Posts tagged recipe

Can’t cook? Or too tired to cook? Try this.

Now where is this year going? And how did this term slip by so quickly! I don’t know about you, but for us this last week or two of term is a bit fraught. Possibly the cupboards are empty, the kids are tired and motivation is low. But there’s no need to hang up the healthy food towel. Before you dial a takeaway, make the most of your pantry stash. This shakshouska, is way cool and is more compiling than cooking. Served with a bit of bread, it keeps everyone in my house pretty happy.

A nice alternative to toasties or baked beans.

A nice alternative to toasties or baked beans – and just as easy.

Pantry tuna shakshouka

Younger kids might like a version of this with just a few spoonfuls of tomato, an egg and scattered ham.

800g crushed tomatoes
180g tuna in oil (with chilli, too, if your family like it)
4 spring onions (I’ve usually got some hiding in the bottom of the crisper drawer)
1/3 cup roasted capsicums (also tip in a bit of the flavoured oil)
Sprinkling of capers (if you like them)
4 eggs

To serve: parsley (from the garden), salt, pepper, sourdough (for dipping).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Place your individual dishes or ramekins on a baking tray (to make handling easier).

Divide the ingredients between your dishes, in quantities that will suit each diner. Finally, scoop a bit of a dent in the mix and quickly crack in an egg.

Bake for 15-25 minutes until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Serves 4

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Coconut, coconut, coconut, coconut & banana cake

Vegie Smugglers banana and coconut cake

And sprinkle a bit of coconut on top, too.

Ain’t life grand when you discover that all of life’s woes can be solved by one little ingredient. No more will I battle with dementia, mouth sores, irregular periods, bloating, stubbed toes or mismatched socks, because I have discovered COCONUT.

Only a blind sheep could have possible missed the whole coconut-thing. Actually, not even a blind sheep, since every sheeple I know (including me) is well and truly caught up in the craze and is trading all their coin for a trolley full of 44-gallon drums of the stuff. But is it worth it? And is it actually healthy? Rather than paraphrasing the entire internet, if you’re interested to know more, then go and read this, or this, or this, or this. They are all good articles that seem pretty balanced.

If you can’t be bothered clicking around then here’s my summary…. coconut oil should be bought ‘virgin’. It’s expensive and full of saturated fat. But it’s thought some of this fat is beneficial. But the science isn’t conclusive and keep in mind that nutrition information is currently changing more often than Kimye’s outfits.

Seems like it’s a great ingredient to have in your cupboard, but one to use in moderation (I know, back to that ol’ boring mantra). For lactose-intolerant me, it makes a great butter substitute in baking and treats, when I’m after a coconut flavour. It works well with some Asian stir-fry dishes, but generally I’m happier with olive oil.

This recipe though, is a complete homage to coconut. It uses coconut oil in just the way I like it – dairy-free cake that last well for several days and can also be sliced and frozen, ready for lunchboxes. Even better, the evocative coconut taste is so divine that it inspires me to don my grass skirt and coconut-bra, and hula the day-away.

Coconut & banana cake

So there’s not much that’s healthful in this cake (it IS cake), but it is a fantastic way to use coconut and all of your overripe bananas (and it’s dairy-free)

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
3/4 cup sugar (I’ll leave it up to you – raw sugar will give you an amazingly white cake, coconut sugar gives is a more molassas-y flavour)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
165ml can coconut milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
3 overripe bananas, peeled, mashed
Sprinkle of shredded coconut.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 14x20cm loaf tin with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, coconut and sugar.

Combine the melted oil and vanilla extract. Stir in the coconut milk and also your egg (add the egg last so that the warm oil doesn’t start to cook it). Pour this wet mix into the dry one. Combine well then also mix through the banana (this mix is more a dough than a batter).

Plop the dough into your tin. Push it out to fill the corners and even the surface. Sprinkle over the shredded coconut.

Bake for a total of 55-60 minutes. Cover with foil around the 40 minutes mark to avoid burning.

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Sounds fancy, actually easy. And yum.

By Thursday nights I am tired. The last commitment of the day is picking up big girl from Junior Guides at 7pm. And then we all pop on our jammies and flop together on the lounge for some quality food TV.

Possibly the kids don’t give a toss about world cuisine, but the chance to stay up until 8.30 means they’ve got a new-found love of SBS travel/cooking shows. Over the past couple of years we’ve watched Adam Liaw tour Japan (I’m hoping to retrace his steps some day), Rachel Khoo relishing France and at the moment we’re enjoying Shane Delia travelling Turkey, which takes me back to my own travels there in the 1990s. I remember how new and exotic the flavours and smells were.

As much as it pains me to contemplate them leaving, I hope my kids grow to be curious about the world and want to head off on their own adventures. To encourage them along, I’ve been enjoying making these burek, which sound fancy, but are actually super-simple family food. Just a savoury mince wrapped in filo pastry, coiled up and baked in the oven. The kids just call them ‘fancy meatpies’, which isn’t so culturally sensitive but is pretty accurate.

meat & vegetable burek

Schmancy meat pies. Sauce optional.


Beef & vegie burek

You can make the mince ahead, to wrap and bake later in the day, or make these up and store in the fridge until it’s time to brush them with butter and bake for dinner.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
500g beef mince
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 finger eggplant, finely diced (peel it first if your kids will fuss about the skin)
1 green capsicum, finely diced
Handful spinach leaves, this stalks removed, leaves finely shredded
2 tbsp parsley (optional)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp Allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Filo pastry
2 tbsp melted butter
1 egg, combined with a splash of milk for glazing.

The key to success with filo is to make sure it is completely thawed (if frozen) and at room temperature. Then it’s pretty easy to work with.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat. Add the oil and pop in the onion. Cook, stirring often for 4-5 minutes until golden. Carefully place the mince in the pan. Use your spoon to break up lumps and totally brown all the meat (this take about 5 minutes). Add in the garlic and all the vegies for 2-3 minutes before scattering over the spices. Stir well and continue to move everything around regularly for 5 minutes or so. Move the pan off the heat and leave everything to cool for a bit (so that you can handle it easily).

Preheat the oven to 200C. Find whatever round dishes you have – make several small bureks or one large one – totally up to you.

Lay out your block of filo. Brush melted butter over the top sheet. Flip it over and lay it on top of the sheet below. Spoon a line of mince mixture along the length of the filo, about 3-4 cm in from one edge. Lift the top two layers of filo and carefully roll your pastry up into a long snake. Coil it around and squeeze into your round dish. (To make a large burek, just keep adding snakes onto the end until you’ve filled your dish.)

Brush with the combined egg/milk and bake for 25 minutes until golden.

If the filo bit sounds too hard (I promise it’s not), just scoop the mix into a dish, scrunch of some filo sheets and add them to the top, pie-style).

Serves 2 adults & 3 kids

Make a line of mixture along to whole length of pastry.

Make a line of mixture along to whole length of pastry.

Roll into a long cigar.

Roll into a long cigar.

Coil and squeeze into whatever oven-proof dishes you have.

Coil and squeeze into whatever oven-proof dishes you have.

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‘Yes!’ excited children, ‘you CAN have ice-cream for breakfast!’

My kids love that Optus ad on the TV – the one where Josh Thomas is saying ‘yes’ all the time. I’ve got to assume it’s because it’s so lovely to consider a land where you get a ‘yes’ answer to everything you want.

A few years ago in parenting land, it was emphasised often how important is was to always say ‘yes’ to your children. It was NEVER ok to say ‘no’. I can’t even remember why it is now, I think something to do with exploration and self-esteem and creative play. When they said, “I want lollies.” I’d say, “yes, great idea, but right now we’re going to have some fruit.” And in the shop they’d say, “give me the toy,” and I’d say, “yes, I agree that this toy is lovely, what a great choice you’ve made, but right now we’re going to pop it back on the shelf so that it’s ready for some other child.”

I’m exhausted just remembering it.

Fair to say that my kids are pretty familiar with the word ‘no’ these days and I genuinely can’t remember at what stage that shift occurred. Now they only ask if they think there’s a reasonable chance that I’d say yes, which is what makes this breakfast dish so fab. They’d never ever ask for ice-cream at breakfast time (they only really eat it at Nanna’s house), so imagine their excitement when I offer them a bowl of it.

This breakfast has been a bit of a lifesaver over winter as it’s a power punch of vitamins first thing in the day. It’s kept the sniffles at bay and lifted their spirit and energy levels on quite a few mornings. And eating ice-cream on a cold winter’s morning? Well, they’re so damn excited by this recipe that it’s never been an issue. Although I have been waiting for almost-Spring to share it, figuring that other children might be more sensible than mine.

vegie smugglers breakfast ice cream

‘Yes!’ to a breakfast treat that also packs in nutrition.

Breakfast Ice-cream

To get an ‘ice-cream’ consistency, either the berries or banana (or both) need to be frozen – this winter I’ve just been using regular bananas and frozen berries – play around and see what consistency your kids prefer.

1 banana
1 cup frozen berries
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup spinach leaves (I grow silverbeet and English spinach in my Vegepod and use whichever is available)
1/4 cup milk (soy or rice also both work)
1 tbsp C Berry Blast powder – This is an organic vitamin C powder by NutraOrganics. I love their products and am happy to support my friend Vanessa’s small family business.

Pop everything into a blender or mini-food processor and blitz until it’s a consistency to suit your family.

Serves 2-3 kids.

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From no-cake, to cake, in 5 minutes.

There are times when my tea looks at me, sitting on the bench and I can’t help but think that it seems very lonely. On Gourmet Farmer I heard the lovely quote, “A cup of tea without a biscuit is a wasted opportunity” and I can’t help but agree. But the problem is that I keep my cupboard lean and free from too many sweet temptations. To avoid additives and mucky weird processed food, I also have a general rule that I only eat baked goods that I’ve made myself.

Thankfully then, I’ve discovered this lifesaver of a recipe. It’s a cake that is prepared with a tablespoon measure and one jug then cooked in a large mug in the microwave. All in under 5 minutes.

So if you don’t use gluten, sugar or the microwave, please don’t email me or comment with a tonne of nasty abuse, just look away and come back next week – I promise you a healthier recipe then (or click here for my cocoa bliss balls). The rest of you, keep this on file for the next time your cup of tea needs a friend.

A few berries on top will make you feel more virtuous.

A few berries on top will make you feel more virtuous.

2-minute chocolate & coconut cake

1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk (or soy milk also works)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (melted butter would also work, but cool it a little)
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp raw sugar (or golden caster sugar or coconut sugar both also work)
3 tbsp self-raising flour

(I mix this together in a 2-cup glass jug, which makes it super easy to pour into the cup and then goes straight into the dishwasher).

Use a fork to whisk your egg in a jug or bowl. You don’t need the entire egg; especially if it’s a large one, so tip out about a quarter of it (don’t worry about being too precise!).

Whisk in the vanilla, milk and oil. Once combined, continue to whisk in the coconut, cocoa, sugar and lastly the flour.

Pour into a large mug and microwave on high for 2- 2 1/2 minutes (you might have to try a couple of times to find the timing that is perfect in your microwave).

Serves 2 kids, or 1 greedy adult.

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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

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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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