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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Giant Snowflakes!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love snow 🙂

I really truly do. Ask Legoman and he will tell you I turn into a crazy lady as soon as it starts to snow. And it’s snowed twice this week!!!! TWICE!!! 😀

Today started with beautiful wintery bright blue skies and by the afternoon big fat juicy snowflakes were coming down all around!! Possum and I sat by the back door to watch them for however long it was that they fell for. Bliss 🙂

I’m hoping this is a good sign of even more snow to come this winter. Fingers and toes are crossed.

I love snow 🙂

Anyhoo, food… Tonight I made a pasta dish with an actual recipe. Highly unusual behaviour. Normally it is grab whatever is going funky in the fridge, combine with tinned tomatoes and loads of garlic. And if it tastes… interesting, then you can smother it in cheese. But tonight I thought I would challenge my pasta making abilities with Lamb, Bean and Pea pasta from Cuisine Magazine. It seemed like a good way to hide little bite size pieces of meat, legume and vegetable so that our newly fussy toddler actually gets some nutrients into her apart from grapes and mushrooms (her two food obsessions at the moment).

Turns out her vegetable seeking abilities are better than an over enthusiastic sniffer dog and her oral dexterity means she can eat the pasta whilst spitting out any meat, veg or legume you’ve tried to hide in said pasta. Quite amazing really. Leaves tying a jelly snake in a knot for dead if you ask me. Though the win for tonight were the green peas. After a bit of coaxing and being force fed green peas by Possum, she finally thought she would try one for herself. The usual face squirm was the initial response followed by about 20 peas being individually shovelled (can you shovel a single green pea??) into her mouth. Hurray!! She ate multiple green things!!!

She also ate two mouthfuls of some Chicken (and cannellini bean and sweet potato) nuggets I also made today. All that effort for two bites. She has to be the only person who can walk away from Panko breadcrumbs. Seriously.

In other news, I have managed to get Possum up on my back using our woven wrap twice today! And she stayed put, no sliding out the bottom!! I honestly don’t know what I would do without baby wearing. You can get so much more done and bub is happy to be part of whatever it is you need to do. Win Win. If you want to have a look at some great wraps, check out this local business… Frangipani Baby.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Makes use of pantry and freezer staples with the help of a handful of homegrown mint (one of the few things I can successfully grow).

Time Factor : EXCELLENT. Dinner ready in 20 minutes. The only chopping you have to do is one garlic clove and a handful of mint leaves. Super easy!

Complexity : LOW. Even easier than spag bol!

Deliciousness : LOW-MODERATE. I wasn’t a huge fan but Legoman liked it. Possum liked the peas, which made me happy. The pine nuts are a must (I left them off of Possum’s serve).

Mess : LOW. Two saucepans. Done.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Carbs, meat and legumes. Makes for a full belly.

Possum Friendly? YES. The ingredients for this pasta dish makes it perfect for Baby Led Weaning, particularly once they have established or want to practice their pincer grasp.

Would I make it again? Probably not. Green peas can go in many other dishes.

And to sign off, here is a little cuteness to brighten your day. My little garden gnome.

Photo: My little garden gnome :-)

An Effort to Flavour Ratio Dilemma

After spending a fair bit of time and nearly all my saucepans to make tonight’s dinner, the resulting meal was lacking in the flavour department. Which led me hypothesise an Effort to Flavour Ratio. For example, a bowl of cornflakes. Low in effort, relatively high in flavour. Women’s Weekly Pastitsio, high in effort, unexpectedly low in flavour. Who thought that a big casserole dish full of pasta, meat and cheese could be so boring! It smelt deceptively delicious too! The salt and pepper shakes were called to perform tonight. The raw pieces of zucchini on my plate seemed exciting in comparison.

On the upside, whilst making this fairly flavourless meal, I got to use a nifty kitchen gadget; a silicon sauce whisk. This was a Christmas present. At the time I wasn’t quite sure how I’d use it, but the few times I have needed to whisk a hot sauce, it has been amazing. The recipe tonight called for a white sauce. Quintessential Australian fare. Not something I remember having much of growing up. Very easy to get lumps, but not with my trusty whisk! Not need to smooth the top of the sauce before baking, it smoothed itself!

No photo sorry (I keep forgetting!) plus I can’t find the actual recipe I used on the internet. It was from the big Women’s Weekly cookbook called “Cook”. There are a few other recipes online that look like they’d promise way more flavour, with things like garlic and herbs in them. My Pastitsio turned out like something you’d find at grandma’s house for a special occasion. Except it wouldn’t be at my grandma’s, she can’t have onion.

Pastitsio

Affordability : Moderate. Has a lot of meat, milk, eggs and cheese. The anti-vegan meal to balance out the vegan chocolate mousse from the other day.

Time Factor : MODERATE. Allow close to an hour to get the meal in the oven. Then another hour in the oven.

Complexity : MODERATE. Lots of dishes, lots of bits to bring together. Not much return for effort investment.

Deliciousness : LOW MODERATE. Not bad. But not good either.

Mess : HIGH. Very glad I started with a clean kitchen before making this dinner. 3 saucepans plus a large frypan plus a baking dish plus a pasta strainer plus a chopping board plus utensils.

Tummy Filling Factor : MODERATE. Was full for a fair chunk of time.

Possum Friendly? YES. But the white sauce will be super messy! I offered her some plain pasta while I was cooking but it just ended up being flung over the side of the high chair.

Would I make it again? No. There are other meals to be made.

Meal Plan 30/3 – 5/4

SUNDAY / showers 18

Grilled Lemony Herb Chicken with Leftover Risotto and Vegetables

MONDAY / possible shower 21

Ants Climbing A Tree

TUESDAY / partly cloudy 22

Rissoles and Vegetables

WEDNESDAY / shower or two 23

Fish with Pumpkin and Silverbeet Tian

THURSDAY / shower and chance of a storm 21

Chicken Pesto Pasta

FRIDAY / shower or two 16

Spinachy Bean Burger Tacos

SATURDAY / a few showers 19

Leftover Pies

Let the meat free games begin!

Day one of meat free week! Oh the buzz! The excitement! The anticipation! I must say, I had a lot of fun finding recipes for this week (thankyou Blue Mountains Natural Parents for your bevy of wonderful ideas, I really need to figure out how to print that thread!). I’m not sure which night I’m looking forward to the most… which one would you choose?

We have started on a good note. Hurray! Tonight’s Baked Cheese Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach was a success. Lots of good noises from Legoman and he even thinks I should make it again (normally I just get a shrug of the shoulders when I ask). Personally I would’ve liked a bit more flavour in there, maybe in the form of anchovies. This was Possum’s first experience of ravioli and she loved it. She even started clapping after her first one! Was pretty darn cute. Wasn’t so cute when she wouldn’t eat any broccoli unless I tore it up into tiny little pieces. Poor thing is still sick though, so I’m just happy she ate.

Possum's Dinner

Possum’s Dinner

The fudgy choc-orange bars I made yesterday are super amazingly yum. Will be making those again for certain! Legoman ate his at work but didn’t want to tell anyone else about them in case they wanted some. A good sign 🙂 It was great being able to eat one of these instead of chocolate when the afternoon came around today. Much more satisfying too, and no yucky feeling like I sometimes get after eating sweets.

Leaning tower of choc fudgy goodness

Leaning tower of choc fudgy goodness

May the good food vibes continue!

Baked Cheese Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach

Affordability : MODERATE – EXCELLENT. The ravioli cost $5 from the local fruit and veg. You could use any ravioli for this dish, a nice pumpkin one would be a winner (though would probably set you back around $10). Half a kilo of broccoli and some frozen spinach are nice and cheap and super healthy.

Time Factor : MODERATE. I thought this sounded quick, but took a bit longer than expected.

Complexity : MODERATE. I really should read a recipe right through before choosing to make it on a weeknight when I have a sick baby at home. This recipe has 22 steps. Yes, 22. After a while I just started staring blankly at my printed page. Thankfully Legoman came home and we finished cooking together. As they say on Sesame Street, things turn out better when we work together.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. Legoman’s comment… “You know what this needs? Bacon!”. And he’s right. Some kind of meaty saltiness would really boost this dish. I think anchovies would work better personally. We both really liked the browned cheesy bits on the top. Super tasty.

Mess : MODERATE – HIGH. I felt like this used many pans and bits and pieces. While it was in the oven, we got to work on the dishes. A frypan, a saucepan, a steamer insert, a baking tray, two graters, a whisk. Plus lots of renegade bits of broccoli and spinach sticking to everything.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Full as a tick.

Possum Friendly? YES. I didn’t bother trying to make the white sauce for Possum, instead I just stirred through a teaspoon of cream cheese with two pieces of ravioli (they are big ones) and some broccoli. Pretty tasty combo! You could save time and effort and do the same for the whole dish. Was hoping she would eat some more of the garlicky greens to help make her better, but she thought it was more fun dropping her broccoli over the side of the high chair.

Would I make it again? Yes, but would jazz it up a little bit.

Cheesy Baked Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach

Cheesy Baked Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach

And I just wanted to share with you this terrible photo of a stick insect. They are bloody hard to take a photo of on your phone!! Kind of looks like he photo bombed the picture!

Stick Man!

Stick Man!

Tuna Pesto Pasta

It’s not a very creative title for a blog entry, I know. But that’s all there is to it! Tonight’s meal continues on the un-planned meal planning for this week (I write my plan on a Saturday night, wild I am, wild). Tuna pesto pasta is one of my favourite dinners and also one of the easiest. It’s yumness relies on the quality of your ingredients. You could use frozen peas, corn and carrots with a 90c bag of pasta and Leggo’s pesto. But it won’t be anywhere near as yummy as if you use Barilla pasta (or another high quality pasta, Woolworths Organic is pretty good too), Sacla basil pesto (don’t be tempted to get Barilla), Sirena tuna in chilli oil and a good mix of veg (but corn MUST be in there for this to be a win, and yes frozen corn is perfect).

The vitals

The vitals

Tonight while getting dinner ready I learnt 3 things…
1. Don’t critique other people’s prep techniques when someone is trying to cook you dinner. I ended up cooking dinner.
2. Don’t read your new foodie mag while you’re starving and waiting for pasta water to boil. Torture.
3. I am so glad I bought nice knives, nice saucepans and a Microplane zester. Every kitchen should have these 3 things.

Anyhoo! This was the perfect meal to take advantage of my beautiful sharp knives. Lots of chopping. You want your veg to be a fairly consistent size to make shovelling down the final product much easier.
Once the veg is chopped and water boiling (salted but never put oil in your pasta water), throw a 500g box of pasta in the boiling water.
Pour a glug of olive oil into a big fry pan over medium – high heat and cook your veg. They should be cooked at about the same time (~10 minutes).
Stir in a whole jar of pesto and a medium tin of tuna. Serve with parmesan on top. Then mangia mangia mangia!

Zucchini, carrot, corn, peas and capsicum

Zucchini, carrot, corn, peas and capsicum

Tonight I tried a new pasta shape, Orecchiette, which translates to “small ear” but I have heard them referred to as “belly buttons”. Pasta shape is really up to you but I would recommend something that will ‘hold’ the sauce well. Spaghetti doesn’t really work, neither does risoni. However farfalle (bow ties), fusilli (spirals) penne rigate (ridged tubes) all work well with this one. But really whatever is in the cupboard is fine.

Orechiette

Orechiette

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Yes I use the nicer supermarket ingredients but I only ever buy them when they are on special. For example pesto was $1 off so I bought 4 of them to go in the cupboard.
Time Factor : EXCELLENT. Dinner on the table within 30 minutes. Also a nice way to practice chopping stuff (if that’s what you’re into…).
Complexity : LOW. Things to be wary of; don’t over cook the pasta whatever you do. And don’t burn or undercook the veg.
Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Not fancy but always a winner.
Mess : LOW. Use the bowls you put your chopped veg as serving bowls for dinner.
Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. I fill my bowl and often go back for seconds on this one.
Possum Friendly? MODERATE – EXCELLENT. Depending on the past shape you use. Spaghetti not recommended for hungry little hands. Possum is just starting to develop her pincer grip so the small chopped veg are good practice but you’d want to serve with something easy to eat at the same time. Also the pesto is a bit salty but with the volume that Possum would eat, this wouldn’t be a problem.

Tuna Pesto Pasta

Tuna Pesto Pasta