Cheats Spaghetti and Meatballs

Cheats Spaghetti and Meatballs

On top of spaghetti. All covered with cheese. I lost my poor meatball. When somebody sneezed.

I will give you $5 if you didn’t just sing that in your head! Everyone loves spaghetti and meatballs! With the weather we’ve had today it was the perfect bowl of comfort our bellies were looking for. And this cheats version means no time wasted in making the meatballs.

cheats spaghetti and meatballs

This Cheats Spaghetti and Meatballs is a great way to squeeze some veg into a dinner that your whole family will eat. It’s a tasty combination of eggplant, sweet capsicum and yummy zucchini. The meatballs are made using simple sausages! Genius! All you do is squeeze the meat out of the casings straight into the pan to make little meatballs. Takes a moment compared to making your own. I used a $4 packet of sausages from Aldi (I’m totally converted!). Too easy! My secret ingredient is just a little pinch of cinnamon to add a lovely sweetness without any added sugar.

Possum loved her dinner and so did Legoman. Dinner success! This might be one that ends up on your meal plan for next week? Or even on your family favourites list?

cheats spaghetti and meatballs

Cheats Spaghetti and Meatballs – Serves 4

400g spaghetti

6-8 sausages (I have made this with beef sausages and with pork, both are delicious)

1 onion diced

1 medium eggplant diced into small cubes

1 red capsicum diced

1 zucchini diced

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp tomato paste

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp cinnamon

salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley to serve

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil, ready for the pasta.

2. In a large skillet/frying pan add the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until starting to colour. Add eggplant and cook stirring for 5-10 minutes until starting to soften. You may need to add an extra glug of oil.

3. Squeeze the meat out of the sausages into the pan to make little meatballs. Continue stirring to brown the meatballs.

4. When meatballs have browned, add in the remaining vegetables and garlic. Cook for a few minutes.

5. Add in your tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, dried oregano, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Continue to cook over low-medium heat for 20 minutes. Sauce should thicken and meatballs should be cooked through.

6. Cook pasta as per packet directions.

7. Serve with parmesan and fresh parsley. A lovely glass of red wine would go down a treat (this pregnant mumma has to wait a while longer for that!)

I hope your whole family can sit down together, enjoy your Cheats Spaghetti and Meatballs and enjoy each others company.

cheats spaghetti and meatballs

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Leftover Pies

I challenge you to think of a food that isn’t yummy when teamed with pastry… Anchovies? A tart! Strawberry yoghurt? Pastry dip sticks! Steak? Beef wellington! The list goes on and on! If you do think of something, leave a comment, enlighten me!

So it’s the end of a week, when there is food to be used up before the weekly shop and cooking cycle begins again. What better way to use up that food than to surround it in golden buttery puff pastry. The main items that needed eating this week were vegetables, I had been a bit over zealous at the fruit and veg shop last week! Tonight, I made Space Curry but with extra eggplant, no cauliflower and with zucchini, butternut pumpkin and silverbeet. Possum still loved it just as much as she did the first time and ate a heck of a lot of eggplant at dinner. For a bit of added fullness, I added 1/3 cup red lentils, 1/3 cup millet and 1/2 cup extra water and let it simmer away while Possum and I had 5pm dinner.

Space Curry Version 2.0

Space Curry Version 2.0

Just as I tend to over fill my tortillas, I also tend to over fill my pastry. I thought the pies were going to be melted blobs of goo coming out of the oven, but miraculously held together! There was enough filling to make two large parcels and 4 small ones with curry leftover for lunch tomorrow.

Leftover Pie

Leftover Pie

Just a reminder, take off the plastic backing from the pastry BEFORE piling on your filling… lesson learnt the hard way.

Leftover Space Curry Pies

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Cheap vegetables, canned chickpeas and some store bought curry paste and chutney, the added lentils and millet help to fill it out even further. The puff pastry adds about $5 (I buy the stuff made with butter as I don’t believe in margarine).

Time Factor : MODERATE. Quick to get the curry started, but allow 30-60 minutes cooking time depending how cooked you like it all to be. Allow 10 minutes prep to get pies made up and another 20 minutes in the oven. Despite the curry being cooked and ready, tonight’s dinner was a bit late.

Complexity : LOW. A nice simple curry to make. If making pies doesn’t tickle your fancy, then you could just make rice! (Even cheaper still!).

Deliciousness : MODERATE. Tasty but I prefered the Space Curry as, Space Curry. But it did work well surrounded by golden puffiness.

Mess : MODERATE. One pot for the curry, but a couple of trays and some egg mess with the pies.

Tummy Filling Factor : MODERATE. Curry as curry would’ve been more filling, but the extra protein in there helped.

Possum Friendly? YES. Possum loves curry, and Space Curry especially it seems. Her patience was tested waiting for her serve to cool down enough.

Would I make it again? Yes, Space Curry is now planted in the go to list.

Leftover Pies

Leftover Pies

In Possum news, she had her first trip to the library today where she could get out of the Ergo and crawl around. She was more excited by two big kids there than the books (which is surprising as she loves her books!). She is starting to point and has learnt the concept of putting things in, which is a great achievement after months of pulling stuff out. Possum has also figured out a little game. She hides a piece of her dinner under the tray and smiles very cheekily at you and when you say “where did it go?” she pulls it back out and starts giggling. A very cute game, though she played it at lunch with spaghetti bolognese… a messy amount of fun. But worth it to see her be so creative.

We <3 books!

Meat Free Week #4: Cashew! Gesundheit…

Mmmmmmm toasted cashews. I love me some nutty curry. Apologies for the lame joke, this 2 weeks at home with a snotty 10 month old for company means my conversational skills are plummeting. We did manage to get out of the house to take my bestie some coffee and cake for her birthday! Happy Birthday Sweetpea!

Tonight’s Cashew Curry was so simple and tasty. A no brainer, thankfully! And a Possum success! The recipe only has cauliflower, beans and tofu as the curry fillers so I added red capsicum, zucchini and carrot. Possum ate two pieces of tofu and plenty of veg (except for the cauliflower and beans).

Legoman liked this straight away, and thought it was one of the Spice Tailor packets. I take that as a compliment as they are super tasty. The crazy thing is, I used Keen’s Curry Powder. That wonderful flavour mix that is normally reserved for curry egg sandwiches (one of my favourites, on fresh white bread with crispy lettuce). No fancy curry powders or mixing or grinding needed. I would highly recommend this as a family meal.

Cashew Curry

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Expensive items were a handful of cashew and some organic tofu. But still works out cheaper than eating meat.

Time Factor : EXCELLENT.One pot wonder. Quick prep. Then let it simmer in the pot until veg is cooked to your liking. I cooked it a bit longer than the recipe suggests to get the veg nice and soft for Possum.

Complexity : LOW. Super easy. Use whatever veg you have available or is cheap.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. A lovely mild curry that everyone will enjoy. The cashews give the curry some lovely buttery sweetness.

Mess : LOW.One curry pot, one rice pot and a chopping board. Hurray!

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. I was nice and full after a bowl but was hungry again an hour later, but a little piece of my fudgy choc-orange slice filled the gap well.

Possum Friendly? YES. Not too spicy for bubs, loaded with good fats from the coconut milk. Just don’t give whole nuts until a few years old. Possum enjoyed the variety of veg in tonight’s meal, you can tailor to suit your family’s likes and dislikes.

Would I make it again? Yes. A great midweek simple meal. If you were having meat and time was tight, you could pick up a BBQ chook and chuck that in (obviously not whole, that would just be ridiculous. I kind of wish someone would do that now).

***BONUS QUESTION! Did you miss the meat?Nope. Legoman did though. Personally, I quite like tofu in meals. It tends to just soak up sauces and flavours nicely without over powering. Seems that Possum quite likes it too.

Cashew Curry

Cashew Curry

And a little touch of cuteness…. Here is Possum gazing lovingly at a photo of her playdate pal from yesterday. Awwwwww.

Friends

Friends

Meat Free Week #3: Would you say your tortilla is half full, or half empty?

I would say my tortilla is over full! Always always, when I try to fold my tortilla, it is bursting everywhere! I should remind myself, start small, you can always add more… Growing up, my parents had a cookbook (one of many, I wonder where I got the addiction from?) called “The Well Filled Tortilla“. It might be time to do a bit of study.

Legoman is working late tonight, which means MUSHROOMS! Possum and I are both big fans of mushrooms, and sadly, my husband is allergic. We once travelled to France for a holiday and the one phrase he was super confident to say each time we ate out was “Je suis allergic de champignons”. Anyway. When he isn’t home or I’m eating out with friends, I search out mushrooms. I forage you could say through menus and blackboards to find some fungi goodness.

Why did the carrot invite the mushroom to the party?

Because he was a fun-gi. 🙂

Sorry, had to be said.

Unless you haven’t already guessed, our meal tonight was mushroom fajitas. Some of Possum’s favourite things piled onto a yummy tortilla. Once served, she taught me that she prefers mushrooms just as mushrooms and not as spiced meat replacement. She loved the capsicum though.

This was a very easy, fast, low mess, cheap, baby led weaning friendly meal. It just didn’t have the same wow factor as last night’s dinner. The winner was making a quesadilla for my 7pm dinner (I ate fajitas with Possum at 5pm) out of some of the leftover curry from last night (was only chickpeas left after Possum ate all the good vegetables at lunch) with some cream cheese and grated tasty cheese. That left me satisfied! And a nice way to use up leftover tortillas and leftover curry (must remember for future reference).

Marinating Mushroom Mix

Marinating Mushroom Mix

Mushroom Fajitas

Affordability : EXCELLENT. The most expensive item would’ve been the tortillas, but buy them when they’re half price at the supermarket and you’re sorted!

Time Factor : EXCELLENT.Quick chopping/slicing, marinating if time permits and then a quick flash in the pan to cook. An excellent meal if you’re tight on time one evening a week (say you have work or after school commitments).

Complexity : LOW. Super easy. And a nice meal to do the “make your own” at the table with avocado, yoghurt/sour cream and any other fixings you fancy.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. It was good, just not that good. I think next time I would try roasting the mushrooms while the capsicum and onion got the char grill effect. Mushrooms work better with slower cooking. They just seemed to burn a bit on the outside without having the time to get that lovely meatiness about them.

Mess : LOW. A bowl for marinating, a hot pan and a chopping board. How messy they are to eat are up to you and your tortilla skills!

Tummy Filling Factor : MODERATE. I had two well filled tortillas (no reference to the book intended) and was full immediately after but got hungry pretty quickly again. The quesadilla certainly helped fill the hole.

Possum Friendly? YES. Lovely baby led weaning shapes (long sticks) making it easy for bub to hold onto. A variety of flavours and textures; yoghurt, avocado, onion, capsicum and mushroom. Very healthy. A great way to introduce spices and herbs (if you include fresh coriander in the meal). I personally choose to give Possum no tortilla with her meal, but that is just personal preference.

Would I make it again? Maybe.

***BONUS QUESTION! Did you miss the meat? Tonight I did. I really prefer chicken fajitas. They seem to fill me up more and I prefer the flavour. Legoman didn’t miss out tonight.

Mushroom Fajitas

Mushroom Fajitas

Seeing as we had Mexican tonight, I can’t resist the urge to add a Three Amigos clip for you all… Goodnight!

Gluten Free Cauliflower Pizza

Gluten free is a label that doesn’t instil alot of confidence in what I’m about to eat. Especially when it’s a baked product, like a pizza base. But making the whole thing grain free, well there’s a novel concept which just makes me curious. I recently bought the I Quit Sugar For Life cookbook, it’s filled with some pretty awesome looking food. But this “pizza” caught my eye, which used cauliflower to make the pizza base. A friend had given this idea a test run a few months back but wasn’t impressed with the outcome. But I just had to try for myself.

The base is made by grating cauliflower (using a food processor or by hand) into “rice” which you then cook. This is then mixed with cheese and an egg then shaped and baked. The grating alone was a pretty satisfying experience. The texture of the cauliflower afterwards was quite unique. The smell of the base cooking was like cauliflower cheese.

Grated Cauliflower

Grated Cauliflower

The recipe in the book makes the pizza a Nicoise like pizza, with toppings of anchovies, tuna, egg, olives, capers, red onion and broccoli. The sauce is a mix of yoghurt and curry powder. It was a bit of a salt overload, and I thought it a bit OTT to see they suggest finishing off the pizza with a bit of salt and pepper. Either way, this is going in the mental bank of cool things to do with cauliflower (that list seems to get longer and longer!).

Voila!

Voila!

I also made a capsicum tabouleh to have on the side which was some fresh lemony relief from the salt of the “pizza”. I was way too full though to appreciate it. One to make another day. We have a great big lot of parsley growing in our garden, so an easy thing to make at the last minute. The recipe uses quinoa instead of cracked wheat. The one thing missing was some kind of onion, thankfully I always have spring onions in the fridge so I chopped one up and chucked it in. Just the right amount.

Capsicum Tabouleh

Capsicum Tabouleh

Gluten Free Cauliflower Pizza and Capsicum Tabouleh

Affordability : MODERATE. Cauliflower ain’t cheap at the moment! And thankfully I have a well stocked pantry/fridge with plenty of salty condiments.  To make this tonight I only had to buy the cauliflower and broccoli for the pizza and the capsicum for the salad.

Time Factor : MODERATE. If you didn’t have a baby this would be alot faster as you could just plonk yourself in the kitchen for the evening. I took my time and spread out the tasks through the afternoon. The base is a little time consuming with the grating, then cooking the cauliflower, shaping the base then baking the base for 30 minutes. Once baked and topped the pizza is then in the oven for around 10 minutes.

Complexity : MODERATE. Just a bit fiddly and a few steps initially. If you had bigger kids they could help with making the base or topping the pizza.

Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Was really impressed with how this turned out. Just don’t expect normal pizza. It doesn’t really taste like pizza but it seriously is delicious. The edges of the crust especially. Lego man suggested we make them donut shaped next time to get maximum crust value. I will be suggesting this to my gluten free friends.

Mess : HIGH. As soon as a food processor is involved I just think mess as all of a sudden your sink is full of plastic bits and bobs. The cauliflower managed to wedge itself into the crevices on my food processor too, will need a blade to get it out…

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Oy, I’m so very very full. Afterwards I double checked the recipe and it said 4 small serves… but we ate it all…

Possum Friendly? YES. The base yes, the toppings tonight no. Way too much salt for anyone really! To make it Possum friendly a topping of broccoli, tuna and onion would suffice.

Would I make it again? Yes, gone into the mental bank.

Not So Nicoise Cauliflower Pizza

Not So Nicoise Cauliflower Pizza

The burgers are better at…home.

I love burgers. All of them! A good burger is such a nice treat. I remember a burger I ate on the first day of schoolies in Byron Bay. It was a “works” burger. Beetroot, egg, bacon, onions, tomato, lettuce, cheese, beef. The egg still runny, leaving golden yolk running down my hands. The sounds of waves, the smell of sunshine and new found freedom. Mmmmmmmmmmm. I have tried a few time to recreate such goodness at home. But it’s never quite the same. Probably the fact I’m a grown up with responsibilities doesn’t quite compare to that 18 year old on holidays.

So when I saw the promise of a 15 minute meal and a delicious burger all on the same page, I was sold.

To make the patties I combined 500g of lamb mince with 5 Tbsp of tomato relish, 1 egg and some leftover quinoa. Then shaped and refrigerated until needed. They were cooked for about 5 minutes each side. The mixture was easy to shape but a bit wet and floppy when cooking, but it meant the patties were nice and moist.

Mixing the patties

Mixing the patties

I splurged and bought some turkish rolls, some persian fetta, roasted capsicum and hummus. Topped off with some mixed leafy greens.

Yummo! Best home made burger yet! And so grown up too.

Gourmet Burger

Gourmet Burger

Lego Man and I were trying to figure out how you take a photo of a burger. They don’t look good from on top. It’s tricky to do a side shot. Every burger ad on TV has just one single perfect “bite” taken out of it. So here is our “bite” photo. Starring Lego Man’s lovely man hands 🙂

Lego Man Approves

Lego Man Approves

15 minute Gourmet Burger

Affordability : MODERATE. You’d pay $15 for a burger like this out and about. Plus at home you can eat one…and a half of them! Probably cost around $5 per burger to make at home using nice extras.

Time Factor : EXCELLENT. Minimal prep and super quick to mix and cook.

Complexity : LOW. A good one for bigger kids to get involved with. Plus there is the fun of “make your own” burger.

Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Just what I felt like eating tonight! And not too unhealthy either.

Mess : LOW. One mixing bowl and something to cook the patties on (I used the hot plate).

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Tummy was perfectly full after 1.5 burgers.

Possum Friendly? YES. She could absolutely enjoy one of the burger patties but i wouldn’t serve her the persian fetta or roasted capsicum. She could have the hummus and a bit of bread though.

Would I make it again? Yes, will keep this in the back of my mind for a quick weeknight dinner, or even if friends are coming over. Great if you see special things like the fetta on quick sale at the supermarket.

From last night’s meal… Possum loved the leftover vegetables today alongside one of the pork balls. She had a preference for the zucchini, then carrots and capsicum then cabbage. The poor green beans were left on the tray.

Leftover stir fry veg

Leftover stir fry veg

Third time lucky

Tonight the capsicums went back in the oven yet again. I can’t throw out that much food. Finally, after three evenings in the oven the rice was, well, mostly cooked. They were a sideline accompaniment to tonight’s dinner of chicken tikka masala. Don’t worry, I don’t have a home tandoor oven, not did I marinate the meat for hours on end. I bought a packet from the supermarket. A surprisingly tasty one at that. I don’t want to sound like an infomercial, but “The Spice Tailor” range has yet to fail me. And they really do only take about 10 minutes. They include real spices and the ingredients list has no numbers, flavours, colours or preservatives. So once a week now we have curry night, usually on a day that has a fair bit going on. It’s quick, easy and tummy filling.

The sauce for tonight's dinner

The sauce for tonight’s dinner

And there is only one capsicum left to eat… finally. Lego Man is getting it in his lunch tomorrow.

Speaking of lunch, our meal planning plan for lunch is leftovers. With our little family of 3 it seems to work pretty well at the moment. Except when dinner is a bit crap. And no one wants the left overs. Like today. So lunch today was freezer surprise, a yummy curry of red lentils, cauliflower and green peas. I will thank my mum for this one. She had the brains and know how to swap the Indian curry paste for massaman curry paste and to also add a spoonful of curry powder (I have a Malaysian one I use). Possum and I shared a serve and the two of us finished it off happily. Possum inhaled 4 big florets of caulifower, good to see she likes strong flavours like her mum. She finished off her lunch with cucumber sticks (always) and yoghurt, quite authentic really.

This meal is super cheap to make and a great one to keep in the back of your mind when doing the grocery shopping and cauliflower is on special. Make up a big batch and freeze. Especially good with a dollop of plain yoghurt and a few springs of coriander.

Yummy lunch, with the cauliflower picked out to cool down for Possum.

Yummy lunch, with the cauliflower picked out to cool down for Possum.

photo (21)

Possum loves her curry

photo (22)

Yummmmmm

And here is the scale for dinner tonight.

  • Affordability  :  MODERATE. The spice pouches cost $5 and make 2-3 serves. Worth the cost in terms of time alone. You could make the meal cheaper by substituting meat for a vegetarian alternative such as mushrooms or paneer.
  • Time Factor  :  EXCELLENT. Faster than take away equivalent.
  • Complexity  :  LOW. The instructions are on the pack and are 3 short bullet points. There is also a few extra suggestions. Tonight it was “add capsicum”. Done and done.
  • Deliciousness  : EXCELLENT. Not my favourite of the sauce range so far but very tasty.
  • Mess  :  LOW. Curry pot, rice pot, bowls and cutlery.
  • Tummy Filling Factor   : EXCELLENT. On a cold night it was lovely to share a hot bowl of curry with a dear friend. A nice hot cup of tea after helped to top it all off.
  • Possum Friendly?  MODERATE. After how much she loved the curry at lunch today, I’m confident to give her a piece of chicken to munch on at lunch tomorrow and a piece of capsicum (which she has munched before with no reaction). We are heading to my work tomorrow to have lunch with the gang so I don’t want her lunch to be too messy (not like today’s effort!).

And finally a photo of dinner. Bed time for me, big day. Baby learning to move and she went under water for the first time at swim lesson today plus two lots of visitors! Good night y’all.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala