Archive for Vegetarian

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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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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Enjoy dinner-time thrills and empty plates

Mealtime stress often causes us to lose our perspective, doesn’t it? Caught up in the angst of kids rejecting food we’ve slaved over, the misery of power plays over whether or not they are going to EAT THAT PEA or worried sick over whether our child is getting their nutritional needs met from one mouthful of meatloaf last Tuesday, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that food should be nourishing, happy and FUN.

I was reminded of this last week when I had a super-poshy dinner out at Sepia Restaurant. It was one of those Masterchef-y type places with foams and odd concoctions and food bordering on art and theatre. The dish that stands out was the mid-course sorbet, which arrived as a little perfect white globe on a huge dark blue dish scattered with icing sugar. It was the galaxy on a plate. Unsure how to approach it, or even what it was, I pushed my spoon into the sphere and it, like, EXPLODED. Sherbet-like substance in a range of colours sprinkled over the plate in a food event so fun and gorgeous that apparently I squealed. By that stage I was onto wine number 4, so possibly I can’t really tell you what it tasted like (it was citrus, I do recall), but the event was so memorable and damn fun that it was worth every extravagant penny.

And it reminded me, that sometimes it’s good to step back from nutrition and focus instead on food being fun. Make dinner enjoyable and you’ll have a much better chance of success when feeding your kids, too.

Sometimes it’s as simple of giving a slightly ugly dish a fun name, like this witches stew - a green split pea soup that my kids adore. Serve it in a black dish like a cauldron. Or place three of these traffic light swirls on a plate in a row and let them decide which colour they’re going to scoff first.

Simple presentation ideas can help your cause.

With the last of the basil (yes, gorgeously perfect out of my vegepod), I whipped up a pesto. My kids love it and it was even more fun when served through some squid’s ink pasta. Adults might baulk of the look, but the kids thought this was awesome and spent the meal scoffing it while trying to decide if it was monster’s intestines, mermaid hair or giant snot.

Food from Atlantis? Or deep space? Your kids can decide.

Food from Atlantis? Or deep space? Your kids can decide.

Possibly not the most flattering appraisal of my cooking, but a success, nonetheless.

The original pesto recipe is here. I also blitzed in a cup of cooked broccoli florets. It’s a super fantastic addition, an idea I stole from Collette at Cut out the Crap. Works brilliantly.

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Searching for food joy (for the whole family)

food-love2

Do you think the internet is good for humanity? Big question, I know, especially this early in the week, but it’s something my husband and I have been debating a bit lately.

Generally I think the internet is awesome. All that accessible knowledge. So many ways to open your mind, connect with people and experience worlds that were beyond us just 15 years ago. What a shame then, that so much of the internet tends to be a place of pointless extremes, dominated by violence, pictures of Kardashians, cats and people hating on one another. The intolerance and abuse from people hiding behind screens can be mind-boggling.

I cop a bit of hate myself. My website and my food philosophy aren’t extreme enough for many folks online. Breaking some of the current healthy eating taboos, I admit to eating all kinds of ‘poison’. A bit of sugar. A bit of gluten. Often I eat just for fun, rather than taking a strict nutritarian stance and quite often, I eat meat.

Usually I suck it up and take the abuse with a grain of salt – admiring the vehemence with which my various e-pen-pals argue their causes. Their devotion and commitment to a single philosophy does impress me and sometimes I worry that my laissez-faire attitude needs to be tightened up a little. But last week I was reading, “14 Habits of People with a healthy relationship to food“. Turns out I have nearly all of these habits. The one that particularly jumped out was, “swear by everything in moderation.”

Hallelujah.

And that’s me. I swear by everything in moderation and I keep food in perspective. No amount of kale can replace a glass of wine (and laughs) shared with good friends. And how lucky we are to live in such an affluent society that this whole food debate is even possible.

So here’s the thing. I’m not a gluten free site, although often my recipes happen to be gluten-free. If I have GF suggestions, I’ll list it in the recipe. And if I don’t, possibly you’ll have to come up with your own substitution, or skip the recipe and find something else to make.

I’m not a dairy-free site. Although I am personally lactose-intolerant. Many of my recipes ARE dairy-free and dairy-free substitutes are pretty easy to manage.

I do cook with eggs and nuts. If you’re dealing with a nut allergy, you’ll have to skip those recipes rather than emailing me demanding a nut-free version. If you’re wanting to swap out eggs, here’s a good article here to give you a range of options.

I do cook with meat.

As a 41-year-old educated woman, I’ve made that choice. I understand the ethical, environmental and health implications of my choice. There’s no need to try to convert me. The irony is not lost on me that the most abusive messages I receive are from people trying to protect animals from violence. Perhaps the animal-advocates should quit using that tactic – save the abuse and instead just seduce me with links to vegetarian fare that I can’t resist. Because, actually, I eat vegetarian food all the time. I love the creativity and diversity of it. Lots of recipes on this site ARE vegetarian, including these falafel burgers, which just happen to be egg-free and suitable for vegans, too. There’s no dairy and I’m offering some GF suggestions (although I’ve not tested them). They’re high fibre and easy to make.

Despite all that, I eat these burgers because my whole family thinks they’re delicious and they fit in perfectly with my extreme food philosophy of moderationarianism.

Something for everyone.

Something for everyone.

Falafel burgers

1 piece sliced bread (or about 1 cup of GF breadcrumbs)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
handful of parsley (optional)
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1 small red onion
1 carrot, roughly chopped
juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup plain flour (I’ve not tried, but I strongly suspect that besan flour would be perfect here)
oil spray
bread rolls (obviously optional – use a GF wrap if you prefer), salad and barbecue sauce (also optional – a bit of plain yoghurt would also do), to serve

Use a food processor or mini-processor for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Blitz the bread, garlic, spices and parsley together to make flavoured breadcrumbs. Place in a large bowl.

Pulse the chickpeas to a paste and add to the bowl. Repeat, using the pulse function to chop the onion then the carrot. Drizzle the lemon juice over and mix in well. Sprinkle over the flour and use your hands to combine.

Shape the mixture into eight equal patties. Place on the baking tray, spray with oil and bake for 25 minutes, carefully turning once during cooking.

Serve on rolls with salad and barbecue sauce.
MAKES 8 PATTIES

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Is that something green in your teeth (and thumb)? PLUS a discount offer on a great product

Part of the ongoing challenge of feeding kids well is getting the balance right between educating them about food but not making nutrition into such a big issue that they’ll grow into teenagers who rebel and reject us and our quaint “here, have a carrot stick” ways. I think I sometimes do tip into the food-nazi zone. Like when my 6-year-old pushed his spoon through his noodle soup and questioned, “Where’s the protein?” it seemed obvious that we’d had one healthy food lecture, too many.

Luckily, there are more subtle ways of making food education part of the every day. Growing stuff is a perfect way to educate kids quietly. A nice way to practice what you preach.

Problem is though, that some of us have green thumbs and others don’t. I don’t. I’m too sporadic with watering, too forgetful. I’ve got possums and snails and caterpillars that love to party, gorging their green little asses on my outdoor sweat & tears.

All of which adds up to making me a perfect guinea pig for Matt, who offered me a bit of Vegepod salvation.

Generally I avoid PR posts and I’m proud to say that I don’t get paid to talk about anything on this blog (I make a coin by selling my products, instead). So if I do, it’s because it’s a product I like, generally from a small, local business that is working hard with minimal budget to promote big ideas.

Rather than blabber about the Vegepod itself (you can visit the website and find out all about it, instead), I’ll just show you this pic of what I’ve managed to grow in just over 5 weeks. With my little microclimate under the hood, I’ve even got late season basil underway, long after my other stuff in pots has all gone to seed.

Hand clap!

Hand clap!

Best yet, is that the kids are totally excited about the more exotic stuff that we’re now managing to grow. I’m always astonished at how much more enthusiastic they are about eating something that they’ve picked themselves. This silverbeet is a perfect example.

And if you’re interested in a Vegepod, Matt has offered VS readers a 10% discount by entering “smugglers” into the coupon field. Offer expires April 6.

Thanks Matt & hope you sell heaps of Vegepods!

You don't have to hide vegies, so long as they're delicious!

You don’t have to hide vegies, so long as they’re delicious!



Creamed spinach

1 bunch silverbeet, washed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
150ml pouring cream
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
pinch of ground nutmeg
pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drop in the silverbeet, a few leaves at a time. Use tongs to remove them after about 30 seconds. Transfer to a colander. Continue until the whole bunch is cooked. Set aside to cool slightly.
Squeeze out the excess water from the silverbeet, slice the leaves off the stems (discard stems) and roughly chop the leaves.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion for 6-8 minutes or until golden and soft. Toss in the spinach leaves and cream. Stir until hot, mix through the cheddar and sprinkle over the nutmeg. Season with pepper.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS as a side dish

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