How to cook two easy family meals – at once!

More about mince in this post – it’s such a staple and we’re one of those families who eat spaghetti bolognese once a week. Ah, what a cliche, but it’s easy and tasty and healthy, especially when you ram it full of veg.

I like to cook things from scratch as much as possible. I am therefore always on the lookout for a shortcut of some kind, albeit one which still results in a proper home-cooked meal, one which we will also be able to tempt the four year-old to eat (part of at least).

And last week I developed a new plan, one I think I’ll be putting into action quite a bit because of its ease and how happy I was with the end result.

Our shopping usually includes a 750g pack of lean minced beef and as I was deciding whether to make bolognese or chilli for dinner with it, I looked at the ingredients and realised I could make both simultaneously, thus taking care of a few evening meals at once.

I split the mince into two pans and turned it on to brown, breaking it up as it began to cook.

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While this was happening, I prepped all of the veg, dicing onions and chopping up carrots, celery, red pepper and some mushrooms for the bolognese. After draining the fat from each pan, into each went some onion, celery and garlic (press out cubes from the freezer) to cook for a while.

The bolognese then came together with tomato puree, basil, mixed herbs, the mushrooms and half of the carrot and red pepper – I like to chuck as much veg as possible in there – while I added the other half of the c and rp to the chilli pan, plus some chilli powder, cinnamon, ground cumin and coriander.

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For each pan, then came the chopped tinned tomatoes,  a can of water (swirled round in the empty tomato tin to get all the good stuff) and, for the chilli, a can of chickpeas.

No kidney beans were harmed in the making of this chilli. I am afraid that I am one of those people who hates them with a passion (oh, the number of times I have had to force them down when I’m a guest somewhere and the food on offer is chilli). I can’t quite explain why, except to mention that they remind me of beetles. Not sure how much sense that makes but whatever the reason, they make me shudder.

Chickpeas? No such problem, so in they went. Both pots cooked for an hour or so before they were perfectly ready.

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We ate the chilli with wraps and rice, and some sour cream on the side, had the spag bol and next night, and leftovers the night after that.

Three of our meals for the week sorted in one semi-industrious session at the stove.

My new Cathrineholm pot plus some speedy family dinner heroes

There’s nothing as exciting as post, especially a nice parcel containing a coveted Cathrineholm enamel pot that you’ve purchased from eBay.

I had my eye on one for a long time, but was always priced out of the market for the orange ones. And, now that it’s mine, I think I prefer the blue. I have positioned it on top of the piano so I can see it all the time. It was a small price to pay for such kitchenalia-related happiness!

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It has been a very busy week work wise, so I have had some very testing brief periods in which I’ve dashed home to get the evening meal ready, whilst also sorting out my daughter, before leaving for work again. It’s been really sunny, too, so we needed relatively light meals.

One fun thing to try was the new Veetee range of pasta and rice, a few samples of which were kindly sent to me to try. It comes in various flavours and all you need to do is pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes.

I ‘made’ the black pepper and garlic pasta one to accompany some pizza and was really pleasantly surprised. The pasta when cooked was just the right texture – not horribly rubbery or overcooked – and you could really taste both of its key seasonings. There was more than enough for the husband and me in just one pack, so it’s something I will definitely be turning to when I need a fast and tasty portion of rice or pasta. 

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The other family dinner hero is something that I regularly serve to guests and they always say that it’s delicious and ask where it came from. It’s a ranch salad pack from ASDA which costs £1 and regularly sells out, especially in hot weather because it’s the perfect accompaniment to summer eating.

The salad is composed of thin strips of carrot, red cabbage and other coleslaw type ingredients. All you do is tip its contents into a bowl, pour over the dressing, mix it well, then pour on the croutons and mix them in too. Honestly, it is moreish and tastes like it’s good for you, too. Plus, kids love it. 

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Another hearty (spicy sausage pasta) supper

The sun was shining today, but we were freezing after erecting a garden swing for the 3yo! So another warm and hopefully winning – and relatively quick – evening family meal needed concocted from store cupboard ingredients.

I took three sausages from the fridge and removed their skins, then snipped them into  pieces and into some heated olive oil in a pan to brown. I threw in some onions and added garlic and a bit of chilli after they’d softened, plus tin of tomatoes, water swilled from its tin and some mushrooms.

My husband laughs that frozen peas are ubiquitous in our house and they are. I admit I cannot reist throwing them into everything, given that they cook so quickly and are a vivid dash of green in a dinner.

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Added to some cooked casarecce pasta, seasoned and accompanied with some garlic bread, it was just the ticket for an exceedingly chilly April evening.