I am a meal planner. There, I said it. I also like cooking from scratch. Some weeks go brilliantly. All meals are prepared in advance and are very nutritionally balanced. Some weeks can just be terrible, depending on how things are going, what the kids are up to and what we have planned. So on those days I just want and quick and easy meal to grab or prepare. After a day of doing work, school pick ups, tennis or swimming lessons, the last thing on my mind is wanting to cook dinner from scratch. I don’t want to get the frozen chicken nuggets out either (though they do have their place from time to time).
I’ll be honest, I can be quite a food snob. I pride myself that I cook from scratch pretty much every night. But things are getting busier and busier with work and kids that I need some more options. I normally don’t reach for a jarred pasta sauce, but thought I would give a Dolmio sauce a try and create a healthy and well balanced meal for the family.
Another confession; I’m a label reader. It almost annoys me when I do it haha. So often when I’ve gone to get other brands of ready-made sauces, they are loaded with sugar. If sugar is written as one of the first three ingredients then I will immediately put it down. It is just not necessary to have that much in it. This isn’t the case with the Dolmio sauce, though. Sugar is listed, but it is way down the line. A regular jar of the sauce has 2 tsps of beet sugar in it, which to be honest is quite minimal. If you want to give making the sauce a go yourself, here is how:
What is beet sugar, I hear you ask?! I had to look it up as I was rather intrigued. Like when you get maple sugar or similar sugars, there has to be some kind of refinement to get the crystals that you would normally recognise as sugar. But you can make it at home if you fancied, as the molasses can be kept for other things. Beet sugar is pretty easy to make as there are no special equipment required. It is a pretty fast process too. So if like me, you like to be in the kitchen quite a lot, then you could give it a try. It just goes to show that the ingredients in the Dolmio sauce aren’t super chemically induced, as they are pretty simple and you can make the sauce yourself.
What To Do:
- Scrub and wash your beets to get all dirt off.
- Thinly slice or chop the beets and place them in a pan of water (the water should be covering the beets).
- Bring the water to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. You want to get the beets to be soft.
- Remove from the heat and strain the beet pulp out of the juice using an old muslin or cheesecloth.
- Return the syrup to the pan.
- Hold the cloth full of pulp over the pan and squeeze as much water as you can get out.
- Simmer until it becomes thick, like syrup. Make sure that you are stirring frequently, then take off the heat. Put the sauce in a jar and leave to cool.
- As the syrup cools, the sugar will crystalise. All you need to do is take out the crystals and mash the into a powder. Store with a lid, and use for the sauce.
But onto my recipe. We don’t eat masses of meat; we probably have it once or twice a week, if that. However, due to my PCOS and my husbands dairy intolerance, we don’t have dairy either. So cheese based vegetarian meals are out of the picture. But if you eat cheese, then feel free to sprinkle some parmesan on before you serve it. I know the word ‘vegan’ can be quite intimidating!
Vegan Spinach Cannelloni
- cooking oil of your choice, for the pan
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 pack Tesco meat-free mince
- 1 diced aubergine
- 1 diced courgette
- 250g mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 2 jars Dolmio Tomato sauce
- 12-14 dried cannelloni tubes
- 3 handfuls spinach
- 50g pine nuts
What to do:
- Heat a tbsp of cooking oil in a pan, over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes until soft. Stir in the vegetarian mince, along with the other vegetables (not the spinach yet). Fry for around 5 or 6 minutes until all the veggies start to soften.
- Next, add in one jar of the Domlio sauce. Stir, season and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and cook for 10 mins until the sauce thickens. In the last minute or so, stir in the spinach until wilted. Take off the heat.
- Pour half of the other Dolmio jar onto the bottom of a large roasting or baking tray. Then, take you cannelloni tubes and start to stuff them with the veggie mixture. This can take a little time, but don’t be too precious about it. You could also blitz the mixture in a blender and pipe it in, but my kids wouldn’t eat it that way!
- Lay your stuffed cannelloni tubes on top of the sauce in the tray. Then tops with any leftover mixture and the remaining sauce. If you were added cheese, you could do so here.
- Bake in the oven at 200°c for around 35 minutes. I added some pine nuts on top of the mixture for the last ten minutes or so, just for an extra bit of crunch.
It was simple and easy and good to know my family were having a good meal. They all liked it too (anything pasta based is usually a good route to go down)! What are your favourite mid-week meals?*This post is an entry for the #Dolmio #ThankGoodness Challenge, sponsored by Dolmio. www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness. All opinions are my own.