Pumpkin & Pancetta Pasta Bake

Move over Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

This creamy pasta bake, finished with a crunchy, cheesy, spinach topping is just so good. Even the almost-5-year-old-very-fussy-at-the-moment-eater gobbled it up. 

The leek, pumpkin, pancetta and pasta cook together in a mix of stock and coconut cream. Once cooked, it’s poured into a baking dish before topping with a finely processed mix of breadcrumbs, baby spinach leaves, lemon zest and cheese.


This is my version of a recipe from Delicious Magazine, August 2009. I subbed the macaroni for wholemeal penne, the cream for coconut cream, the onion for leek, and instead of parsley in the topping, I used spinach for colour and extra goodness.

You can easily make this a vegetarian dish, by leaving out the pancetta and using vegetable stock.

If you’ve been making the same pasta dish over and over for years now, I hope you’ll give this one a go! 

Enjoy x

Pumpkin & Pancetta Pasta Bake
Serves 6
A creamy pasta bake with pumpkin, pancetta, leek and rosemary, finished with a crunchy cheesy spinach topping.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
  1. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 leek, white part only, washed and finely chopped
  3. 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  4. 100 grams pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
  5. 800 grams pumpkin, peeled, cut into small cubes (to give 3 cups)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  7. 3 cups chicken stock
  8. 300 grams wholemeal penne
  9. 300 ml coconut cream
  10. 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  11. 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  12. Topping
  13. 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  14. zest of 1 lemon
  15. large handful of baby spinach leaves
  16. 2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large frying pan.
  3. Add pancetta or bacon, leek and garlic and cook, stirring until leek is softened.
  4. Add pumpkin, chilli flakes and half the chicken stock.
  5. Cook for 6 or so minutes or until the pumpkin softens.
  6. Add the penne, coconut cream, rosemary and remaining chicken stock to the pan.
  7. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes or so, until the penne is al dente (just cooked) and the pumpkin has fallen apart and the liquid is mostly absorbed.
  8. Stir through the cheese.
  9. Pour into a medium size baking dish.
  10. Combine all the topping ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until finely processed.
  11. Cover the pasta with the topping and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden.
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Craisin & Honey Oat Bars

Two of the phrases I will hear the most over the coming weeks are “I am bored” and ” I am hungry.” They will be closely followed by “Can I have screen time?”

If you have school aged kids on holidays, I am sure this sounds familiar to you. 

As my 3 boys grow, keeping up with the what and how much they eat is quite a task. Even for this foodie, it’s quite a job making sure the house is stocked with nutritious food and lots of it for these active and growing boys. 

These Craisin & Honey Oat Bars were my attempt at trying to make a healthy version of a muesli bar. The brief was; nut free so they were suitable for school, low sugar, made with simple pantry ingredients and freeze proof so they’re always available for lunch boxes, impromptu visitors and lazy holiday days. 

These are super easy, and perfect for getting kids active in the kitchen. Just melt, mix and bake. 

One handy tip is they do need to be cut into bars as soon as they are out of the oven. Simply score the lines with a sharp knife and then leave the bars in the tin to cool completely. 

Craisin & Honey Oat Bars
Yields 14
An oat based bar with pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, coconut and honey.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 1 cup rolled oats
  2. 1 cup (250gm) craisins (dried cranberries)
  3. 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  4. 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  5. 1/4 sesame seeds
  6. 1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. 150 grams butter
  9. 2 tablespoons honey
  10. 1/4 cup rice malt syrup (raw sugar)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 degrees celsius fan forced).
  2. Grease and line a slice tin.
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir.
  4. Place butter, honey, rice malt syrup or sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat till melted.
  5. Combine butter mixture and dry ingredients.
  6. Place in slice tin, smoothing the top of the slice down with the back of a spoon.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until risen and golden.
  8. Immediately score the bar slices with a sharp knife.
  9. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  10. Cut the bars through and store in an airtight container for up to a week.
  1. To freeze, wrap bars individually in plastic wrap.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/



Almond, Cranberry and Quinoa Granola

I recently found myself with an unplanned day at home. 2 boys were home sick and chilling in front of CARS the movie. I could have sorted out wardrobes, worked on the budget or got my ironing up to date, but no, I found myself in the kitchen with a sudden desire to make Granola. I’ve made various recipes over the years and every now and then I have bought a yummy looking one I have found in the shops. The good thing about making your own is you get to control what goes in it. You can add more of what you love, control the sugar content and leave out ingredients you don’t like.

This time I wanted to try using cooked Quinoa in the recipe. Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have come across Quinoa. You’ll be pleased to know it’s not just fashionable for fashion sake. It is INSANELY GOOD FOR YOU!

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is a powerful SUPERFOOD. Considered one of the world’s most nutrient rich foods, it is a seed that actually comes from the same food family as Spinach and Beets. It is referred to as a ‘pseudo cereal’ as it is cooked and eaten in a similar way to grains and cereals, and can be ground into flour, but it’s not a grain at all. It’s the best non-meat source of complete protein, is suitable for people who cannot tolerate wheat or gluten, full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties, it’s high in antioxidants, high in fibre and is easily digestible.

To prepare it, you bring one part quinoa to two parts water to a boil with a lid on, reduce heat and simmer until all the water has been absorbed.


The Granola lovers in our house (my husband and I and our eldest son) are enjoying this in the mornings with greek yoghurt and fresh berries. I actually look forward to getting out of bed for this…. oh and my coffee too!

Almond, Cranberry and Quinoa Granola


1 cup rolled oats

1 cup cooked quinoa (you’ll need approx 1/3 – 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa to make this quantity)

1/2 cup pepita seeds (pumpkin seeds)

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 cup chopped mixed nuts (I used Almonds and Hazelnuts)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Mix oats, quinoa, seeds, nuts and cinnamon in a bowl.

Add honey, vanilla and coconut oil (it hardens at room temperature, so melt it in the microwave first) and stir till combined and everything is moist.

Spread the mixture out on a large flat baking tray lined with baking paper.

Place in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, taking the tray out and stirring the mixture around every 5 minutes or so. You will find the outside parts will brown a lot quicker thsn the middle, so it’s best to keep moving it around so it cooks evenly.

With 5 minutes to go, add the shredded coconut.

Once it is golden brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool. It will harden into a lovely crunchy Granola as it cools. Stir in the dried cranberries.

Place in an airtight container. It can last for up to 2 weeks, but it never actually lasts that long in our house!


Banana Bread – two ways

Bananas have some great qualities –  they are high in Potassium, which helps regulate normal blood pressure, Magnesium for our muscles, Fibre, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, which help to make red blood cells and antibodies to help us fight infections. Any of the B vitamins are known as ‘water soluble’ which means we don’t store them in our bodies and so we must keep replenishing them from our diet each day. Bananas are also a source of carbohydrates. If you are trying to manage Diabetes, you do have to take into consideration the impact they may have on your blood sugar levels.

Each time a banana goes bad in the fruit bowl or I find one a little squished and uneaten in a lunch box, it’s thrown in the freezer.

Once there is a small stash and I am craving my freezer space back, Banana Bread is made. It’s perfect straight out of the oven for afternoon tea or sliced, wrapped and frozen for school lunch boxes.

The following recipes are two of my favourites. Truth be told, I have many more (Sticky Date & Banana, Banana & Choc Chip etc), but I thought I would start with these two. They are quite different, but loved nonetheless.

The Banana & Raspberry Bread can be made by anyone. It’s a ‘throw it all in the bowl and stir’ batter and it never fails. Apart from being Dairy free, it’s full of all the normal things that make Banana Bread look and taste good – fat and sugar.

The Banana & Coconut Bread, from one of my favourite Chef’s, Teresa Cutter (aka The Healthy Chef), is Gluten free, Dairy Free, Grain Free and Refined sugar free. The addition of Coconut flour adds great soluble fibre and the Chia Seeds keep the loaf moist and add Omega 3’s, which are needed by the brain to function properly.

I am making more and more of this type for our every day eating and saving the Banana & Raspberry Bread for those special days.

Banana & Raspberry Bread

Makes 1 loaf



1 3/4 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
3/4 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (approx 3 large size bananas)
1/2 cup rice bran oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup raspberries (if using frozen, don’t defrost first and make sure they are from Australia or Europe!)


Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius (150 fan forced)

Combine everything, except the raspberries, in a bowl and mix till combined and smooth. Gently stir in raspberries.

Pour into a well greased and lined loaf tin and bake for approx 1 hour. If it starts to brown quickly, cover it in foil and continue cooking. Cool in tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Banana & Coconut Bread 

Recipe from Teressa Cutter, thehealthychef.com

Makes 1 loaf



400gm over ripe bananas, (approx 4 medium size bananas)

6 eggs

4 fresh pitted dates

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

60ml of coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup chia seeds


Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius (150 fan forced)

Combine bananas, eggs, dates, vanilla, oil, cinnamon and baking powder in a food processor and blend till smooth.

Add the coconut flour and chia seeds, mix through and then sit for 15 minutes to allow the chia seeds and coconut flour to expand.

Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake for 50-55 minutes. (You can decorate the top of the loaf with flaked coconut if you like at this stage). Cover with foil if browning too quickly.

Cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack.

This loaf is best stored in the fridge and slightly heated or toasted before serving (I love to top it with ricotta and honey) It freezes well too.


Jamie Oliver’s 7 Vegetable Sauce

I first read this recipe in a Delicious magazine about 9 years ago. With a toddler at the time, we were going through the ‘101 ways to get vegetables’ into him phase.

This sauce has been a winner over the years and I use it as a base for homemade pizzas (post to come later in the week), in bolognese or lasagna and basically anytime a tomato based sauce is needed.

I would call this a ‘make ahead meal’. It takes a little chopping and about 30 minutes cooking on the stove. It’s perfect to make on the weekend and freeze in containers ready for whenever you need it.

The quantity below makes about 4 litres – which is enough for about 3-4 separate meals. I made a lasagna out of it and have enough left in the freezer for a few pizza nights and probably 2 other dinners at some point. It’s quite thick, but can be thinned out by just adding water.


Olive oil

1 spanish onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 leek, white part only, washed and partly chopped

2 celery stalks, washed and roughly chopped

1 large zucchini, washed and roughly chopped

1 red capsicum, washed, de-seeded and roughly chopped

1/2 small butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed and grated

2 x 800gm cans of crushed tomatoes

Flavourings to taste like salt and pepper, dried herbs or a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.


Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.

Add onion, leek, celery, zucchini and capsicum. Cook, covered for 10 minutes or until softened. You may need to lower the heat at this stage and give it a stir occasionally.

Add the pumpkin and cook, uncovered for another 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the canned tomatoes, season at this stage with dried herbs like basil or oregano, salt and pepper and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil.

Simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Using a stick blender (or a food processor, which you may have to do in batches) blend until smooth. Add some water if it’s too thick for you.

Cool slightly before pouring into snap lock bags or containers suitable for freezing and freeze until needed.