Healthy Easy Kids’ Mac and Cheese (Baked pasta with vegetables and cheese)


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Who doesn’t like mac & cheese? Even when J still had a bit of intolerance to dairy, she managed to scoff down mac & cheese. An easy meal that with a few changes, becomes the quick go-to meal that you know your child will eat any time.

Instead of the cheesy buttery sauce, I’ve swapped that for some pesto and tomato-based pizza paste, which gives the dish a fresh, light and herby taste. The addition of milk is optional, it just makes a bit more sauce for the dish. I’ve added ham and sausages for protein (not too much as overdoing the processed meat is not a good idea either) and vegetables for fibre.

Keep some in your freezer for those emergency dinners.

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Ingredients

2 cups macaroni or other medium shaped pasta (like shells or spirals)
3 tablespoons butter
4 tbsp pesto
4 tbsp pizza paste
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup ham slices and sausages, diced
1/2 cup vegetables – mushrooms, courgettes
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 200C degrees.
Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain and reserve some of the pasta water.
Add the pesto, pizza paste, milk, ham and vegetables, mix.
Add half of the cheese, mix.
Spoon the pasta into little ramekins or a large casserole dish.
Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
Bake for about 7-8 minutes, until it is brown on top.

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The Auckland Food Show 2016 Preview


Thanks to the Food Show and the PR Shop, I was able to experience the Auckland Foodshow Preview and I am so excited to share with you some of the highlights of my day. (A quick note here that I will return to the show over the coming days and may update the post with any new found gems…)

Without further ado, let me introduce my top stalls of the show:

Soda Press Co

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The flavour profiles were profound and distinct; yet not overpowering. It was so hard to choose which of the range to buy as they were all very, very delicious.  In the end I thought about the macarons I would make with these and decided on Blueberry and Lime, Raspberry and Mint (I think this is going to be a winner), Gingerale, Old Fashioned Lemonade and Pink Grapefruit. Did I mention they contain 40-50% less sugar than other syrups? Cam from Soda Press Co tells me that their ingredients are locally sourced from NZ and they will be fully certified organic by the end of the year. With their fabulous show special, who can resist?
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Barrys Bay Cheese

They had their entire range out for sampling and what made them stand out from the crowd was the detailed knowledge they had about each of their chesses, how each tastes and pairing suggestions. Here are some of my favourites: Maasdam and Cheshire.
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Paneton Bakery

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Finally, chocolate pastry, ready rolled. Need I say anymore? Hurry up and rush to get your hands on some. These are buttery and dark, perfect for a chocolate mousse tart with rich chocolate, mascarpone cream and a cherry compote. They come in 250g and 500g packs, and I think the 250g will be perfect for small batches of tarts and cookies while the larger pack would be great of a large tart. Perfect for this wintery kind of weather, wouldn’t you agree?

Women’s Bookshop

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I love cook books – for the new recipe ideas and magnificent photography. The Women’s Bookshop at the show has all the cookbooks you can think of – plus it is located right next to the Whirlpool Cooking Theatre, where the chefs will come from after their cooking demos and do book signing. Here I picked up the Masu by Nic Watt from the fabulous chef at Masu, our favourite Japanese restaurant in Federal Street in the center of Auckland. It has beautiful photography and the recipes are easy to follow, using ingredients that can be sourced locally.

The Whirlpool Cooking Theatre

The highlight of my day was going to Josh Emett’s cooking demo with Jane Leong, head chef of Madam Woo, which serves traditional Malaysian Hawker food in a modern setting. They started first in Queenstown, then Takapuna, Dunedin and now Hamilton. I picked up a few tips at the demo (and learned just how much they can spend on cucumbers!) and can’t wait to take the family to Madam Woo asap!

KOAST Limoncello
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Their range features Limoncello, Cream Limoncello and Orangecello, which are all made free of preservatives, additives or colouring. I tried all three and decided on a sampler pack so I could – guess what – make macarons😄. The flavour is bold and beautiful, you can easily drink it as an aperitif or mix with soda water for a nice refreshing drink, make icepops and bake a cake with it.
Their words not mine “100% Natural. 100% New Zealand. Handmade by our family, on the Kapiti Coast with lots of love, care, and time.” Wonderful, isn’t it?

L’Authentique Charcuterie

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Sampling here takes an average of 10 minutes – Wade patiently takes you through their range, inviting you to try all of them before deciding which one you like the most. Their sausages are handmade with 100% free farmed meat, dairy free, gluten free, with no additives or preservatives. The taste? Simply the best. Our favourites are their Toulouse grind which we use to make meatballs or dumplings, Peking Maximus which is made with Hallertau Maximus Craft beer and Pork and Fennel.

Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter
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Most couldn’t believe something this tasty only has 2 ingredients – peanuts and salt! (if you prefer they have a no salt version which means there is only 1 ingredient in it – 100% peanuts.) That’s what people discovered when Pic’s was launched in 2008. Once you’ve tasted this you wouldn’t want to go back to any other. They now also have almond butter, cashew butter and peanut oil in their range.

Heller’s

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Their new pork schnitzel and nuggests were out and one sample was not enough! The schnitzel was baked in the oven for 25 minutes, and was juicy and tender. Thumbs up from the family and definitely keeping on the shopping list for quick weekday meals. I could also pour over a Japanese Tonkatsu sauce and it would be just like how Saika does it…

and…
Because I ran out of time, here’s a list of the stalls I’m returning to conduct further product analysis and investigation😛

  • Urban Hippe Miso
  • Lewis Road Creamery (no excuse except that I wasn’t going home direct from the show and cannot take the milk, butter and ice cream with me then)
  • Silver Fern Farms (ditto)
  • Nanam Eatery (for a proper lunch)
  • Simon Gault – for the stock and seasonings. I recommend the fish and Beef stock, Morrocan and Indian spice seasonings. They are also running a special with Turks chicken, I just hope they don’t run out!

Easy and light carbonara 


Easy carbonara with streaky bacon, eggs and cheese

We all love an easy and quick pasta dish. This recipe uses staples of the pantry and fridge, which means it can be whipped up anytime. Perfect for the flat and family, as it is easy on the wallet. It cooks in 15 minutes or less (mise en place done and water boiling). It has neither cream nor milk. Only eggs and cheese to make it creamy and cheesy. It tastes so much better than store bought sauces that you silently marvel at its simplicity and wonder why you didn’t know this years earlier. Well in my case, I wondered out loud.

Better late than never, eat up!

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 400g spaghetti
  • 250g prosciutto or streaky bacon, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks (save the whites for making macarons)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup grated cheese, Parmesan, Edam, anything you like really!

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a tablespoon of salt when the water starts to boil.
  2. In a large bowl, lightly whisk eggs, a tiny tiny pinch of salt and the grated cheese. Set aside.
  3. Add the pasta to the water. When the pasta is nearly al dente, fry the diced prosciutto or bacon in a thick based pan until coloured. Add minced garlic and fry for another minute.
  4. Drain the pasta and put it in the pan together with the meat and stir to combine.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the cheese and egg mixture. Work quickly and keep mixing (I use a pair of tongs and the spatula) until the sauce is silky and clings to the pasta.
  6. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

Moist Chocolate Feijoa Cake


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I’ve been blessed by friends giving me a whole lot of feijoas recently and our kitchen has been churning out lots of dishes with feijoas – feijoa macarons, feijoa jelly and now of course the much awaited chocolate feijoa cake.  I must admit, this was my cunning plot to get J to eat feijoas – for she will not turn down anything that has chocolate in it. I’ve added chocolate ganache in between the two layers and on the outsides of the cake, but you can equally leave that out and serve it as it is, if you have a reason NOT to have chocolate ganache.

This is a moist cake which is best served the next day, and even better the day after that.

Moist Chocolate Feijoa Cake

Ingredients
1.5 cups feijoa flesh
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
185g butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, size 8
1.5 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup sour cream (or buttermilk or greek yoghurt)

Chocolate ganache

300g Dark chocolate (62% cocoa)
320ml cream
50g butter

Instructions

  1. Lightly oil or spray two 6″ round tins. Line the bottom of the tins with a round of baking paper. Heat the oven to 180C. You can also bake these as small muffins for the lunch box.
  2. Cut ripe feijoas in half, scoop flesh out and then slice thinly.
  3. Measure 1.5 cups of the sliced fruit and place in a bowl with brown sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Cream the softened butter and caster sugar in a small bowl with an electric beater.
  5. Beat in the eggs one after the other, then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
  6. Stir in the prepared feijoas, the dry ingredients and add the sour cream, ideally in two batches.
  7. Transfer the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top evenly.
  8. Bake at 180C for 28 minutes, or until a skewer exits cleanly from the middle of the cake. If you baked them as small muffins, adjust the baking time to 18 minutes.
  9. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and remove the baking papers. Allow to cool completely.
  10. Make chocolate ganache by placing chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Heat cream in a pan and when it starts to boil, pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes before you stir to allow the chocolate to melt gently and smoothly. Leave in the fridge to cool and firm up for 1-2 hours.
  11. Spread chocolate ganache onto the top of one cake, then place the other bottom side up on top of the first cake. Spread chocolate ganache over to cover the top and sides.
  12. Garnish as you wish, with berries, confetti sprinkles or chocolate shards.

A blog about my kitchen adventures, photography, family and experiences

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