet Pie

Last week we were given 2 massive pumpkins, so I have made pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin and apple muffins, pumpkin scones and roast pumpkin in salads and we still had 3/4 of a pumpkin left, so I decided to try a pumpkin pie. This recipe came from my sister, who was given it by one of her clients. It is easy to make and so smooth.

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Pumpkin pie is traditionally an American dish that is prepared for Thanksgiving. It is often eaten in Autumn and early Winter when pumpkins are plentiful. It is a dish that is made with a sweet pie shell and a pumpkin based custard. The spices in the custard can be played around with and usually consist of ginger, nutmeg, cloves, but cardamom and vanilla can be used also.

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I have used a little bit more spice in this pie than what the original recipe suggested as I personally think that a little bit more spice in things like this and hot cross buns, muffins, carrot cake, etc is better. My measurements are reflected in the recipe below.

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Needless to say, the kids are completely over pumpkin, to the point where I told Mark that we were going to have risotto for dinner and he said “Please no more pumpkin”! However, they thought the pumpkin pie was great! As did I.

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Serve the pie with a dollop of thickened cream or ice cream if preferred.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp water

Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin, cooled and mashed
  • 1 cup sour cream (I used natural yoghurt)
  • 3 eggs, separated

Method:

  1. To make the pastry, place the butter, sugar and flour into a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Mix the water and egg together and with the motor running, gradually add the egg mix to the flour and run until it comes together. Once a ball is formed, turn the motor off and remove from the processor. Flatten out into a large disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a 18-20cm pie dish.
  4. Once the 30 minutes has passed, remove from the fridge and roll out to fit the pie dish. Return to the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  5. Blind bake by placing baking paper over the pastry then baking beads or dry beans or rice and bake for 15 minutes covered, then a further 10 minutes with the beans and baking paper removed. Once cooked, remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 160°C
  6. While the base is cooking, make the filling by placing sugar, salt, spices and pumpkin into a large bowl.
  7. Beat the egg yolks and add to the pumpkin mixture along with the sour cream.
  8. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the pumpkin mixture.
  9. Place into pie case and smooth out the top. Bake for ~40 minutes. Check that it is cooked by slightly shaking the dish. There should be a slight wobble, yet still be firm.

 

 

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.