Yummy Pasta Pick-Ups

These stuffed pasta tubes look yummy and are the perfect size for little fingers, also the huge added bonus is that your little treasure can't see what delights are hiding inside.
  •  Half a small Red Onion
  • Half a Red, Yellow and Green Bell Pepper
  • Half a Courgette
  • A couple of fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1 Tin Tuna in Sunflower Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Crème Fraiche
  • About 20 Rigatoni Pasta Tubes

Cook the Pasta in a large saucepan until tender, drain and run under a cold tap for about 15 seconds. Put to one side. (a good tip is to keep back some Pasta from your own supper the night before, it saves time the next day and I actually find pasta that has been in the fridge over night works even better for this dish.)

Drain about 1 tbsp of oil from the tin of tuna and heat in a heavy based pan.

Add the finely chopped onion, peppers and courgette stirring until soft. (Because they are chopped so small they will only need about 5mins cooking. The older the child the more al dente the veg can be, remember the longer you cook it for, the more goodness you lose).

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Tuna, then the Crème Fraiche and the finely torn Basil leaves.

Using the handle of a teaspoon and your finger over the end hole, carefully stuff the rigatoni Pasta tubes with the filling.

These yummy pasta pick-ups can be eaten now or put in the fridge for up to 48 hours. If I do put them in the fridge I take them out around an hour or so before Louisa lunchtime so are not too cold, and are definitely even more yummy.

For a delicious vegetarian alternative replace the Tuna and Crème Fraiche with a 2 tbsp of steamed spinach and 1 tsbp of Cream Cheese. Also try stuffing Pasta with a basic Bolognaise Sauce

Sardine Sauce for pasta 

  • 1 Clove of garlic crushed
  • ½ small onion finely chopped
  • 200g chopped tinned tomatoes
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • Stick celery chopped
  • Teaspoon sun dried tomato paste
  • 1 tin boneless sardines in tomato sauce
  • Sprinkle mixed herbs
  • Sprinkle grated cheese

Fry onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add tinned tomatoes, pepper, celery, tomato paste and herbs and simmer for couple of minutes. Flake sardines and add sauce, continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. Add to cooked pasta of choice and sprinkle on cheese.

Salmon and Broccoli Pasta

Cooked pasta for 2 adults and 2 children

  • 2 oz onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • A little butter or oil
  • 8 oz broccoli, broken into small florets
  • 4 oz wild Canadian pacific tinned red salmon, drained and mashed to give small pieces
  • Small pot single cream
  • 2 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Use small amounts to start with and increase once children are used to the flavours.

In a large pan, fry onion and garlic in butter or oil until soft. Steam broccoli until tender. Add cooked hot pasta to onion. Add cream, parmesan cheese, salmon, broccoli and a little black pepper. Mix well so that the cheese melts into cream and serve immediately.

Kate Hanke, Marston, Kate's winning recipe will also be added to Annabel Karmel new book

Open tarts with rich Tomato sauce (spiked with veg) Base

Ingredients

  • 1 Puff pastry ready rolled sheet
  • Variety of toppings e.g. cheese, sliced tomato, peppers, mushrooms, pineapple, ham, chicken, bacon, tuna, sweetcorn, cooked peas. 

Tomato sauce base

  • ¼ yellow pepper
  • ¼ red pepper
  • ½ courgette
  • 1 stick celery
  • ½ onion
  • 1 carrot-grated
  • 1 pressed clove garlic
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup

Method 

Prepare tomato sauce base by sautéing chopped ingredients until soft, add other ingredients (but only use ½ the amount of juice from the tin),bring to the boil and simmer for 20 mins uncovered. Puree to make a smooth base/sauce (add more tomato juice from the tin if it's too thick) cool. Chop topping ingredients and put in individual bowls. Cut pastry sheet into 4 rectangles and mark a 1cm edge, don’t cut right through. Call the children. Children make their own tarts by spreading sauce base on tart (not on the 1 cm edge) and then adding the toppings of their choice. Bake gas 5 for 25 mins until pastry edge is puffed and golden and toppings are hot and cheese is melted

Green Soup

  • 1 Medium Potato
  • 3 Courgettes, sliced (cauli or broccoli work just as well)
  • 1 and a half pints veg stock
  • Half teaspoon thyme
  • 125g Brie (rind removed)
  • Black Pepper

Put all ingredients except Brie into large saucepan. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 15 mins until vegetables are tender. Add Brie and stir until it melts-do not overcook it only takes 1-2 mins (cheese sticks to bottom otherwise). Liquidise, season with black pepper and serve. My fussy kids love it and call it green soup- you can add broccoli too for a bit more veg. It freezes well to (I usually leave the cheese out when freezing and add it during the reheating stage).

Gnocchi And Pesto

Pesto – version 1 (with nuts)

Pesto recipes are widely available. This one is adapted from Jamie Oliver recipe in “the naked chef”

  • ¼ clove garlic, chopped (more if liked)
  • 3 large handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked
  • 1 handful lightly roasted pine nuts
  • 1 good handful grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Small squeeze of lemon juice

Blend together the first five ingredients, adding just enough olive oil to get a firm but wet consistency. Season with pepper and lemon juice (and a little salt if desired for older children or adults)

Pesto- version 2 (nut-free)

This is a brilliant variation of the standard pesto recipe above. It is great for anyone with a nut intolerance, or if you just fancy a change. It is adapted from Jane Baxter’s Broad Bean and Pecorino Tagliatelle recipe at Riverford.co.uk, the organic vegetable box people.

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium bunch fresh basil leaves picked
  • 500-700 g broad beans, pod
  • 100 g Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon

I steam the broad beans until tender then cool but this is not the original recipe. Then blend together the first five ingredients (or grind using a mortar and pestle). Season with pepper and lemon juice (and a little salt if desired for older children or adults).

Fun Spaghetti faces or animals

Ingredients

  • 6oz/ 170g lean minced beef
  • 10 ½ oz/ 300g spaghetti
  • Can chopped tomatoes- 14oz/ 400g
  • 1 medium onion
  • 12 small mushrooms
  • 3 medium carrots
  • Oxo cube
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoon tomato sauce or concentrate
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Small amount of baked beans for the eyes
  • Peel the skin from the onions

Wash all the mushrooms; chop four of them into small bits with a blunt knife or edge of a spoon. Finely chop the onions, lightly peel all 3 carrots, top and tail them. Grate only 2 of the carrots and chop them up, measure out the dried basil and oregano herbs in a bowl. Dissolve the oxo cube in a small amount of water to produce the beef stock. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan, add the onions to the pan and stir. Heat the onion and oil on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir and turn often.

Take the pan off the heat, add the minced beef to the pan of onions and stir well. Place the pan on a medium heat, fry until all the mince has turned a greyish colour. Pour away the juices. Take the pan off the heat.

Add the carrots, tomatoes, basil, oregano, mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, tablespoon only of tomato sauce/ concentrate, the oxo stock. Place the pan on a medium heat, and cook for 30 minutes, longer if the spaghetti is still cooking.

Look at the instructions to see how long to cook the spaghetti, boil the water and add the spaghetti and cook to packet instructions.

Fry the un-chopped 8 mushrooms in a tablespoon of oil for 3 minutes. Let them cool, put a blob of tomato sauce into each mushroom and add some baked beans for the eye pupils.

ADULT-slice the carrot to make four noses and four mouths. Serve the spaghetti topped with bolognaise on heated plates, decorate with mushrooms and sliced carrots to make the face and spaghetti for the hair.

Frittata

  • 2 tsp sunflower oil
  • 150g (5 oz ) cooked potato, diced
  • 4 tbsp veg (frozen or fresh)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp full fat milk
  • 15g unsalted butter

Heat oil in small frying pan, add potato and fry for 4-5mins. Add veg and cook for 2-3 mins. Beat eggs, cheese and milk together. Add the butter to the pan, when melted pour the egg mixture over the veg and cook for 3-4 mins or until set and underside is golden. Pre-heat the grill and cook the top of the frittata for 2-3 mins or until mixture is set all the way through.

I cooked the attached recipe for my three nieces on holiday last summer. They are all fussy eaters and are not fond of veg at all. To the amazement of their Mum they all eat it and asked if they could have it when they got home too. Because the taste of the veg is heavily disguised by the egg and cheese they didn’t seem to mind that they were eating it. You can use any frozen veg in it, which makes for a veg quick, easy and nutritious meal. You could also use leftover cooked veg from the night before. My son has been eating it since he was about 11 months. He’s almost 2 now and it is still a firm favourite with him.

Fussy Eaters Fab Fun Pizza

I have found the easiest way to disguise vegetables, is to add them into the tomato sauce of a pizza and then make the pizzas using cookie cutters.

 Ingredients

  •  Readymade pizza bases (or pizza dough from a bread machine), grated cheese (cheddar is good).

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Red pepper, 1 Green pepper, finely chopped
  • 6 Mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 1 Tsp tomato puree 

Method

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a saucepan, add onion and lightly fry. Add the peppers and cook until soft. Add tin of tomatoes and puree and leave to reduce and thicken. About 15-20 mins. While cooking sauce cut out shapes from the pizza dough or bases. When sauce is ready, spread a thick amount onto pizza shapes. Cover with cheese and cook for a further 15 mins in oven (180 degrees or gas mark 4). Serve with garlic bread.

Never fails with my two children as all veg is hidden under the cheese.                               

Chicken Parcels

For each child

  • ½ chicken breast
  • ½ t olive oil
  • ½ t 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 tsp water /(optional white wine for adults)
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • ½ 1 clove of garlic (need not eat, but adds to the flavour)
  • Sprinkle of fresh or dried herbs (e.g. Italian herbs or chicken seasoning, etc)
  • Pinch of salt or pepper if required
  • Piece of tin foil- about 30cm square

 Method

Lightly brown the chicken breasts in a pan on the hob

Crumple up the sides of the tin foil so that the liquids won’t run out.

Place the spring onion in the centre of the foil, with the browned chicken on top.

Place oil, wine/water, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar on top of the chicken. It will run off-don’t worry.

Season as desired.

Gather the tin foil up and seal together tightly.

Bake at 180c for about 20 minutes.

Open the parcels very carefully. A lot of steam will escape.

Serve with rice, small baked potato or potato wedges.

Cheesy Vegetable Pasta

Serves 4/5

  • 8 oz pasta shapes
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 6 oz carrots
  • 6 oz onions
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 6 oz courgettes
  • ½ teaspoon mixed dried herbs
  • 1x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato puree
  • 10 fl oz water

 Cheese sauce

  • 4 oz cheddar cheese
  • 1 oz plain flour
  • 1 pint milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

Peel and dice finely the onions. Wash the carrots and celery then dice finely. Trim and wash the courgettes and dice finely. Grate the cheese for the sauce.

Sauté the onions, carrots, celery and courgettes in the oil for a few minutes, then add the herbs, tomatoes, tomato puree and water. Bubble for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to packet instructions then drain.

Make cheese sauce by melting the butter or margarine then adding the flour. Cook until the texture and colour are sandy, then add the milk, stirring until thickened and smooth. Add the cheese and the mustard and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

When everything is ready, put it all together in one big pan and mix together thoroughly.

Serve with garlic bread. My husband and I enjoy an accompanying salad with this dish too.

Another good way of encouraging my family to eat well is by making Home Made Pizza. I make the dough in my bread machine and then make the tomato sauce as follows.

Dice and fry an onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic if required. Wash then quarter a box of tomatoes and add them to a large pan with the onion (and garlic.) Leave to simmer until it has reduced into a thick sauce. (Up to an hour) Puree with a hand blender if required.

After rolling out the pizza dough, I put tomato sauce one each one and then have a choice of toppings for my children to choose from eg tuna, sweetcorn, peppers, olives, ham etc. Add grated mozzarella cheese and put in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes. Delicious, even if my children choose no toppings apart from the cheese, the tomato sauce alone is still healthy option and being homemade it is very tasty.

Cheesy Mash Surprise

If there is one thing my 19 month old daughter hasn’t turned her nose up at in the last year or so, its mash potato so these little concoctions go down quite well with her thankfully, after peeling then boiling several medium sized potatoes in a pan, I then mash them, adding a touch of butter, sprinkle of herbs, and a splash of milk before mixing well.

Pre-prepared a short time before hand, I have the surprise parts of the recipe-in other words any fresh vegetables I have at the time which have been boiled, chopped and added to the mash, followed by lots of grated cheese. Occasionally I will add some bits of finely chopped ham or chicken too.

Fruity Ready Brek

With this being my daughters favourite breakfast it gives me great delight to sneakily add in some finely chopped pieces of soft fruit which I know if she had by itself would end up chucked on the floor or spat out. Do up the ready brek as per normal with full fat milk and then add in the ready chopped pieces of fruit. Currently she has been having strawberries and bananas but some other soft fruits go just as well with this. So there you have a healthy fulfilling breakfast which even the fussiest of eaters should hopefully gobble down first thing in the morning.