Archive for All recipes

The current slurping favourite

Like my men, I prefer a hearty & full flavoured soup with chewable chunky bits that will leave me sated for hours afterwards. (Apologies, I know that’s a tawdry joke, straight from the gutter – my brain is suffering winter shrinkage.)

Being an innocent and gorgeous little child, Miss F prefers a more refined soup, lump-free with a mild and gentle flavour.

Usually I make rough & ready soups like this chicken noodle, or this lamb & barley, but in a moment of sophistication I recently whipped up this roasted vegie soup for the family and it is now a firm favourite. Last time I made it, Miss F devoured THREE SERVES, which was an absolute first. It was helped along of course, by sourdough dippers.

Not often do I ask you to do a recipe in two stages (here you roast vegies before adding them to your pot), in fact I only ask you to do it, if it’s worth doing. And in this case, it is. Roasting the vegies brings out the natural sweetness and adds a definite yumminess.

Silky smooth carrot, parsnip & cauliflower soup.

Silky smooth carrot, parsnip & cauliflower soup.


Roasted carrot (and other stuff) soup

5 large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise
1 large parsnip, peeled, sliced into lengths the same thickness as the carrot
Olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp curry powder
8 cups stock (I like the salt-reduced chicken stock, but obviously vegie stock will keep this dish vegetarian)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/4 cup red lentils, rinsed, drained
Salt & pepper
Cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 220C. Line a baking tray with kitchen paper. Spread the carrots and parsnips over in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat evenly. Bake for 35-40 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile, place a large saucepan over low/medium heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and when hot, toss in the onion. Cook, stirring often for 6-8 minutes until softening and turning golden. Throw in the garlic and spices. Stir for a minute so that the fragrance of the spice releases. Pour over the stock, cover the pot and bring to the boil.

When boiling, add the cauliflower and lentils. Recover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes, adding the roasted vegies whenever they’re ready (they need to simmer in with everything for at least 10-15 minutes, so just extend the simmering time if need be).

Use a stick blender to blitz the soup into a lovely smooth texture. Season to taste.

Serve with crusty bread and an optional slurp of cream. (Adults might also like a scattering of coriander.)

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids.

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Mysterious mummy superpowers (and some cute widdle salmon cakes)

I’ve managed to convince my kids that I have x-ray vision.

My superpower was revealed last weekend during a session of “guess what colour undies I’m wearing”. To the utter astonishment of my children I was able to correctly guess what colour undies they were both wearing AND my own AND daddy’s, too.

“How’d you do that?!” they wanted to know.

“I have x-ray vision.”

“No really! How’d you do that?!”

“I REALLY have x-ray vision.”

Nodding, they looked at me in awe, oblivious to the fact that as chief buyer, washerer and folderer of all the smalls at VSHQ I had a distinct advantage in the game and I’d simply just guessed the most common colour from their clothes pile.

It was luck that I was right every single time. But my status as the ‘undie-whisperer’ was cemented, and I’m now known for my mysterious super-powers – a fact which I’ll be sure to remind them off during their teenage years when they think I can’t see that packet of ciggies stashed in the bottom of their school bag.

Test out your superpowers by telling your kids to eat these mini salmon cakes, then you’ll practice your x-ray powers by looking into their tummies to count the number in there.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can't.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can’t.

Itsy widdle salmon cakes

2 large potatoes
1 cup cauliflower florets
180g can salmon in springwater, drained
2 spring onions, very finely sliced
Handful of green beans, very finely sliced (or pulsed in a mini food processor)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste (I like a big squeeze)
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
Salt & pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or blitz up a few slices of stale bread and leave it out to get even more stale for a couple of hours)
Spray oil

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

Cook your potatoes. It’s up to you whether you bake them, steam them or be terribly unfashionable like me and just microwave them until the insides are a mashing consistency.

Cook your cauliflower. Same as above. You want it 90% cooked, still firm enough to dice finely, so that it will disappear into the potato.

Add your cooked potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Mash with a fork and mix in the cauliflower and all of the other ingredients (except the breadcrumbs). Season and combine really well.

Roll bite-sized balls of mixture, coat in breadcrumbs and place on your tray. Spray with oil spray and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully turn the balls over, spray with extra oil and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden.

Serve as is or with a dollop of mayonaise and salad.

Serves 2 adults & 2 small kids, along with salad.

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Eating just like grandma…

Like nearly every other sheeple (sheep + people) in healthy-food-land, I’ve recently cut right down on the amount of sugar that I consume. The argument that sugar is an evil poison is extremely convincing and I find myself being swept along with public opinion.

Naturally though, my teeth are SWEET, so I’ve never felt the need to banish sugar from my life completely. I know myself well enough to know that it would be a futile exercise that would result in guilt and failure – two emotions that I just don’t need intertwined with my food experience. I love food, I love eating, I love cooking. And I love to cook for, feed and eat with the people I love.

So with that in mind, I keep the sugar debate in perspective. We don’t eat much processed food. We don’t drink soft drink or juice. Dessert is a rarity. Lollies are left for parties and most of the healthy treats I cook for the lunch boxes are fibre-rich with ingredients that nourish.

Which means on occasion, there’s room in our life for sugar. Not coconut sugar, or stevia or anything so fancy. Just sugar.

A couple of years ago, before the current sugar-fear exploded, the common food adage was, “Don’t eat anything your grandma wouldn’t recognise.” Luckily for me, my granny – like the rest of her generation – was extremely familiar with flour and sugar.

Unlike some foodie-types who claim to have grown up at their nanna’s apron strings, absorbing her food wisdom, my Granny was a pretty average cook. In fact it was a chore that she didn’t particularly like at all, which explains why good old fashioned crumble was on the menu so often. It’s a dessert that gives you a heap of bang for your buck. Just some chopping then a bit of massaging some ingredients together, into the oven and VOILA, the most gorgeous treat appears. And did I mention that it’s absolutely delicious, especially on a cold night, when eaten around a table with the rest of your family? It is. Try it.

Just quietly - this apple & berry crumble is a bit yummier than the one my granny used to make!

My granny ate this type of dish often, and she lived to a happy and sprightly 94.


Apple & berry crumble

Feel free to swap out the sugar for other natural sweeteners, as is the current trend. This is a traditional ‘grandma’ dish though, and I’m a big fan of making it with the traditional ingredients.

1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
100g butter, softened

3 granny smith apples
2 cups frozen berries
1/4 cup raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Combine the oats, sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingers so that you have the consistency of rough breadcrumbs (you don’t have to be too exact here – a bit of lumpy butter works out just fine). Set aside.

Core and chop the apples. Toss into a medium sized oven dish (I use my 24cm round glass dish). Mix in the berries and scatter the sugar over the top.

Scatter the crumble mix over the top – leave it pretty loose – no need to pack it down neatly. Pop into the oven for 55 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids.

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A new slow cooker favourite

Have you ever played that game with your kids where you say a word and then they say the next word that pops into their little minds? It’s good for a laugh on a long car trip. Astonishing how often a word can be followed on by the word ‘fart’ (unless you have lovely daughters, whose vocabularies are possibly a little larger).

It makes you realise how many words really do belong together. I’ll play it with myself to demonstrate.

“Bert?” “Ernie”.
“Posh?” “Becks”.
“War?” “Peace”.
“Kylie?” “Botox”, “Jason”.

Likewise, there’s a long list of flavours that just belong together.

“Bacon?” “Eggs”.
“Macaroni?” “Cheese”.
“Fish?” “Chips”.

During the winter you could come over and I could offer you a warming bowl of lamb soup, but really it sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it? Lamb & barley soup however is a classic food combination that gets people seriously excited and for good reason. It’s fan-tas-ma-gorically good, especially when combined with a heap of vegies and chucked into the slow cooker for 8 hours. This recipe is one of those golden moments of family food since it’s easy to make (no browning anything, just chuck it all in), envelops your house in a day-long saliva-inducing fragrance and results in a dinner that requires diddly-squat effort throughout the afternoon.

Even better, this pulps up beautifully into baby food and toddlers can have this as more of a stew with some of the liquid drained off.

Really it’s one of those blissful kitchen moments. Enjoy.

lamb and barley slow cooker soup

I promise your family will devour this with glee!


Slow cooker lamb & barley soup


I would urge you to make this according to the recipe without leaving anything out. All the ingredients meld to make a truly fantastic winter dish.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel, finely chopped (please don’t leave this out – it is the KEY ingredient – if you truly think you hate it, then just use half)
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 cup peeled, diced sweet potato
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed (I give them a good thump with the side of my knife)
1 litre salt-reduced beef stock
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary spring
1 fresh bay leaf (invest in a bay tree in a pot – hugely handy & the leaves are MUCH tastier than dried)
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed, drained
2 lamb shanks

Put all the vegies into the cooker bowl. Toss to mix them thoroughly. Pour over the stock & tomatoes. Add in the herbs and barley. Push in the shanks.

Cover and set to low for 8 hours.

Just before serving, remove the shanks to a bowl, use forks to shred the meat. Discard the bones and mix the meat back through the soup. Discard the bay leaf.

Serve with a smattering of parsley & crusty bread.

Serves 2 adults & 3 kids

If you love your slow cooker, don’t miss my new cookbook that has a bunch of recipes with 3 sets of instructions – perfect for your slow cooker, pressure cooker or regular stove-top.

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Beautiful school holiday baking boredom busters…

What do you think, enough alliteration for one headline? After an intense term of school, my brain has started to dissolve now we’ve hit the school holidays! Mainly I can’t believe that half the year has gone already.

With the wind being chilly I’m keen to stay indoors a bit, but I’m keen to keep the kids off screens too, so the textas are out, the old toy boxes are down from the top of the cupboards and my cooking-shy kids are even venturing into the warm kitchen. You’re not going to see my kids on Junior Masterchef anytime soon, so to pique their interest, we resort to baking treats. At least when they’re made at home we know the ingredients are quality AND they do learn a few kitchen skills along the way.

Here’s some suggestions of things you might like to whip up with your little lovelies (click to link to the recipe)…

Traditional American-style pancakes.

Traditional American-style pancakes.

...awwwwww, transported straight to Queensland with these pineapple cakes.

…awwwwww, transported straight to Queensland with these pineapple cakes.

fruit chocolate slice recipe

Chocolate and butter… it must be school holidays!

Delicious bliss balls, with a bit of power-nutrition packed in.

Delicious bliss balls, with a bit of power-nutrition packed in.

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I’ve gone all food PC with these gluten-free, vegetarian fritters

As you may or may not know, I have a very strict food regime here at VSHQ. This is it…

food-policy

Yep, that’s right. It’s pretty complicated. I buy good stuff and I cook yummy things. I guess COOKING is the important word though, to me it seems like the logical key to good health. Dieters in different food camps get caught up in ingredient wars and fighting to prove that their system of eating is best, but for me that’s all a personal choice. What’s really important is that you’re taking responsibility for your ingredients and creating nourishing meals at home. And it doesn’t have to be hard – here’s a great recipe for the whole family that uses one mixing bowl and one frying pan.

Included on the ingredient list is besan flour. Also known as chickpea flour, you can find it in the larger supermarkets and health food stores. I don’t often make you seek out an ingredient, but I think this one is worth while since it’s tasty and nutritious and it just so happens that it’s also gluten-free. This recipe also happens to be vegetarian, since a bit of meat-free eating is good for the environment and it gives the little cutie creatures a night off from worry.

Toddlers might like to have a bit of mango chutney spread over their fritters, adults might like some fresh herbs and a chutney with a bit of punch, along with some salad.

Great finger food for toddlers.

Great finger food for toddlers.


Corn & carrot fritters

1 cup besan (chickpea) flour – available in larger supermarkets and health food stores
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 carrot, grated
1 small red onion, really finely sliced (or grated, but if you do this, drain it a little)
400g can corn kernels
2-3 tbsp fresh herbs (optional) – try parsley, chives or coriander, depending on the tastebuds of your family
Oil of your choice for frying. Use as much as you’re comfortable with – I like quite a lot for this recipe!

Tip the flour and garam masala into a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the eggs and milk then tip into the flour, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Add in the carrot, onion, corn and herbs. Combine well.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/low heat. Add the oil and when hot, use a 1/4 cup measure to dollop in some fritter mix. Once the edges set, you can gently spread the chunkier filling out so that it’s an even thickness. Cook for 3 minutes or so on each side until the onion is cooked through.

Serve with chutney of your choice and some salad.

Feeds 2 adults & 2 smaller kids, with a side of salad & pappodums.

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What I’m eating this week…

Well done everyone, you've made it through the darkest days....

Well done everyone, you’ve made it through the darkest days….

I heard the young kids on JJJ joking about winter solstice yesterday. Rather than calling it the shortest day, they pointed out that it is actually the LONGEST NIGHT. Which is great for “all those old people who need to party early so that they can get to bed in time to be up for the gardening and pruning the next day”. BRAVO YOUNG PEOPLE, you’ve obviously been looking through my diary.

Anyway, the chills are here so the emphasis is on the wintry good stuff that warms our toes.

SUNDAY:

We’ve had a night away to celebrate the solstice and we’re tired today. I’m going to make this risotto which is always popular and super easy to prepare. Recipe can be found in VS1 or there’s a version for the Thermomix in my TM e-book.

I'm actually going to crumble some crispy baked proscuitto over mine.

I’m actually going to crumble some crispy baked proscuitto over mine.

MONDAY:

I’ve been experimenting with an Egg Foo Yung recipe. I’ll post the recipe in a couple of weeks but in the mean time you might want to try this Okonomiyake recipe, especially if you’re working all day – it’s a nice quickie.

Okonomiyaki recipe

Chinese cabbage & carrot hiding in here.

TUESDAY:

Vegetarian bolognaise, which I’m planning to serve over store-bought ravioli.

Vegie Smugglers vegetarian bolognaise

This is a simple one-pot pasta sauce that not only hides veg but IS all veg.

WEDNESDAY:

Slow cooker day, to fit in with our schedule of being out at activities all afternoon. This pea & ham soup is a current favourite.

slow cooker pea and ham soup

Ham hock & split peas. Easier than you think.

THURSDAY:

Brunch frittata - made more dinnerish with a side of salad and crusty bread (and a big fat wine for me, who is usually quite shattered by Thursday night).

Impressive and easy - my favourite combo.

Impressive and easy – my favourite combo.

FRIDAY:

Term 2 finishes this Friday, so it will be a relaxed night. I’ll treat my tired little kids with some fish fingers, which I’ll serve with cooked carrots & peas (both favourites) and my home-made chips.

REALLY yum, REALLY easy.

REALLY yum, REALLY easy.

Hope you all have a happy week.

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Sneaky goodness at breakfast time

Year 4 has arrived and with it the joy of times tables.

Like the daggiest of mums singing along to top 40 songs I’ve no clue about, my rendition of the times tables is pretty patchy.

I’m good for the 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s. Even my 6s aren’t too bad, but once I hit the 7s I’m in trouble. Regardless, I sing along with Miss F with conviction… “seven times five is 35, seven times six is foooorrrrrrrrrrtttyyyyy… (I stretch it out so I can do some silent addition onto the previous answer) TWO! Seven times seven is 49, seven times eight isssssssssssssssssssss (pausing until she answers first and I just join in)sssssssssssss… 56!

Even more proof that my kids are smarter than me. Must be all the morning goodness that I’m shoving onto their porridge at the moment. Last year we enjoyed our magic morning powder throughout the winter. This year I’ve stepped it up a notch, cramming in even more nutrients via walnuts and cutting out the sugar. Adding in a few sultanas and currants sweetens it to acceptable levels. Although dad’s version tends to have a bit of brown sugar added in, too.

Blitz the mix until it's a texture that suits your household.

Blitz the mix until it’s a texture that suits your household.

Sugar-free porridge topping

1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pecans
1 tsp cinnamon

Pop everything into a blender and blitz until a texture you find appealing. I like mine quite gritty, but others might prefer a finer powder.

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Do your kids love each other?

Love is all around, just not easily spoken about.

Love is all around, just not easily spoken about.


Possibly suffering from an overactive fourth (heart) chakra the other night, I decided it was time for the kids to express their love for each other.

Earlier in the day it had occurred to me that while I am effusive in my gushing love for them both, they never tell each other any of their feelings other than “you’re hurting me,” or even the odd “I hate you.”

Cosied up on my bed after bathtime, we snuggled away and I listed through my usual love chatter. It goes like this….
“Do you know how much I love you?”
“No” they say in unison.
“I love you more than all the trees in the world.”
“Aaawwww” they say.
“No! Wait! I love you more than all the leaves on all the trees in the world.”
“Awwwww” they say.
“No! Wait! I love you more than all the trees and leaves and bugs on those leaves and bits of dirt that those trees grow in.”
“Awwwww” they say. And it doesn’t matter the area we’re covering (we’ve quantity surveyed most areas of matter over the years), their answer is always the same… “I love you all that PLUS infinity.”
And I say, “I love you all that PLUS infinity PLUS one.”

And then we skew off into a discussion of theoretical mathematics and things descend into general confusion.

But the other night I finished up by saying, “Miss Fruitarian. Do you love Mr Meat & Potatoes?”
Pause.
“Yes” she said.
“Well then, you should tell him.”
Groan.
“I love you sometimes… Mr M&P”.

Mr M&P smirked his way through that exchange, but then it was his turn.

“Mr Meat & Potatoes, do you love Miss Fruitarian?”
“Yes”.
“So you should tell her. It’s important to tell people that you love them.”
He actually giggled before spitting out, “I love you Miss F, when you’re not being annoying.”

Being a MASSIVE tell-people-you-love-them type (don’t come too close after I’ve had a few wines), I was slightly appalled at how difficult they found this simple task.

I’m vowing to enforce more of a love-in so that they can share positive feelings naturally and without me around.

So now I’m curious. Do you tell your siblings that you love them? And do your kids comfortably express love for each other?

Here’s something else they do both love…

Full of love (and tuna, egg & vegies)

Full of love (and tuna, egg & vegies)

Tuna, egg & vegie pastry pockets

180g can tuna in springwater, drained, flaked
2 boiled eggs, peeled, mashed
1 small carrot, grated
Handful green beans, ends removed and finely sliced
1/2 cup spinach leaves (english spinach or silverbeet), very finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh herbs, finely chopped (dill, chives, parsley are all good), optional
1 cup firmly packed grated cheese
5 sheets store-bought puff pastry
1 egg, whisked, for sticking and glazing

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two oven trays with baking paper.

Separate out your sheets of frozen pastry and leave to thaw.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the tuna, eggs, carrot, beans, spinach, herbs and cheese.

Either cut each of your pastry sheets into four squares, or go all fancy and use a small saucer to help you cut out four circles. Divide the tuna mix between each of the 20 bits of pastry (ends up being about 2 tbsp per piece).

Use a pastry brush to spread some egg mix over half the circle edge. Ease over the pastry. Seal with your fingers then press down on the edges with a fork to secure them. Pop onto your baking trays. Brush with extra egg.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden.

Makes 20

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BBQ chicken to the rescue

No one wants to cook every day. Even when I was working on Vegie Smugglers full time, I would still find myself out of time and searching the supermarket for easy last-minute dinners.

Now I’m back in the workforce part-time, with the added issue of kid’s commitments right on dinnertime. When I’ve got hungry kids and no dinner plans, I find a trusty ol’ BBQ chook can come to the rescue.

And really, it’s one of the better take away options. But just don’t just eat it as is – the greasy mass that stews away in those creepy bags isn’t so enticing, anyway.

Chuck away any stuffing (I think the supermarket ones are nearly inedible). Toss most of the skin – although if you’re end-of-the-day starving, I DARE you to resist it entirely. Shred up the meat and do something creative with it.

When the kids were younger it was meat and salad with mayo in wraps. Then for a while I’d knock up a quick Portuguese-style chicken & rice soup. But these days we make this Asian-style salad. It’s full of the crunchy vegies that my kids enjoy and I put them to work on it, so they learn how to make something and it’s on the table within 15 minutes. Plus, Mr VS & I can pop on a tonne of coriander and chilli and have something adult-tasty.

And before you know it, there's something almost gourmet on the table.

And before you know it, there’s something almost gourmet on the table.

BBQ chicken asian salad

1 BBQ chicken
Handful green beans
Handful snow peas
125g can corn kernels
Bean sprouts
1 carrot, finely shredded or grated

Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp oil (grapeseed or avocado)

To serve (all optional): peanuts, coriander, mint & sweet chilli sauce

While you shred the chicken, put the kids to work, washing then top and tailing the beans and snow peas. They can practise their chopping skills – cutting each into 3-4 pieces and tossing them into a salad bowl. They can also tip in the drained corn and play with add in the bean sprouts.

You might want to shred the carrot yourself. Add it and the chicken into a large bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients together well then tip over and mix through.

Serves 2 adults & 2 kids

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