The starsign most likely to be a fussy eater is…

starsign-graph

Combining two of the internet’s favourite topics – food and astrology (sadly I couldn’t find a way to also include conspiracy theories) – I recently conducted entirely credible research (on Facebook of course) that drew staggering results as to the connection between sun signs and whether or not your child is likely to be a fussy eater.

Got a child born between August 23 and Sept 22? You have a VIRGO and according to me, they are statistically OFF THE CHART and by far the most picky eater in the zodiac. Of course, you could call my research entirely flawed since the question I asked was, “What sun sign is your fussiest little eater? Mine – VIRGO.” With the benefit of hindsight I realise that this was biased qualitative questioning. But hey, I went to art school and spent three years painting, not actually learning anything useful like how to prepare a credible survey.

But if you removed Virgo, there were still some pretty interesting results. Next fussiest was Leo (Jul 23 – Aug 22) which is a ‘fixed’ sign – known for a certain level of stubborness. Another fixed sign, Taurus, came in next. As you’d expect there was a mid-result clump that was separated by ‘statistically insignificant’ amounts, but the two easiest signs to feed were Capricorns and Librans.

Moving on to another internet darling – cacao nibs – and I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting. The first is a healthy-as-you-like option, a dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, processed-sugar-free, is-there-anything-left cookie that I enjoyed but only got 50/50 approval my my sample study of 6 children.

The second is a pretty regular cookie, with choc chips swapped out with cacao nibs. Between the two options there should be something for everyone.

Free from everything except flavour.

Free from everything except flavour.

The healthy cacao nib biscuits

This is based on a recipe from Joyous Health.

1/4 cup maple syrup 3 tbsp tahini
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup combined currants & cacao nibs

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Line a tray with baking paper.

Mix everything together and dollop the mixture on the tray. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on the tray.

Makes 10.

Free from nothing.

Free from nothing.

Classic cookies (with cacao nibs)

125g butter, softened
1 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup cacao nibs
1 cup sultanas

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line two trays with baking paper.

Use hand held beaters or an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar together. Cream them well for several minutes until light and flufffy. Add the egg and beat in well. Also tip in the vanilla and salt.

Sift over the flour and fold it in (slow setting on the beaters will be fine). Then stir in the oats, nibs and sultanas. Dollop amounts onto your trays and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Makes 36ish.

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A vegetarian comfort dish to sooth a heavy heart

Is there anything more heart-breaking than the pained tears of a young child experiencing an existential crisis? You know, that moment when it first occurs to them that one day THEY ARE GOING TO DIE. And that their mummy and daddy will pootle off too, most likely before them. And even sooner, it’s likely that their beloved grandparents are going to die, too. And it comes crashing down on them heavily. It weighs their hearts down near the floor and you find them sobbing their grief out, often alone, confused, crumpled and extremely worried.

We’ve just been through a phase of this with Mr M&P and I find it distressing to be unable to protect him from such big realisations – the cuddles help, but they don’t fix the unfixable. On another level, I also find it heartwarming that my little man values this life so much, and that he loves all of HIS PEOPLE so thoroughly. It reminds me to love everyone now, without delay, without squabbles. And to not let a day pass us by without being entirely grateful at all that blesses us. After all, as my little boy sobbed about life the other week, “it’s just not long enough”. Agreed Mr M&P, agreed.

Sooth the heaviest of souls with this meal full of love.

Sooth the saddest of souls with this meal full of love.

Classic vegetarian cannelloni

Let’s let the animals live this week, and enjoy a meat-free, totally delicious, dinner.

200g box spinach leaves, thawed, well squeezed (OR blanch the leaves from one bunch of silverbeet, remove the white stalks & shred)
250g Ricotta cheese (full fat)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 zucchini, grated
1 small/medium tomato, finely diced
1 egg, whisked
1 tsp Italian herbs
1 clove garlic (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar is fine, a pizza mix is better)
200g box instant cannelloni tubes
700ml bottle pasata (find it in the pasta sauce section)

Heat the oven to 180C. Find a medium lasagne dish (or any ovenproof dish will do). Spray with a bit of oil.

Combine the spinach, ricotta, spring onions, zucchini, tomato, egg, herbs and garlic in a large bowl. Also add in half of the grated cheese. Mix well (hands work well for this!).

Use fingers or a spoon and dollop the mixture into the cannelloni tubes. Lay them into the dish neatly, squished up together. If you need, spread them onto a second layer.

Pour over the whole jar of passata. Make sure you have covered all the pasta (or it won’t cook). Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbling (and the pasta is cooked through).

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids (nice served with a green salad).

freeshipping

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My fruit-bowl runneth over with sloppy bananas

Usually when my fruit bowl is all a-quiver with a mass of mushy bananas, I cook this banana bread, which uses up a few in one go. HOWEVER it’s full of nuts, so not lunchbox-friendly, which is why this NEW banana-hoovering recipe has been making a few appearances at VSHQ.

Let’s not kid anyone – this is no bread, this is CAKE. And a yummy one too, complete with passionfruit icing. Mmmmm. Freeze a few pieces and you’ll be ahead for lunchboxes when school goes back for term 2. Sweet.

Did you see that I’ve got an additional 10% off all my gloriously practical and family-friendly cookbooks? I do. Until midnight, Thursday April 9, 2015. Just enter code ‘holiday’ at the checkout. Visit my shop to see the full range.

Nut-free, a litle piece of this in the lunchbox will be pretty popular.

Nut-free, a litle piece of this in the lunchbox will be pretty popular.

Lunchbox banana cake

50g butter, softened
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup oats
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup icing sugar
Pulp 1 passionfruit

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 14x28cm loaf tin with baking paper.

Add the butter and sugar to a mixing bowl. Use hand held beaters to cream them together until well combined. Tip in the egg and beat until well combined.

On a slow speed, mix through the combined flour/baking powder. Use a spoon to add in the oats and banana.

Scoop into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden and the top springs back with touched.

Leave to cool completely, then sift the icing sugar (to remove lumps) and add just a little passionfruit at a time until you have a good icing consistency. Ice and leave to set.

Cut into 8-10 pieces.

Freezes well. Also makes great cupcakes.

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Should we audition for Family Feud?

Grant Denyer is not really my cup of tea. I don’t have anything against him per se, more just a general mistrust of people who are always that ‘on’ (even if that’s what they’re paid to do).

So I don’t watch Family Feud. Midweek TV is rare at our place and when it is on, my kids are so immersed in Adventure Time that nothing else gets a guernsey. But I get the FF idea. Perky host with equally perky families play word games with hilarious results.

Sometimes my family seems quite perky. I’ve seen snippets of FF during ad breaks and wondered if maybe we should ring to audition. But I had a reality check last week.

Ad flash. Smiling Grant with an enthusiastic question, “Name something that gets passed around?”

Within a blink of an eye Mr VS & I were both on the buzzer.

“A JOINT” shouted MR VS.
“HERPES” shouted me.

Who knew we were such naturals at this game! I can practically smell the gameshow riches!

But it turns out we were both wrong. The correct answer?

Hat.

Call the doctor!

Call the doctor!

Chicken Pox Pies

Ok, yes, they’re chicken pot pies. But pox pies, sounds more fun, don’t you think?

1 tbsp oil
600g chicken breast (or thigh), diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped cauliflower
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp plain flour
1 cup hot chicken stock
1/2 bunch English Spinach, finely shredded
1 cup peas
125g can corn kernels, drained
125g can creamed corn

2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg, whisked, for glazing

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Saute the chicken and until browned all over and mostly cooked through. Remove and set aside. Add the onion and saute, stirring quite often for 6-8 minutes until browning. Pop in the vegies for a couple of minutes and once softening, toss in the garlic. When fragrant, return the chicken to the pan.

Sprinkle over the flour and cook this off for a minute or so, then slowly add in the hot stock, stirring the whole time (use a wooden spoon for all this). Bring the mixture to a strong simmer, then lower the heat a bit and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is completely cooked.

Add in the spinach, peas and all the corn. Combine really well.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Find a bunch of oven-proof pots (or one big pot pie is fine, too).

Divide the mixture between your pots. Line the edge of your pots with 1cm strips of pastry (this will help adhere the lids). Brush with egg, then cut circle lids and press them in place. Brush the entire top with egg and decorate however you like. I made spots with cookie cutters and the kids thought this was just a little bit awesome.

Feeds 2 adults & 2-3 kids.

Did you see my chocolate-free Easter recipe over on Mother & Baby? See the carrot bliss ball recipe here.

vegie-smugglers-carrot-bliss-balls

Have you bought my latest book yet?

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Sometimes the simplest things truly are the best

A few weeks back, while chowing down on a very tasty bibimbap, Miss F turned and said, “when I have kids, I’m not going to feed them all this fancy pantsy schmansy stuff. I’m just going to cook them simple stuff. Cause that’s what we like.”

And she may have a point. In my quest for new and interesting ways to get vegies into my kids, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet, or exotic, every night.

To fulfill her minimalist dreams, I made the kids this super-simple beef mince & macaroni dinner and it was hoovered up. I made it again the next week and in the rarest of rare moments, both kids asked for SECONDS.

They love it. It’s one of those deadset simple, family dinners that ticks ALL THE BOXES. It’s easy, tasty, nutritious (five vegies), can be gluten-free (use rice pasta), it’s perfect for toddlers, stores well in the fridge or freezer, is full of affordable ingredients AND it gets gobbled up. Every. Single. Time.

Self-effacing food.

Self-effacing food.

Pasta & mince basic bolognaise

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, grated
1 small eggplant, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 tsp Italian herbs
500g beef mince
400g can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato chutney
1/2 cup water
Salt & Pepper

To serve: Cooked macaroni, cheese, parsley

You need a large pot or frying pan with a lid.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and stir often for 6-8 minutes until golden. Place the mince into the pan. Use the spoon to break up lumps and brown it all over (takes 5-6 minutes).

Pop in the garlic for a minute until fragrant then add the vegies and dried herbs. After a couple of minutes, the vegies will be starting to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes, puree and chutney. Cover and bring to a strong simmer. Then lower the heat let it bubble away for 10-15 minutes.

Season & serve with pasta of your choice (I like macaroni). Adults can add olives, dried chilli flakes & capers!

Serves 2 adults and 2-3 kids.

This recipe is from my Kitchen Collection cookbook!

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OMG, have I just become a paleo convert?

There is such a kerfuffle in food land this month, isn’t there! And on my Facebook page I’ve been receiving a bit of hate from both sides. Being moderate in my approach, I’m confusing people. So for the sake of transparency, I thought I’d be CLEAR on just what I think about the current Pete Evans/paleo ‘debate’.

I HATE that we are having a ‘debate’ at all, and that sides must be picked in a healthy food war. It’s silly and ridiculous that food has become so ‘either or’. Apparently if I am not eating paleo and drinking raw milk, I am sat on my fat bum eating as much processed food as possible, and washing it all down with Coke. The fervour of this debate exhausts me.

I LOVE that a person with such as large following as Pete Evans is inspiring people to lift their game, cook, eat fresh produce and rethink what goes in their mouths.

I HATE that he doesn’t share a bunch of recipes for free, online. They’re all in cookbooks, or in tv shows that he’s being paid to do. It makes me suspicious of the motives. Or just aware that he’s surrounded by very smart people. And hey, we’ve all got to make a dollar, and possibly I’m just jealous that he makes more out of a speaking engagement than I do all year.

I LOVE that he has such twinkly, lovely blue eyes. He’s quite handsome.

I HATE that certain foods are now ‘poison’. Even lovely foods straight out of the ground, like potatoes. Poor little potatoes.

I LOVE that he’s questioning the role big business plays in food production. Although there is a point where we DO have to feed everyone on this planet. Resources are strained, especially with all these healthy people living longer and needing to be fed for so many years.

I LOVE that the paleo/wholefoods movement is offering alternatives. I’ve read ‘Wheat Belly’ and have to agree that processed flour is overly prevalent and bad for us. There are other ingredients that we can use instead, although not in a sponge cake. Sad.

I HATE that food and fashion are so intertwined. Maybe I’m just jaded, but at 42 I’ve seen a bunch of fads come and go and I consider kale to be similarly aligned to shoulder pads in terms of taste and longevity.

I LOVE that Pete Evans is prepared to put himself on the line and be one extreme end of this debate. He’s shaking things up and I have a sneaking suspicion that the general consensus will end up resting somewhere in the middle between food evangelism and pragmatism.

I HATE that people are so uptight about food. It’s masking a bunch of problems. Heard of Orthorexia? It’s like a socially acceptable anorexia and it really concerns me. It comes complete with food group exclusion and obsession with what you’re putting in your mouth. I hate to see people being anxious rather than grateful over food.

I HATE that there’s no sense of humour around this topic. NONE. And this is possibly what I hate most, because while food definitely is thy medicine, so too is laughter.

So am I turning paleo? No. But there are some fantastic ideas in paleo in terms of ingredients and cooking methods that I’m happy to incorporate into my own long-term healthy approach to food and life.

So don’t hate on me if I decide to post a ‘paleo’ type recipe from time to time and don’t fret. Because next week it might be vegan, then sugar-laden, then vegetarian then raw. And that’s ok. I’m going to be the ultimate mum and not pick a side, but to urge you all to use your words, stop whining and play nice.

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They know a thing or two about food, don’t they, those Chinese…

I can’t help but feel touched by luck this week as the full weight of the auspicious number 8 has come my way. The Chinese love this number, so they’d be happy to see that my Facebook page clicked over 88,888 this week, which was nice. Thanks to all of you who’ve been with me over the past few years! And over on Instagram, my fledgling page hit 888, which seems quite alot, considering I post pictures of the sky, endless shots from my kitchen bench and random stupid things, like tree trunks that look like bums.

To celebrate I’m trawling the blog for some of my favourite Chinese-influenced meals. The salty flavour profile has always been hugely popular with my kids. There’s rarely spice, but always taste – a great combination, for a lucky week ahead.

Click the pics to go to the recipes….

vegie smugglers plum sauce chinese-style meatballs

Kid-friendly meatballs with a Chinese twist.

Vegie Smugglers sang choy bow

Lettuce delights for your munching pleasure

Ma po dofu dish

This kid-friendly ma po dofu smuggles tofu, carrots and capsicum

Get the kids onto wrapping these.

Get the kids onto wrapping these.

freeshipping

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