Win this amazing hamper!

Running an online business is a tricky thing – the effort required to start up and keep going is HUGE, so it’s an honour today to be able to feature a few fantastic women who like me, are tiny mumpreneur ventures doing amazing things. They’ve kindly sent me a bunch of products to pop into a giveaway hamper, so let’s check them out…. (BTW, I’m not being paid to run this post – I’m just happy to promote a few of my online mates)….

hamper-giveaway

Here’s what you win!

3-in-1 turning slicer courtesy of Jen at Barefoot Kitchens
Little Mashies reusable squeezie pouches.
Four reusable snack pockets from 4myearth
Additive free cake sprinkles, Zipzicle Ice pop bags and Jack N’ Jill natural toothpaste from Happy Tummies
Let’s party additive free by Melanie Avery
Raw food 4 kids by the Sarah Quinney
Three Safety Food Peelers
Four Cow Farm Baby kit of natural & organic baby oil, wash, lotion & cream from Nourishing Hub.
and my Kitchen Collection book

PLUS! My reader Katie has gifted a copy of the book her clever husband Giuseppe has illustrated!….

Aaaawwwww! So cute.

Aaaawwwww! So cute.

Since this hamper is focused on younger children, to enter all you have to do is share your favourite parenting tip in the comments below. It can be insanely practical, short or long – just one little nugget of wisdom when it comes to raising kids under three. To be eligible, you must be resident in Australia (so that I can ship everything to you).

Do yourselves a favour, take the time to visit and support all of these women on their facebook pages…. Barefoot Kitchens, Little Mashies, 4myearth, Happy Tummies, Let’s Party Additive Free, The Raw Food Mum, Safety Food Peelers, Nourishing Hub and Giuseppe Poli.

Entries close Sunday night, 6pm, AEDT.

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Why I can’t manage healthy eating all the time

Keeping all the nutrition balls in the air at all times is a task that is often too large for me (I suspect it’s too large for most modern parents). I mean, hot damn, if there isn’t a bunch of tasks clawing at us from different directions at all times keeping the domestic tension rising. It makes sense that the pressure escapes in the areas where you have the most options. So while skiving off work or dropping the kids to school at 10.15 isn’t an option, dashing into the supermarket and buying something ready-to-eat out of the packet, is.

So I get it, I really do, the fact that keeping a house full of 100% healthy food is a tricky task that is only achievable with consistent motivation and effort. Which is why I try to keep my blog pretty accessible. I’m not asking you to ferment, or make your cheese or activate nuts or only eat organic. Gold stars to all of you who do manage to do all of this – if you could please pop over and let me know all of your time management secrets; I’d be hugely appreciative.

At my place, I cook as much as I can. I consider but don’t obsess over ingredients and I do try to stand back and get an overview of our diet from time to time. Inevitably little areas of slackness have arisen that I can squish back down with some simple changes and easy recipes.

One area I get lazy with is savoury crackers. There are several brands that aren’t full of additives (yes I know, they’re all full of masses of salt), so a packet of them in the pantry can be a lifesaver. BUT, they’re not really full of anything much at all. No rubbish, but also no nutrition. And considering how popular they are with the kids as an after-school snack, it’s worth the 10 minutes it takes to mix and press out this homemade version. Just happens that this recipe is gluten and egg-free, although I like it just because these crackers are seriously tasty.

Seed crackers - nut free, so perfect for lunchboxes, too.

Seed crackers – nut free, so perfect for lunchboxes, too.

SEEDY CRACKERS

1 cup besan flour (chickpea flour, available from good fruit markets and health food stores)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp spice (I like 1/2 tsp garlic powder & 1/2 tsp cumin, but you can try paprika, sumac, coriander or zatar)
1 tbsp fresh herbs (I like rosemary & thyme)
4 tbsp seeds (any combination you like of sesame, flax, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin & chia)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 170C.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, spices, herbs & seeds.

Tip in the olive oil, the gradually add enough water until the mix comes together to form a sticky dough.

Roll it out between a couple of sheets of kitchen paper until about 3-5mm thick (if you don’t have a rolling pin, just press it out with your hand). Remove the top sheet. Score with a knife and place on a large baking sheet. Cook for 20-22 minutes until golden.

Cool before breaking into pieces.

Makes about 20 pieces

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Did you see that I’ve got 15% off storewide? Use discount code ‘OCTOBER’ at the checkout before midnight tonight, Monday October 20. Visit the shop here…

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My latest (gluten-free) can’t-be-bothered dinner

I’ve had a couple of weeks of working four days a week and it’s always a good reminder about the challenges that working parents face. Finding the time to whip up a healthy dinner when you’re struggling in late with wretched kids, lunchboxes to clean and repack, clothes to wash and life to organise is hard.

By later in the week I’m grateful for a dinner of wine and a carrot, but surprisingly enough the kids aren’t as keen on this combination. They want, you know, like food that tastes nice and fills up their tired bones after a few days of racing about. So this dinner has been making a few appearances. It’s my latest favourite-thing-to-do-with-a-BBQ-chicken (see my previous favourite here). Mix up a super easy salad and wrap it and some chicken in a rice paper roll and you’re done. Once you get the knack they’re easy to do. Watch this video if you don’t know how.

Another advantage of this dish is you can make them and store them in the fridge, perfect for those nights when people are coming and going and need to eat on the run. AND they are still ok the next day, which makes them a pretty great gluten-free lunchbox addition.

vegie smugglers BBQ chicken rice paper rolls

A bit of dipping sauce and you’re away!

BBQ chicken rice paper rolls

1/2 BBQ chicken – bones removed & discarded
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1/2 cup fennel, finely shredded
125g corn kernels, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Juice 1/2 lemon
Pepper

Rice papers

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, carrot, fennet, corn, mayo and lemon juice.

Soak a rice paper in warm water for 10-20 seconds until pliable. Place on your chopping board. Pile about a 1/4 cup of salad onto the paper. Top with chicken (adults might like coriander & vietnamese mint). Roll up (watch the video link above if you don’t know how). Eat.

Makes 12.

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Meat-lover’s pasta bake

If you’re vegetarian, skip this post and just click here for a vegetarian pasta bake recipe. Everyone else can stick around to enjoy this carnivorous dinner which feeds an army and keeps pasta-loving kids extremely happy.

The secret ingredient in this dish is… pate…. yes that’s right, chicken livers. I kid you not, a dollop of the stuff mixes through the sauce and after simmering and baking gives the most delish-but-can’t-quite-pinpoint-what-it-is flavour. If you’re unsure how your family will take to it, start with just a tablespoon and see how they go.

And the reason for including a random bit of offal? Iron deficiency can be a major problem for kids, often undiagnosed, causing lethargy and a range of other issues. The best way to avoid it is by eating iron-rich foods. A fantastic source of iron is liver, but there is almost zero chance that anyone born after 1965 will cook with it. Reflecting this, even buying it can be tricky, with it being phased out of supermarkets over the past few years. (Specialty chicken shops will usually stock them).

Even for me, an occasional pate is the only time I cook with livers. So as a challenge, I originally worked up this recipe using them, tossed in with the mince. It’s tasty and really economical and if your family enjoys the flavour then you might want to give that variation a try.

But I figured the number of liver-lovers was minimal and I hate posting recipes that no one will try, which is why I’ve substituted the pate instead. It’s a good way to introduce the flavour to see if it’s an ingredient you might be able to incorporate more of in the future.

One for the carbivore/carnivores

One for the carbivore/carnivores

Meat-lover’s pasta bake

500g pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
500g veal/pork mince mix
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 cup mushrooms, very finely diced
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
50-100g chicken liver pate (remove any jelly topping. Or make your own basic pate from the recipe in my latest cookbook)
800g can chopped tomatoes
Bay leaf
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (pizza mix is good)

Cook the pasta according to packet directions, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease an extra large lasagne dish – the one I use is 28x32x6cm (or use two smaller ones)

Heat the oil in a frying pan over med/high heat. Fry the onion for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Tip in mince. Use your spoon to break up all the lumps in the mix and keep everything moving well.

Once the meat is all browned, add in the carrot, mushies and capsicum. Stir through the pate and add the can of tomatoes. Combine really well, add the bayleaf and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover and leave it cooking for 15-20 minutes.

Pour the sauce through the cooked pasta. Season well, mix in 1 cup of cheese. Tip it into your lasagne dish, top with the rest of the cheese and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serves 2 adults and 6-8 kids (leftovers make great lunches)

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Egg-free chocolate bran bars

This week we dive into the final term of school and I do like to make something a bit special for the kid’s lunchboxes. I guess my motivation level to bake is higher at this end of the term. It’s almost the last chance to just focus on simple living – at this stage I’m trying hard to not consider what the other end of this term looks like and the looming THING that is Christmas. Too much thinking about it sees me cowering in the corner in a fetal position, overwhelmed by thoughts of lists and presents and family and tired kids and fancy cooking.

On a brighter note, the Spring term sees a new flush of fresh produce that is perfectly suited to lunchboxes. Oranges and tangelos are still good, but pineapple improves. Berries should stay cheap for a while and you can also add in sugar snap peas and green beans (which are great with homous).

Happy learning!

A little bit of lunchbox fun.

A little bit of lunchbox fun.

Egg-free chocolate bran slice

2 tbsp black chia seeds (black blend in better)
1 1/2 cups All bran cereal
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (coconut sugar is ok here)
3 tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup frozen berries, thawed
1 overripe banana, mashed
100g butter, melted

Dark chocolate melts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line an 18x28cm baking tray with baking paper.

Soak your chia seeds in 2 tbsp warm water for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the bran, coconut, flour, sugar, cocoa and sultanas.

Combine the berries, banana and chia seed mix in another bowl. Tip this into the dry mix. Also add in the butter and use a metal spoon to combine everything well.

Press the mixture in your prepared pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes until firm and starting to brown on top.

Set aside to cool. Slice into 16 bars. If you like, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle over the top.

Makes 16 pieces.

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A gluten-free weekly meal plan

This month’s meal plan is dedicated to the gluten-intolerant amongst us. As a society, Westerners are extraordinarily wheat-dependent, so even if you’re not coping with celiacs in your household, you still might want to incorporate a few of these meals into your repertoire. Besides which, they’re all super yummy (as always, click the photos or the links to go to the recipe)….

MONDAY

And we’re off! Starting with meat-free monday and this tomato & lentil soup. Obviously, don’t serve it with bread!

A monday detox to push through any weekend overindulgence.

A monday detox to push through any weekend overindulgence.

TUESDAY

Slow cooker chicken satay is so yum and really easy. Just double check that your peanut butter is gluten free and use a naturally fermented soy sauce (they’ll be GF on the label). Thickening slow cooker meals with corn flour near the end is a nice GF alternative to adding wheat flour earlier in the process. And it works better (I think).

Slow cooker chicken satay

Slow cooker chicken satay

WEDNESDAY

Wrap these beef & lentil fajitas in gluten-free wraps and double check that your sauces are all ok. Rolling them up in foil makes them instantly more fun and kid friendly as the kids focus on munching and peeling rather than investigating the contents. Plus, the foil holds everything in place. SCORE.

Beef & lentil fajita recipe

Beef & lentil fajitas.

THURSDAY

Make sure you have an extra cup of rice leftover from Tuesday night and you’re able to easily whip up this zucchini slice. I love a simple mix & bake later in the week once we’re all getting tired. To ensure the rice will still be safe, make sure you set aside a cup of it as soon as it was cooked on Tuesday. As soon as the steam clears, pop it into an airtight container and chuck it straight into the fridge. OR, you can always pop it into the freezer.

Zucchini slice

Zucchini slice

FRIDAY

These chickpea flour fritters are the perfect relaxed Friday night tea.

Great finger food for toddlers.

Great finger food for toddlers.

SATURDAY

A BBQ is a great idea and super tasty. This week has had a lot of vegetarian food, so you might want to pop some lamb or fish on the BBQ and serve it with this coleslaw….

Just chopping, no cooking. Love.

Just chopping, no cooking. Love.

And for a treat? Well, it doesn’t matter what food intolerance you deal with – this coconut & mango tapioca dessert is gluten and dairy free. And if you like, you can swap out the caster sugar for coconut sugar.

Proof that dairy-free, gluten-free desserts are possible!

Proof that dairy-free, gluten-free desserts are possible!

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Do I love my thermomix now? An update 15 months later….

Someone just posted on my old post – Do I love my thermomix (you might be surprised), asking for an update on how I’ve settled in with my machine. I was fairly strident in my skepticism back then, so it seems only fair to fill you in on how I’ve gone, long term. It’s been 15 months now, so the novelty has worn off and I can assess its usefulness without my mind being swayed by the TM hype.

So here’s the truth…. I don’t use my thermomix very often. But when I DO use it, it’s fantastic. But I can get by without it for days on end.

My husband calls it the $2000 egg poacher, since I’ll go for a couple of weeks doing nought with it but bunging on a bit of breakfast. ‘But what a breakfast!’, I say. Perfectly soft-boiled eggs. Almost. Every. Time (colder water temps in winter meant I had to up the cooking time – learned that the hard way one morning, cracking open an almost raw egg).

Needless to say, husband raises an eyebrow and checks out the space on the wall where his $2000 television could have been proudly mounted. He’d probably have watched that for more than 5 minutes every week or so.

BUT. (And there’s always a but, isn’t there.) I LOVE TO COOK. So pots and pans are a bit joyful for me. Stirring sooths my soul. Chopping calms me down. Cooking is some strange therapy. I totally understand, though, that many people hate cooking and feel the nightly need for food production as a weight of concrete pulling them into the depths of mediocrity. And for those people, then the thermomix is a brilliant device. You need no kitchen flare to produce a good meal. Apparently the new model even tells you what to do next, so you need not even worry yourself with the tedium of recipe reading. GOLD.

And I’ll confess that mid-week, when all the shite is flying everywhere, the TM has saved my skin on many occasions. For me, this is where the machine shines and this is the theory behind the recipes that I chose to convert for my Thermomix ebook (check it out here). It’s perfect for those mid-week food production nights when you just want everyone to just shut up, eat and go to bed.

AND WHAT ABOUT ALL THAT OTHER WHIZZERY-BANGERY THAT IT DOES?
Yes, it does do it, and it does do it well. If you are dealing with food allergies and creating everything from scratch then I can see how much you would love your thermie. I have used it to mill sugar and I use it to mill brown rice into flour. And it’s absolutely-freaking-fantastic at all that. Yesterday, I used it to easily make a fantastic strawberry jam out of some soggy old cheap berries that were definitely no good for eating. GOLD.

But if you’re thinking about buying a thermie, I would keep in mind that rarely does a contraption truly change our behaviour. If you think that a TM will help you eat more vegies, you’re wrong. If you think a TM will allow you enough time to bake bread from scratch, you’re wrong. If you think a TM will save you money, you’re wrong.

If you’re making broader lifestyle changes, then a TM might assist you with those. Going gluten-free is a little easier. Cooking every night from scratch is a little easier. But a thermomix is a lot like a gym membership – forking out the money is NOT ENOUGH to motivate you to truly change your lifestyle if you’re only half-hearted.

If you want to make bread, a breadmaker is a wonderful thing. A $40 rice cooker is essential and does a wonderful job, as does a $40 mini-food processor. For less than $200 I can have all the kitchen help I need to make lasting changes in my lifestyle.

I’d recommend giving some of those gadgets a go before making the big thermomix commitment.

Oats, but not wheat. And quite yummy, too.

Oats, but not wheat. And quite yummy, too.



Wheat-free blueberry muffins

1 cup brown rice flour (brown rice, milled in the TM on 9 for 30 seconds)
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2 tsp chia seeds
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup fat (either oil of your choice or melted butter, cooled)
1 punnet blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180C – line 12 muffin holes with paper cases.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl or jug, whisk the egg, milk & fat together. Pour into the dry ingredients. Combine well then mix in the blueberries.

Use spoons to divide the mixture evenly between the muffin holes. Bake for 30-35 minutes until firm and golden.

Makes 12.

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