Packed with veggies and flavour. We love this dinner because we both leave it thick and chunky for the adults, and also put some through a quick spin in the food processor to give a ‘chicken bolognese style sauce’ for the less, ah, amenable kiddos!
It’s a pretty forgiving and flexible dish so the quantities are pretty rough!
5-6 Chicken boneless thighs, skin removed
1 tbsp garlic flavoured olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
Fresh thyme, basil and rosemary, finely chopped (or about 2 tsp dried Italian Style herbs)
1/2 tsp dried chill flakes (optional)
1 large eggplant (about 800g), diced
1 tsp salt
12-15 button mushrooms, or 6-8 larger field mushrooms, diced
1 cup passata
1 heaped tbsp tomato paste
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
ground black pepper to taste
Start with the eggplant – it needs some time to draw out the moisture to stop it going rubbery when you cook it.
Dice the eggplant, and place it in a draining sieve. Sprinkle it with the salt and leave to sit for 30 minutes. You will see lots of moisture on the surface and dripping down into the sink. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add in the onion and cook over medium heat until it starts to brown. Add in the diced chicken, sprinkle with herbs and chilli then cook over a medium heat until the chicken starts to brown.
Add in the eggplant and stir well to combine.
Now add in the mushroom and stir them through. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until the eggplant and mushrooms cook down.
Now add in the passata and paste, stir well and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add in the spinach and stir well to combine.
You only need to cook down the spinach for another 2 minutes before you’re ready to serve.
Serve the stew on its own, over pasta or zucchini noodles. Our kids eat this best when we pop in in the food processor and roughly process it so it is less chunky and more of a sauce. They enjoy it with pasta and little bit of grated cheese.
Makes about 6 adult serves. It freezes and defrosts fairly well, but also keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days for left over lunches.
I love this slice because it is fragrant and lightly sweet, uses only the things that I always have in my cupboard so it is inexpensive, you can have it in the oven in 5 minutes flat and it is really simple to make it allergy friendly.
And even better … my kiddo who has an Oral Allergy Syndrome reaction to raw apple can tolerate some cooked apple so everyone in our family can share!
**See below the main recipe for allergy friendly swaps and more options**
2 large apples
2 cups of flour (I use spelt and do half wholemeal)**
2 tsp GF baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar (I like coconut sugar for the caramel taste)
3/4 cup rolled oats
185g melted butter
Mix together all of the dry ingredients.
Add in the melted butter, then core and dice (but don’t peel) the apples and mix them through.
Press them mix firmly into a greased 20×20 baking dish and place in a preheated 180C for about 25 minutes.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before moving to a wire rack.
Cut into about 16 squares and serve warm or cold.
To change it up:
Gluten Free – replace the flour with 1 3/4 cup of a gluten free flour mix plus 1 tsp of psyllium husk. Then replace the oats with shredded coconut or puffed rice.
Dairy Free – use a plant based butter
Can’t do apples? Pears are a great switch
Want something a bit fancier? Crumble some chopped almonds over the top and sprinkle with a tsp of extra sugar before baking and serve warm, with custard.
Got a super sweet tooth? Add in 6 chopped medjool dates or 1/2 cup of sultanas
Not sending it to school? Replace 1/2 a cup of the flour with almond meal
I did not grow up in a family that ate lasagne much – but my husband did! It was my lovely mother-in-law’s go to dish!
He has missed it since we were married, so I’ve worked hard at making a dish that we both enjoy AND fits all of our dietary needs. This one is also a winner with the kids – and the left overs taste even better the next day!
Heads up – this is in no way a traditional lasagne, I’m not event pretending it is … in fact I have had friends tell me that I am not allowed to call it lasagne if it doesn’t have either pasta or cheese … sorry … I’m going do it anyway!!
**Check out below the main recipe to see how I make this one completely plant based**
This is a meal that takes a little more time and fiddling in the kitchen than I normally like, but the end result is worth it and it does make 10 large and very filling servings, so I’ll allow it!
1 tbsp garlic olive oil
1 small brown onion, diced (about 125g)
OPTIONAL: 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1kg beef mince
400g tin brown lentils, drained and rinsed
1 medium zucchini (about 1.5 cups chopped)
150g fresh spinach
200g button mushrooms
400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
70g tomato paste,
1 tsp dried oregano
salt to taste
Large egg plant (about 1kg)
spray olive oil
125g grated cheese (dairy or vegan)
For the Sauce:
1 large cauliflower (approx 900g-1kg), roughly cut up
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp dried garlic flakes
1 cup high protein almond milk (or soy or dairy milk if they suit you)
1 cup hot veggie stock
3 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast
Salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add in the onion and garlic flakes. (Steam Temp, speed 1, set for 15 minutes)
Then add in the cauliflower and stir well to coat in the oil. (Turn up to speed 2)
Add in the milk and stock and cover, allowing to come to a gently simmer. (Leave in Steam temp, speed 2 with the m/c off)
Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and you can easily pierce it with a fork.
Add in the nutritional yeast and then use an immersion blender to mix until smooth – you can transfer to a blender if you need to but be VERY careful! (Start by turning off the temperature function and gradually build to speed 8 until very smooth).
Taste the sauce and add a little salt to taste (dairy cheese is quite salty and when you remove it you need to add in a little salt to help with flavour). Set the sauce aside.
Onto the meat mix:
Start by creating the veggie mix you’ll stir in to the meat.
In your food processor or thermo cooker, add in the zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, kidney beans and tomato paste, then blitz until quite fine. (Speed 6, 8 seconds, scrape down and repeat until you get your desired consistency). Set aside.
In a large frying pan heat the olive oil then add in the diced onion and cook, stirring until translucent.
Add in the beef mince and herbs/spices. Break it up well and when it has roughly browned, add in the lentils and mix well.
Now add in the whole processed veggie mix to the meat mix and stir very well.
Bring to a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes.
Now the egg plant while the meat is simmering:
Slice finely. Lay on a baking tray, spray with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and place under the grill in your oven.
Once the top side is golden brown (it only takes a few minutes), turn over and cook the other side.
The remove from the oven and set aside.
Now build the layers:
Lightly grease a large baking dish (I actually use 2 – awesome for freezing one too!)
Layer half of the meat mix into the bottom, then lay down half of the egg plant, then half of the cheese sauce and then repeat.
Then sprinkle either dairy or vegan grated cheese over the top.
Pop into the preheated 180C oven (fair warning …. you’re best to place it on a baking tray to catch any drips or bubbling sauce!) for about 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling – a quick minute under a grill at the end really helps to give you golden cheese, especially if you are using a plant based cheese.
Slice and serve…. and Enjoy!
**If you want to make this meal completely plant based: I use my lentil bolognese recipe but I omit the pasata (other wise there is too much liquid)**
*Of course, if you just want dairy free but you still love your pasta, then go ahead and use whichever lovely, fresh sheets suit you.
*And if you are not an eggplant fan but you still need a Gluten Free option, then I have used both of these Orgran and San Remo Lasagne sheets in the past.
If Macros are important to you here are the details for 1 serve – that is 1/10th of the meat based meal (I have kept the cauliflower ‘cheese’ sauce separate as I know people like to use it in other dishes!). You will just need to additionally factor in whichever cheese you use on top.
This is a soup-er simple meal, really inexpensive and delicious. A pretty mild soup, so it is very kid friendly too.
400g Cauliflower (1 medium size), roughly chopped
1.2kg Butternut pumpkin roughly chopped
1/2 small brown onion (about 60g), diced
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp garlic infused olive oil
2 tbsp veggie stock paste
10 cups boiling water
225g cream cheese (*dairy, soy or nut based – you can even use a light silken tofu here)
If you don’t have stock paste you can use 3 cups liquid stock and then only 7 cups water.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan then add in the onion and cook, stirring, until it is soft and golden.
Add in the cauliflower and pumpkin plus the stock paste and stir well. Cook down for about 3 minutes then add in the boiling water.
Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the veggies are very soft. *If you need a quicker cooking time you can give the veggies a quick blitz in your food processor first.
Remove from the heat and add in the cream cheese. Use an immersion blender to blend until the soup is very smooth. If you are using a blender/thermo cooker/bullet machine to blend – BE VERY CAREFUL! Allow it to cool quite a bit first and then do small batches.
I love to serve mine topped with roasted pumpkin seeds and pine nuts (switch hemp seeds for nut free) …. Just pop the seeds in a hot, dry frying pan and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until they are golden brown. Sprinkle on the soup and if you want a little extra kick … sprinkle on a little pinch of chilli flakes!
If Macros are important to you, here they are for 1 serve (roughly 2 ladles of soup) , worked out for the dairy based cream cheese – not including the seed topping.
This will last several days in the fridge, or it freezes and defrosts well.
A little while ago I posted my Salmon Tart and I have had a few requests for a vegetarian version.
So, here is a my baked veggie omelette – you’ll need a frying pan that can transfer from the stove top into an oven.
I tend to make tarts like these so I have them on hand work work lunches – delicious cold or warm . Or if you’re in a rush, grab a couple of slices out of the fridge and steam some extra greens – speedy and filling dinner!
8 medium eggs
1 large zucchini
12 swiss brown mushrooms, finely sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 50g grated tasty cheese
Heat the oil in the frying pan, then slice the zucchini into rounds and place into the frying pan.
Fry for 1 minutes until the first side is golden, then flip over the zucchini before adding in the mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring for another minute until the mushrooms start to soften. Then add the spinach to the pan.
Add in the salt, pepper and nutritional yeast and stir through to make sure the veggies are evenly coated.
Whisk together the eggs and then pour evenly over the veggies.
Turn the frying pan to a gentle heat and allow to cook until the side of the omelette just start to pull away from the sides of the pan – the top of the omelette will still be very wet at this point.
Sprinkle the top with cheese if you wish before popping it in a pre-heated 180C oven for about 10 minutes or until the top just stops wobbling … Remember that the eggs will keep cooking while it is warm so if you leave it in the oven for too long you’ll get a rubbery omelette.
Let it cool and then slice into 6.
Store it in the fridge for about 3 days.
If macros are important to you here are the details (which includes the cheese) for 1 slice, which is 1/6th of the omelette:
Burgers aren’t a very frequent meal in our house. I’m not sure why. Peter and the kids adore them and serving themselves makes for a very happy family meal.
It’s been several weeks in isolation now, and our local supermarket is still very low on many things (totally empty shelves in many aisles) so our grocery shopping and planning has looked a little different. We’ve needed to be a little more creative and adaptive with what we can access – that’s ok by me!!
When my biggest boys asked for Cheeseburgers, we went back to the style of burger patties that we haven’t made in a long time. Very simple, quick to make and not many ingredients. Devoured by everyone. Winning.
500g beef mince
1 large carrot
1 medium brown onion
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme (or dried Italian Style herbs)
As are you all, we are spending a LOT more time at home at the moment.
Which, I guess, in good news – means more time for baking!
Although getting all the ingredients we normally use has been a little tricky….
But sweet potatoes are plentiful in our garden right now, so they are featuring quite a bit on our plates!
I was thinking about making rolls to go with our soup, when I remembered that I had seen these yummy looking rolls on ‘Super Healthy kids. The original (see the link) is a sweet version that they eat in the states for Thanksgiving.
I didn’t want a sweet roll (although I’m sure I will another time!) and I needed to adapt it to our dietary requirement (no egg, or dairy). So I got experimenting.
Our family adores these rolls. Even the sworn sweet potato hater inhaled 3 before I stopped him!
Hope you enjoy them too 🙂
3 1/2cupflour (2 cup plain & 1.5 cups wholemeal) – we use spelt
1 flattablespoonyeast, active dry
1cup, mashedSweet potato, cooked (about 1 medium potato)
1cupmilk of choice (oat milk works well here)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp each of rosemary and thyme, finely diced (or 1 tsp dried Italian Style herbs)
spray olive oil
extra flour for rolling
Start by peeling and dicing your sweet potato. Then steam it until it is soft (approx 4-5 mins in a microwave)
While the potato is steaming, place into your bowl/machine (see instructions below for multiple machine methods), the flour, salt, herbs, oil and yeast.
As soon as the sweet potato is cooked, drain it and mash it. Measure out your 1 cup and add it to the cup of milk. The milk doesn’t need to be warmed – by adding the potato to the milk, you’ll bring both the milk and the potato to the right temperature to make sure you don’t kill off the yeast.
Whisk the milk and potato together until they are roughly combined and then pour into the flour mix.
Give a rough mix of the dough for a few seconds and allow it to sit for 5 minutes (it won’t be all combined at this stage). Use a wooden spoon in the bowl if you’re doing it by hand, or speed 3 for 5 seconds in a thermal cooker, or about 5 seconds with a dough hook in a stand mixer.
Now get kneading –
For a bread machine: Use the dough only function. Set and walk away.
For a stand mixer with a dough hook: you’ll need to mix for 6-7 minutes
For a thermo cooker: set your knead function (for a less powerful machine, like a Bellini, you might need an extra minute or two)
By hand: flour the bench and get your muscles ready! Knead until your dough is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm area until doubled in size – about an hour, or until your machine has finished it’s rise function.
Remove from the bowl and knock down the dough.
Cut it into two and roll each one into a circle – like you’re making a pizza base.
Cut each circle in to 8 wedges (again, like a pizza).
Then start at the outside edge (where the the pizza crust would be) and roll toward the point to make your crescent shape.
Place on a lined baking dish, spray lightly with olive oil and then allow to rest in a warm place until the have doubled in size again (roughly another hour)
While the dough is doing it’s second rise, preheat your oven to 180C degrees.
When the second rise is complete, place into the preheated oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. The bottom will sound hollow when you tap it.
Remove from the oven and cool for just a couple of minutes before you dig in!
Over the last few years when I have talked about monthly meal planning and shopping or the way that we eat as a (fairly) big family and on a tight budget people look at me like I’m a teensy bit crazy.
Um … they’re probably right.
But – then I get a bajillion questions and I feel like I never get to answer them completely.
So here, in one place, I’ve brought it all together.
How we plan and how we approach food and feeding at our place.
Please let me be very clear – I know this won’t work for everyone. But this is what works well for us. There are 6 of us. My husband works full time, I juggle a couple of jobs. We both volunteer with our Church and sports. We want to fit in exercise and gardening and then there is allllllll of the stuff that comes with 4 VERY active children! And on top of that – we also have food allergies and sensory issues to deal with so eating out or grabbing food on the fly doesn’t always work (or suit our budget!).
Firstly. I write a menu and do a grocery shop for a month. It looks a bit like this (actually at the moment, it isn’t footy season so it’s missing a weekend game and 2 training sessions!!):
You don’t feel like the thing on the menu for that night? No worries – There are 20 other meals to choose from, so switch it up!
I talk to the kids as I’m writing it and we all give ideas as a family about what we like and are enjoying at the moment – they feel included and it helps me when I’m stuck for ideas!
It makes sure that it takes into account what activities we have on each day, what our work loads look like and any major things on that month. No good planning a 3 course meal for dinner and then only having 20 minutes at home in between gymnastics and jujitsu to make it!
You’ll see that we have a deliberate plan to eat left-overs (usually Sunday night) so that we don’t have food waste.
How do we eat as a family?
We try to eat foods that are largely unrefined. And with a heavy emphasis on plant based foods. Fruit, veg, beans and lentils, nut and seeds, whole grains etc. Processing in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but we try to avoid too many ultra processed foods.
We eat a rainbow – of natural colour! Lots of variety, fruits, veg and all manner of plants – raw, cooked, hidden and visible. Make it a challenge to eat the most colours and variety. Don’t forget that frozen veg and tinned beans etc can be a great, simple, budget friendly option to help you out here.
When we eat meat we don’t have huge portions and we don’t make it the focus of the meal – more like a side. And we bulk up the meal with mushrooms, beans and veg as much as possible. It is very easy to get enough protein in the western world, but as a nation we don’t do well at eating enough veg or getting enough fibre (so critical to our health and wellbeing) so this is a good way to encourage it.
As parents, we are in charge. We make the food decisions in our house. I absolutely get that this one is controversial. And if you are going to make changes to align with this – it will take time and there will be resistance. And yes, I completely understand that this will change as the children get older (they range from almost 6 to 11.5 right now). But, I have a better idea of what their nutritional needs are. If there is food that I don’t want them to eat, I do not buy it. It’s too hard to have it in the house and then have to police it. (Same goes for me and icecream – we do not keep it in the house because it is my downfall!!!)
We subscribe very much to a ‘We provide, they decide’ approach to eating. You can check out more from Ellyn Satter about the division of food responsibilities. This does mean that our children have the right to decide if they eat and how much they eat of the meals provided. BUT there are NO alternatives. The family meal is the family meal. This removes pressure and battles from meal time. There is no coercion around food or finishing everything on their plates. We model the food and eating behaviours we want them to share, and over time they learn to trust and listen to their bodies, serve themselves and and make good food choices. We do a lot of placing everything in the middle and letting them serve themselves. Below are rice paper wraps, fish wedges and salad, Mexican wraps/bowls plus nuggets and veg
We are aware of our kids likes/dislike and food preferences around textures (due to SPD) etc – But that does not mean that we simply stop serving the foods that one of them dislikes. We do talk to them when we’re creating our menu. Then they know that there is lots of food coming up that they do enjoy. If we are serving a meal that we know is not a favourite, we make sure that there are some things on the plate that they are comfortable with. If we are serving up a new meal (and one I suspect will not be well received!) I make sure that a small portion of it is on the plate (simply having the food near them helps with exposure and familiarity) but kept a bit separate from the other familiar food. Below is when we introduced mushroom stroganoff – all in one for the adults and separately, without pressure for the kids.
New meals – mushroom stroganoff for the adults
Mushroom stroganoff for the kids.
We encourage our kids to be involved with food, right from growing our veggies and helping with the gardening to helping us to prepare and serve the food.
We allow and encourage food exploration. Touching, poking, licking, sniffing … all fine (at our home dinner table!). Also we talk about our food in a way that removes pressure: What colour it is? Does it crunch or squish when you bite it? It is different cooked to raw? Can you write you name with it or make a face?
Food is not ‘good or bad’. It is not a moral choice. We do talk about what food gives us and how it makes us feel – this food will give me lots of protein and help me build up my muscles. This food will give me good energy to get through a long gymnastics session. This food has lots of fibre and it will help me to poop (a kids favourite!). If I eat too much of this food my tummy doesn’t feel good. We also talk about our favourite foods and our special memories around food – after all food is about far more than just nutrients!
We keep food really simple. We eat a lot of food that looks like this (you’ll see in our menu that we call them ‘serve yourself platters’):
There is no ‘snack box’ in the pantry filled with packaged and ‘easy’ snacks and the kids are not free to just help themselves whenever they want. There are defined meal and snack times. After which the kitchen is closed. This helps them to learn to listen to their bodies and actually be ready to eat properly at meal times. Kids (and adults!) don’t actually need to graze all day long. Of course there are times when then there needs to be an exception – if they ask, they know they can usually grab an apple or a carrot.
We cook in bulk and freeze. There are deliberate left-overs to make filling lunches and batch cooking allows the main part of the meal to be used in different ways, with very little effort on my part!
Bulk bolognese gets turned into a 2nd meal of empanadas
We make school lunches the night before, for kids and adults alike. No exceptions. I cannot even fathom the stress of making 6 lunches in the morning whilst getting ready for school and work, getting washing on the line and starting dinner. Eek! Made the night before I have space to think about it, make sure is is varied and I sleep easier knowing is it one less job in the morning!
We snack plan/prep. As well as having a meal menu, we always have snack basics in the house ready to go. It means that we can eat well with little fuss. Our go to snacks are lots of veggies and fruit then we add things like hummus, yoghurt, bliss balls, roasted almonds, hard boiled eggs, pikelets and popcorn.
So there is it.
We plan, we prepare, we eat simply, we eat variety that is heavily plant-based.
Importantly, our kids are involved with the food at all stages but we do not pressure them about food or force them to eat it. Parents decide what’s on offer, we give them opportunity to serve and explore, we model healthy eating behaviours but food is not a battle ground!
If you have made it to the end … well done! I know it seems confronting when you see it all together. Can I encourage you if you are feeling overwhelmed to start simply. Pick one thing and go for it. Small changes really add up over time. Get your family involved and work on it together!
This dinner was so well received by all of my kids that I was actually a little bit shocked!
The 2 big boys had seconds and asked for thirds, the 2 little ones totally cleaned their plates (including actual licking!). Ellie even asked if she could have them for her birthday dinner 😮 Now they are a very firm family favourite.
They are pretty simple to make, they make a lot and it’s easy to have a meat meal but use only a little meat whilst boost it with a good serve of veg to help meet our daily targets and to really increase the fibre content – Good for your health and good for your budget too! I think they key is to make the mixture fairly smooth.
1kg beef mince
1 400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed (kidney beans and black beans are great too)
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1/2 tsp pink salt
A few grinds of pepper
1/2 cup GF bread crumbs**
1 tbsp garlic olive oil
600ml tomato pasata
1/2 cup hot veggie stock
Good pinch pink salt flakes
Pasta of choice to serve
**for a deeper savoury flavour and to further boost the nutritional value of this meal, instead of bread crumbs, I often use 1/3 cup of Nutritional Yeast, 1/3 cup of hemp seed.
Roughly cut the pumpkin and place into your processor, then process until very fine. (Speed 5, 8 seconds, scrape down and repeat).
Now add in the beans, herbs, salt and pepper in your food processor and process until well combined. (Speed 4, 10secs)
Add in the bread crumbs** and mix again until well combined (speed 4, 8 secs)
Whilst processing (Speed 4), add in the beef mince through the top chute, then continue mixing until well combined and fairly smooth. Blitz for a little longer or at a higher speed if you want less visible ‘bits’.
Place mix into the fridge for at least an hour, but up to overnight.
Using a heaped teaspoon of the mixture, roll the meat balls (or make bigger patties)
Heat the oil in a fry pan and fry meatballs on each side until golden.
Add in the pasata, stock, pinch of salt and basil and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes before turning balls and simmer for a further 5-6 minutes or entirely cooked through.
Serve on your favourite pasta and top with a little cheese that suits your diet.
*Recently when we’ve been making these I’ve been baking them to avoid the crazy splatter on my stove. Brown them with the oil in the frying pan then pop them in a big baking dish, pour over the pasata and stock, top with basil and then cover with alfoil. Place in to a preheated 200C for 25 minutes.
If you want cheese on top, remove alfoil and sprinkle with grated cheese then return baking dish to oven for the last 10 minutes
Makes 19 patties or about 30 small meatballs
If macros are important to you here are some details:
*The above macros are based on making 19 patties, that are served with the pasata and 120g of cheese spread over the whole dish – so each serve is 1 meat ball with some sauce and a little cheese. These are also the macros when using the nutritional yeast and the hemp seeds in place of the breadcrumbs.