Pasta-free Spaghetti Bolognese, Zucchini Noodles and Caper and Avocado Salsa

Pasta-free Spaghetti Bolognese, Zucchini Noodles and Caper and Avocado Salsa

One of the things I would like to achieve this year  is a happy balance when it comes to dinner time.   Of course some nights it is too hard to sit down as a family with work commitments, extra curricular activities (ours and theirs) and life in general.  However by by feeding the kids early and then cooking a separate meal for Andrew and I,  I feel that  a) we are missing out on connecting with our kids and b) I am working twice as hard as I need to!   The problem is that Andrew and I really haven’t been eating the same food as our kids.  We love our vegetables and chili and sophisticated flavours and as a rule tend to avoid starchy carbohydrates at night.  They love their simple food such as gluten free pasta, potato and rice. They are also super fussy and likely to turn their noses up at most meals I put in front of them which makes it very frustrating.   So I have decided to create a new section on this website dedicated to family friendly meals that can be adapted to please mum and dads and the kids without too much angst.

First off the rank is my Bolognese (or Bolognaise if that’s the way you spell it!).  I made this sauce the other night (see the recipe below).  I don’t like cooking bolognese in my Thermomix but I find the Thermomix is brilliant for chopping the onions and garlic and getting the vegetables to the exact consistency that I like.  I have noted where I used my Thermomix below.

For the children I serve it on top of gluten free pasta with a sprinkling of lactose free cheese (my 5 year old is lactose intolerant).  My 8 year old however tried Parmesan for the first time the other night (not being put off by the smell) and loved it – an excellent surprise!  They say persistence is the key (sigh) …

I served ours on a bed of zucchini noodles (see how I make my zucchini noodles below).  I didn’t even heat the noodles, I just topped with the hot sauce and then with an avocado and caper salsa (see below).

The Shrinking Hubby’s Bolognese

This makes an enormous batch of bolognese sauce.  Enough to feed a family for a good 3-4 nights.  I freeze some in family sized portions and some in ice cube trays for a quick mid-week kids dinner on the fly.  Don’t be alarmed if it seems like it will be too watery, it thickens up beautifully over the cooking time.

What you will need:

  • 1 Kg grass-fed beef mince
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic (or  teaspoons of good quality organic minced garlic – I like the Spiral brand)
  • 1 largish brown onion
  • 2-3 cups vegetables – whatever you have in the fridge really.  I like to use carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms depending on what I have.
  • 2 bottles of organic passata sauce (I use 690 gram jars or about 25 ounces).  *Passata is a tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • Dried herbs e.g Italian herb mix (there are many available), paprika, dried oregano
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper


1.  Chop the onions and garlic (if using a Thermomix throw onion and garlic in and blitz for 3 seconds speed 5).

2. Finely chop the vegetables, or place the vegetables in a food processor and blitz until chopped to your liking.  (if using a Thermomix throw veggies in and chop for 5-8 seconds speed 5-6 depending on how finely you like them chopped.

How to pull it together:

Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot.  When oil is hot add the onions and garlic and a generous sprinkle of sea salt, turn down the heat and saute for about 5 minutes stirring frequently.   When onion is well cooked, add the meat and cook until browned.  When meat is cooked, add the vegetables and 1/2 cup of red wine (if using), 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup tomato paste.  Stir through until well combined.

Add both bottles of passata.  Fill the empty bottles with water and add both bottles of water at the same time (it will seem like a lot of sauce but will reduce during the cooking time).  Add a generous amount of herbs (italian herb mix, paprika, dried oregano) and 2-3 bay leaves).  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour covered.  Stir from time to time adding salt to taste if required.

You can serve with pasta or zucchini noodles topped with fresh parmesan.

How to prepare your Zucchini Noodles

What you will need:

  • 3 zucchinis/courgettes per person
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil
  • a vegetable spiraliser

Create the zucchini noodles using a vegetable spiraliser.  Place noodles in a colander, sprinkle liberally with good quality sea salt and drizzle with a splash of olive oil.  Toss and let sit for about 30 minutes.  You will find a lot of liquid leaves the noodles which means that they can shrink quite a bit.  

I have tried many spiralisers to make vegetable ‘noodles’ and the GEFU Spiral Slicer Spiral Fix is by far the easiest and most effective I’ve used.

If you like the idea of Zucchini noodles and want more inspiration I have used Zucchini noodles previously with the delicious Dina’s Tomato Sauce here and my Salmon with Pesto Zucchini Noodles here.

Caper, Avocado and Tomato Salsa (serves 2)

Combine in a small bowl 1 tablespoon salted baby capers (well rinsed), 1/2 avocado diced, 1/4 cucumber diced, 1/2 tomato diced.  Toss with juice of 1 lime, sea salt and pepper.

Vitamineral Green – My Favourite Greens Supplement AND GIVEAWAY!

I have mentioned on here a few times how much I love drinking my daily green juice.  The benefits of daily juicing are such that if I go even a few days without my green juice I notice that I start feeling a bit blah.  I have written about daily juicing and shared some tips and recipes  here.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you might have noticed that I have posted a few times about a greens supplement that I use called Vitamineral Green.  It is a wonderful product which adds even more oomph to my green juice and in the 9 months that I have been taking it I have really noticed a positive impact on my general well being.  I suffered a nasty calf injury last June and I believe that my recovery which has been so effective is in part due to the nutrients that this supplement enables my body to take on a daily basis.

For more information on this and the many other wonderful products available through Balanced Living check out Balanced Living Oz’s website here.  If you email Balanced Living Oz ( to order and mention ‘The Shrinking Hubby’ you will receive free shipping for the month of February.  (You can order directly through their website but to qualify for the free shipping you need to email directly.)   If you don’t live in Australia you can email Balanced Living Oz to find out how to contact your local supplier.  I am excited to announce that I will be giving away 2 X 300 gram bottles of Vitamineral Green!  For information on how to enter see the bottom of this article.

I have asked Danae McDonald, who is the sole distributor in Australia of Vitamineral Green,  to share why she loves this product.

Why take Vitamineral Green

By Danae McDonald

About 10 years ago a Naturopath said to me… with our busy lives and hectic schedules, sometimes it is hard to eat a well rounded nutritional diet. Even with the soil depletion we are not able to gain all the nutrients our body requires.

She said “Danae… if you take nothing else just take Vitamineral Green every day” so I have been taking this amazing supplement for over 10 years and now my 2 boys also love their ‘green juice’ every day. It is an amazing product that not only makes you feel great but also prevents illness in my view. It contains over 30 nutrients from the land, waters and oceans. I love and feel so passionate about the product Balanced Living has been given the exclusive distribution rights for Healthforce Nutritionals in Australia.

These products are in a league of their own… far more nutrient dense and superior to any other product currently available on our shelves. I challenge you to look at what you are currently using as your ‘green powder’ and check for the ingredients that you are paying for but are not actually the expensive greens eg “fillers… like pea protein isolate, flax seed powder, rice bran powder, lecithin, fruits, maca etc….” not bad but certainly NOT green.

Vitamineral Green contains no synthetic or isolated nutrients (ie not excreted as expensive yellow urine) it is 100% Raw, 100% Organic, 100% Vegan, 100% Gluten free with 100% Nutrient protection (Amber glass jar to prevent from outgassing of harmful plastic containers, a unique nutrient lock metal lid and an oxygen absorber).  Importantly it contains no artificial sweeteners.

Essentially it is “Natures Multivitamin” perfectly balanced nutrition packed with vitamins, minerals, trace elements and healing phytonutrients.

“Green foods are perhaps the most healing foods on the planet, and the single most important addition to a diet you can make”

Getting ready to make some green juice with my Vitamineral green

Getting ready to make some green juice with my Vitamineral green

Vitamineral Green Giveaway!

We are very fortunate to have 2 X 300 gram bottles of Vitamineral Green (worth $69.95 each) to give away to my followers.  I am going to give one away through my website and one through my Facebook page.  All you need to do is comment below ‘I’d love to win!’ and I will randomly choose one entry.  To increase your chance of winning make sure you head over to my Facebook page and like and comment on the competition photo there too (it is pinned to the top)!  Hurry – all entries must be in by midnight Friday 28th February – I will select the winner on Saturday 1st March.

I want to point out that I am not affiliated with this product, nor am I making any commission on any sales.  I just like to share what works for me and this product really does.  

Healthy Christmas Puddings (Gluten, Dairy, Sugar free)

Healthy Christmas Puddings (Gluten, Dairy, Sugar free)

I love these little puddings around Christmas time.  They have all the delicious flavour of a traditional Christmas pudding but won’t leave you feeling bloated and awful.  I made these in my Thermomix, but they are easy to make without.  I have written up both versions below.

The Shrinking Hubby’s Healthy Christmas Puddings

(makes 8 small puddings)

What you will need:

  • 250 grams (9 ounces) fresh dates (pitted)
  • 1 orange roughly chopped (leave the skin on!)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup dried apricots (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds (extra for garnish – optional)
  • 30 mls (2 tablespoons) brandy – optional (but it is Christmas!!!)
  • 3 organic free-range eggs
  • 200 grams (7 ounces or about 3/4 cup) almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spice mix

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

How to pull it together (using a Thermomix)

Put the dates and the whole orange (roughly chopped) into the bowl and blitz speed 6 for 5 seconds.  Scrape down bowl.

Add 1 cup of water.  Cook 100 degrees, speed 1 for 15 minutes.

Add 30 mls brandy (if using) and blitz for 30 seconds speed 9.

Add 200 grams almond meal, the dried fruit and almonds, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and mix reverse, speed 5 for 15 seconds (or until well combined).

Grease 8 small pudding ramekins with coconut oil (or butter) and sprinkle about a teaspoon of slivered almonds into the bottom of each.  Spoon the mixture evenly into each ramekin.  Place filled ramekins into a large baking dish.  Create a bain-maree by filling the dish with enough boiling water to come half-way up the sides of the ramekins.

Cover all the ramekins with a sheet of baking paper and top with foil pressed tightly around the edges to seal.

Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit)  for 1 hour 15 minutes.

If not eating straight away, they refrigerate beautifully.  When ready to serve steam (or heat up) for about 8 minutes, invert and serve with a dollop of cream or if you prefer some homemade custard.

How to pull it together (without a Thermomix)

Place the dates, whole orange (roughly chopped – keep the skin on!) and 1 cup of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the dates and orange are soft.  Set aside to cool.  Add the brandy and whiz in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed.

In a separate bowl, combine the date paste, almond meal, dried fruit, almonds, eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.

Grease 8 small pudding ramekins with coconut oil (or butter) and sprinkle about a teaspoon of slivered almonds into the bottom of each.  Spoon the mixture evenly into each ramekin.  Place filled ramekins into a large baking dish.  Create a bain-maree by filling the dish with enough boiling water to come half-way up the sides of the ramekins.

Cover all the ramekins with a sheet of baking paper and top with foil pressed tightly around the edges to seal.

Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit)  for 1 hour 15 minutes.

If not eating straight away, they refrigerate beautifully.  When ready to serve steam (or heat up) for about 8 minutes, invert and serve with a dollop of cream or if you prefer some homemade custard.


Roast Vegetable and Haloumi Salad

Roast Vegetable and Haloumi Salad

This flavour combination of grilled haloumi and fresh lemon juice is a match made in heaven! This fresh salad is perfect for your next dinner party or barbeque – it goes beautifully with beef, salmon, chicken (or even on it’s own as an appetizer).  So easy, tasty and delicious (and really good for you too!).  Every time I make this there are always fights for seconds and ultimately there is nothing left on the platter!  I hope you enjoy 🙂

Roast Vegetable and Haloumi Salad

What you will need:

  • 1 small or 1/2 a large eggplant (aubergine)
  • 3 Roma Tomatoes
  • 2 Zucchinis (courgettes)
  • Rocket (arugula) (or rocket and baby spinach mix)
  • Haloumi
  • 1/4 cup roasted pine nuts.
  • A large handful of fresh parsley leaves to garnish

For the Marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Dressing:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

How to pull it together:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (or 350 degrees Fahrenheit)

Cut the vegetables into wedges (I quarter the tomatoes lengthwise, the zucchinis I cut in half lengthwise and quarter, and I chop the eggplant into approx 3 inch wedges).

Lay out the vegetables on a baking tray and brush with the marinade (I like to cook the tomatoes on a separate tray to the other veggies) and cook for about 30 – 40 mins or until well roasted.

On a serving platter lay out the rocket (arugula). Place the vegetables  on top.

When ready to serve your salad, heat some olive oil or coconut oil in a pan (if you want those delicious looking grill lines use a griddle pan) and fry the haloumi until it’s golden brown.  Place on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and parsley.

Drizzle with the lemon and paprika dressing and serve.

Forceful Delight – guest post by Charby Ibrahim, The Ancestral Body

Today’s guest post, by Charby Ibrahim of The Ancestral Body is a great read!  For those of us who try and eat well, sometimes it’s those awkward social situations that let us down, and not necessarily by choice.  Please read and enjoy, and be sure to check out his website The Ancestral Body.  Charby’s story is inspirational and you will really enjoy reading his posts.  He has some great workouts and recipes on there too!

(PS – If  after reading Charby’s story you are looking for some healthier cake options – I have a few on my website.  You might like to try my quick and easy carrot cake here, my apple and zucchini loaf heremy vanilla cupcakes here or my chocolate protein balls here.  You don’t need refined sugar and grains to enjoy a sweet snack!  Enjoy!)

Forceful Delight

By Charby Ibrahim, The Ancestral Body

An overly firm handshake, a boisterous greeting, a forceful slap on the shoulder, a little banter. Ok, where’s this going? He may as well have lifted his leg and used me as a lamp-post. Yup – Awkward. Even when he makes fun of my shirt, questioning my sexuality, I smile and nod… compliment his ‘lovely’ house. Clare, his wife, shoots me an apologetic glance, served up with a warm hug. I remember why I’m here. We’re old friends; great friends! Geoff comes with the package these days though. I can handle that. “9 beers in, mate!” Geoff announces, interrupting the embrace. “You’ve got some catching up to do, CH-arbs!” A harsh CH- sound, and we’re in nickname territory. I don’t correct him. It’s a different story in my head, a few expletives added. SH-arby! “I’m ok, Geoff. Maybe I’ll grab a glass of red wine in a minute,” I reply. Clare, as though reading my mind, steps in. A brief reprieve – “Speech time guys. The cake is ready!” Time for Geoff to shine. His 15 minutes of fame. Laden with slurring jagged tangents, and anecdotes from his ‘playing days’ – Aussie Rules Football, that is. His son, whose birthday it is, gets the odd mention too. Made in the image of his mother, the kid smiles bashfully between sips of the black fizzy stuff.

Flash forward – “Just eat the f@#king cake, mate!” Two tiny balls of spit fly in my direction. They’re homing in… one lands on the already infamous piece of sweet spongy cream, and the other assaults my left cheek. I wipe it away with an exaggerated gesture… I’m not sure why. Actually, yes I am. I want him to know that he’s out of control, that there’s a strong chance he’ll regret this tomorrow. I even throw him a cheeky smirk. So often I’m the mediator, keeping the peace, politely navigating my way through awkward situations. Not today – I’m not about to be bullied by a man taking umbrage over a piece of bloody cake. Geoff fires up again – “So what… You think you’re pretty good ay? Standing around judging us all. It’s my son’s birthday. It’s my son’s birthday cake! What’s a bloody Health Coach do anyway? Please!” The plate, and a smear of pink cream, now pressed up against my chest. “No thanks, Geoff.” He holds it there firmly, glaring through me. The pointed edge of the square plate digging in hard now. Still, I don’t flinch. Instead, I take a slow sip of my wine, breathing in through my nose. My first glass. I must be miles behind now.

The birthday boy is wrapped around Geoff’s leg, and I spot Clare’s look of concern over Geoff’s broad shoulder. She’s been here before. “Eat. The. F@#king. CAKE!” he thumps. The room falls silent. A pause in the music. An audience to boot. Growing up as a Lebanese kid, I was no stranger to having food forced on me – and even more recently, I know I’ve rubbed the odd host up the wrong way with my ‘peculiar’ food choices. Most of the time though, they could care less. I tend to load up before arrival, pick at what takes my fancy, and we get on with the party. This time it’s different. I’ve been drawn into a one-sided cock-fight, and folks seem more interested in the spectacle than dragging this bloodied rooster away.

“This is my house!” he declares proudly, staring me down. Judging by the football trophies lining the walls of his ‘man-cave’, he isn’t lying. It’s definitely his house. Confirmed. Team photos from 1995 through to 2003. His face growing sterner, tougher, as the years progress. He was promised a long career, but it just didn’t eventuate. One can’t help but wonder if the subtle limp he carries around has anything to do with it. I figure it’s best not to ask at this juncture. A big frame, strong, towering over me, taking up space; much like the houses he grudgingly builds these days. A solid bulging barrel chest, and a round belly way out in the front cabin- not in any of the photos, but a new addition – not quite lived in. “It’s OUR house!” Clare promptly reminds him, “…and you’re being a dick… AGAIN!” They lock eyes for a few seconds, and I’m almost relieved that the attention has shifted, and the pressure eases off my sternum. A new feeling of unease though; the fight response kicks in. What might transpire between the happy couple when the crowd disperses eventually?

Clare’s stare is harsh and piercing. She wears him down. Geoff’s hand forgets that it’s holding the plate. Slowly falls limp. His body folds into itself, starting at the navel. He just about disappears – The cake is sliding slowly off the plate. I watch it with gleeful anticipation, instead trying to stop it. SPLAT! He wears it well down the length of his left leg and shiny shoes. Time for this guy to exit stage door left. I finish the last sip of my wine, grab for my coat, and I get the proverbial truck out of there.

All this talk of cake has my sweet tooth crying out. As soon as I arrive home I snap into action; a fresh batch of gluten free, honey sweetened, dark cacao brownies. Down the hatch with a very generous serve of raw cream, and a handful of mixed berries. You might be asking ‘why’ then? Why didn’t you just eat the damn cake, Charby? The truth is, I really do love a sweet treat, but the refined sugar and the gluten really punish me these days… AND I have an aversion to being bullied. We are social creatures though, and even I turn a blind eye to food quality when I’m out at restaurants, BBQs, functions, and parties in the name getting along. I don’t want to know what kind of oil they’re using, whether the veggies are organic, and what kind of life the animal on my plate lived. I might never leave the house otherwise. So, I compromise. There are some non-negotiables though, and sometimes I say ‘NO’… kindly. A three day gluten hangover just ain’t worth it for this sensitive little monkey. So, I’m making a stand here and now. I’m saying NO to forcing cake on unsuspecting guests. Just say NO… thanks!

PS – The very next morning I received the loveliest apology… from Clare.

Disclaimer- In order to protect the people mentioned in this story, I have changed their names. In order to protect the integrity of the cake, I changed its colour.

About the author:

Charby Ibrahim is the man behind ‘The Ancestral Body’ – Nutritional Health Coach, Personal Trainer, Teacher, Speaker, and Writer. A graduate of The University of Melbourne, The Institute For Integrative Nutrition, and The Australian Institute of Personal Trainers, he has written countless articles for prominent online publications and blogs, is a proud member of Physical Activity Australia, and engages in education programs at both local schools and The Royal Children’s Hospital. Charby’s journey has been a personal one from the outset. He went back to ‘Eating Real Food’, lost a stack of fat, got fit, and is now using his own life skills and experience, on-top of over a decade in education, to help others find the combination of lifestyle factors that best suit their needs. Charby is also a co-host of The Primal Shift, one of Australia’s most popular health podcast shows.


 Stay connected to Charby Ibrahim via The Ancestral Body:

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