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Halloween pumpkin…. in a cake

It is the week where orange food rules. I don’t know about your place, but Halloween has seeped into our household over the last few years and I’m happy this year that it falls on a Friday night. It means that we can all potter off to a dress up party together for a bit of fun rather than trawling the streets looking for the rare orange balloon that signifies that the occupants won’t freak out if we knock.

In previous years my kids have been super keen for a bit of trick or treating… until we get to the strange driveway… then all gumption leaves them and they start crying, too afraid to approach the door. Of course then they pester and want me to do it for them, but being a mean mum, I merely point out that following this imported tradition is THEIR idea, and if they can’t knock on the door, they don’t deserve any treat.

Tough love, and delivered whilst wearing a witches hat. Cackle.

Inevitably our lolly haul is small and we end up home earlier than anticipated with the night being more fraught than fright.

So a batch of these waiting in the kitchen might come in handy…

The ghosts look desirous, don't you think?

The ghosts look desirous, don’t you think?

Halloween pumpkin cakes

Most kids I’ve tried these on have liked them – although a few were vehemently anti-sultana, which is why I’m suggesting a choc chip substitution. I’ve not tried it, but I reckon it would get them over the line with most junior food critics.

2 eggs
1/4 cup oil of your choice (I use grapeseed, but coconut, olive oil etc are all fine)
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (be generous)
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
2 cups grated pumpkin (if you hate grating, just blitz small pumpkin chunks in a mini-food processor)
1/2 cup sultanas (or choc chips)

Heat the oven to 180C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Whisk the eggs well in a large bowl. Tip in the oil and yoghurt and whisk to combine before doing the same with the brown sugar.

Remove the whisk and sift over the flour and mixed spice. Use a metal spoon to fold through, then also combine in the pumpkin and sultanas.

Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin holes and bake for 22-25 minutes until golden and springy.

Makes 12.

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Win this amazing hamper!

Running an online business is a tricky thing – the effort required to start up and keep going is HUGE, so it’s an honour today to be able to feature a few fantastic women who like me, are tiny mumpreneur ventures doing amazing things. They’ve kindly sent me a bunch of products to pop into a giveaway hamper, so let’s check them out…. (BTW, I’m not being paid to run this post – I’m just happy to promote a few of my online mates)….

hamper-giveaway

Here’s what you win!

3-in-1 turning slicer courtesy of Jen at Barefoot Kitchens
Little Mashies reusable squeezie pouches.
Four reusable snack pockets from 4myearth
Additive free cake sprinkles, Zipzicle Ice pop bags and Jack N’ Jill natural toothpaste from Happy Tummies
Let’s party additive free by Melanie Avery
Raw food 4 kids by the Sarah Quinney
Three Safety Food Peelers
Four Cow Farm Baby kit of natural & organic baby oil, wash, lotion & cream from Nourishing Hub.
and my Kitchen Collection book

PLUS! My reader Katie has gifted a copy of the book her clever husband Giuseppe has illustrated!….

Aaaawwwww! So cute.

Aaaawwwww! So cute.

Since this hamper is focused on younger children, to enter all you have to do is share your favourite parenting tip in the comments below. It can be insanely practical, short or long – just one little nugget of wisdom when it comes to raising kids under three. To be eligible, you must be resident in Australia (so that I can ship everything to you).

Do yourselves a favour, take the time to visit and support all of these women on their facebook pages…. Barefoot Kitchens, Little Mashies, 4myearth, Happy Tummies, Let’s Party Additive Free, The Raw Food Mum, Safety Food Peelers, Nourishing Hub and Giuseppe Poli.

Entries close Sunday night, 6pm, AEDT.**** Thanks everyone and congratulations to our winner Narita!

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Do I love my thermomix now? An update 15 months later….

Someone just posted on my old post – Do I love my thermomix (you might be surprised), asking for an update on how I’ve settled in with my machine. I was fairly strident in my skepticism back then, so it seems only fair to fill you in on how I’ve gone, long term. It’s been 15 months now, so the novelty has worn off and I can assess its usefulness without my mind being swayed by the TM hype.

So here’s the truth…. I don’t use my thermomix very often. But when I DO use it, it’s fantastic. But I can get by without it for days on end.

My husband calls it the $2000 egg poacher, since I’ll go for a couple of weeks doing nought with it but bunging on a bit of breakfast. ‘But what a breakfast!’, I say. Perfectly soft-boiled eggs. Almost. Every. Time (colder water temps in winter meant I had to up the cooking time – learned that the hard way one morning, cracking open an almost raw egg).

Needless to say, husband raises an eyebrow and checks out the space on the wall where his $2000 television could have been proudly mounted. He’d probably have watched that for more than 5 minutes every week or so.

BUT. (And there’s always a but, isn’t there.) I LOVE TO COOK. So pots and pans are a bit joyful for me. Stirring sooths my soul. Chopping calms me down. Cooking is some strange therapy. I totally understand, though, that many people hate cooking and feel the nightly need for food production as a weight of concrete pulling them into the depths of mediocrity. And for those people, then the thermomix is a brilliant device. You need no kitchen flare to produce a good meal. Apparently the new model even tells you what to do next, so you need not even worry yourself with the tedium of recipe reading. GOLD.

And I’ll confess that mid-week, when all the shite is flying everywhere, the TM has saved my skin on many occasions. For me, this is where the machine shines and this is the theory behind the recipes that I chose to convert for my Thermomix ebook (check it out here). It’s perfect for those mid-week food production nights when you just want everyone to just shut up, eat and go to bed.

AND WHAT ABOUT ALL THAT OTHER WHIZZERY-BANGERY THAT IT DOES?
Yes, it does do it, and it does do it well. If you are dealing with food allergies and creating everything from scratch then I can see how much you would love your thermie. I have used it to mill sugar and I use it to mill brown rice into flour. And it’s absolutely-freaking-fantastic at all that. Yesterday, I used it to easily make a fantastic strawberry jam out of some soggy old cheap berries that were definitely no good for eating. GOLD.

But if you’re thinking about buying a thermie, I would keep in mind that rarely does a contraption truly change our behaviour. If you think that a TM will help you eat more vegies, you’re wrong. If you think a TM will allow you enough time to bake bread from scratch, you’re wrong. If you think a TM will save you money, you’re wrong.

If you’re making broader lifestyle changes, then a TM might assist you with those. Going gluten-free is a little easier. Cooking every night from scratch is a little easier. But a thermomix is a lot like a gym membership – forking out the money is NOT ENOUGH to motivate you to truly change your lifestyle if you’re only half-hearted.

If you want to make bread, a breadmaker is a wonderful thing. A $40 rice cooker is essential and does a wonderful job, as does a $40 mini-food processor. For less than $200 I can have all the kitchen help I need to make lasting changes in my lifestyle.

I’d recommend giving some of those gadgets a go before making the big thermomix commitment.

Oats, but not wheat. And quite yummy, too.

Oats, but not wheat. And quite yummy, too.



Wheat-free blueberry muffins

1 cup brown rice flour (brown rice, milled in the TM on 9 for 30 seconds)
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2 tsp chia seeds
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup fat (either oil of your choice or melted butter, cooled)
1 punnet blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180C – line 12 muffin holes with paper cases.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl or jug, whisk the egg, milk & fat together. Pour into the dry ingredients. Combine well then mix in the blueberries.

Use spoons to divide the mixture evenly between the muffin holes. Bake for 30-35 minutes until firm and golden.

Makes 12.

family-food-made-fun

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The parenting space/time continuum (and egg foo yung)

Before you have kids, no one tells you that at some stage during those early, murky years of parenting, the switch will flip on your life. Careless days and endless possibilities morph into a sense that you’re running out of time. If you want to change careers, you better get the hell on with it (particularly if you need to study for a while). One day in the supermarket you’re going to switch straight from buying blemish face wash to some cream promising to erase lines and age spots. That you’re going to suddenly walk into a chain store and realise that you don’t any clue about how to wear the current fashion (and really, you maybe look a bit stupid in it, anyway). And then one day, you look over at your kids and rather than seeing them tipping cereal on the floor from their highchair, you realise that they’ve just gotten breakfast by themselves.

My brother had kids several years before me and I remember him saying, “it just goes by so fast.” Looking down at my baby and toddler I had the strong thought, “no, I think this sleepless, constantly sick, financially strapped, crying, difficult time is going to last forever.” But he was right. It does go by so fast.

Hug your kids today. Take a video of them just doing something simple so that you can remember this time. Be mindful at dinner. Listen to what they say. Cuddle them while they still want you to. Love them and be glad.

vegie smugglers egg foo yung

Egg foo yung.


Egg foo yung

Make the chicken mince up ahead and store it in the fridge, then make up an omelette for each family member as they make it home from their various mid-week commitments OR make them up completely, refrigerate them and just reheat in the pan when you’re hungry.

peanut oil
250g chicken mince
5 mushrooms, very finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely sliced
Big splash soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
Pepper
1½ cups chinese cabbage, finely shredded
¾ cup peas
8 eggs
4 tsp soy sauce
4 tsp shao hsing wine

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a medium sized frying pan over high heat. Carefully add in the chicken mince and stir it, breaking up lumps as you go.

Once the chicken is nearly all browned, add in the mushrooms and spring onions. Continue to stir everything. Splash over some soy, sprinkle the sugar and season with pepper. Leave it to cook away while you prepare the other ingredients. After 5 minutes or so, once the chicken is totally cooked, tip into a bowl and set aside.

I find it easiest to cook each omelette separately….

Break two eggs into a bowl. Whisk them along with the 1 tsp soy and 1 tsp rice wine. Scatter in ¼ the cabbage and peas. Add ¼ the cooked chicken mixture and combine it all well.

Pop a small frying pan over med/high heat, add 2 tsp oil and once hot, pour in the omelette mixture. After 4-5 minutes the omelette will be setting a little, turn over carefully and cook for another minute on the other side.

Repeat with the rest of the mixture to make 3 more omelettes.

Adults might like to serve this with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce and coriander.

Makes 4 omelettes

**I’M HAVING A 48 HOUR FLASH SALE! GET 10% OFF EVERYTHING IN THE SHOP – USE COUPON CODE ‘AUGUST’ UNTIL MIDNIGHT, 16/8/14 AST.**
Click here to visit the store and see all the Vegie Smugglers products.

family-food-made-fun

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Mysterious mummy superpowers (and some cute widdle salmon cakes)

I’ve managed to convince my kids that I have x-ray vision.

My superpower was revealed last weekend during a session of “guess what colour undies I’m wearing”. To the utter astonishment of my children I was able to correctly guess what colour undies they were both wearing AND my own AND daddy’s, too.

“How’d you do that?!” they wanted to know.

“I have x-ray vision.”

“No really! How’d you do that?!”

“I REALLY have x-ray vision.”

Nodding, they looked at me in awe, oblivious to the fact that as chief buyer, washerer and folderer of all the smalls at VSHQ I had a distinct advantage in the game and I’d simply just guessed the most common colour from their clothes pile.

It was luck that I was right every single time. But my status as the ‘undie-whisperer’ was cemented, and I’m now known for my mysterious super-powers – a fact which I’ll be sure to remind them off during their teenage years when they think I can’t see that packet of ciggies stashed in the bottom of their school bag.

Test out your superpowers by telling your kids to eat these mini salmon cakes, then you’ll practice your x-ray powers by looking into their tummies to count the number in there.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can't.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can’t.

Itsy widdle salmon cakes

2 large potatoes
1 cup cauliflower florets
180g can salmon in springwater, drained
2 spring onions, very finely sliced
Handful of green beans, very finely sliced (or pulsed in a mini food processor)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste (I like a big squeeze)
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
Salt & pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or blitz up a few slices of stale bread and leave it out to get even more stale for a couple of hours)
Spray oil

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Cook your potatoes. It’s up to you whether you bake them, steam them or be terribly unfashionable like me and just microwave them until the insides are a mashing consistency.

Cook your cauliflower. Same as above. You want it 90% cooked, still firm enough to dice finely, so that it will disappear into the potato.

Add your cooked potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Mash with a fork and mix in the cauliflower and all of the other ingredients (except the breadcrumbs). Season and combine really well.

Roll bite-sized balls of mixture, coat in breadcrumbs and place on your tray. Spray with oil spray and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully turn the balls over, spray with extra oil and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden.

Serve as is or with a dollop of mayonaise and salad.

Serves 2 adults & 2 small kids, along with salad.

new-book-on-sale

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5 vegie-smuggling tips for parents (and a new cookbook has arrived!)

Wow! My first magazine cover!

Wow! My first magazine cover!

Since I live in Vegie Smugglers-land all the time, I forget that some folks are new to me and my blog. The ambiguous name of this website seems to cause a bit of confusion amongst visitors, so with a surge of new readers stopping by it seems like a good time to explain myself a little.

In the interest of unbiased journalism, I’ll interview myself, in the third person. That won’t be weird, will it?…

[Fake journalist] Hi Wendy, I’ve been a big fan for a while now, but I’m keen to chat and find out more about this website. And by the way, your hair is looking GREAT today.

[Me… slight uncomfortable titter] Oh well thanks FJ! Where shall we start?

[FJ] Why did you start Vegie Smugglers?

[Me] Back in the late 2000s I was in all sorts of hell, trying to get my fussy kids to eat fresh vegies. Each night was a tense standoff and usually I was the loser who finished dinner by scraping thrown food off the floor and into the bin. One night I stopped and decided, ‘THIS IS ENOUGH.’ I was determined to find the right recipes that could help me reclaim dinnertime as a happy family time. And as a massive lover of food and cooking, I wasn’t going to let two toddlers dictate the menu.

[FJ] So you created a range of recipes that contained hidden vegetables?

[Me] My major concern at the time was to get some nutrition into my kids. Both were irritable and constantly sick. I was sure that their limited diets were not helping matters. Since neither would eat reliably, I was determined that each spoonful of a meal should be packed full of nutrients so that the few bites they would eat were beneficial. It took a while, but I came up with a range of recipes that did the trick.

[FJ] Then you have no ethical problems with hiding vegies and lying to your children about their dinner?

[Me] No. None. Their health was more important to me than the truth. To break the cycle I was happy to be as sneaky as need be. All cooking is manipulating ingredients to get a delicious result. When I eat in a restaurant I’m not bothered if I don’t know all the ingredients so long as the meal tastes good.

As soon as I had my kids eating a wider range of foods, I relaxed. It triggered a whole domino effect of positivity. They ate better. Their health was better. Their behaviour and sleep patterns were better. My sanity returned and once the immediate food issues subsided I was able to move them onto phase 2, which was teaching them about the joys of healthy eating.

[FJ] And how do you do that?

[Me] Well, obviously hiding vegies is a short term solution. The aim is to transition kids from baby to adult food and this is a long and exciting journey that is totally guided by the parents.

[FJ] In what way?

[Me] Parents are the food leaders in the household so it’s up to them to continue challenging their kids try new foods and accept new flavours. They can do this by learning to cook new recipes, including the kids when buying vegies, getting them to help cook, teaching them basic nutrition and growing food in the garden. It all creates a positive and fun food environment.

[FJ] So what makes a perfect Vegie Smugglers recipe?

[Me] Firstly it must be something that everyone can eat. Possibly you can make alterations for the militant toddler, or add extra ingredients to make it more ‘adult’ once the kids are served. But everyone needs to be eating the same dish. For two reasons really, firstly, in this busy world, no one has the time to cook multiple meals and secondly, there’s no better example for kids than seeing their parents tucking into the same dinner.

Generally a Vegie Smugglers recipe needs to have easily available ingredients and be simple to make. Not all parents are keen cooks, but that’s no impediment to eating well. Rarely does a VS recipe have two stages. Some are quicker to make than others, many can be prepared ahead on a less busy day. Many freeze well and all are full of healthy ingredients.

[FJ] I’ve heard criticism that you don’t actually hide vegies in many dishes.

[Me] This is true. As I said, once the immediate nutrition concerns are being taken care of, it’s time to progress the kids onto the next stage. So you might start grating every carrot, or blitzing it up, but slowly over time you need to move to dicing things finely, then in larger chunks, until they’re accepting adult-style meals. This can take ages, and some vegies might need to be hidden for years longer – at our house we still smuggle zucchini and mushrooms – each household can prepare ingredients to suit their situation. The recipes on the blog and in the cookbooks reflect this journey and are as flexible as possible. All contain vegies, but the amount they’re ‘smuggled’ ranges from totally, to not at all.

[FJ] What are five quick vegie smuggling tips for parents?

[Me] 1. Start by chopping ingredients finely and combine them into dinners that smell and taste great. When kids can’t see and identify ingredients, they’re less likely to pick them out and complain.

2. Use lure ingredients. Like croutons submerged in a soup or pasta smothered in vegetable sauce. The kids will go for the thing they like and taste the meal on the way. Hopefully to discover that it’s worth tucking into.

3. Be realistic
about your child’s current stage of development and how it may be affecting their appetite. Toddlers eat less because they’re busy doing other things and food just isn’t interesting every day at set times.

4. Give yourself the best chance for success.
If your kids hate green stuff, don’t serve them pesto pasta. Start with a red capsicum sauce or creamy chicken. If they like bread, serve them pancakes, or if they like meat, pack meatballs full of good stuff.

5. Relax. I know it’s incredibly hard to do this, but remember that this is another phase, that if handled well, will pass. Keep a variety of healthy foods on offer, don’t succumb to their demands. Stay in charge of the menu and cook meals that you’ll enjoy even if they reject them.

[FJ] So your kids eat well now?

[Me] Miss F is almost 10 and is still naturally fussy. She dislikes most spice but has come to trust that I always cook things she should enjoy. She will eat every meal on the blog. Some she loves, some she’d rather do without, but she understands that our family food culture doesn’t revolve around her whims. Nutrition-packed dinners are still a priority since she is a light eater. If it was up to her, she would still exist on cheese, fruit and pasta. Luckily I didn’t give in, or I’d be dealing with a fussy 9 year old with malnutrition issues.

Mr M&P was more regular and has grown out of his fussy eating stage beautifully. He is now 7 and tackles everything.

Both have a full understanding of food, where it comes from, how it’s cooked and the role it plays in our family traditions. Neither currently have food, weight or nutrition issues. Both are thriving and I’m not talking myself up too much when I say that my determination has played a major role. When I see them tucking into sophisticated meals, I’m so thrilled and am totally convinced that vegie smuggling has been worth every single bit of effort. For me, food is the crucial building block that contributes to all other aspects of child development.

[FJ] And finally, do you avoid sugar or gluten or use organic produce only? And why is this blog called ‘Vegie Smugglers’ when you cook with meat?

[Me] I use vegies in everything, but am not vegetarian. This site is about encouraging a love of fresh produce in kids (and adults). Variety is my main mantra, so some recipes are vegetarian and some use meat. Many might rely on a touch of sweetness to make them kid-friendly since toddlers’ taste-buds strongly prefer this. If a teaspoon of sugar helps a whole heap of vegies get gobbled, then I’m all for it. You can ween them off it as they get older. Some recipes are gluten-free, some are dairy-free. On a blog this size, I can’t cater for everyone, all the time. I encourage people to join in on the recipes that suit their dietary regime. Organic produce is always a great idea, but I understand that not everyone can manage this.

[FJ – stretching out his long, muscular legs] Well thanks Wendy, I’ve enjoyed our chat and have enjoyed getting to know more about the ideas behind your blog. Are you free for a drink? I believe you don’t mind a wine or two?

[Me – shyly smiling, whilst flicking my super long and lustrous Swedish-blonde hair] I’ll have to say no FJ, but I’m flattered, you’re a very attractive man. Luckily I’ve got a lovely husband who’s asked me to sit and watch ‘Escape to the Country’ tonight. So I best dash off to meet him.

[FJ] No problem. And gosh, you’re obviously a great parent. Your kids haven’t interrupted our conversation even once!

[Me – smiling graciously] Well thanks! And after you leave, I’ll even let them out from under the stairs…. now… where did I leave that key?

The new cookbook is in the shop now!

The new cookbook is in the shop now!

Vegie Smugglers’ Kitchen Collection has arrived! Packed full of 125 recipes that cover…

- basics like poaching chicken and stewing fruit
– lunchbox bakes & ideas
– everyday dinners
– meals suitable for slow cookers, pressure cookers or conventional ovens
– easy ways to feed a crowd and how to cater for entire families
– special celebration recipes for birthdays, Easter, Christmas and school fetes
– four weeks of visual meal plans

Many of the recipes are freezer friendly, many are allergy friendly. I’ve deliberately kept a wide mix of ingredients and methods so that there’s something for everyone. Download samples and a full recipe index here. Check it out in the shop.

rainbow

Thanks for stopping by today. I’m proud to be an Australian independent publisher. As with most ‘mumpreneur’ businesses, I survive on tiny budgets and rely heavily on word of mouth to promote my products. I hugely appreciate all of your kind words and social media mentions.

To say thanks for reading through this whole post, I am offering you a special ‘catch up’ deal on my new book and a few other products! Click here to check it out….

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I’m giving away an advance copy of my new cookbook!

Over the past few months you may have thought I’ve slacked off, what with my posts appearing less frequently. Don’t be fooled though, no! I’ve been busy, first putting together my Thermomix e-book (you can link to it here) and in my spare time I’ve whipped up another hardcopy, hold-it-in-your-hands cookbook.

The amount of work that goes into my books is quite overwhelming. Initially I planned on launching it for last Christmas, then it was the new school year, then it was Easter… you get the idea. But the delays were all me taking my time and ensuring that I was producing something AMAZING. So many cookbooks in the shops are a bit… well… dull, and I was keen to give you something gorgeous AND hugely helpful. Finally after months of design, edits, production (blah!) and more production (blah! blah!), these pretty as punch advance copies arrived on my doorstep.

I was so happy that possibly I squealed (very not me) and hand-clapped a little. If I don’t say so myself, I’ve done a bloody good job!

Ohh! It's called "Kitchen Collection"

Ohh! It’s called “Kitchen Collection”

There's a section on basics, then a chapter for snacks and lunchbox items...

There’s a section on basics, then a chapter for snacks and lunchbox items…

Then it's the serious business of DINNER, since that happens tediously often...

Then it’s the serious business of DINNER, since that happens tediously often…

I've converted a bunch of recipes so that there's oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker instructions...

I’ve converted a bunch of recipes so that there’s oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker instructions…

Next chapter is full of ways to feed friends and family....

Next chapter is full of ways to feed friends and family….

And I finish off with celebrations with recipes for all kinds of dietary needs.

And I finish off with celebrations with recipes for all kinds of dietary needs.

And there you have it – a nice little sneak peak of my new 160page, 125 recipe tome. I’ll have the bulk of the books in another month or so – at this stage I have just THREE COPIES and one of them could be yours.

To win, you must be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber (PS, I do check- last comp a few people missed out on prizes because they weren’t) and you must have a postal address in Australia.

I’d love for it to go to someone who will really enjoy it as much as me. So to enter, please comment below on which Vegie Smugglers recipes are currently a hit in your house, or tell me about your fussy kids and how my recipes have helped you. There’s no need to crawl or kiss my butt – just honest truths about the success you’ve had with my recipes. So often I feel that I work in a vacuum – it’ll be nice to get the warm and fuzzies and feel that the effort I put in is making a difference somewhere.

Entries close Friday May 16 at 8pm, AEST, which also happens to be Food Revolution Day. Nice timing!
THANKS TO ALL WHO ENTERED – IT WAS FANTASTIC TO HEAR ALL OF YOUR FEEDBACK. THE LUCKY WINNER IS AMANDA SULLIVAN!

And of course, you can buy my other books here.

Comments (270) »

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