Sneaky pasta sauce (aka Cheesey ‘mato pasta)

I feel like I’m giving away family secrets here …. Sorry Mum!

When my brother and I were little, if Mum and Dad were going out and we were having a babysitter come over (which wasn’t often I should add!) we’d always have an ‘easy meal’ … read; Fish fingers or Cheesey tomato pasta.

Cheesey Tomato pasta was my favourite …. a bowl of spaghetti with a tin of condensed tomato soup stirred through it and a handful of cheese sprinkled over the top so that it would melt as you stirred it …. kid heaven!

Well, these days, our family diet doesn’t look much like that but there are still times when an ‘easy meal’ is required …. ‘cheesey ‘mato pasta’ as it has become known in our house, is a hands down winner. Inhaled every time. Full tummies and a happy, easy dinner time – there’s a lot to be said for that!!

  • 1 small butternut pumpkin (roughly 800g before peeling and seeding)
  • Large zucchini
  • 1 tin chick peas (kidney beans and butter beans work well too)
  • 100ml coconut cream (I like the Aayam brand)
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 heaped tbsp of my cheesey sprinkles (vegan parmesan)*
  • Optional: a little hot water
  • Pasta of choice

*If you haven’t made the cheesey sprinkles you could replace it with plain nutritional yeast or even dairy Parmesan if your diet allows.

Set a big pot of slightly salted water to boil for your pasta of choice (we use a GF variety).

Peel and dice the pumpkin, then steam until soft – usually a few minutes in the microwave when this kind of dinner is required.

Dice and steam the zucchini in the last couple of minutes with the pumpkin (peel it first if your little people are detectives for any green ‘bits’!)

Place the steamed veg and chick peas with the extra water (if necessary), into your blender/processor/bullet/thermal cooker together with the tomato paste and coconut cream and blend until smooth (Start on speed 4 and work up to speed 6, for 10 seconds, then scrape down and repeat)

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Cook and drain your pasta, then return to the saucepan and pour over the sauce.

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Stir through the Cheesey Sprinkles and serve immediately. Top with a little addition cheese of choice if you like.

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Topped with Bio Cheese

Top with some crispy bacon if you wish – or fried mushrooms to keep it vegan.

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This makes enough sauce for about 3 dinners, just freeze the leftovers.

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You can use this for the sauce in pasta bakes or even double it for shared suppers (and Sunday School dinners in our case!). Add in extra veggies if you like, or throw in some left over bbq chook or sausages.

Enjoy 🙂

Creamy Avocado dressing

Salad dressings are bit of a challenge when you are dealing with food allergies, or if you want healthier options! The store bought variety are mostly loaded with sugars plus stabilisers and emulsifiers that we tend to avoid when possible.

As such, we  have just mostly avoided dressings – when I do use them, a vinaigrette of some description is my normal ‘go-to’, but occasionally the mood strikes for something a bit different and creamy!

This super simple dressing is amazing! Creamy and rich, it holds beautifully to salads that you toss through it and it’s delightful  drizzled on salmon or chicken … maybe even lamb or beef, but I haven’t tried that yet!

  • the flesh of one avocado, very ripe
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped dill
  • a good pinch pink salt flakes
  • a few grinds of black pepper

Optional: If you want a more liquid version of the dressing, add in 1 tbsp of Aquafaba (liquid drained from a can of chick peas)

Place all ingredients into your blender/processor/bullet/thermal cooker and process until smooth. (Speed 5, 8 seconds, scrape down and repeat).

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Oops – I forgot to take a photo of the whole batch!

Tonight we tossed a good tablespoon of the dressing through a raw broccoli and beetroot salad and then topped our baked salmon with some more! Divine!

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This quantity of dressing is probably enough for 5-6 people, and lasts a couple of days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Enjoy 🙂

Roasted Tomato Confit

We have had such a lovely abundance of cherry tomatoes this year. But then we have had some crazily inconsistent weather – and tomatoes don’t like inconsistent watering …. so we picked a load that had split. Gr. What to do?

I remember my host family in France (from a loooong time ago) had all kids of amazing confit jars (confit is French for preserved) in their cool basement. Lots of meats and veggies to get them through a snowy, regional winter. Since I couldn’t bear to waste these little gems, I decided to have a go at my own confit with my little red gems.

You’ll need:

  • cherry tomatoes
  • fresh herbs (I use basil, rosemary and thyme)
  • garlic olive oil*
  • salt and pepper

*If you don’t have have garlic infused oil, use olive oil and scatter through a handful of crushed garlic cloves.

Wash and pat dry your tomatoes. Remove little stems.

Place in a lined baking dish.

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Tear herbs and scatter around the tomatoes. Drizzle very generously with oil, and season in salt and pepper to taste.

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Place in a preheated 200C oven for about 40 minutes.

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Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tray and then scoop into a sterile glass jar, including all the juices. Top with a little extra oil before sealing.

Store in the fridge for up to a month.

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Roasting the tomato really intensifies the flavour so this confit is a great addition to many things – Serve on crunchy toast as a bruschetta, spread it on a pizza base, or add a few good scoops into your tomato bases sauces for pasta, bolognese or lasagne.

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We gave some away as a gift – and this is how my gorgeous SIL used hers! Yum!

Enjoy 🙂

Salmon and broccoli salad with avocado pesto

I found myself singing Powderfinger’s ‘My Happiness’ while I was making this for dinner  last night!! And I think, probably, if I was Julie Andrews I’d be singing ‘My favourite things’ about most of the ingredients in this dish –  salmon, seeds, spinach, broccoli and avocado!!

Such a fabulous combination, loaded with fibre, great fats, calcium, iron, vitamin C, E, Magnesium …. and the list goes on!

It is a really lovely subtle flavour  – and I’m very happy to be anticipating the left overs for lunch!

As much as I’d love to be making this with a large slab of fresh, wild caught salmon …. our food budget doesn’t often stretch to that, but the benefits of salmon are great and we try to eat it regularly – so tinned it is! Try to buy a wild caught and sustainable brand, and choose one that is tinned in water, rather than loaded with oils and other additions.

  • 3 tbsp my basil and spinach nut free pesto
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large head broccoli, chopped and steamed
  • 400g tin salmon, skin removed, flaked
  • pinch pink salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Mix together the pesto, lemon juice and avocado until well combined and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Remove the skin from the tinned salmon and the large bones – but leave in the tiny bones as they mash up well and provide and extra boost of calcium (really important for our little miss who is deficient).

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Stir the pesto mix through the chopped broccoli, while it is still hot, then stir through the salmon.

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I am very happy to eat this as a meal on its own – but the kids …. not so much! So I stir theirs through some pasta. And tonight I added a handful of left over roasted veg to mine as well.

 

I also enjoy this salad with raw broccoli and I add in grated raw beetroot.

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Enjoy 🙂

 

Spinach and Basil Pesto

Pesto is such a yummy addition to so many meals, but with pine nuts and parmesan being a standard in most recipes, it’s normally not an option for us.

But this year my both my basil and my spinach are growing great guns so I was inspired to make a pesto that would use our fresh produce and be safe.

  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 packed cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp pink salt flakes
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (50g)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (40g)
  • 60g extra virgin olive oil

Roast the seeds on a baking tray in a hot oven, or under the grill. Keep a close eye on them as it only takes a couple of minutes for them to go golden brown.

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Add all ingredients, except the olive oil to your blender/processor/thermal cooker and process until quite fine (speed 8, 6 secs, scrape down and repeat).

Process again as you slowly drizzle the oil through the top opening of the machine (speed 4). Process until oil is well combined.

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Use immediately or freeze in ice cubes for future use. Makes about 1 cup.

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Some ideas for use:

  • Rub onto chicken pieces before baking
  • Add in a handful of sun-dried tomatoes at the processing stage and stir through pasta (Especially awesome if you top with some crispy bacon and home made garlic croutons!)
  • Fold through some cream cheese (soy based or dairy) or a ripe, mashed avocado as a great dip.
  • If you enjoy the Parmesan flavour that a lot of pesto has, add in a tbsp of Nutritional Yeast

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Enjoy 🙂

Roasted Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

  • pumpkin (approx 900g before peeling and de-seeding)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp pink salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 400g tin chic peas, drained (but keep the brine ‘aquafaba’ as an egg replacer)
  • 1 brown onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup hot chicken or vegetable stock (I used Massel)
  • 1 tsbp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp coconut cream (optional)

Peel, de-seed and cut up pumpkin into small pieces. Try to keep them roughly the same size.

Drizzle 1 tbsp of oil plus the salt, pepper and thyme over the pumpkin and toss well to coat. Place into a large baking dish and spread out evenly.

Place into a pre-heated hot oven and roast for about 45 minutes, tossing after about 25 minutes.

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In a large pan, heat the remaining oil. Finely chop the onion and garlic and add to the oil, and cooking, stirring until translucent.

(In a Thermal cooker, blitz the onion and garlic on speed 5 for about 8 seconds, then add oil and cook on steam temp, speed 1 for about 3-4 minutes with the m/c off).

Place the pumpkin, chic peas, nutritional yeast, stock and onion mix to a processor and process until smooth.

(In a Thermal cooker, add the pumpkin, stock, nutritional yeast and chic peas to the onion mix, then process on speed 5 for about 20 seconds, scrape down and repeat until smooth, combined consistency is reached).

Add coconut cream if using and mix to combine (Speed 4, 10 seconds).

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Stir through your favourite al dente cooked pasta.

I love to add a large handful of baby spinach and top with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts or toasted sunflower seeds.

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Yum – Enjoy 🙂

 

Preserving Chilli

There’s not much nicer in the kitchen than being able to cook with the food that you have grown only metres away!

Our chilli plants have been very productive this summer and these are a couple of the ways I have used them.

Chopped/Minced Chilli – use 1 flat tsp in place of 1 fresh chopped chilli in any recipe.

  • 150g chilli
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar.

Place whole chillis and vinegar in your processor and process until well chopped. (Speed 6, 10 seconds).

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Of course, if you don’t have a processor you can just finely chop by hand and then stir through the vinegar.

Store in small, sterilised glass jars.

Chilli Infused Olive Oil – use in place of regular olive oil in cooking to add a bit of extra bite, or as a dip for some delicious crunchy bread.

  • 400ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 small chillis (mine were the size of my index finger)

Slice chillis lengthways and place in a saucepan with the oil.

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Bring to a gentle simmer  (100C, Speed 1, about 4-5 minutes) and then remove from the heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Pour into sterilised glass bottles, through a sieve to remove the seeds. Then add the remaining chilli flesh into the bottles and seal.

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Enjoy all year ’round 🙂