Butternut squash macaroni cheese

This culinary experiment was brought to you by the woman who saw a picture of a healthy butternut squash based macaroni recipe but did not want to trek to the supermarket for any specific ingredients.So basically a lazy but healthy recipe without much washing up. Winner.

Basically much as we all love creamy or cheesy pasta sauces, they are more something to be enjoyed once in a while. However, pasta is cheap and fills you up for a long time and unless you have dietary reasons for avoiding gluten isn’t a food you necessarily need to avoid. In addition, if you really are watching the calories you’ll be please to know, when cooked down the texture of butternut squash goes lovely and creamy. You’ll be pleased to also note that my very hungry 6ft3 caterpillar found this filling enough after a workout; so its great for those who are watching their weight but do have a larger appetite.

To make enough macaroni for 3 servings you will need:

250g dried macaroni pasta

1 vegetable stock cube

Boiling water

150g butternut squash (frozen chunks are our new mealtime saviour)

50g sweet potato

1 red onion

1 clove of garlic

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

2 large tomatoes or 7 cherry tomatoes (chopped)

25g smoked cheddar (if you follow a vegan diet you could substitute with vegalife, or even try topping with breadcrumbs or chopped nuts)

Slice the onion and crush the garlic. Heat until soft. Add your sweet potato and squash and heat until the edges have started to soften and come away. Add your stock cube, salt, pepper, marjoram and enough water to more than cover everything. Allow the stock cube to dissolve into the water then add the macaroni and tomatoes. Top up the water if it doesn’t cover the pasta by 1/2 an inch.

Boil the pasta in the stock, stirring to make sure that nothing sticks. Keep topping up the water as needed. Once the macaroni is cooked use your spoon/spatula to squash the squash (heh heh heh), tomatoes and sweet potato. Spoon the pasta into a heat proof dish. Grate over your cheese and put under the grill (or in the oven at 200°C) until the cheese begins to crisp. (If using nuts wait until the nuts brown nicely).

This can be served as a side dish or as a main meal. It is entirely up to you.

Pasta bake with sage and feta meatballs

This is definitely a recipe of procrastination. I saw a picture on instagram of a meatball based pasta bake and resolved to make my own. This is a little faffy and requires a bit of early preparation but them end result looks pretty cool and this is definitely one of those you want to keep in reserve if you have to cook for somebody you’d like to impress. Also, for those of you who are more health concious or appreciate a bit of a healthy balance in your cooking I did actually make some courgetti (or is it zoodles) in amongst all the pasta which makes it feel less stodgy. Even D who can be a bit suspicious of courgettes commented how he liked that part. I think part of enjoying vegetables might just be having them might just be cutting them and seasoning them the right way. (However, I might reassess this opinion if/when we decide to actually have children).

Anyway, for this recipe it is better to make the meatballs in advance and allow them to chill and firm up. (It also makes them washing up seem less overwhelming) The actual construction of the pasta bake doesn’t take much time to put together.

For this recipe you will need:

For the meatballs

375-400g mince (I just used half of one of those big packs you can buy)

2 cloves garlic

1 handful sage leaves

1 egg

100g (approx) feta cheese

2 slices brown bread

For the pasta bake

2 mugs full of pasta shapes

1 large jar of passata

1 teaspoon chilli sauce

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 courgette

Gouda or similar cheese

Salt and pepper

Serves 4

To make the meatballs first put the feta, bread and sage in a food processor and blend. To this add the egg and meat. Roll the meat mix into your desired meatball size and set aside to cool in a sealed box for a few hours.

Now I made a bit of a schoolboy error when I made this and thought it would be like lasagne where I could get away with not cooking the pasta but you do in fact need to cook this. If you try to cook it in the sauce you will be waiting for ages while your intended food recipients almost cry with hunger. Anyway, cook the pasta and brown your meatballs.

Put the pasta in a casserole dish (I used my beloved Le Creuset). Make a sauce by mixing together your passata, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and chilli sauce. Pour this over the pasta and spiralize or grate over your courgette. (I have one like this, thanks Grandma!). Top the courgetti with the meatballs and cheese. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 30 minutes.

Delicious and filling when you’re in the mood for pasta.

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Baked eggs with spinach and chorizo

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I’m all for winter warmer type recipes but I dont believe they always have to be overly stodgy. There’s something wonderful and cosy about baked eggs and they’re certainly very popular in this household! We tend to have these for our tea (dinner if you’re fancy) but they also work as a breakfast or a brunch (if you’re instagram fabulous).

Anyway, there’s not much more to say except using the oil the chorizo gives off when heated and using low fat cheese makes this a healthy and delicious recipe. I don’t actually think you can even tell it is particularly healthy.

Anyway to make enough baked eggs to serve 2 you will need:

4 eggs

1 tin chopped tomatoes (or 1/2 a large jar of passata)

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

Approx 50g cooking chorizo

Approx 100g frozen spinach

A handful of low fat cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to about 200°C. Peel and slice your onion, crush your garlic and dice your chorizo. Fry this with no oil in a non stick pan over a medium heat. Your chorizo will release oil which you can cook your onion and garlic. Once the onion and garlic have softened add your spinach and tomato. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the spinach has cooked. Season with the salt and pepper.

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Add the tomato sauce to a heavy ovenproof dish. Make indentations in the sauce and crack the eggs into these indentations. Top with cheese. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the eggs have set.

To serve eat with crusty bread.

Tomato, feta and filo tart

I don’t know why filo pastry makes pastry based goodies look so much prettier; but I think it does. It also works well in this recipe as it is light and an excellent carrier of the different flavours of tomatoes and feta. My mother used to make a similar tart from her French cookery book (which I will blog about at some point as its wonderful) but in this case as with most of my recipes I decided what I fancied and went with it. This is the result.

To make your very own tart you will need

4 sheets filo pastry (you may need more)

Assorted tomatoes of your choice

2 shallots

Approx 150g Feta cheese cut into cubes

Wholegrain mustard

Melted butter

Balsamic vingar

Olive oil

Dried chives

 

Preheat your oven to 180°C. In a lose bottomedtin arrange your sheets of pastry into a base shape brushing the melted butter on the pastry sheets between layers.

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Spread the wholegrain mustard into the base of your tart.

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Chop the tomatoes and shallot and arrange over your pastry base with the Feta cheese.

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Top with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and dried chives and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

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Remove from the tin and serve while still warm with salad or green vegetables. A perfect midweek meal.