Archive for Red meat

The one meal that my kids would love to eat every day….

Generally a vegie-smuggling theory of mine has been that too much repetition in a kitchen or on a weekly menu is a bad thing. Dealing with fussy kids is hard enough without adding an extra layer of “but it’s Tuesday – we always eat bolognaise on Tuesdays”. Too much predictability will make conquering bad food habits particularly tricky. So I like to mix it up and keep the kids used to coming to the dinner table with an open mind. “What’s this?” they’ll ask. I’ll tell them and they’ll shrug an “ok”, all the while giving it a sniff and checking out the colours.

Which is why our recent trip to Fiji was even more exciting – I completely let the rule book go. Repetition was inevitable since the kids only ate free if they ate from the kid’s menu (I’ve discussed dismal kid’s menus before here). So for lunch, every. single. day, my boy chose to eat ‘Fun in a Bun’. A mini burger of such magnificence that it was entirely satisfying for 5 days in a row. It came with chips (of course) and there was some token lettuce which was quickly tossed aside.

But looking at his blissed out face every day I pledged that mummy would tackle fun-in-a-bun. Which I have to admit has been quite fun. Of course my burgers are meanly sneaking in stuff, but not too much. And there is a certain lazy thrill is serving up a minimal kind of bun, without too much salad or fuss.

And the kids love it.

vegie smugglers basic hamburger for kids

The funnest bun in town

Fun in a bun

125g can 4-bean mix, rinsed, drained
2 big cloves garlic, peeled
4 spring onions, chopped into 4cm lengths
1 medium carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1 egg
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
500g beef mince

Spray oil

To serve: burger buns, salad, sauces.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with oil. Set aside.

In a mini food processor, pulse the beans, garlic, spring onions, carrots, egg and sauce until everything is roughly chopped and well combined.

Place the mince into a large mixing bowl. Pour the vegie mix over the top and use your hands (wear kitchen gloves if you’re squeamish) to combine it all together really well. Shape the mix into about 14 mini-patties and place them onto the oven rack. Spray with oil and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully turn them over, spray with more oil and bake for another 15 minutes until cooked through.

Serve on small bread rolls with your choice of classic burger toppings – choose from lettuce, tomato, avocado, beetroot, gherkins and cheese. Top with your choice of sauce – we like classic tomato with American mustard.

Makes 14ish patties – serves 2 adults & 3-4 kids.


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Beef & Chorizo Empanadas

Every now and again I do love to draw upon my past life as a Nicaraguan coffee farmer’s wife and whip up some tasty Latin American morsels. My kids go mad for them. As soon as I chuck the chorizo into the pan they’ll come running with a hopeful, “Are we having empanada’s for dinner?” The chorizo is the cheat ingredient that gives a tonne of flavour really simply. Traditionally you can shove pretty much any ingredients into them, including beans and eggs, but I find this recipe is the right mix of yum/simple/popular.

Best yet, you can make this in several stages to suit your day. If you’re free in the morning then make the mince mix and even get the empanadas made up. Just cover them with cling wrap or pop them in a sealed container in the fridge until you need them. Then just preheat your oven, brush them with egg and you’re away.

Besterest yeterest, this recipe makes a good amount so I’ve always got a ready-to-go bit of something for the lunchbox for the following day. Doesn’t matter that they’re cold – they’re apparently still completely yum.


Beef & Chorizo Empanadas

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 chorizo sausage, finely diced
500g beef mince
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
1 cup grated pumpkin
2 tbsp tomato paste (or leftover pizza sauce is also good)
1 cup frozen peas
6 sheets shortcrust pastry

1 egg, whisked for glazing

Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat. Add the oil then the onions. Cook, stirring often for 5-6 minutes until starting to turn golden. Add in the chorizo for a minute or two then also carefully pop in the mince. Use the spoon to break up the lumps and keep it moving around for several minutes until it is all browned.

Chuck in the garlic, capsicum, pumpkin & tomato paste. Stir everything through well. Simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it – there’s not much liquid so make sure it doesn’t burn.

Tip in the peas – mix them through and take the mixture off the heat to cool slightly.

Remove the pastry sheets from the freezer & separate them out onto your bench (a bit of bench space or a large kitchen table makes this easier!)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a couple of oven trays with baking paper.

Once the pastry sheets have thawed, use a small bowl or saucer as a guide and use a small sharp knife to cut four circles from each sheet (this gives a nice traditional shape but I’m not gonna fuss if this is all a bit hard & you instead use squares to fold into triangles). Brush half the edge of each circle with egg. Dollop about 2tbsp or so of mix into the middle of each circle. Fold over and seal the edges. Give them a crimp or just squish the edge shut with a fork.

Place on the baking trays, brush with egg and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.

Makes 24.


PS. After 5 years and 3 print runs, it looks like I’m about to sell out of the last hard copies of the original Vegie Smugglers cookbook. The good news? There’s still a handful left if you want to grab one quickly. The better news? There’ll be a digital version hitting your i-shelves soon.

Visit the shop here.

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A 30-minute lamb dinner-winner

More interesting that your usual savoury mince but just as popular.

More interesting that your usual savoury mince but just as popular.

Here’s an easy dinner idea that takes all the kid-friendliness of savoury mince and gives it a little Middle-Eastern twist. Using the naan bread as a base is a bit of Veggie-Smuggling sneakiness – keeping a visible lure ingredient to tempt the kids to dig in.

The idea is that to get to the bread, they’re having to get in a mouthful of mince mixture which should hopefully be enough to tickle their tastebuds and get them scoffing away.

Better yet – this 30 minute meal smuggles eggplant and mushrooms and is a quick one-frypan affair. Bliss.

Citrus lamb mince on naan

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
500g minced lamb
1 eggplant, finely diced (peeled first if your kids are iffy with eggplant)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 carrot, grated
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
Rind of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 tsp honey

To serve: Greek yoghurt, mint, coriander, naan bread. Chopped cucumber and tomato are also great.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and when hot, add the onion and stir frequently for 6-8 minutes or so until turning golden. Add the mince and break up the lumps until it is entirely browned. Toss in the eggplant and stir regularly for a few minutes. It’ll absorb all the lamb fat and start to soften. After several minutes, add in the garlic and spices. Combine well and once fragrant add in the rest of the ingredients. Lower the heat and leave everything to simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Since the mix is pretty dry, you do need to keep an eye on it and give it the odd stir so that it doesn’t burn.

Serve topped with yoghurt, herbs and bread.

Serves 2 adults & 2 kids


Do your kids like mince? Try my savoury mince recipe. Or my classic bolognaise. Or this fajita mix is delish!



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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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Taking the spice challenge with this lamb pilaf

Along with a strong dislike of most vegetables, my delightful daughter has always been vehemently anti-spice. And while I’ve now gotten her to a point where she will eat a wide variety of vegies and a whole range of flavour profiles, she will still FREAK OUT if there’s anything in her dinner that makes her tongue HOT.

My workaround has always been to create mild versions of dishes that use small amounts of all the flavour spices but omit any ‘hot’ ingredients like cayenne pepper or chilli. Generally this has worked well. But following my theory that you should continually push kids just slightly out of their food comfort zone, I’ve continued to push her heat boundaries.

Finally a couple of years back I found a breakthrough dish – this nachos recipe which has a decent slug of sweet chilli sauce. She adores it to the point where she actually begs me to make it. That felt like a major achievement. But never one to rest on my laurels, I’ve continued to push with the amount and type of heat I can use. There’s been a few misses and a few hits, the latest being this lamb pilaf, which actually has a half teaspoon of chilli powder. I use a mild mexican one which adds a hint of oomph, but is still insanely child-friendly.

So the days of a vindaloo may still be far off, but on nights when the rest of the household is seeking a bit of flavour, I’m finding this dish is working well.

lamb pilaf vegie smugglers

Extra milk for Miss F who needs several glasses to sooth her burning tongue.

Lamb pilaf

1/4 cup pinenuts

2 tbsp oil of your choice (or use ghee)
400g lamb rump steaks, finely diced
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 finger eggplant, finely diced
1 cup basmati rice
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
1 cup pumpkin, grated
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups beef stock (hot)
1 cup peas

Mint & parsley (optional)

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the pinenuts and stir and toast until golden (keep an eye on them, they go from raw to burnt in a jiffy). Remove & set aside.

Place a large saucepan over a medium/high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and when hot toss in the lamb. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly until brown all over. Remove and set aside.

Add the rest of the oil and reheat the pot. Toss in the onion and cook, stirring often for 4-5 minutes until turning golden. Add the garlic, spices and eggplant. Stir for another minute then pour in the rice. Combine everything really well before adding in all of the grated vegies. Carefully pour over the hot stock and add the paste. Return the meat to the pan, mix everything together and pop on the lid. Simmer on medium heat for 12 minutes until the rice is 95% cooked.

Quickly toss through the peas and recover for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for another 5 minutes to allow the last of the liquid to absorb. (This dish does tread a fine line between uncooked rice and mush – you’ll need to use these times as a guide only and adjust to suit your kitchen’s cooking conditions).

Toss through the pinenuts and the herbs (if using).

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 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

This recipe (& a bunch of others) is in my new e-book!

This recipe (& a bunch of others) is in my new e-book!

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How to guarantee vegie-smuggling success (and a giveaway)

Some people like to smuggle vegies by cooking them, mashing them and re-adding them to dishes where they get cooked again and served to unwitting children. Have you heard of this method?

Unless your child is severely vegie-resistant and you’re looking for a starting point that guarantees success, I would avoid doing this. Why?…
1. By the end of this process, most of the vegie’s nutritional benefits are gone.
2. It’s too much work for time-poor parents to manage.
3. The kids don’t learn how delicious healthy eating can be.

I prefer a ‘chop chop’ method. Start with gorgeous fresh, raw produce and grate it or chop it into such small pieces that kids can’t easily identify or pick it out of their dinner.

People have complained to me, ‘but you’re not hiding the vegies – I can see them!’ to which I’ll reply, “yes, because you want your kids to realise that vegies are there, but to still eat them anyway’. If the little bits are all cooked together into a delicious and tasty whole meal, the kids will eat it (of course there are exceptions!) Mostly though, if they can’t identify exactly what vegie is what and if they’re enjoying the meal then their motivation to protest will be low.

The aim is to eventually get kids eating the way you do, so you might start off grating everything, but after a while you can move on to chopping and dicing things finely. Then the pieces can get bigger and bigger until you’re just cooking like normal. This process can take a couple of years and possibly you’ll have to backtrack if you push them too far (if you see them crying, with a huge chunk of zucchini on their fork, you’ll know that you need to go back to grating for a while).

So I recommend everyone take the time to buy a good kitchen knife and learn to use it (there’s a stack of videos online showing you how). You don’t need to be a whizz, just competent and safe. Buy yourself a good grater, too.

And also rely on gadgets to do the work for you. I use my mini-stick blender all the time. I use it to make breadcrumbs, chop vegies, whizz up homous and even make banana ice cream.

You can WIN this baby.

You can WIN this baby.

Luckily for one reader, today I’ve got an Avancer food processor to give away. In the larger machine you can make coleslaw, combine meatball mixtures, blend soups – all bound to give you vegie-smuggling success.

This meatball mix will be a doddle in it…

Hidden veg meatballs in an ALL VEG soup. Genius. And delicious.

Hidden veg meatballs in an ALL VEG soup. Genius. And delicious.

Italian meatballs

Make a double batch of these meatballs and freeze. They work great in all kinds of tomato soups and pasta sauces (like this one).

500g pork/veal mince
1 slice stale bread (any type)
2 tsp Italian herbs
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1/2 red capsicum, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line your largest baking tray with foil and spray well with olive oil spray.

Use your food processor to make breadcrumbs with the bread. Also add in the garlic and herbs and blitz to get heavenly, fragrant breadcrumbs.

Quickly blitz the carrot, then the capsicum. Pop in the mince; toss the egg on top and pulse to bring the mix together. Pop on some kitchen gloves and roll meatballs and place on the tray. If you have the time and patience, keep them nice and bite-sized (plus they cook faster).

Spray the meatballs with more oil spray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tray, carefully turn them over and return to the oven for 10 minutes more until golden outside and fully cooked through.

Makes enough for 2 adults and 2-3 kids, depending on what you add them into.


WANT TO WIN THE FOOD PROCESSOR? You need to be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber, based in Australia. And since Avancer have given me the prize, you might want to check out all the Avancer products here. Simply enter by commenting below about which vegies you find the hardest to get your kids to eat. Entries close Thursday Oct 24, 8pm AEDT. ****THANKS FOR YOUR ENTRIES! AVANCER HAVE PICKED THE WINNER – CONGRATULATIONS ALISON WHITE, HOPE YOU ENJOY THE FOOD PROCESSOR!

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