Another Bento…

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So here we have the bento I actually ate on Friday (I just hadn’t gotten around to posting it until now).

We have the usual veges, plus some leftover spaghetti bolognese from last night’s dinner (about 1/2 cup pasta and 1/2 cup bolognese sauce).

The soup is a packet one that is a particular favourite of mine, but I don’t often get it because they are usually a bit pricey (they were on special this week so I got a couple).

~K

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Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake

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I’d already started dishing up before I remembered I should take a photo! Oops…
Also, the picture is of the batch I made when I didn’t have any frozen peas, so it doesn’t have them in it. The other two batches of this I’ve made over the last 2 months had peas (anything to up the vege content!)
It also tastes fine without the bacon (ran out of bacon the last time I made it), if for whatever reason bacon is off the list.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 250g dry pasta (I generally use spirals or penne)
  • 500g diced chicken
  • 1 brown onion (or a leek if you’re feeling fancy)
  • 3 bacon rashers
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 300ml sour cream
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 tbsp chives
  • 1 cup grated tasty cheese

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Cook pasta until tender and drain. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan over med-high heat. Cook chicken until browned, then transfer into a heatproof bowl.
  3. Add onion (or leek), bacon and garlic to pan and cook until onion (leek) is softened. Return chicken to pan, and add stock cube and 1 cup of cold water. Bring to simmer, and simmer until chicken is just cooked through.
  4. Stir in sour cream, corn, peas, and chives. Add pasta to pan and toss/stir to combine. Pour/spoon mixture into an 8-cup baking dish and top with grated cheese.
  5. Bake for 30mins or until golden on top.

NOTE – I use a large frying pan for this, and it is JUST big enough to combine the pasta and chicken mix before transferring to the baking dish. If you are worried about your pan not being big enough, use a bigger pot for the pasta and combine it in that, or even in the baking dish itself.

This got the 5-star approval from Hubby 🙂 This recipe freezes well, so is great for bulk-cooking.

“Hidden Veg” variation
If your kids/partner/siblings/housemates/whatever will eat veges if they’re covered in a creamy cheesy sauce, just add diced/small bits of whatever to the recipe. Carrots, broccoli, peas, beans, corn, and cauliflower work best in my experience. You don’t really want to use potato, because there’s already carbs from the pasta, and pumpkin and sweet potato tend to just turn to orange mush.
If they’re prone to picking out veges whenever they find them, cook up half a cauliflower, mash it to death (even use a blender!) and add it at the same time as the sour cream. They’ll never even know it’s there!

~K

Chicken Lasagne

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This was the first time I’d made lasagne myself – and as much as the recipe said to use a 2L dish, I think I will be using a larger one next time – this is a 2L dish, and it BARELY fitted!

Very yummy recipe, not a quick cook, but reasonably easy. If you don’t feel up to personally making the white sauce, buy a bottle of Béchamel from the supermarket and use that.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 500g chicken mince
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 400g tin diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced thinly
  • 400g mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 packet of lasagne sheets (fresh or instant – whatever you prefer)

White Sauce

  • 60g butter
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup (25g) finely grated parmesan, with extra to top lasagne

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F)
  2. Heat a little oil in a largish pan, and cook onion and garlic until onion is softened. Add chicken and cook until browned. Add tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, and sugar, then bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer (uncovered) for 5mins. Stir in basil, then pour into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  3. Cook mushrooms and zucchini in the pan until softened. While you’re doing this, start the white sauce.
  4. White Sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until mixture boils and thickens. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 mins, still stirring. Season to taste. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.
  5. Line base of ovenproof dish with lasagne sheets, trimmed to fit (as much as possible). Top with 1/3 of chicken mixture, half the vege mix, and 1/2 the white sauce. Put down another layer of lasagne sheets, top with half the remaining chicken mix, then the remainder of the vege mix. Put down a final layer of lasagne sheets, remainder of the chicken and as much white sauce as it takes to thickly cover the lasagne without overflowing the pan. Top with additional parmesan.
  6. Put ovenproof dish on a cookie sheet before placing in oven.* Cover dish with foil, and bake for 20mins, then uncover and bake for a further 30mins (or until lightly browned). Stand for 10mins before serving.

*This will catch any over-spill that might happen during cooking, and it’s much easier to clean a tray than it is to clean the bottom of the oven.

As is typical of lasagne, it is almost impossible to serve it up nicely while it is hot. This is what happened to my serve:

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Can anyone say lasagne splook?

If you let it cool in the fridge overnight, it serves very nicely!

This also freezes well (both cooked and uncooked). Freeze it uncooked if you’re pre-cooking for a large family, and freeze after cooking and portioning if there’s only a couple of you. Or, split it into multiple smaller dishes! (e.g. 3x 1L dishes for 2-serve lasagnes, or make baby ones in 500ml ramekins!)

~K

Tomato Bacon Pasta

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This is a something that I just threw together one day when I didn’t know what else to make, and I didn’t have a lot in the pantry/fridge. It was an instant hit with Hubby (it’s got bacon and pasta. Nuff said).

It goes together really quickly, and freezes well.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 250g bacon, diced (either pre-diced or DIY)
  • 440g can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (ish – this is an approximate measurement)
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • herbs, salt & pepper as per preference

Method:

  1. Oil pan and cook onions until translucent. Add garlic and bacon and cook until bacon is browned.
  2. Add tinned tomatoes and tomato paste, and herbs/salt & pepper. Cook for a few minutes, then serve with your choice of pasta.

I use 1 full packet of dry pasta to go with this (500g packet), and freeze pasta & sauce in single serve containers.

~K

 

My Spaghetti Bolognese

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Firstly – I am not known for making ATTRACTIVE foods. However, this has been a family favourite since I started making it when I was about 12 (apparently my brothers liked it better than my Mum’s recipe, because it is more ‘tomato-y’). This recipe makes 6-7 serves for myself and Hubby, but he isn’t a ‘big eater’. Just a reminder that any measurements for “loose ingredients” are approximate – I tend not to measure anything :S If I say can/packet/tub/etc, I will specify how much the package contains in Australia.

Ingredients

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 x 440g can diced tomatoes
  • 90g tub tomato paste (or near approximation in ‘blobs’ from a larger container)
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 100g sliced mushrooms
  • herbs/spices/seasonings to taste
  • 500g packet dry pasta (whatever shape/size)

Optional extras (for most of these, every 2 cups of extras will mean an additional measure of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, onion & garlic)

  • red lentils (about 1 cup for every 500g mince – stretches meal to a further 3-4 servings). Pre-cook these (until almost cooked through) if you’re using them, it makes it a lot easier.
  • Other veges – spinach & capsicum get added as-is, but I’ve been known to mash up various other veges (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, pumpkin) after they’ve been steamed and ‘hide’ them in the sauce – this started as a method of getting kids I was babysitting to eat their veges

Method:

  1. Fill pot you’re using to cook the pasta with water and a bit of salt and put it on to boil. In a frypan or wok, heat some oil and add chopped onion and crushed garlic. Cook until onion is softened and translucent. Add mince and cook until browned.
  2. Add mushrooms & other “solid” veges (i.e. not the mushed-up ones) and cook until softened.
  3. By this point, the water in my pasta pot is usually boiling. Add pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking together and testing pasta every minute or so after it starts to look “ready”.*
  4. Add tinned tomatoes, tomato paste & herbs/seasonings/spices to taste, as well as a little bit of water (I just put a bit in the can from the tomatoes and tip it in. I think it’s about 1/2 cup for people who want measurements). Add red lentils and mushed-up veges at this point if you’re adding them.
  5. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to desired thickness. Add additional herbs/seasonings/spices if desired.
  6. Once pasta is ready, drain but DO NOT RINSE.**
  7. Serve with herbs/parmesan/other cheese as desired.

* As to a specific description of what this looks like, the pasta will look less like the yellow translucent bits that came out of the packet and more like the opaque white-ish colour cooked pasta is. The best way to know what the texture of ‘al dente’ pasta should be is to go to a good italian restaurant and order a simple pasta dish. THAT’S what we’re aiming for with pasta. I find short pastas (like penne & spiral) to be the hardest to stuff up, so if you’re new to cooking pasta (or have had little success in the past), use something like that. Long pastas tend to clump if not cooked correctly, and short/round ones (macaroni, shells, risoni) tend to just go to mush if not cooked correctly.

** Rinsing will remove the starches that help the sauce stick to the pasta. Only rinse pasta when you are going to be using it cold (like for a salad).

This recipe freezes well, and I portion it up into single-serve containers (pasta & sauce).

This could be cooked in a slow-cooker if you wanted to, just follow step 1 then add everything to the slow cooker (without the additional water) and cook Low=8hrs (or High=4hrs).