Smiley Cottage Pie
Cottage pie is a family classic, perfect for sneaking in a few nutrient-rich veggies to boost the kiddies’ immune systems ahead of winter. We adore this modern take on the classic cottage pie by the Foodies of SA blog – Smiley Cottage Pie! This is guaranteed to make both you and the kids smile from ear to tummy. And, it’s easy enough for them to help you out in the kitchen! So, let’s get busy cooking:
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 500g mince
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tin (410g) chopped tomato
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup McCain Diced Carrots, frozen
- 1 tbsp chutney
- 1 cup McCain Garden Peas
- Salt and pepper, to season
- 1½ cups grated cheese
- 1 packet (415g) McCain Smiles
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and saute the onions for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and fry for 30 seconds.
- Turn the heat to high and add the mince to the same pan, stirring until browned. Stir in the tomato paste.
- Pour in the chopped tomatoes, beef stock, carrots and chutney and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly.
- Add the frozen peas to the mince and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes, until softened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the cooked mince into a baking dish, sprinkle with the grated cheese and top with a layer of McCain Smiles.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the Smiles are crispy and golden.
- Garnish with chopped parsley and serve while still warm with a dressed garden salad.
Kids love pizza. So, why not arrange a family pizza making night? Challenge your junior master chefs to create smiley faces on their pizzas using an assortment of vegetables. You can use bell peppers, mushrooms, baby marrows, tomatoes or any of their favourite seasonal veggies. Not only will they be getting in their five-a-day, but learning a great new skill too! Plus, you get to enjoy a yummy meal as a family without the added fuss.
For the pizza dough:
- 150g wholemeal spelt flour
- 350g strong white flour
- 1 ½ tsp dried fast action yeast
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the tomato base:
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 small garlic clove
- pinch of dried thyme
- 160g grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese
- Red pepper, cut into strips (x 1)
- Yellow pepper, cut into strips (x 1)
- Baby marrows, cut into rounds or spiralised (x 3)
- 1 small pack cherry tomatoes, halved
- A handful pitted olives
- 1 can sweetcorn, drained
- To make the dough, put both flours into a large bowl, then stir in the yeast and salt. Make a well, pour in 400ml warm water and the olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a soft, fairly wet dough. Bring together with a light knead in the bowl then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Cover with a tea towel and set aside. Leave the dough to rise if you have time but it’s not essential for a thin crust.
- To make the sauce, blitz the tomatoes, garlic, thyme and a little seasoning, either in a food processor or using a hand blender.
- Heat oven to 220°C. Get the toppings ready in bowls so that your children can decorate their own.
- If the dough has had time to rise, give it a little knead in the bowl, then split into four balls. On a floured surface, roll out two of the balls into wide circles using a rolling pin. The dough needs to be very thin as it will rise in the oven. Lift these onto two floured baking sheets or pizza trays.
- Smooth sauce over bases with a spoon. Scatter with cheese, then start making the faces. Baby marrow rounds make great eyes or cheeks, halved baby marrow rounds can be used for ears and spiralised baby marrows for hair. Strips of pepper are good for eyebrows and mouths while olives and halved cherry tomatoes make great eyes or earrings. Sweetcorn can be used for teeth or freckles. Let their imaginations go wild.
- Cook for around 10-15 minutes until crisp. You’ll want to swap the pizzas to a lower shelf halfway through the cooking time.
- Tuck in and don’t forget to award your pizza making champion!
Butternut Squash Mac And Cheese
Who doesn’t love a big, gooey bowl of macaroni and cheese? But, have you ever tried adding in a cup or two of roasted butternut? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! The squash blends perfectly with the melty cheese sauce to create a nutrient-rich, yet delicious comfort meal. Get the kids to help you grate the cheese or teach them how to make the macaroni. It’s a lifelong skill they’ll definitely thank you for later.
- 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 300g elbow macaroni
- 2 1/2 cups milk, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
- 1 cup aged white cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 220°C. Place butternut squash chunks on a large baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the squash and toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until tender, turning once.
- While the butternut squash is roasting, cook macaroni according to package directions, drain well. Set aside.
- Add butternut squash to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add in 1/2 cup of the milk and puree again. This will help thin out the butternut squash.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the butter. When the butter is melted whisk in the flour. Add the nutmeg. Cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly, or until flour mixture smells nutty. Add the remaining 2 cups of milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil while continuing to whisk.
- After sauce has thickened, turn heat to low and whisk in butternut squash mixture. Stir in the fresh rosemary. Add the cooked macaroni to the pan and stir until the macaroni noodles are well coated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Grease a large casserole dish. Pour half of the macaroni noodles into the pan. Sprinkle half of the aged cheddar and sharp cheddar over the macaroni noodles. Add the remaining noodles and then top with the rest of the cheese. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until macaroni and cheese is bubbling. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Toddlers are constantly on the go, which makes it near impossible to get them to sit down for a meal. For those times when your little one simply won’t settle, whip up a batch of these healthy brown rice quiche cups. You can pop one into their hand as they whiz past the kitchen on to their next adventure!
- 1 cup Spekko Saman Brown Rice
- 2 cups water
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup ham, diced
- ¾ cup cheese, grated
- ¾ cup sliced and sauteed mushrooms
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup milk
- Salt & pepper
- Sour cream
- Chopped chives (optional)
- Preheat oven to 170°C and grease a standard size muffin tray.
- In a medium pot, add the Spekko Saman Brown Rice and 2 cups of salted water. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 20 – 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit covered for a further 10 – 15 minutes until you can fluff the rice with a fork. Allow to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked brown rice with the ham, cheese and mushroom slices.
- Divide this mixture equally in the muffin holes, filling to the top.
- Combine the eggs, milk, salt and pepper and whisk well.
- Pour over the rice mixture until muffin holes are filled.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives.
These nifty mini quiches can also be filled with tomato, feta and spinach or tuna, sweetcorn and spring onion, so mix things up every once in awhile to keep the kiddies interested!
Chicken Pot Pies
What’s more comforting than a hearty chicken pie on a cold winter’s night? Treat yourself and the kids to mini chicken pies filled with an array of wholesome vegetables and a generous amount of gravy. If you have leftover rotisserie chicken taking up space in the fridge, this is the perfect recipe to use up all those extra bits. Super simple, warming and nutritious – what more could hungry tummies ask for?
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried sage
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cooked chicken breasts, pulled (you can also use 1 1/2 cups leftover chicken)
- 1 cup peas
- 1 puff pastry sheet
- Preheat oven to 200°C. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots, salt and pepper, sauteing for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add flour and mix well. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil and let the mixture thicken. Stir in chicken and peas, then remove from heat.
- Divide chicken mixture evenly among 4 medium-sized ramekins. Roll out puff pastry and cut into thin 1/2-inch thick slices with a pizza cutter. Take slices and add to ramekins in a criss-cross fashion, or just place a large piece of puff pastry over the top of the whole ramekin.
- Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven, serve and enjoy!
Do you have any toddler-friendly dinner recipes to share with other parents in need? Let us know about them in the comments below!