Rock your BBQ with these bowls of magic…

So we’re about to smack straight into the celebration season. Possibly you’re like me, with a list of weekends ahead that hold the promise of bubbles, nurofen and oodles of food.

Whether you’re hosting or being a guest, there’s no better way to get into the party vibe than with food that looks a bit more fancy and special than usual. So why serve a boring run-of-the-mill green salad when you can shift to colourful and fun dishes like this one.

Fregola is a cute little Sardinian pasta, similar looking to cous cous but more of a hot-cousin version that has been down the gym for a serious work out. Usually it’s toasted and has a slight nutty flavour. If your local shop doesn’t stock it, substitute with wimpy, regular cous cous.

This dish gets more pink as it gets tossed about, which is PERFECT, because, you know… PARTY.

Colourful, festive, impressive AND super tasty.

Colourful, festive, impressive AND super tasty.

Roast vegie & fregola salad

Serve this dish warm or cold. It’s fancy enough to be great with roast meats or a nice change from your usual array of BBQ sides. Crumbled feta is also delicious on top.

1 1/4 cups dried fregola (toasted if you can find it – I get mine at the local posh greengrocer)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice (about half an orange)

5-6 baby beetroot
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 4-5 cylinders
Olive oil (to drizzle)
1 red onion, cut into thick wedges
1 baby fennel, cut into thick wedges
1/2 punnet small tomatoes (any type will do)
1 red capsicum, cut into large squares
salt & pepper
Juice & zest 1/2 lemon

Cook the fregola according to packet directions. Drain, pop into a salad bowl and toss through the combined oil, vinegar & orange juice. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Wrap the beets in foil. Pop them in the oven for about 45-50 minutes until you can easily pierce them with a skewer. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile (use a second shelf in the oven), chuck the carrots in a small roasting tray. Pour over some olive oil and salt & pepper and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and mix in the onion wedges and fennel (add oil if looking dry). Return for 20 minutes then add in the tomatoes and capsicum and bake for another 20 minutes.

Peel the beetroot (kitchen gloves are a good idea). Cut into easy-to eat size pieces and add to the fregola. Also tip in the veggies and mix everything through including the parsley and lemon juice.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.


Other salads that will do the schmancy party trick….

Asian noodle salad

Asian noodle salad

Pumpkin & haloumi salad.

Pumpkin & haloumi salad.

vegie smugglers panzanella

So delicious, the kids might just join in for this one.

There’s a bunch more salad & side recipes in the ‘Entertaining’ section of Vegie Smuggler’s Kitchen Collection. And if you use code ‘xmas2015’ you can buy it right now for 10% off. Valid until Nov 31, 2015.


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This dinner WINS nutrition (and the kids love it)

Walnuts are generally considered to be a pretty fantastic nutritional addition to the modern diet (unless, you know, you’re like anaphylactically allergic to them, in which case they’re a deady-bones type addition and worth avoiding). They’re full of awesome quantities of most stuff that’s good for you including omega 3 fatty acids and a range of minerals.

General consensus seems to be that introducing nuts to non-allergic kids is safe from 12 months. Serving kid-friendly pasta like this recipe is a good way to reap the health benefits without choking your little loves on whole kernels.

Also, this dish is like ‘Where’s Wally?’, except in a ‘Where’s zucchini?’ kind of way. If you have one of those fancy contraptions that will turn vegies into pasta twists then feel free to swap out all the pasta in this recipe. However my kids do love the tooth feel of a bit of traditional pasta and I find the zucchini just melts through effortlessly.

As is, this recipe is a total win-win-win at my place, but as always, I won’t take offence if you change it up to suit your household.

Herbs and capers 'adult' this dish up to schmancy levels.

Herbs and capers ‘adult’ this dish up to schmancy levels.

Broccoli & zucchini pasta with walnut sauce

This is adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe.

1 1/4 cups whole walnuts (toast them in a dry frying pan if you have a few minutes, but don’t fret if you can’t be bothered)
1-2 cloves garlic (depending on how stinky you like to be)
1 slice bread (no crusts) – soaked in 1 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
250g dry linguine or spaghetti
1 head broccoli – cut into dainty florets
2 zucchinis – use a peeler or mandolin to slice them thinly lengthwise then use a knife to cut them into long strips that are a similar size to your pasta.
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Add the walnuts, garlic, soggy bread, milk and oil into a food processor (my little mini one just manages to fit everything). Season well and blitz to form a smooth sauce. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. BUT – add in the broccoli 4 minutes before the end of cooking and then add the zucchini 2 minutes before the end of cooking.

Drain the pasta & veggies. Return to the cooking pot and tip over the walnut sauce. Mix through well. Season super well (this dish really does need tonnes of salt & pepper).

Mix through the parmesan. Serve the kids as is – adults might like to add some torn basil, parsley, anchovies or capers.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids (this portion size is dainty as the dish is rich – serve with a side salad).

Needing a helpful & unique Christmas gift? How about a copy of my latest gorgeous cookbook? It has 125+ recipes that cover all aspects of the family food year including lunchbox solutions, basics, dinners, recipes to feed a crowd and special event cooking! Buy it soon so you can use the Christmas recipes! As an added bonus, use code xmas2015 and receive 10% off, storewide, until November 30. CLICK TO VISIT THE SHOP & SEE ALL MY PRODUCTS…

Happy shopping!

Ohh! It's called "Kitchen Collection"

Ohh! It’s called “Kitchen Collection”

There's a section on basics, then a chapter for snacks and lunchbox items...

There’s a section on basics, then a chapter for snacks and lunchbox items…

Then it's the serious business of DINNER, since that happens tediously often...

Then it’s the serious business of DINNER, since that happens tediously often…

I've converted a bunch of recipes so that there's oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker instructions...

I’ve converted a bunch of recipes so that there’s oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker instructions…

Next chapter is full of ways to feed friends and family....

Next chapter is full of ways to feed friends and family….

And I finish off with celebrations with recipes for all kinds of dietary needs.

And I finish off with celebrations with recipes for all kinds of dietary needs.


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What Jason Derulo, the Old El Paso family and my kitchen have in common…

Sometimes you have to give advertising agencies a little golf clap. While they devote their days to making content that leaves us half-demented, they do get their job done, achieving their goal of successfully branding a product to the point where we can’t walk past an item on the supermarket shelves without humming its jingle or having the tagline drift through our brains.

So it is with Old El Paso, whose little cute cheering families and mariachi tunes play around in my mind every time I walk past their products. Which is pretty crazy, since I don’t even buy them. I think other brands do better tortillas and even my jalapeños are now bought from a brand at the greengrocer. Still, I couldn’t help but imagine the little Mexican family gathered together, giving me a cheer as I presented this dinner the other night.

My kids weren’t quite as jubilant as their TV counterparts, but they devoured these completely simple-to-make wraps. And as Jason Derulo will testify is possible, the trumpets of celebration played in my head, which is close enough.

Pop foil around the kid's ones to avoid too much mess.

Adults can pop in jalapenos and fresh herbs.

One dish, one bowl, Mexican chicken wraps

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mild paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp BBQ sauce (optional, but recommended!)

800g chicken thigh fillets
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1/2 red capsicum, cut into thick slices

310g can corn kernels, drained
1 roma tomato, finely diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Coriander (optional – my kids hate it, so I just add it to mine after I’ve served them)

To serve (you choose what will suit your household): wraps, avocado, jalapeños, sour cream, parsley or coriander

If you remember, pop the chicken in the marinade in the morning and let it spend all day in the fridge getting extra tasty.

Combine the oil and spices in a glass dish or ceramic bowl. Remove the excess fat from the chicken, cut into a couple of pieces and smother it in the spice rub.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Place the chicken into your oven tray (line with foil or baking paper to help with the clean up). Toss over the onion wedges.

Bake for 20 minutes. Use tongs to turn the pieces over. Mix through the capsicum. Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (thigh meat stays a bit pink, but also doesn’t dry out, so if you’re not entirely sure if it’s cooked, just chuck it back in for another 5-10 minutes).

Meanwhile make your salsa: Combine everything in a bowl. Done. It’s a tough recipe. See how you go.

The big reveal:
Serve the chicken sliced up on wraps, topped with the roasted onions, capsicum, salsa and your choice of avocado, jalapeños & sour cream.

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids

Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

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Healthy desserts! Genius!

And you pop fruit on the top which makes them DOUBLY healthy.

And you pop fruit and yoghurt on the top which makes them DOUBLY healthy.

There’s a trend doing the rounds for nutritious and healthy desserts. Have you caught it? Hard not too – Instagram thrives on luscious pictures of gluten-free and refined-sugar-free treats. The key to them is omitting the current health-scare foods and ignoring the fact that what’s left is nearly-as-bad for us. Then, of course, there’s all those nutrients in nuts etc, so using them is entirely justified. And of course, the cacao powder is ORGANIC, which is a double tick and the virgin coconut oil is ‘healthy fats’, so that’s fine too.

Isn’t life great!

Of course some might argue that rather than waste our more-precious-than-gold spare time whipping up treats, our time might be better spent cooking up a healthy dinner from scratch, but hey, we can’t have it all. And you know, DESSERT.

Am I sounding too cynical? I am, aren’t I?! Actually the wave of new desserts are pretty great. I’m all for exploring ingredients and getting as much variety into your diet as possible, so I’m a big fan. Don’t fool yourself though, this isn’t ‘slimming’ food. This isn’t for every day.

It’s for happy days, when you want to make your family ooooohhhhh and aaaaahhhh and give them a bit of a thrill.

Mondo Organics Chocolate Tart (modified slightly from their gorgeous cookbook)

This recipe is incredibly simple to whip up in a thermomix.

1/2 cup dates (medjool if possible) – soaked in hot water for 20 minutes.
1 cup combined walnuts and almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup cacao powder (or cocoa powder is also fine)
2 tbsp maple syrup (use the real stuff)
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted or quite soft.

250g good quality dark chocolate
300g silken tofu
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I use cassia, just because that’s what’s in my cupboard right now)
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey.

Blitz together the drained dates, nuts, seeds, cacao, syrup and oil. Add in a bit of the date water if you need to loosen it a bit.

Line a 22cm tart tin with cling wrap. Wear kitchen gloves and use your hands to press the mixture evenly into the base and sides. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Melt the chocolate either in a bain marie (a metal bowl placed over a saucepan of boiling water – don’t let it touch the water) or the microwave. (This is the bit of the recipe where the thermomix comes into it’s own). Leave the chocolate to cool slightly then blitz in the tofu, cinnamon and sweetener. Pour the mixture into the tart base and return to the fridge to set. (needs a good hour, several hours is better).

Serve with berries and a nice tart yoghurt (these healthy desserts tend to be insanely rich, so the yoghurt cuts through nicely).

**This recipe also works in a 20cm flan tin – double the tofu, cinnamon & syrup.


Liked this?
Try making my Cacao bliss balls, or my Dairy-free coconut muffins, or this coconut, coconut, coconut, coconut and banana cake.


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The sauce of all knowledge….

Every now and then I post a perfect recipe… I know, I’m blowing smoke up my own arse (a favourite phrase of mine that I’ve just discovered derives from the 1700s when doctors did actually blow smoke up people’s arses)… but if there’s one recipe that should really be in your repertoire then I’m pretty sure it’s this tomato sauce. It’s so simple to make, using all fresh ingredients. You can prepare it as you need it, have it in the fridge ready to go or make a triple batch and freeze some for a night that’s not going so well. It’s a prime example of how easy it is to choose fabulousness over supermarket blah. It suits babies, toddlers right up to oldies and even the most annoying food snobs. The secret is all in the presentation.

Whip up the base sauce. Serve it mixed through pasta for the kids – top it with just cheese or add some ham. A bit of grated carrot is good, and also some chopped grape tomatoes are a nice addition. Adults can add in a bunch of basil and parsley, extra pepper, olives, capers and some posh-as-you-like prosciutto.

Really, how good is a basic dish that will please everyone. It’s a rare and completely wonderful thing.


Summer pasta sauce

2 red capsicums
3 large tomatoes, halved horizontally
3 cloves garlic – leave whole and in their skins
3 tbsp olive oil (the better, the better)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (use white wine vinegar if that’s all you have)
Pepper & salt to taste

Preheat oven to 200C

Slice the cheeks off the capsicums and place under the grill. Leave them to completely blacken (this lifts the skin off so it’s super easy to remove the skin). Leave to cool, remove the skin.

Place the tomatoes and garlic in an oven tray. Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes or so until the garlic is squishy and the tomatoes have softened considerably.

Tear the capsicum up and pop it into a mini food processor or blender. Squeeze in the centre of the garlic and the tomatoes (peel off the skins as you tip them in).

Add everything else and blitz. Done.

Serve mixed through pasta of your choice with whatever toppings suit your family. My suggestions are parmesan, fresh herbs, prosciutto (yes, I’m one of them annoying food snobs), olives and capers.

Recipe makes enough to top a meal for 2 adults and 2 kids – it also makes a great pizza sauce.


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I wish the internet would just chill the hell out…

Usually on my instagram page I post lovely pics of recipes I’m trying out, coffee I’m about to gulp and probably too many photos of alcohol (I live on Sydney’s northern beaches, which is nearly as thirsty as Alice Springs, but with more seagulls). Today I broke ranks and posted a selfie!!!!! I know right, I never post pics of myself here, but I’m gonna do that too!!!!! Why? A moment of vanity? A love of overt punctuation??? A need to out myself unshowered? If only the screen was scratch and sniff!

Urgh! I know! An exercise selfie....

Urgh! I know! An exercise selfie….

No, I’d just got back from an early morning walk and glancing in the mirror I thought I looked ok. Now most ladies will know that this tends to be a rare and big moment. So I snapped it. And posted it. Just because I wanted to combat all the ‘wellness’ extremism that stalks me online. I don’t have a 6-pack! I’ve got no 12 week program to pitch you. I’m not detoxing or committing to an unachievable eating plan.

Here’s what I wrote…

“I eat sugar & carbs. And also tonnes of veggies and delicious tasty food that I usually cook myself. But not always. I’m busy. I work. We eat takeaway. I love wine. I refuse to be anxious about what goes in my mouth. I make food about joy not stress. I exercise most days. But just walking or yoga… It’s totally possible to find wellness within moderation. I’m sick of the internet bullying people into health extremes.”

For full disclosure I’ll also add that I love coffee. And anything sweet. And kisses. And cuddles. I’m nearly 43. 52kgs. 5 foot tall (I prefer the term ‘petite’ to ‘shortarse’. I’m doing just fine.

And the real secret to my success?

Tiny choices every day… Go for a walk. Eat a piece of cake. Maybe don’t eat the third piece of cake. Take a salad to work for lunch. Don’t drink soft drink. Cook as much as you can manage. Listen to YOUR body and eat what seems to suit it.

It seems pretty simple, yet the internet likes to make this shit hard.

By posting this pic my message is this… Keep wellness simple. Enjoy living. Be grateful. Have fun.

Here’s five dishes that are a steady and regular part of my ‘wellness’ routine…

Easy to cook, everyone loves it. We feel great afterwards.

Vegie stew/soup. Easy to cook, everyone loves it. We feel great afterwards.

Dou itashimashite.

I’ve been making this Japanese potato salad constantly. Goes with everything. Everyone loves it. Keeps a couple of days in the fridge.

Salad. I eat heaps of salad. Top it with this amazing dressing.

Salad. I eat heaps of salad. Top it with this amazing dressing.

vegie smugglers egyptian chicken

Quick, easy, single-tray baked dinners work well at my house right now.

I make muffins pretty much every week! Did I mention that I love cake?

I make muffins pretty much every week! Did I mention that I love cake?

Click the pics to visit the recipe. My stats will show me the recipes you choose…. I know you’ll all click the cake :)

If you like my food philosophy, you'll love my cookbook!

If you like my food philosophy, you’ll love my cookbook!

Comments (20) »

Banana chickpea muffins


Suddenly my calendar is telling me that it is OCTOBER! How the hell did that happen? And it does seem to be true – the kids headed back to school in summer uniforms yesterday.

This recipe will add a bit of interest to the craziness that is term 4. It will use up all your soggy bananas AND give you that brief moment of parental superiority as your child heads off with an additive-free, home-made lunchbox.

Banana chickpea muffins

1 cup self-raising flour (wholemeal or regular)
1/2 cup besan flour (chickpea flour, available at health food stores)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
50g butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 overripe bananas – mashed
1/2 cup sultanas (or choc chips are pretty yum too!)

Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin or line with paper cases.

In a large bowl, combine the flours (no need to sift) and sugar.

In a smaller bowl or jug, whisk together the egg, milk and butter. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Combine roughly, then mix through the bananas and sultanas.

Divide between your muffin cases. If you like, top with walnuts (not for school lunch boxes, obviously) or chia seeds.

Bake for 25 minutes or so, until golden and springy.

Makes 12. Extras freeze well.

Full of solutions for the rest of your food year!

Full of solutions for the rest of your food year!

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