Easy pumpkin soup (only 4 ingredients!)

Easy pumpkin soup (only 4 ingredients)

Isn’t it lucky that we’re never too old to learn stuff.

Important stuff, too, like the fact that Youtube videos on how to cut your own hair make it look deceptively simple. I learned that this week. And that a new mirrored splash back will cause your cat to MELT DOWN as they fight a territorial war with the new cat who has moved into their kitchen (don’t even ask why he’s on the benchtop). And that the end of term is a tiring time for everyone (mummies included).

Thankfully there are salves for all these issues. Luckily my ‘haircut’ looks ok once blowdried in it’s new daringly short style. A squirt bottle of water can keep cats off bench tops. And veggie-filled recipes DO exist that are incredibly easy to make and soothing to eat. Like this one. Perfect for tired kids. Perfect for tired mums.

Easy Pumpkin soup

1 litre chicken stock (salt-reduced)
8 cups (about 1.1 kg) of evenly cubed vegies (you can use all pumpkin, but I like about 800g pumpkin & a couple of big carrots)
1 tbsp Italian herbs
425g can baked beans in tomato sauce (salt-reduced)

Pour the stock into a large pot and bring it to the boil. Add the vegies and herbs and reduce to a strong simmer.

After 10-15 minutes the vegies should be tender (you can easily pierce the pumpkin with a skewer). Tip in the beans and sauce. Stir them through to heat up then remove the pot from the heat.

Use a stick blender to whizzy it all up (or transfer to a traditional blender when cool).

Serve with bread, pumpkin seeds, or last week’s cheese & sweet potato rock cakes.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids.

And if you struggle to get your little kids to eat soup, click over to the Mother & Baby blog where I’m discussing how to make this genre a success with small kids.

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If you like this recipe, why not try…
Roasted carrot & parsnip soup
Pumpkin & red lentil soup
Green split pea soup

***PLEASE NOTE THAT I’M TAKING A BIT OF FAMILY TIME FROM JUNE 26-JULY 7. THE SHOP IS STILL OPEN, BUT HARDCOPY BOOKS WILL BE SHIPPING AND EMAILS WILL BE RETURNED WHEN I GET BACK – THANKS FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING ****

If you love slow cooking, you'll love my latest e-book!

If you love slow cooking, you’ll love my latest e-book!

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This lunchbox idea solves soggy-sandwich-syndrome

If you’ve hit mid-year and find yourself all adrift and out of sandwich ideas then this healthy recipe is the rope thrown to you by the lunchbox coast-rescue-guard-lifesavery-people.

A batch of these will brighten up the drabbest lunch bag and keep the kids vaguely inspired for the rest of Term 2. A double batch will do lunch boxes and then can be reheated and served with a soup…. (keep watching listeners, there’s an insanely good recipe for that coming next week).

Can you tell I’ve settled back into the land of the cooking? I have. And quite cheerily, too. There may have even been a bit of humming going on whilst I whipped these up.

And before you say, “AS IF I’m going to BAKE for their lunches”, I’ll just remind you that this recipe is prepared in about 10 minutes, especially if you get a gadget on your side. And the kid’s containers will come home empty, SANS crusts, half eaten bits or slobbery seconds. So, worth the effort, I say.

healthy lunchbox ideas - cheese and veggie savoury rock cakes
Cheese & kumura rock cakes

75g butter, cubed, left to soften
3/4 cup self-raising flour
60g grated cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated sweet potato (kumura)
1 egg
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Let the butter soften in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle over the flour and use your fingertips to rub it together (usually takes a couple of minutes – you could do this in a food processor if you prefer).

Tip in the cheese and veggies. Mix well.

In a small bowl whisk together the egg and mustard. Tip this into the flour mix and combine. The mix should now be ‘dough’ like and should hold together well.

Use your hands to press the mixture into 8 even-sized patties. Place on the tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked through

Makes 8.

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Those elusive, healthy & yummy 10-minute dinners….

Almost there!

Almost there!

It is not lost on me that the reward for completing my kitchen renovation is a return to the everyday drudgery of feeding the family. Don’t get me wrong, I’m entirely grateful for my lovely new surroundings – and they make my daily tasks easier – but I’ve quite enjoyed having 5 weeks off from the kitchen.

Lunchboxes were whatever we could find, dinners were strange, cobbled together affairs, with whatever gadgets were available. And somehow this slackening of standards seeped through to the rest of my domestic life. Suddenly the urge to keep us stocked with groceries disappeared (well, where was I going to put them, anyway?) and even my determination to keep my home vaguely clean dissipated too – as if there was any point dusting the piles of junk that covered every surface.

So while I still might be waiting for the splash back & new lights, everything in the kitchen is back to operational. There’s a lovely new oven and stove to master. Drawers that close themselves (which is lucky, since I keep opening the wrong ones all the time) and enough bench space to have both my slow cooker running AND a spot to pack lunch boxes. And it’s all a relief really, to be returning to normal. While the first couple of weeks of the reno were a glorious guilty pleasure of packaged food and takeaway, the shine tarnished somewhat by the fourth week as my battered taste buds longed for simple, fresh flavours.

So… to my promise to deliver a bunch of 10 minute meal ideas, making the most of supermarket convenience in a healthy way… and how I wish I could deliver. But I can’t really. The challenge of cooking well with a microwave, thermomix, no bench space or wash up space and a fridge down a flight of stairs and out in the garage, defeated me.

There were some winners here and there.

• Pre-mixed, pre-washed salad and BBQed meat is always a winner. But that wouldn’t have worked for my kids until a year or so ago once salad became popular.

• BBQ chicken meat, shredded in wraps (or tinned tuna) with salad was eaten often. A bit of tzatziki helps.

• The frozen salmon portions that can be microwaved were good. Expensive though, but broken up through microwave rice and frozen vegies and you’ve got a good quick dinner. Although you are cooking stuff in plastic, which always feels weird.

None of the soups I tried compared to home made. Regardless of whether they were tinned, in sachets or gourmet, their salt contents were all extreme and left me thirsty.

Of all the takeaway we ate, the clear winner was sushi, but there’s only so much cold fish I want to eat on cold nights. The kids’ first prize would be awarded to McDonalds. We had it twice and they got good toys, both times.

None of us enjoyed Pizza Hut. What’s happened there? It used to be ok, but has dumbed down to be in the running for worst takeaway around. Price wars, I guess. $4.95 for a pizza is hardly going to buy you anything good.

And the thermy? Well, I like Quirky Jo’s creamy rice & chicken soup. It’s a clear one-pot winner. And really the only yummy TM meal that I made (dinner porridge featured too often – I know, I could have cooked my own recipes, but I was wanting to just try new things). Possibly there are a bunch of good one-pot meals on the recipe community that I missed (let me know if you have any favourites).

So as much as I’d love to continue on as a mum-who-doesn’t-cook, seems I’m being forced back to work by my own damn standards. Curse you tastebuds.

What do you think? Did I miss the world’s easiest supermarket compilation meals? What are your 10-minute wonder recipes that keep you going on the more hectic days?

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And while I’ve been slack with blogging here, I did post over at Mother & Baby the other day, explaining the story behind this craft masterpiece.

photo-3

You can read all about it here.

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How to make it through winter with warm toes….

Welcome to winter, day one. Are you over it yet? The good news is that there’s only about 91 days to go until our feet start to thaw and the little wafty bits of pollen plug up our sinuses.

In the mean time, I’m going to spend the next three months wearing bed socks and cursing the impulsive moment that saw me chuck my old kitchen blinds (I blame pre-renovation enthusiasm rather than stupidity), without checking in the budget to see if I could afford to replace them this year. Winter mornings are gonna be chilly.

Hopefully next week I’ll be back with THE BIG REVEAL – the new kitchen is due to be completed this week! Excited much? Me, yes.

Then I’ll be back onto cooking up these recipes, which are tried and true ways to cheer you up and keep you thriving through the winter…

Warm porridge with this tasty topper

This 1 minute recipes adds oomph & pizzazz to your daily porridge.

Tomato & lentil soup

Love your body with this nutrient-packed tomato & lentil soup.

chicken and tarragon one pot winter warmer by vegie smuggers

Chicken & tarragon (or thyme) one pot keeps everyone happy, from grown-ups to toddlers

Mmwwwwaaaahh aah aah aah aaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Pecan chelsea buns have no benefit, except for the gifting of extreme HAPPINESS to those of us still daring enough to enjoy sugar & flour.

This is my new favourite slow-cooker soup - you'll find the recipe in my new e-book!

This is my new favourite slow-cooker soup – Tuscan minestrone that smells OUT OF THIS WORLD and tastes even better. You’ll find the recipe in my new e-book!

If you love slow cooking, you'll love my latest e-book!

If you love slow cooking, you’ll love my latest e-book!

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How I’m surviving after 3 weeks of convenience foods…

There’s an interesting experiment happening at Vegie Smugglers HQ at the moment, as we enter week 3 of kitchen renovations, and I face the challenge of feeding the family whilst kitchenless. With some glee, I spent way-more-time-than-any-person-with-a-life-would in some of the supermarket aisles negotiating my way around the convenience products that stack the shelves.

I’ve got no ethical problem doing this you see, since healthy eating is not an extreme sport for me (hell, I still have a teaspoon of sugar in my tea). And I like to be a bit more of-the-people in my approach, so it seems totally fine to spend a few weeks sampling what is on offer in all those packets and tins that I never normally bother with. And let’s face it – the kids are excited. Mum’s constant healthy cooking is a pain in the arse and cramps their love-of-a-shiny-packet style.

WEEK 1

We started out ok. There was a bunch of freezer options that taste quite good. There’s cous cous and quinoa and vegies and I was pretty happy with it all, except of course for the cost. Like, MAN, it’s expensive to eat this way. I’ve whipped up a wee piccy to prove my point….

vegie-smugglers-vegetables-cut-up

I am a bit of a tightarse (I am trying to fund my reno), so eating this stuff definitely isn’t sustainable. Especially since the only benefit is saving about a minute of knife time. If you don’t have a good knife at your place YOU NEED TO BUY ONE. Judging by the money you save, you can pay off full set of Globals within a couple of months.

WEEK 2

The second week dawned and we stretched into some of the weirder convenience food territory. Strange packets where you add water and microwave for 15 minutes and return to find fried rice all ready for the eating. Some of these options are quite tasty and the kids in particular were wetting their pants over them.

Me, not so much since the flavour comes from weird sources, additives, sugar & salt. Oh my god, so much salt. I have spent the past week desperately thirsty and unable to quench it. I guess I’m supposed to have a Coke to reset my tastebuds.

And this is where I’m actually shocked that people can eat these regularly. My mouth is actually HURTING after a week of them. I understand in a busy household that it’s easy to slip into eating these foods (especially if you hate cooking), but they are bordering on dangerous when eaten regularly.

Consider the current guidelines that recommend daily maximum sodium intakes of:
1 to 3 years: 1,000mg
4 to 8 years: 1,400mg
9 to 13 years: 2,000mg
14 years and over: 2,300mg

To put that in perspective here’s some sodium content info for you….

1x420g Heinz salt reduced tin of baked beans = 1000mg
1x420g Heinz regular tomato baked beans = 1510mg
1x420g Heinz spaghetti = 1210mg
1x420g Heinz salt-reduced spaghetti = 740mg
1x535g Heinz chunky beef soup = 1720mg
1x70g Fantastic noodles pot = 1577mg

But it’s not ALL bad news, on those nights when you really can’t summons up the will to live the energy to cook, choose a no-added-salt baked beans tin with only 40mg per tin. You are of course, still dealing with additives and other nasties – but that’s a whole other post.

I guess the moral of the story is to take a bit of time to find the products that suit you and to rethink just how convenient these foods are in the long term.

For now, with another 3 weeks of renovations to go, I’m on the hunt for healthier quick options. I promise to report back with how I go.

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5 recipes that bring you unlikely (but welcome) dinnertime wins…

Have you noticed that at some point in most magazine articles about musicians, there’s a bit of the interview that goes… “Yeah, I guess my love of [insert hipster genre] music began as a child, listening to my parent’s [Hendrix/Bowie/soul/reggae/early hip hop etc] albums.”

I get a slight wistfulness for a childhood that was, you know, like, cool. Not that my childhood wasn’t lovely, but I grew up listening to Glen Miller-1940s-swing and Tijuana Brass albums. Which I guess is why I write recipes on a blog called ‘Vegie Smugglers’ and am featured in Super Food Ideas Magazine rather than writing ear-worm songs and featuring in Rolling Stone.

Anyway, back to what I do best (click the pic to visit the recipe)…

vegie smugglers beef pho

Vietnamese Beef Pho

Cucur- urdang - Malaysian food for kids.

Cucur udang – Malaysian prawn fritters.

vegie smugglers cauliflower and cashew pilaf

Cauliflower & cashew pilaf. Fun to say and good to eat.

slow cooker pea and ham soup

Genuine ham & pea soup, in the slow cooker.

Salmon mornay. Truly. With a bit of paprika - delicious.

Salmon mornay. Truly. With a bit of paprika – delicious.

And for dessert, why not some chocolate & beetroot brownie!

And for dessert, why not some chocolate & beetroot brownie!

I'mnotslow

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Turning pantry slops into lunchbox gold (and a giveaway)…

Exciting times at VSHQ with a complete kitchen renovation just days away. For the past month we’ve eaten our way through the pantry and now I’m down to the SLOPS. All those supermarket impulse buys and double ups that have me now scratching my head as to just how I’m going to combine water chestnuts, lychees, olives and four jars of seeded mustard into one delicious meal.

Tinned fruit seems to be the single thing I buy, but never use. Here’s what I was left with….

I know, it's a massive shame that the leopard print contact that lines all my cupboard is about to go...

I know, it’s a massive shame that the leopard print contact that lines all my cupboards is about to go…

Yesterday I managed to rid myself of the cherries and pineapple (too easy). The cherries were combined with frozen blackberries and apple in a traditional crumble (use this recipe here) and the pineapple worked perfectly with desiccated coconut (another ingredient I always have too much of) in a lunchbox treat that has the kids singing my praises.

You can win a set of 4myearth snack wraps!

See those alphabet wrappers? You could win some! Read on!

Pineapple & coconut muffins

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup raw sugar
440g crushed pineapple in juice. Drain the fruit over a bowl – keep the juice.
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup grapeseed oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tray or line with paper cases.

In a large bowl combine the flour, coconut & sugar. Mix together.

In a separate jug, combine 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice with the egg, milk and oil. Whisk this together thoroughly.

Tip the wet ingredients into the dry. Combine roughly then add in the crushed pineapple. Stir to mix through then divide evenly between your muffins holes.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and springy to touch.

Makes 12
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****WIN!****

The lovely 4myearth food wrap & snack pocket (see the pic above) can be yours! They’re a fab alternative to plastic wrap and the lovely Rebecca, who runs this local Aussie small business has four sets to give away (each worth $21.95). (read all the info on the wrap/snack pocket sets here) To win, simply comment below, with a suggestion on how I’m going to use up my passionfruit, mango, peaches or lychees…. Entries close Wednesday night, 8pm, AEST). COMPETITION NOW OVER – CONGRATULATIONS TO BELINDA, SAM, CARLY & LISA WHO WILL ALL BE RECEIVING THE FANTASTIC PRIZES.

Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

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