Zucchini Bake – A Low carb pasta bake with no pasta!

A low carb pasta bake with no pasta? How is that possible?

Simple, really, replace the pasta with zucchini rounds – and if you add the zucchini at the last minute it holds its shape and texture. No soggy zucchini – slightly al dente /ælˈdɛnteɪ – cooked to be firm to the bite.

I have been on a weight loss journey for the past 6 months and this has made me look closely at how I cook and what I am cooking (and eating). Some drastic changes to the family menus have been a result, including cutting out most carbohydrates!

Now, before you run for the hills – let me reassure you, it is very possible to enjoy a satisfying meal without pasta, or potatoes…I promise.

After nearly 6-months I have lost 27 kilos so far and with a goal of 40 kilos to lose, have past the halfway point. It would be wrong to say it has been very easy, because it has not been a breeze. However, it has not been that bad either!

I had a cervical spine injury last year which landed me in the public hospital system for 8 long days and nights. As part of my rehabilitation I had physio, acupuncture and cupping (I’ll tell you more about that another day) – I bought a treadmill and took up walking daily. I watched what I ate, but honestly never lost more than a couple of kilos.

A friend at work encouraged me to look at a low carb diet – a Ketogenic diet. And as they say, the rest is history as they say.

I am in the process of updating my family favourite recipes to be more low carb and therefore Keto-friendly. In the meantime why don’t you take a look at this Pasta Bake with no Pasta! It has just 7.3g net carbs per serve, is family-friendly and jolly tasty.

Ingredients: Serves 6

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • 450g good quality mince beef
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 large zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cooking directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan bake – heat oil and add onion cooking until the onion is soft. Stir in garlic and chili flakes and cook for one minute. Add mince and season with salt & pepper to taste. Cook for approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste & oregano. Cook for 2 minutes and then add tomatoes bringing sauce to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook until liquid is slightly reduced – 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in zucchini and basil. Season again with salt & pepper.
  3. In a large baking dish, place half of the mix in an even layer. Then add half of the spinach, and dollop half of the ricotta cheese over the top. Add 1/2 of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses next. Repeat the layers.
  4. Bake until the cheeses are bubbling – melted and delicious! 25 minutes will do the trick.

Needless to say there will be leftovers if you are a small family of two like us! However this recipe does make enough for 6 hungry mouths making it a great family dish.

We’re back for seconds tonight with a side of roasted pumpkin and perhaps some steamed broccoli.

Happy dieting xx

Advertisements

Mashed Potato & Bacon Fritters

As a household of just two now, I have learnt to cook enough for a meal without having a load of leftovers.

But when it comes to potatoes,  I still work with the ‘one for the pot’ as my mum did when I was a kid. Needless to say, there are leftovers these days without a teenage boy to feed!

These Mashed Potato & Bacon Fritters make an amazing side dish or a brunch or lunch! They are perfect for using up leftover potatoes and there are so many  flavour combinations you can reinvent them often!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cold mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 6 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion,  chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons fresh herbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Now let’s put those ingredients altogether and cook:

Cook the bacon until crisp and drown well on a paper towel until cool.

Add the chopped onion to the pan, and cook over a medium heat until soft, and clear in colour – nothing much worse than crunchy onions!

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl, with the exception of the butter.

IMG_0310Clean out the pan with a paper towel, and add the butter, melting in a medium heat.

Take about 1/4 cup of the potato mixture and roll it into a ball shape.

Place it in the pan and flatten it out with a spatula. Cook for about 3 minutes each side until they are lightly golden brown. IMG_0309Always best served with a hot and crispy with a dollop of sour cream or tomato sauce!

IMG_0308

You can get creative with the seasonings and the additional ingredients. Pretty much anything in your fridge works…..add your favourite mix of spices and herbs, and whatever vegetables you have on hand!

A few ideas for you for next time:

  • ham, cheese, capsicum, a little dijon mustard
  • sun-dried tomatoes, oregano and basil, grated mozzarella cheese
  • leftover savoury mince, corn and cheese
  • chopped spinach, crumbled feta and fresh herbs
  • any other leftovers in your fridge!

They can be topped with sour cream, extra bacon, sauce, a fried egg, or as a side to a sausage!

Next time you have potatoes on the menu, pop an extra on in the pot so you have some leftovers to try out this easy and easy recipe.

Happy leftovers xx

Mac ‘N Cheese

Mac ‘N Cheese

If you mention you had Mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner amongst my work colleagues there would be gasps of horror! “oh my goodness, so much cheese”,” so many carbs”….”I just could not indulge like that”.  Any of those comments sound familiar?

So if you want to avoid those types of comments, just don’t mention it, or call it something else!

It was my birthday last month, and as we were not able to eat out, I figured I could treat myself to this family favourite – and somewhat classic dish!

Ingredients:

  • 250grams macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 3 cups Tasty or Colby cheese, grated
  • 4 slices streaky bacon, chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs, Japanese breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot to the boil with a dash of salt, and add dry pasta. Cook until al dente – or cooked ‘firm to the bite’. Drain and add a little olive oil to the cooked pasta to ensure it does not stick to each other.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat then add the flour and cook for three minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly until thick and smooth – I use a whisk for this. Add two cups of grated cheese, and your seasoning. Remove from the heat, and set to the side.

Add a little cooking oil and over a medium heat sauté the bacon and onions for 10 minutes or until they’re starting to colour. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for two more minutes.

At this stage, I combine the bacon and onion mix with the cheese sauce in the pot with the cooked pasta. Mix it well.

Transfer to an oven-proof dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes – or until the cheese and breadcrumbs are golden.

Serves 4

design-1

You can whip up a big dish of Mac ‘N Cheese very economically, which is also a great benefit for those of you with a tribe of teenagers to feed. A packet of dry pasta is less than $2, and this will go a long distance. Leave out the bacon, and add extra vegetables – you can chop up a broccoli, or grate a carrot and zucchini into this, and get away with it!

Don’t wait for a special occasion to treat yourself and the family to a delicious Mac ‘N Cheese dinner; add it to a family menu for a quick and easy week night meal the teenagers will devour in a flash. One word of warning however; make plenty as they will be back for seconds!

Happy teen – happy mum xx

Kai Si Ming – an old family dish!

Kai Si Ming – an old family dish!

Kai Si Ming is an Asian-inspired one-pan mince and rice dinner and something that I have not had since a kid (and that is some years ago now!)

I was reminded of this old family dish when I saw that Maggi – who are an international brand of seasonings, instant soups and noodles –   have made a packet meal of it.

I thought ‘fancy that!’ –  you don’t need to buy the packet mix because you will have the ingredients in your pantry, and best of all, you can add whatever vegetables you have on hand.

A bit of research online told me Kai Si Ming hit the NZ dinner scene sometime in the 60s, when recipes for it started popping up in women’s magazines, Plunket newsletters and the like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 450 g mincemeat
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1cup uncooked rice
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup broccoli, pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery, celery
  • 1 chopped red capsicum
  • 2 cups cabbage, shredded 

Heat the oil in a large pan (I use my wok)

Cook the onion until soft, then add the mince and brown.

Add Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, rice and boiling water.

Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add frozen peas and broccoli, celery and simmer for about 10 minutes

Add shredded cabbage and turn off the heat. Leave to stand with a lid on for about 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls.

** Use any vegetables that you have on hand

**Substitute the rice for noodles if you prefer.IMG_0299.JPG

If you are a child born in the 1960’s in New Zealand, your mum will have her version of this dish in her recipe book somewhere. I think mine is pretty close to my mum’s – I’ll have to ask her if I got it right!

What is a dish you can remember from your childhood that you haven’t had since then? It might be time to resurrect it and share it with your family, and make a new memory.

Happy foody memories xx

 

 

 

 

Leftovers again? What was I to do? Time to get a bit creative in the kitchen…..

I shared with you a recipe from a young friend who had lived in a student flat on a meagre income while he was studying. It was a delicious and heartwarming chicken stew made from the leftover roast chicken from Sunday night.

That 300 grams of leftover roast chicken made a really tasty dinner which we enjoyed very much – the chief tester declared it a keeper which is always a good sign. Great I thought – I’ll file the recipe away for another time. But what do you do when there is leftover chicken stew? This was becoming one of those ongoing dilemma’s for this household of just two.

I was lacking inspiration and very nearly resorted to making hot buttered toast and reheating the stew and calling that dinner. Nothing wrong with that as an option – but I’m one of those souls who prefers to eat something different every night. I’m not that enamoured of a meal repeated unless it is Lemon Croissant Pudding for two – Decadent Indulgence! of course and I could happily have this twice in a  row!

IMG_0214

I’m going to call this ‘Rustic Chicken Filo Pie’ – for the sake of my reputation within the family as a ‘not too bad cook’! Sounds fancy eh?

Seriously I took some store-bought filo pastry from the refrigerator, and that leftover chicken stew from the night before and voila!

Filo or phyllo is very thin sheets of pastry commonly used in Greek, eastern European and Middle Eastern cuisines. It can be used for sweet dishes and savoury, and is known to be a healthier alternative to a flaky pastry. The pastry is made from flour and water with fat in the form of melted butter, spread or oil brushed on the layers as they are assembled for your recipe.

Lay a sheet of filo on a clean bench and take a pastry brush and brush olive oil on the sheet – I find this easier than melted butter.

Fold a sheet in half and lay in the bottom of a pie dish – repeat with another sheet of filo pastry to ensure the bottom the pie dish is covered.

Spoon in your leftover chicken stew.

Oil another sheet of filo pastry and then ‘scrunch’ it up in your hand, and place it on top of the stew. Repeat s-3 times depending on the size of your pie dish.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and pop into a hot oven for 30 minutes or until hot through.

And thankfully this was the leftover roast chicken, transformed to that delicious chicken stew and then finally into the ‘Rustic Filo Pie’ finished!

Kidding aside, this is the sort of cooking our mum’s and nana’s did when we were younger. A Sunday roast chicken fed the family, and their was always something leftover for another meal. The carcass became stock for soup, and the leftover chicken meat made its way into a risotto or if we were really lucky into our school lunch box. A chicken sandwich was always so much nicer than jam or peanut butter one!

In this season of saving towards first homes, and one income while at home with the children, it’s not a bad thing to know how to save a few dollars. With a little thought it’s possible to do this with family meals if you get back to basics.

Happy leftovers xx

IMG_0225.png