Baked Beans with Pumpkin

As a kid, I always hated the little tins of baked beans that sat in our pantry at all times, and for the longest time I just assumed I hated beans. It didn’t really take up much mental real estate, as we didn’t really eat beans, and there was never a situation where tinned baked beans were the only acceptable option. They were never forced down my throat, as Mum doesn’t like any beans, so I didn’t, either.

Or at least, that’s what I thought for the first 30 or so years of my life. As it turns out, I LOVE beans of all shapes and sized, I just don’t like the weirdly sweet sauce that smothers tinned baked beans (or tinned spaghetti, for that matter). I eat beans weekly, in some form or another, and haven’t found one I don’t like yet.

I’ve still been a little gun shy to make my own baked beans. 6 hours? Overnight soaking, just so I can forget they’re there? Nah. I survived 30 years without them, I can go a little longer, right? But then, I found a recipe in a Women’s Weekly vegetarian cookbook that used tinned beans and took maybe 5 minutes of hands-on time, and 30 minutes total. That, I would try. And, boy, was I rewarded handsomely for my investment. For 30 minutes of work and maybe 5 bucks in ingredients, this recipe yielded a thick, spicy, stew-like dish held together with just enough cheese to feel special, that fills you up for 410 calories per serveand makes you rethink everything you ever thought about baked beans.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a total convert.

Serves 5

Ingredients

500g kent pumpkin, cut into wedges

Spray oil

1 onion, diced

3 x 400g cans 4 bean mix, drained and rinsed

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2tbs barbecue sauce

1tbs honey

1tsp dijon mustard

2tbs tomato paste

700g passata

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste



130g grated cheddar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Spray a roasting tray lightly.
  2. Cut pumpkin into large-ish chunks, place on tray and spray lightly again. Roast for 15 minutes, until softened and starting to colour.
  3. Meanwhile, in an ovenproof skillet, cook onion over medium heat for five minutes, until softened. Add beans and chickpeas.
  4. Stir in barbecue sauce, honey, mustard, and tomato paste. Stir to combine and coat the beans and onion.
  5. Add the passata and cayenne, and season well. Boil for five minutes, until thickened slightly.
  6. Add pumpkin to the sauce, and gently stir to cover with sauce. Sprinkle cheese over the top, and bake for 15 minutes until thick and golden.

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Okonomiyaki

I’ve made a few savoury Japanese pancakes in my time, but this is the closest I’ve come to the okonomiyaki I’ve eaten that were actually made by Japanese people. Other attempts have generally tasted more frittata-esque, lacking the body I craved, and being just a little too eggy (not a complaint that this egg-lover often makes). I do like this one, though. And so did everyone else. A true indicator of how good a dish I make is, is whether or not the leftovers are left over the next day. Both boys in my house eradicated every last crumb of the bit I stashed away for tomorrow morning before I’d even finished my first round.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that most of my blog posts have some iteration of “it’s so quick and easy, it’s low calorie, and uses simple, wholesome ingredients”. What can I say, I have a type! And this is no different. A very generous serve of this is 450 calories, and when I say “generous”, I mean it. It’s a big slice, and it’s very filling, as it’s jam packed full of veggies. I say it serves 4, but 5 at 340 calories isn’t a stretch whatsoever.

Ingredients

200g streaky bacon

1 zucchini, coarsely grated

1 carrot, coarsely grated

1 onion, coarsely grated

1/4 green cabbage, shredded

500g cooked prawns, shelled

1 cup self raising flour

1 cup water

4 eggs

Salt and pepper, to taste

Barbecue sauce, to serve

Mayonnaise (Kewpie, preferably), to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. In a large oven-proof skillet, cook bacon, removing from heat before it gets crispy (it will crisp up in the oven, and nobody wants burnt bacon!). Set aside on a plate, leaving the grease in the pan.
  3. Place all the vegetables and prawns in the hot skillet, and cook over medium heat, tossing gently, for 5 minutes, until cabbage has wilted, but not coloured.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, flour and water into a smooth batter. Season well. Pour over the vegetables in the skillet, and mix very gently to distribute the veggies evenly. Cook over the medium heat for 2-3 minutes , until the base is starting to firm up.
  5. Place the bacon rashers over the top and gently press into the batter. You’re not looking to fully submerge the bacon, here.
  6. Transfer skillet to oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until set and golden. Remove from oven, drizzle with sauces and serve warm. (I’m really light on the mayo because it’s a total calorie bomb, but feel free not to be so stingy!)

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Turkey Rissoles

Ok, I know these don’t look like much, and that rissoles are hardly the height of haute cuisine, but I also know that these humble meatballs are deceptively delicious, and deserve a special mention on this blog. I’ve been making these since… um… well, I remember feeding these to my eldest as a baby (I probably omitted the sweet chilli, but with how much Tabasco he puts on everything now, maybe not), and he turns 12 tomorrow. So, definitely very early in my cooking ventures. And they NEVER fail to please a crowd. They really don’t look particularly thrilling, but the Asian flavours from the sweet chili and oyster sauces give a flavour and texture that are just sublime. I actually forgot about them for a few years, then found a typed up recipe in a Google Drive folder, and now they’re enjoying a much deserved revival in our household.

Unlike a lot of rissoles, which are cooked in a fair whack of oil and use fatty beef mince (not that I have a problem with beef mince!), these are really light, and are full of vegetables. They clock in at just 100 calories apiece, which is quite respectable for a decent sized rissole, and when you add a salad, you get an amazing light meal that feels so much more special than the (almost no) effort that goes into making them. They’re also great as sliders with Asian salad or slaw, or cold the next day. Adults love them. Kids love them. Fat 10 month old babies love them. They’re the ultimate family favourite.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Oil spray

500g turkey mince

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 zucchini, grated

1/2 cup frozen peas

2tbs oyster sauce

2tbs sweet chilli sauce

Pepper to tasteM

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Lightly spray a baking tray with oil.
  2. Combine all other ingredients gently, ensuring not to over mix.
  3. Divide into 8 patties, place on tray, and flatten slightly.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. Serve

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Pea and Barley Salad

The number of cookbooks in my house is nothing short of ridiculous – and yet, they continue to grow despite occasionally finding one that I don’t remember ever buying or reading. Once I get over the guilt, it’s like nerdy foodie Christmas.

The other day, my son found some such gem hidden in with the rarely touched board games. The Healthy Life Cookbook, probably purchased well before I really cared about such things, was covered in a thin layer of dust – I swear I don’t remember how or when it got into my house. But, with renewed enthusiasm, I pored over the recipes, and stopped dead in my tracks at this one. Barley? Feta cheese? Spinach? I’m in!


At 311 calories for a hearty serve (this recipe yields 4 serves), it’s filling enough for a light dinner, and absolutely perfect for a work lunch. I did learn the hard way, however, to sprinkle the cheese on as you go if you plan on it lasting more than two days (it really doesn’t last much longer than that anyway, but you don’t need slimy feta ruining your Tuesday). Sounds obvious as hell now, but oh well… live and learn.

Ingredients

2 cups vegetable stock

250g frozen peas

3 radishes, diced

40g baby spinach

1/2 cup raw pearl barley

70g Greek feta

Dressing

1tbs olive oil

2tbs red wine vinegar

2tsp dried mint

1 clove minced garlic

Black pepper, to serve

Method

  1. Bring stock to boil over a high heat in a medium saucepain. Boil peas for 4 minutes or until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and combine with radishes.
  2. Add barley to the stock, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 40 minutes or until barley is tender and stock has been absorbed.
  3. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.
  4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in radishes, baby spinach and peas, then add the dressing. Crumble feta over the salad and season with generous cracks of black pepper.

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