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One sauce, seven dinners: Meal prep with the kids these school holidays

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After a long, exhausting day at work the last thing you feel like preparing is dinner for the family. Half the battle is working out what to cook.

What if you could prepare healthy, low cost and delicious meals ahead of time with the help of the kids? How would this change your week? You could have more downtime with your kids or focus your energy on self-care. Excited? You should be!

These school holidays, you can experiment with this meal prep idea with the kids, to make busy weeknights a breeze.

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Try this one sauce recipe that will provide the base for seven dinners during the week. Cook once, eat seven times!

Chunky Tomato ‘7 Dinner’ Sauce

This sauce is so versatile and can be made in advance, all for under $20. Healthy, balanced and super quick, it’s sure to become a family favourite. You can even prepare extra batches to freeze for emergency meal ideas. Have the kids get involved with chopping the vegetables, stirring the sauce and portioning the leftovers, under your supervision of course.

Prep Time 0:05 Cooking Time 0:40

• 6 can tomato (chopped)
• 6 brown onion (chopped, medium)
• 3 garlic clove (medium, minced)
• 5 tbs canola oil

1. Using a large saucepan, heat the canola oil on the stove. Add the onions and garlic.
2. Cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat. The trick to this sauce is that the onions need to ‘sweat’ for a long time, to sweeten up. Keep stirring to stop the onion from sticking.
3. Add the tomatoes. Do not add any extra water. Simmer tomatoes for 30 minutes on a low heat, with the occasional stir to stop from sticking.
4. Cool and refrigerate for when you are ready to use.

To make this recipe for one dish, use one medium onion, half a clove of garlic and one tin of tomatoes. If refrigerated in an airtight container, the sauce can be used for up to 10 days. To freeze the sauce, store it in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Dinner 1: Quick Spaghetti Bolognese

Prep Time 0:10 Cooking Time 0:30

Everyone has their own version of this old classic, but this one is quick and is packed with veggies.

• 4 cups Chunky Tomato Sauce
• 2 red capsicums (roughly chopped)
• 2 carrots (roughly chopped)
• 1 zucchini (roughly chopped)
• 1/4 tin red canned kidney beans
• 1/2 cup baby spinach
• 3 tbs tomato paste
• 1 tbs sweet chilli sauce
• 400g beef rump steak (ground, minced)
• 1 packet spaghetti
• pepper (to taste)

1. Cook pasta to packet instructions.
2. Whilst pasta is cooking, heat non-stick pan and fry mince.
3. Whilst it is frying, add chopped capsicum to a blender with a few spoons of the chunky tomato sauce and blend until smooth. Add this to the browned mince and keep frying for 5 minutes.
4. Blend carrots and zucchini with some chunky tomato sauce. Add this to the mince mix. Heat for 10 minutes and keep stirring.
5. Add tomato paste and remaining chunky tomato sauce to the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, adding sweet chilli, pepper and any other optional ingredients.
6. Cook another 10 minutes, then serve topped with baby spinach and either grated tasty cheese or mozzarella.

Dinner 2: Flat Bread Pizza

It is always handy to have flat bread in the freezer for pizzas, wraps or dipping. The kids love these easy pizzas and they can get creative adding their own toppings to it. Experiment with different colourful vegetables to get them to try different foods.

Prep Time 0:10 Cooking Time 0:10

• 1 cup Chunky Tomato Sauce
• 1 carrot (grated)
• 1/2 can red canned kidney beans (drained)
• 1/2 eggplant
• 1/2 head broccoli (finely chopped)
• 1/2 cup frozen peas
• 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes
• 1 cup mozzarella
• 1/4 cup leek
• 6 pack Lebanese bread

1. Preheat oven on fan forced grill.
2. Toast one side of the bread under the grill lightly. Remove from oven
3. Top uncooked side with 2 tablespoons of chunky tomato sauce per bread.
4. Sprinkle ingredients of choice on bread and add mozzarella cheese.
5. Repeat with remaining flat breads.
6. Bake on a tray in the oven until cheese has melted.

Dinner 3: Tuna Pasta Bake

This easy tuna bake will take just minutes to make, and with enough for leftovers it’s a super easy dish to win over the kids with. Get them involved with preparing the ingredients.

Prep Time 0:15 Cooking Time 0:30

• 3 cup dried spiral pasta
• 4 cup Chunky Tomato Sauce
• 1 carrot (grated)
• 1 broccoli (chopped, stems intact)
• 1/2 cup frozen peas
• 2 handful kalamata olives (*optional)
• 1 can tuna in canola oil (drained)
• 1/2 cup mozzarella

1. Preheat oven to 200°C
2. Cook the pasta over the stove according to packet directions.
3. Put the vegetables, sauce, pasta and tuna in a large oven dish. Mix well.
4. Top with cheese and cook for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and crispy on top.

Dinner 4: Easy Baked Potatoes

You can bake these in the oven if you have time but you can also use the microwave for a really healthy meal in minutes.

Prep Time 0:10 Cooking Time 0:10

• 4 sweet potatoes
• 1 avocado
• 1 cup tasty cheese (grated)
• 1 carrot (grated, washed)
• 4 leaves iceberg lettuce (sliced, washed)
• 1/4 can red canned kidney beans
• 1/2 cup frozen peas (defrosted)
• 1/2 head broccoli (chopped)
• 1 cup Chunky Tomato Sauce
• 4 tbs sunflower seeds (toasted)
• pepper (to taste)

1. Wash each potato and prick with a fork, at least five times, around the potato.
2. Put on a microwave safe plate and microwave. For 4 medium potatoes, this is usually 10 minutes, but you may need to increase time, depending on your microwave power. Potato should be soft in the middle when pricked with a knife.
3. Cut potatoes open. Mush avocado into each with a fork, breaking up the potato.
4. Add 1 tablespoon of chunky tomato sauce, a small spoon of beans and a spoon of broccoli to each and top with some cheese. Microwave again for 2 minutes to heat up.
5. Top with grated carrot, peas, lettuce and optional ingredients. Final toppings are sunflower seeds and sweet chilli sauce.

Dinner 5: Vegetable Wraps

Using leftover spaghetti bolognese sauce in this meal is a novelty kids will love. There are no rules for filling it. A healthy balanced meal without the fuss.

Prep Time 0:10 Cooking Time 0:05

• wholemeal Lebanese bread
• 3 cups spaghetti bolognese sauce
• 1/2 cup Chunky Tomato Sauce
• 1/2 can red canned kidney beans
• 2 tsp hot paprika (ground, *optional)
• 2 tsp cumin
• 1 avocado
• 1 carrot (grated)
• 1 cup tasty cheese (grated)
• 4 lettuce leaves (chopped, washed)
• 2 tomatoes (sliced, washed)

1. Cook the spices in a pot on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add in kidney beans, both of the sauces and stir until warm.
3. Lay out the flatbread on pieces of aluminium.
4. Add the sauce, avocado, carrot, cheese, fresh tomato and lettuce to the wrap
5. Wrap the bread by first tucking one end in before rolling. Then roll the foil around it.

Dinner 6: Spinach and Ricotta Crepes

This recipe is a twist on the old classic cannelloni. You will spend some time flipping crepes so get the kids on board.

Prep Time 0:20 Cooking Time 0:15

• 1 cup plain flour
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp caster sugar
• 240 ml milk

• 250 g frozen spinach (thawed, excess water squeezed out)
• 400 g ricotta (fresh)
• 1 1/2 cups Chunky Tomato Sauce
• 1 handful mozzarella
• pepper (to taste)

1. Blend crepe ingredients and then let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
2. Heat a non-stick 16cm pan.
3. Pour enough in to cover the bottom. Cook for one minute each side until golden, then flip and repeat.
4. Cook all the mix and set crepes aside. You will need around 10-12.
5. Preheat the oven to 190°.
6. Combine ricotta and spinach in a bowl and season with pepper.
7. Divide mix between the crepes, fold ends in and roll up to enclose the filling.
8. Place a single layer in a baking dish and pour over the tomato sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden.

Dinner 7: Easy Neapolitan Pasta

Easy minute pasta. The ultimate “I really have nothing left in me” meal that doesn’t compromise on nutrition.

Prep Time 0:05 Cooking Time 0:10

• 3 cups Chunky Tomato Sauce
• fresh herbs (basil, thyme or oregano)
• shell pasta (cooked)
• mozzarella

1. Heat Chunky Tomato Sauce over the stove on a medium heat until warmed. Add fresh herbs and stir till combined.
2. Add cooked shell pasta and stir till combined. Top with mozzarella and serve in separate bowls.

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