Unless you’ve been living under rock, you’d know that the last week (at least in Australia) has been all about back to school. And for some precious little ones its meant heading to school for the first time. I’m not generally a sentimental kind of person but there’s something about it all that makes my heart stop and pause as the page of life turns. All this, as well as the good holiday break, somehow gives me at least a small spurt of energy for school lunches at the beginning of the year. Now generally, all those posts in the blogosphere about how to make school lunches organic, healthy, fun, dinosaur shaped and immaculately presented for our little idols, I mean, children – send me into a tailspin. And I’m glad to have mostly avoided them this back to school season. But level-headed suggestions from level-headed friends are always welcome and this recipe brings together two that recently came my way: one friend mentioned she feeds her kids pasta for lunch because it’s more filling than sandwiches and much easier to prepare in batches. Another suggested this recipe she found in Fresh Magazine at Woolworth’s. These pasta ‘muffins’ were painless to make, froze and thawed out well (so you can get a good fortnights worth done at once) and cost around the same price to make than the same number needed of ham and cheese sangas, approximately $5 for 24. I’m sure when the kids are tired of these we’ll head back to sandwich land, but these yummy numbers (adapted a little – I left out all the veggies) are a welcome option around here.
- 500g macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
- 1 large 700g jar home brand passata
- 1 cup grated carrot (optional)
- 1 cup grated zucchini (optional)
- 2 eggs lightly whisked
- Salt to taste
- 2 cups grated cheese
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line 2 x 12 hole muffin tins with paper cases.
- Combine all the ingredients except the cheese in a bowl, and divide mixture evenly among muffin holes. Season to taste with salt.
- Top each muffin of pasta with grated cheese, using it all up.
- Bake in oven for 15 mins or until cheese has melted. Allow to cool before freezing them ready for school each day.
How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson is my second favourite cook book for baking (the first being Belinda Jeffrey’s Mix and Bake), and it’s where I came across this lovely pancake recipe. I’ve been using it for more than ten years because the resulting pancakes are wonderful: light and fluffy, and lovely and thick, without being dense or rubbery. The mixture can be used immediately, though it can also be made ahead of time and allowed to stand in the fridge for whenever you need to use it. The batter I made for those in the picture here was left on the bench for only 10 minutes before cooking. The quantities below make 30 medium sized pancakes (just halve the quantities for a smaller crowd) and costs no more than $1.50 to make.
- 2 tablespoons baking powder or 1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
- 2 pinches of salt
- 2 teaspoons icing sugar
- 60 grams butter, melted
- 600ml milk
- 4 eggs
- 500g plain flour
- Butter for frying
- Place all the ingredients in either a food processor or stand mixer and mix together until all the lumps are gone.
- Transfer mixture to a 2L jug, or smaller if halving the recipe.
- Cook pancakes one at a time in a decent non-stick pan on medium heat. When you start to see bubbles blistering on the pancake it’s time to flip to the other side for no more than a minute.
- Enjoy topped with whatever you like: lemon and sugar, maple syrup and butter, bacon or berries or ice-cream.
This recipe comes directly from the kitchen of my dear friend Lisa, who found it in One Handed Cooks magazine. Lisa is such a wonderful old soul – she carefully loves the people around her, thinks hard about everything that’s important in life and wastes no time on what isn’t. She looks after her family simply but diligently, with a heart full of wonder at all God’s given her. She put me onto this tasty, simple, and affordable meal and in addition to all these things, it’s so very her: warm, generous, and hearty. Once cooked, this crowd-pleasing one pot dish can be pureed with a stick blender for babies and frozen for future baby meals – no need to make the little ones a separate meal. And if you need a gluten free meal, simply exchange pasta for the gluten free variety. This dairy free recipe costs around $7 to make and serves 6. Thanks Lis, when I grow up I wanna be just like you.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 340g dried linguini (any pasta is fine though)
- 1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
- 1 large chicken breast, diced very small
- 4.5 cups chicken stock (powdered is fine, but check for gluten if need be)
- ½ cup basil leaves (but dried is totally fine too)
- Heat oil in a large pot/frypan. Sauté onion and garlic together over low heat. Gently fry chicken pieces in this mixture.
- Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through and liquids have reduced to a risotto-like consistency. Enjoy with crusty bread and/or salad.
I’m not quite sure how I came across this easy, slow-cooked winning dinner. It’s been getting a bit of a workout at our place lately, mainly for two reasons: simplicity and affordability. Aside from a couple of steps at the end, to make this dinner, all you really need to do is stick 2kg of chicken drumsticks in the slow cooker turned onto ‘low’, covered with a full bottle of teriyaki marinade, and walk away. And in terms of price, even with steamed Asian veggies and rice, this tasty meal costs only $10 to make for 6 people. A great one for this time of year as life gets busy!
- 2 kg chicken drumsticks
- 1 x bottle Masterfoods chicken teriyaki marinade
- A couple of handfuls of sesame seeds
- Mixed Asian veggies to serve (I use pak choy, capsicum and broccoli)
- 2.5 cups jasmine rice
- Place chicken in the slow cooker, cover with teriyaki sauce and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- Half and hour before serving, prepare vegetables for steaming and cook rice according to instructions on the packet. Heat oven to 200 degrees.
- Carefully remove drumsticks from the slow cooker and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle each drumstick with sesame seeds and place tray in oven, turning chicken, and sprinkling more seeds after 5 minutes on each side.
- Strain the teriyaki liquid from the slow-cooker into a small saucepan and simmer on stove to reduce to a thick sauce. This takes about 20 minutes.
- Remove chicken from the oven, which should now have a shiny and sticky coating. Serve on rice with asian veggies and cover each portion with reduced sticky teriyaki sauce. Enjoy!
Friendship has got to be one of the most precious things in life – just one of God’s many graces, but one of his best. A writer I recently stumbled upon, Katherine Sonderegger, says that for her “…friends have turned each day and season into golden joy.” I can’t help but agree. Years ago, a friend texted to ask when we’d be home from our summer holiday. When we arrived home this Penne alla Matriciana was waiting in our fridge, along with a bottle of milk, and the air-con had been switched on for us so we would arrive home to a cool house. A month ago she did much the same thing for us (and countless times in-between), and tonight when I finally tried this recipe for myself, as they always do when my pantry lacks an ingredient, our champion neighbours provided me with what I needed – this time, a tin of tomatoes. So for me, this authentic Italian recipe from Diane Seeds The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces, is all about friendship. And it tastes simply out of this world – so much better than any store bought pasta sauce in a jar, because the high cook temperature produces lovely bit of caramelised tomato that end up running throughout the sauce, giving the whole thing a rich and rustic flavour. And this kid-pleasing dish is so cheap and simple to prepare. Make it for friends new or old, using the quantities below and this classic recipe will feed 6 and cost around $6 to make.
- 500g penne pasta (or whatever you prefer)
- 30ml olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced finely
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 250g middle bacon, thinly sliced
- 60g parmesan cheese, grated
- Heat the oil and gently fry the chopped onion and garlic until softened, cover the frypan to avoid browning. Add the tomatoes with their juice, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and cook on a high flame, uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the sauce is reduced and thick, check the seasoning and puree roughly with a stick blender. In the same frypan, fry off the bacon and set aside.
- Cook the pasta following the directions on the packet. Drain the pasta and stir the sauce and bacon through with the pasta in its cooking pot. Serve with toppings of grated parmesan and with a salad or garlic bread as desired.
Whether you need a cheap meal for a crowd, or a slack dinner at home or an easy way to satisfy a Zambrero’s-type craving, these yummy Mexican style jacket potatoes are a great choice. They’re wonderful for satisfying other catering needs too: they can easily be served as vegetarian and are wonderfully gluten free too. Cheap to make, easy to whack together and super yummy, 8 of these fat babies with the ingredients pictured cost less than $10 to make and serves 6 people.
- 8 large and clean roasting potatoes
- 300g streaky bacon, chopped finely
- 4 shallots, chopped finely
- 1 lebanese cucumber chopped finely
- 2 roma tomatoes, chopped finely
- 1 can corn kernels, drained
- small tub sour cream
- 200g grated cheese
- 1 red or green capsicum, chopped finely
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Prick potatoes all over and par-boil in a large pot of water until soft, (the time this takes will depend on the size of potatoes), drain water.
- Place each potato inside a large roasting dish, and using a potato masher, press down gently but firmly on each one until it squashes/smashes nicely. Cover in spray oil and what in the oven until golden, about 20 minutes.
- Organise whatever toppings you’ve decided on – chop and fry bacon and quickly chop up vegetables of choice.
- Take all ingredients to the table and allow friends and family to assemble their potatoes as desired.
Pasta has to be one of the easiest and cheapest things in the world to make. As is the case for many of us I’m sure, pasta dishes in my kitchen are rarely based on a recipe but on whatever happens to be in my cupboard and rapidly going off in the bottom of my fridge. This was the case one weekday a few months ago, coming home from a long afternoon of after school sport. The freezer yielded a chorizo or two and everything was tossed in to make this simple dinner that the whole family enjoyed. If you decided to make this, do make any exchanges that take your fancy: passata can be replaced with any variety pesto and chorizo with bacon or chicken – use whatever floats your boat. I’ve costed this recipe at $13 using Woolworth’s prices, but I do find it much cheaper when I shop at my local grocer instead. Serves 6.
- 130g chorizo, diced finely (approximately 2 sausages)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 2 cloves, freshly crushed
- a drizzle of olive oil
- half a bag of mushrooms, peeled and sliced, stems and all
- 1 medium capsicum
- 60 gram bag baby spinach
- 500g pasta (whatever you prefer)
- 1/2 700g jar of passata (I use homebrand)
- shavings of fresh parmesan
- Get a large pot of water boiling for the pasta and add the uncooked pasta as soon as water is rapidly boiling. Keep checking and stirring so pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- In a large frypan gently fry up the diced chorizo and garlic with the olive oil
- When pasta is close to al dente, add mushrooms and capsicum to the frypan with the chorizo. Continue frying until just soft.
- Drain pasta, turn back into the pot, add the chorizo and vegetable mix, the bag of baby spinach and the passata. Toss until combined well and spinach has wilted.
- Serve immediately and top each offering with shavings of parmesan cheese. Enjoy!