Archive for All recipes

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).

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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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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.

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There’s a touch of both worthiness and authority in every bite of this salted-cinnamon granola

The term ‘wholefoods’ kind of irks me. Partly because it’s imbued with such worthiness and partly because it gets thrown around so often, with such authority and I’ve never really known what it means (except that I’ll pay a hefty surcharge if I see it written on a packet).

Finally I looked it up and was pleasantly surprised to realise that ALL THIS TIME, I have been living the wholefoods dream and I didn’t even know it.

You know, those carrots I buy? WHOLEFOODS.

And the organic meat I cook with? WHOLEFOODS.

And the cashews I feed the kids after school? WHOLEFOODS.

Because wholefoods just means that you buy unprocessed ingredients and cook stuff.

I was, of course, stoked by this discovery and quite delighted by my unwitting cool-ness and ability to throw my new word into conversation, with both authority and worthiness.

I think the problem with much of the new health-food evangelism is that it is spouted by born-again healthy people. Extreme folks who used to drink 20 can of Coke each day, but after imbibing their first green smoothie four months ago, have now seen the light and have set a new mission to pervade the entire electronic world with their message. Which is, of course, is delivered with authority and worthiness.

For me, my food history is boring. I definitely eat better now than I did 10 years ago, but I’ve always enjoyed clean food and cooking. Which makes my story dull and less compelling. I have less authority and worthiness. Although now that I realise that I’m a wholefood-devotee of 40 years, without weight or health issues, perhaps I do have the chance to up my personal sell with motivational spurtings about ‘wellness’ and ‘holistic living’.

So while ‘wholefoods’ can be a blurry term, ’whole grains’ are quite a specific thing. According to the Whole Grains Council (yes, they exist) this is the definition…. “100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain.” The theory being that they deliver more fibre, nutrition and help prevent disease. (I’ll leave the science of all that up to the sciencey-people to quibble over.)

Paleo folks dismiss the entire grains oeuvre, but I’m still a fan. I feel good when I eat them. I feel nourished and happy and well. So I eat them. And I’m quietly delighted when I find a little gem of a book being published like Megan Gordon’s “Whole Grain Mornings”. So many lovely & original ideas for people like me, who still quietly eat carbohydrates (behind closed doors, of course).

Apparently she’s terribly famous for ‘Marg’s Granola’, and she generously shares the recipe. It’s a basic granola that you can twist & adapt to suit your own household, which is what I’ve done here…

vegie smugglers salted cinnamon granola

Worthy, authoritative, but most importantly, DELICIOUS.

Salted Cinnamon Granola

4 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 cups nuts & seeds (I like flaxseeds, pumpkin, sunflower, flaked almonds & pecans)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (or cassia, if you can get your hands on it)
1/4 cup sweetener (seriously, don’t email me, just use whatever damn sweetener you like, or leave it out altogether if you’re born-again sugar free)
1/4 cup liquid fat (again, your choice, I like olive oil. Coconut oil also works fine) And just quietly, 1/4 cup barely does it, if you want serious crunch, you need a bit more.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a big deep oven tray. Mix all these ingredients together, pop them evenly into the tray and bake for about 35 minutes, stirring a couple of times along the way.

When cool, combine in with…

2 cups dried fruit (I like currants, sultanas & dried apple)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups bran bits. This is optional, leave it out for a wheat-free granola
2 cups puffed corn. Again, this is optional, but I like to pad my granola out a bit – it’s not a cheap breakfast, after all.

Mix everything together and ENJOY your breakfast, knowing that each spoonful contains its own little bit of both worthiness and authority. AND its delicious.

vegie smugglers cheese spinach sticks

Earlier this week I published an easy little recipe for cheese & spinach sticks. Did you see it? Click over to Mother & Baby for that one.

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