Archive for Vegetarian

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).

freeshipping

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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.

freeshipping

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The dressing that saved salad

This will make friends with salad!

This will make friends with salad!

Ah, salad! That divisive item that has people either in raptures or hell. Kids tend to fall firmly on the side of ‘hell’ and getting fussy eaters onto the stuff can be tricky. I do have two tips though, which I call the ‘dress & lure’ principle (sounds slutty, really isn’t). You can read all about it today over at Mother & Baby where I’m guest blogging.

Even those of us with salad-friendly families can find ourselves in a bit of a rut by the end of the crunch season. Which is why I’m sharing the recipe which has revived salad for us this summer. It packs a punch, being a bit of a honey/mustard/ranch-type concoction. You don’t need too much for it to work its magic.

Lately I’ve been making these ‘salad cups’ – tuna plus a bunch of leaves, basil, carrot, etc – in fact whatever I have on hand, chopped pretty finely with dressing and a cherry ‘olive’ on top. I find the slightly opaque glass works a treat. They look fun and taste great, which is enough to ensure that they will be gobbled up.

vegie-smugglers-salad cups

Honey/Mustard/Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup mayonaise (good quality, not low fat)
1/4 cup fresh herbs (I used a chive/basil/parsley combo)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (start with one – I I usually end up adding the second)
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil (something bland)

Blitz everything together. Taste and add the extra lemon juice if you’d like it more tangy. Store in a jar in the fridge for a week or so.

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Even Goldilocks would just sit down, shut up and eat this dinner

Most nights I can sit at the dinner table, close my eyes and instantly be transported to a fairy tale. Oh! I hear you exclaim with envy, ‘SHE HAS THE PERFECT LIFE!’.

But you’d be wrong, because unfortunately I’m not in the midst of a good Cinderella-type tale, with romance, makeovers and awesome frocks (have you seen the rude Tinderella version? Very funny.) No, I get taken straight to the story with the most annoying of annoying characters around – Goldilocks and the 3 bears. With eyes shut, my dinner companions all suddenly morph into Goldilockses, all criticism and complaints about the meal before them.

“This is too hot!”
“This is too spicy!”
“This doesn’t have enough flavour!”
“I think I saw a speck of pepper!”
“This sauce doesn’t match my underpants!”

Etc, etc, etc.

But every now and then a recipe comes along that has my entire family gushing with praise, declaring it, ‘Just right’. And thankfully, this is one of those recipes. It is a gorgeous bit of kitchen alchemy. My fairy godmother tip to you is to bake the kumura to give you a rich, sweet base.

Abracadabra. Enjoy.

Serve this on rice for a more substantial meal.

Serve this on rice for a more substantial meal.

Goldilocks chickpea patties

Feeds: 2 adults & 2 small kids, served on rice with salad
Allergy info: Vegan. Free from gluten, egg, dairy.
Substitutions?: I think this recipe is pretty perfect as is.
Freeze?: No.
Prep ahead?: Kumura mash can store in the fridge for 2-3 days. Prepared patties can be refrigerated until it’s time to cook.
Why I like it: Simple, vegie-packed, delicious. A perfect meat-free Monday recipe.
Smuggling rating: 9/10 – vegies hidden in vegies, all fried up a bit crispy.

1 1/2 cups mashed kumura (orange sweet potato)
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed, drained
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sumac (available on the spice stand at good fruit markets) OR use the zest of half a lemon
1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour) – for rolling.
Oil for frying (I like about 1/4 cup of olive oil)

To get the kumura mash, chuck a whole kumura into your oven at 180C for 50-60 minutes until squishy. (Any leftovers are great added to spag bol, or mixed into sweet muffins).

In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas and mix through the vegies and spices. Form golf ball size patties and dunk in the chickpea flour.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil (be generous) and once hot, add a few patties to the pan. Turn when golden (you’ll probably need to cook them for about 3 minutes either side.)

Serve with salad, lemon & a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

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Why you don’t need to detox this year

If only I had overly rouged, high cheekbones, it could be 1984!

If only I had overly rouged, high cheekbones, it could be 1984!

This morning, lucky followers of my instagram account were treated with this picture. On waking I was delighted to realise that while I definitely had sore feet (from dancing), my head was only slightly sore even after copious amounts of bubbles (it is a rare day that the hangover gods smile on me). Most importantly, I’d woken to find that my slightly-cloudy head was coifed with a perfectly done, 1980s, Dynastry-style do.

I take these things as A SIGN. To wake up on New years day with perfect 1980s hair must definitely be a sign that IT’S GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR. And such an auspicious segue from the holiday season to the regular year can only mean one thing – that’s it’s time to pull my finger out and get back on the blogging horse. Really, there’s no reason to delay it any longer. I’m so caught up on LIFE, that even my plastics cupboard has been tidied. I’ve got a stash of inspiring recipes scribbled down and my fingers are itching to get back computering. A bit of a break has been good for the soul and has gotten my juices flowing again (TMI?!).

The first thing I’m doing in 2015 is to buck the piety trend and tell everyone that they can take their detoxes and healthy eating resolutions and shove them up their well-intentioned jaxies. Abstemious doctrines hold no lure for me this year. After watching several friends endure entirely heartbreaking years in 2014, I see no reason to squander good fortune. We are blessed and surrounded by abundance and this year I plan to enjoy every morsel of things that make me feel good. Food should be nourishment, colour, seduction and joy, not a cause for anxiety or stress or avoidance.

Feeding your family full of healthy and delicious meals can be a satisfying and life affirming task. Don’t believe me? Stick with me this year and I’ll prove it.

Starting here, with this simple pesto risotto. It meets so many Vegie Smuggling criteria. It’s DELICIOUS. If you grow basil, then this is pretty cheap. Finishing the cooking in the oven makes it insanely EASY and my pesto-loving kids will hoover up a full bowl of this without question (helped along by the lure of crispy proscuitto).

Eating well is a privilege we can all enjoy, all the time.

Happy 2015!

Happy food.

Happy food.

Pesto risotto

Make this vegetarian by leaving out the prosciutto and use vegetable stock.

50g butter
1 red onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 zucchini, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 & 2/3 cup arborio rice
4 cups (1 litre) hot chicken stock
1½ cups frozen peas

Pesto:
1 bunch basil
¼ cup grated parmesan (the posher the better)
¼ cup pine nuts
4 tbsp olive oil

proscuitto (optional)

Use a stove to oven dish with a lid for this recipe (like a Le Crueset).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat your pot on the stove over medium heat. Melt the butter. Add your onion and celery and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. Toss in the garlic and zucchini for 1 minute, stirring well the entire time.

Rain in the rice, add the vegies, pour over the stock. Mix well. Pop on your lid, transfer to the oven and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Make the pesto by adding the basil, cheese, nuts and oil to a mini food processor and blitzing thoroughly. Set aside

Remove the pot from the oven. Carefully remove the lid and scoop out a few grains to check that they’re basically tender. If still hard, return to the oven for another few minutes. If almost ready, tip in the peas and pesto. Quickly stir it in, recover the pot let it sit for another 5 minutes.

Serve with more grated parmesan, crumbled proscuitto and pepper.

NOTE: crisp the the proscuitto by laying it in a single layer on a tray and baking in the hot oven while the risotto rests.

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Why I can’t manage healthy eating all the time

Keeping all the nutrition balls in the air at all times is a task that is often too large for me (I suspect it’s too large for most modern parents). I mean, hot damn, if there isn’t a bunch of tasks clawing at us from different directions at all times keeping the domestic tension rising. It makes sense that the pressure escapes in the areas where you have the most options. So while skiving off work or dropping the kids to school at 10.15 isn’t an option, dashing into the supermarket and buying something ready-to-eat out of the packet, is.

So I get it, I really do, the fact that keeping a house full of 100% healthy food is a tricky task that is only achievable with consistent motivation and effort. Which is why I try to keep my blog pretty accessible. I’m not asking you to ferment, or make your cheese or activate nuts or only eat organic. Gold stars to all of you who do manage to do all of this – if you could please pop over and let me know all of your time management secrets; I’d be hugely appreciative.

At my place, I cook as much as I can. I consider but don’t obsess over ingredients and I do try to stand back and get an overview of our diet from time to time. Inevitably little areas of slackness have arisen that I can squish back down with some simple changes and easy recipes.

One area I get lazy with is savoury crackers. There are several brands that aren’t full of additives (yes I know, they’re all full of masses of salt), so a packet of them in the pantry can be a lifesaver. BUT, they’re not really full of anything much at all. No rubbish, but also no nutrition. And considering how popular they are with the kids as an after-school snack, it’s worth the 10 minutes it takes to mix and press out this homemade version. Just happens that this recipe is gluten and egg-free, although I like it just because these crackers are seriously tasty.

Seed crackers - nut free, so perfect for lunchboxes, too.

Seed crackers – nut free, so perfect for lunchboxes, too.

SEEDY CRACKERS

1 cup besan flour (chickpea flour, available from good fruit markets and health food stores)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp spice (I like 1/2 tsp garlic powder & 1/2 tsp cumin, but you can try paprika, sumac, coriander or zatar)
1 tbsp fresh herbs (I like rosemary & thyme)
4 tbsp seeds (any combination you like of sesame, flax, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin & chia)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 170C.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, spices, herbs & seeds.

Tip in the olive oil, the gradually add enough water until the mix comes together to form a sticky dough.

Roll it out between a couple of sheets of kitchen paper until about 3-5mm thick (if you don’t have a rolling pin, just press it out with your hand). Remove the top sheet. Score with a knife and place on a large baking sheet. Cook for 20-22 minutes until golden.

Cool before breaking into pieces.

Makes about 20 pieces

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new-book-on-sale

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Slow cooker tomato & pasta soup

Is it just me, or has Facebook become increasingly bossy? My feed is inundated with THINGS I MUST DO: 9 photos every mother should have on her phone. 22 things to do with your kids before they move out. 5 essentials for their daily lunchbox. 15 foods to stop eating IMMEDIATELY. 17 tips for a loving marriage. 8 ways to express gratitude to your children. 18 things to do with old socks. 101 tips for a fulfilling life…. etc etc etc etc

All of which leaves me exhausted, harangued and vaguely guilty (since I’ve only got 3 photos, 15 things done, 2 lunchbox essentials, 5 foods I won’t eat, 12 more things needed for my marriage to be a success, all my old socks go straight into the rubbish and I never finished reading about everything needed for fulfillment).

So this post isn’t bossy at all. It’s just one way, which happens to be a really easy way, to make tomato soup that is very kid friendly and easily jazzed up to be delicious for grown ups too. The slow cooker makes it insanely simple.

Make it if you want – or don’t. Totally up to you.

vegie smugglers slow cooker tomato and pasta soup

Only one idea here, but it is a nice easy one.

Slow cooker tomato & pasta soup

1 1/2 litres vegetable stock
800g can crushed tomatoes
1 large tomato (or two roma tomatoes), diced
1 red onion, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled, chopped into a few pieces
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup risoni soup pasta (stick to small pasta that cooks in under 8-9 minutes to avoid a starchy mess – the pasta in the picture is the biggest I’d try)

Place everything, except the pasta, into your slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours (it’s actually ready after 6, but cooking it for longer to suit your day’s schedule won’t be a problem).

Use a stick blender to blitz your soup up to a smooth consistency. Toss in the pasta. Stir well and recover. Leave for 25-30 minutes until your pasta is cooked.

Serve with bread, grilled cheese on toast, or adults might like a scattering of parsley, basil, chopped fresh tomato, feta and olives.

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids

family-food-made-fun

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