Fun shortcuts in the kitchen with kids

Take the fuss out of baking ...
Take the fuss out of baking ... Photo: Getty Images

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Most of us don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen but that doesn’t mean that it has to be fast food or store-bought treats every time. With a few simple tricks up your sleeve you can cheat your way to delectable dinners and terrific treats in record time.

Cheat’s baked nuggets

Take 2 small chicken breasts and cut into nugget shapes. Dip each piece of chicken in some whole egg mayonnaise and then into breadcrumbs. Place nuggets on a baking sheet covered in baking paper and bake in a 220°C oven for 15-20 minutes, until the nuggets are golden and cooked through.

Pasta with sausage meatballs

Fill your kettle and bring to the boil. Meanwhile get a pot (for the pasta) and a large frying pan (for the sauce) on high heat. Get the hot water into the pot and a couple of handfuls of pasta get thrown in with a little salt. Throw some olive oil into the pan then take your favourite sausages and using your fingers, pinch off teaspoon sized meatballs of sausage meat straight into the hot pan. Shake the pan, cooking the meatballs on all sides. Add a jar of napolitana pasta sauce to the meatballs and cook until heated through. Stir through the pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Only takes about 12 minutes from start to finish.

Ravioli pasta bake

Don’t worry about boiling the pasta and making the sauce, throw everything into a baking tray and it magically turns into a luscious cheesy pasta bake. Turn on the oven to 180°C. Take 2 packages of fresh ravioli and dump into a small baking dish. Add one jar of pasta sauce then half-fill the jar with water and add this in as well. Add 1 & 1/2 cups grated cheese and stir it all together. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.

Easiest ever salmon cakes

Take 1 large tin of salmon, removing any skin and bones, pop into a bowl along with 1/2 cup of whole egg mayonnaise and enough dry breadcrumbs to bind. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, shape golf ball sized pieces of the mixture into patties and fry gently until browned on both sides. Serve with freshly squeezed lemon and sweet chilli sauce.

Banana ‘icecream’

Chop up 4 bananas and freeze. Place the frozen bananas along with 1 cup frozen berries into the food processor and whiz until combined. For a super light icecream texture, transfer to a bowl, get your beaters out and whip in some air. A great way to get kids eating more fruit!

Grilled pizzas

Sometimes there is no time to wait for dough to rise. These pizzas are ready in no time. Take 2 cups of self raising flour, 1 cup of water, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil and place into a food processor. Whizz together until a dough is formed. Place a non-stick pan onto medium heat. Split the dough ball into two pieces and on a floured surface roll out into two pizza bases. Add a little oil into the frying pan and gently fry until crisp on one side. Turn over then top the crispy side with your favourite toppings. Finish by placing the pan under the grill in your oven to melt the cheese and warm through the toppings.

Quick sausage rolls

Impress people with your homemade sausage rolls. Take your favourite gourmet sausage and remove from the casing by running a sharp knife down one side and peeling away. Place the sausage in a line down the edge of a sheet of puff pastry, rolling to encase the sausage. Cut into sausage rolls, place onto a baking sheet and bake in a 220°C oven for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and puffed up.

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Rotisserie chicken

One of my favourite cheats is to buy a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and use it in many recipes that require cooked chicken. Buy a whole chicken, remove the meat and shred into chunks with your hands. Keep it handy in the fridge and use in sandwiches, on pizzas, in quesadillas, in omelettes, salads or in pies.

Mug cakes

The quickest way to get a warm chocolate hit. Take a glass measuring jug and place in 1/4 cup self raising flour, 1/4 cup caster sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. Stir the dry ingredients together. Next add 1/4 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Stir everything together until well combined. Pour the mixture evenly into two large mugs. Place both mugs in the microwave on high power for 2 minutes. As microwaves vary in their performance, check to see if they need an extra 30 seconds - 1 minute. Allow to cool for another two minutes and top with a scoop of icecream to serve.

Cheat’s chocolate mousse

This one comes courtesy of Nigella Lawson. Take 150g marshmallows, 50g butter, 250g dark chocolate, 60ml boiling water from the kettle and place into a heavy based saucepan on the stove. Stir together until melted, set aside.  Meanwhile whip 300ml thickened cream and 1 tsp vanilla extract together until it reaches the soft peak stage. Stir the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Divide the mousse mixture into serving glasses and chill until you’re ready to eat (minimum 20 minutes).

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