Archive for Vegetarian

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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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

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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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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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