Keep it simple, make it tasty: tonight's dinner is sorted

Karen Hardy
March 20 2024 - 5:30am

I have to admit I'm rather fond of frozen spring rolls but it's hard to justify calling them a meal on their own. My life was changed when I stumbled upon Nicole Maguire's spring roll salad with sticky pork and noodles. Dinner sorted.

WATCH: The Capital Region Farmers Market celebrates 20 years in 2024, and is getting ready to mark the occasion with a very special day to be held on Saturday, March 16.

Two simple words that are the ethos behind her online hub Simple Home Edit. With more than a million followers, the Sydney-based mother of two young children wants to help as many people as she can to get tasty, healthy food on the table, with as little fuss, and some dollars saved, along the way.

"The true beginnings of Simple Home Edit were formed when I became a mum," Maguire says.

"I went from not cooking regularly to it suddenly becoming really important to me to have my children grow up in a home where we cooked and ate together as a family."

Like many of us, she found herself in a never-ending cycle of trying to work out what to make for dinner, doing multiple trips to the supermarket, buying random ingredients and overspending.

Spring roll salad with sticky pork and noodles. Picture by Jeremy Simons
Spring roll salad with sticky pork and noodles. Picture by Jeremy Simons

"One day I calculated what I'd spent on groceries, knowing it was time for a shift, so I created my very first meal plan. I began to enjoy creating moments as a family with delicious meals and found myself saving time, money and energy. My life changed in the best possible way and I wanted to share my learnings with others."

So she started an Instagram account, made a basic website, sharing her tips and hints from the kitchen, but also how to streamline and declutter around the home. Now she has her first cookbook, The Simple Dinner Edit.

"People loved the idea of simplifying their homes and had particular interest in my recipes ... I love sharing dinner inspiration and I feel very connected with my community of so many genuine, positive and uplifting people."

She's an advocate of "core meals".

"Who wants to be thinking of new meal ideas every night of the week?" she says. "Find some family favourites that are not only comforting and delicious, and rotating a couple of these meals during the week also removes the pressure and gives us a bit of a break."

Nicole Maguire is a Sydney mother of two. Picture supplied
Nicole Maguire is a Sydney mother of two. Picture supplied

In the book she shares recipes for such meals as creamy bolognese pasta bake, nachos with quick guacamole and homemade salsa, "hidden veg" meatballs in rich tomato sauce, fish tacos with corn and avocado salsa and golden beef pot pies.

The website too is full of practical meal plans and recipe collections with titles such as "top 10 budget chicken meals", "10 best weeknight pastas", "15 minute meals" and "30 budget one-pan dinners".

She hopes her approach will help make your life just a little easier.

"There's something incredibly satisfying about eating a delicious meal that doesn't break the bank, let alone one that is made in one pan. Minimal chopping, minimal preparation and minimal clean-up," she says.

Like we said, dinner sorted. Invite Nicole Maguire over tonight.

The Simple Dinner Edit: Simplify your cooking with 80+ fast, low-cost dinner ideas, by Nicole Maguire. Plum. $39.99.
The Simple Dinner Edit: Simplify your cooking with 80+ fast, low-cost dinner ideas, by Nicole Maguire. Plum. $39.99.
  • The Simple Dinner Edit: Simplify your cooking with 80+ fast, low-cost dinner ideas, by Nicole Maguire. Plum. $39.99.

One-pan peanut chicken

One-pan peanut chicken. Picture by Jeremy Simons
One-pan peanut chicken. Picture by Jeremy Simons

A couple of months ago I had some coconut milk in the freezer that I needed to use up, and a hankering for chicken satay. I made this amazing one-pan peanut chicken and we haven't been able to stop eating it since. Chicken thigh cutlets are an amazing, quick dinner fix at the best of times, as they're inexpensive and relatively hands-off to prepare. In this recipe, the luxurious peanut and coconut sauce is poured directly onto the chicken, which is roasted until juicy and crispy skinned. It's outrageously delicious and I'm left with only one pan to wash up. The sauce is rich and there's a lot of it (high sauce to chicken ratios are non negotiable at my place!), so a big plate of steamed greens is the perfect accompaniment. I've gone with bok choy; choose whatever's in season.


  • 1.2 kg bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh cutlets, (5-6 pieces)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  • 1 tsp freshly grated garlic
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 250ml coconut milk
  • 90g natural smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (or rice wine vinegar)

To serve:

  • crushed peanuts
  • coriander leaves
  • sliced bird's eye chilli (optional)
  • steamed bok choy
  • steamed jasmine rice
  • lime wedges


1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced.

2. Pat the chicken dry using paper towel. Place it in a large bowl and sprinkle it with the salt, paprika, onion powder and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and use your hands to ensure the chicken is evenly coated.

3. Arrange the chicken on a large deep baking tray and bake for 35 minutes. Spoon out/drain away any excess fat in the tray.

4. For the sauce, combine the ingredients in a bowl, then pour the mixture into the pan around the chicken. Bake for a further 15 minutes.

5. Top with the peanuts, coriander and sliced chilli (if using). Serve with the steamed bok choy and jasmine rice with the lime wedges on the side.

Leftovers: Refrigerate for up to two days. Not suitable to freeze.

Serves 4.

Zucchini slice with cheese, bacon and corn

Zucchini slice with cheese, bacon and corn. Picture by Jeremy Simons
Zucchini slice with cheese, bacon and corn. Picture by Jeremy Simons

For years the kids and I have been having picnics at home. We lay out a small rug in the living room or backyard (weather permitting), our favourite stuffed toys come along and we enjoy all of our favourite picnic foods ... one of which is of course zucchini slice. This slice is super-easy to make, can be eaten warm or cold and freezes brilliantly too. It's budget-friendly, takes next to no time to get in the oven and is customisable so you can use vegetables based on what you know your family likes to eat. Whip up this slice on a Sunday to lean into during the week.


  • 1/2 tsp olive oil (to grease the slice tin)
  • 5 eggs, whisked
  • 3 rashers streaky bacon, sliced into small strips
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 270g grated zucchini
  • 100g corn kernels (optional, see notes)
  • 125g freshly grated tasty cheese or any cheddar
  • 40g finely diced onion
  • 15g finely sliced spring onion
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced.

2. Grease a slice tin (approximately 28cm x 16cm) and line it with baking paper.

3. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, then spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface.

4. Bake the slice for 40-45 minutes or until set and starting to turn golden around the edges. Pierce the centre with a wooden skewer and if it comes out clean, it is cooked.

5. Allow the slice to stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes: You can use frozen (no need to thaw), fresh or canned corn for this recipe.

Vegetable substitutes: This recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, and you can use any you like. Grated carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato or finely diced capsicum all work brilliantly.

Leftovers: Zucchini slice can be refrigerated for up to three days and frozen for up to two months. Thaw completely in the fridge overnight. Reheat in the microwave or eat cold.

Serves 6.

Spring roll salad with sticky pork and noodles

Spring roll salad with sticky pork and noodles. Picture by Jeremy Simons
Spring roll salad with sticky pork and noodles. Picture by Jeremy Simons

I've said it before and I'll say it again, wrapping a lettuce leaf around a spring roll and dunking it in a tangy, Vietnamese dipping sauce is everything. This salad is made with sweet, sticky pork mince together with the standard veggie spring rolls you can find in the freezer section at your local supermarket (I opt for the ones with no additives). The salad is piled high on thin rice noodles (no cooking, just a quick soak in boiling water is required) and then served with the BEST dressing. Seriously simple, fast and tasty, and a great meal to be able to make ahead too!


  • 125g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 20 store-bought spring rolls
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g pork mince (or chicken mince)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 gem lettuce heads, leaves removed
  • 2 handfuls bean sprouts
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated or julienned
  • 1 handful mint leaves
  • 2 limes, halved

Nuoc cham dressing:

  • 125ml water
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 55g sugar
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 bird's eye chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)


1. Cook the noodles as per the packet instructions. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again and set aside.

2. Cook the spring rolls as per the packet instructions.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat, add the pork mince and cook for two to three minutes until sealed, breaking it up as you go. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the tamari or soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and brown sugar and cook for five to eight minutes until caramelised and sticky. Avoid stirring too much, as this slows down the caramelisation.

4. Combine the nuoc cham dressing ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

5. Divide the noodles, cooked pork, spring rolls, lettuce leaves, bean sprouts, carrot, mint and lime halves among four bowls. Dress each bowl generously with the dressing and serve.

Note: The dark soy gives the pork depth of colour. You can substitute it with extra tamari or regular soy sauce. The final dish won't be a deep golden colour but it will still be delicious.

Note: If the dressing is too advanced for some of the eaters in your family, instead try combining equal parts tamari or soy sauce, lime juice and sweet chilli sauce.

Leftovers: Refrigerate the cooked pork for up to three days. Reheat in the microwave. Not suitable to freeze.

Make ahead: Prep the salads and store them refrigerated in airtight containers for when you need them. The dressing can be premade and refrigerated for up to three days.

Cook once, eat twice: Transform any left-over pork into pork bowls with steamed rice, sliced cucumber, tomato and a fried egg on top.

Serves 4.

Spanakopita 'greens' pie

Spanakopita 'greens' pie. Picture by Jeremy Simons
Spanakopita 'greens' pie. Picture by Jeremy Simons

Many moons ago my husband and I honeymooned in Greece and I'm not overexaggerating when I say I ate a piece of spanakopita every single day in between lounging on sun chairs, riding around on quad bikes (terrifying) and fish pedicure spa experiences (equally terrifying). I pined for spanakopita for years before realising how easy it is to make. There's hardly any chopping or fussing; you just mix it all up and into the oven it goes. Filo pastry used to scare me, but it's one of the easiest pastries to work with and is found at most supermarkets. The flavour combination here is incredible and the kids love it too, even though I watch them with horror as they squeeze ketchup all over their serves.


  • 750g frozen spinach, thawed and drained well (see note)
  • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 bunch dill, fronds picked and finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 300 g fresh ricotta
  • 200 g feta, crumbled
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 8-10 sheets filo pastry
  • olive oil spray
  • black sesame seeds, to sprinkle


1. Preheat the oven to 200C fan-forced.

2. In a large bowl, use your hands to combine the frozen spinach, spring onion, dill, mint, eggs, ricotta, feta, salt and pepper.

3. Layer four sheets of filo pastry in a baking dish, spraying or brushing with olive oil between each layer. There will be some overhang.

4. Place the spinach mixture into the baking dish, folding the overhanging filo pastry back onto the mixture. Scrunch the remaining sheets of filo into rough balls and place them on top of the pie, spraying with olive oil. Sprinkle with the black sesame seeds.

5. Bake for 30 minutes in the bottom half of the oven (to ensure a crispy base) until the pastry is golden brown. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: Thaw the spinach as per the packet instructions and drain through a fine-mesh sieve. Wrap the spinach in a damp, clean tea towel and use your hands to wring out any excess water. The drier the spinach, the crispier the pastry.

Leftovers: Refrigerate cooked spanakopita for up to three days. Freeze in individual portions for up to four weeks. Reheat in a 180C fan-forced oven. It can be eaten cold too, and leftovers make great lunch box fillers.

Make ahead: The pie can be assembled and refrigerated up to 24 hours prior to baking, or frozen for up to four weeks. Bake from frozen in a 180C fan-forced oven (allow up to an hour).

Serves 4.

Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy

Canberra Times lifestyle reporter

I've covered a few things here at The Canberra Times over the years, from sport to education. But now I get to write about the fun stuff - where to eat, what to do, places to go, people to see. Let me know about your favourite things. Email: