Posts tagged recipe

They know a thing or two about food, don’t they, those Chinese…

I can’t help but feel touched by luck this week as the full weight of the auspicious number 8 has come my way. The Chinese love this number, so they’d be happy to see that my Facebook page clicked over 88,888 this week, which was nice. Thanks to all of you who’ve been with me over the past few years! And over on Instagram, my fledgling page hit 888, which seems quite alot, considering I post pictures of the sky, endless shots from my kitchen bench and random stupid things, like tree trunks that look like bums.

To celebrate I’m trawling the blog for some of my favourite Chinese-influenced meals. The salty flavour profile has always been hugely popular with my kids. There’s rarely spice, but always taste – a great combination, for a lucky week ahead.

Click the pics to go to the recipes….

vegie smugglers plum sauce chinese-style meatballs

Kid-friendly meatballs with a Chinese twist.

Vegie Smugglers sang choy bow

Lettuce delights for your munching pleasure

Ma po dofu dish

This kid-friendly ma po dofu smuggles tofu, carrots and capsicum

Get the kids onto wrapping these.

Get the kids onto wrapping these.

freeshipping

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A meal plan for the week full of hungry mouths and no time…

Trying to see the silver lining in all situations, I’m happy to report that this year I find myself with about 5 hours a week of extra thinking time. This is, of course, due to the fact that my daughter has changed schools and being too nervous to catch two buses (she is only 10), I’m currently driving her both there and back each day. So the thinking time eventuates when I’m in the car, waiting for traffic lights to change colour.

Rather than getting flustered and irate as another cycle passes with the intersection blocked by cars from the other direction, I’m choosing to be all zen, drifting away instead to sweeter thought patterns that mainly revolve around chiseled abs, child-free nights and too many cocktails food.

Perhaps it’s lucky that I find myself with time to think and plan our week’s worth of dinners, since by the time that I finally get through the last fucking set of lights I’ve got bugger-all time left to cook anything.

Here’s how I coped last week….

Saturday

Silky smooth carrot, parsnips & cauliflower soup.

Silky smooth carrot, parsnip & cauliflower soup.

Silky roast vegie soup. Requested by Miss F, who cares not for seasons and was feeling hardly done by since it has been months since I last cooked her favourite meal.

Sunday

This will make friends with salad!

This will make friends with salad!

Steak & salad.

Finally the kids will tuck into a nice little piece of steak, which is making this dinnertime easy. I love the hit of iron at the start of the week, and I use all my secret salad tips, including a dollop of our current favourite dressing.

Monday

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

On my day off I had the slow cooker going and I also whipped up some nachos mince. I find cooking two meals on the one day is the key to keeping us healthy all week. The slow cooker meal was a lamb & pasta dish, which I’ve not had the chance to type up – try this lamb chop slow cooker recipe for something similar.

Tuesday

Nachos. Her latest favourite.

Nachos. The kids love it. The mince was made and awaiting me in the fridge, which was great, since I’d worked during school hours and we’d had cricket practice until 6.30. Whipped up in a jiffy and devoured by all.

Wednesday

Another work day, and swimming after school. I chucked some potatoes in the oven before we went. The kids and I had the innards of ours mixed through with tuna, cheese, olive oil, corn, mushrooms & fennel. Mr VS had the leftover nachos mix dumped on his, which he assured me was as satisfying as a cold beer on a sunny day while you’re looking at a pretty view (preferably with a pretty woman, too).

Thursday

Thursday was SAUSAGES NIGHT. I tend to do a big shop on the weekend, so by later in the week I’m onto the protein that keeps well for a curious number of days without spoiling. Tuna tins, ham hocks, sausages etc fill the brief nicely. To complete the vibe of our-life-is-from-the-70s, I whipped up these curried sausages, which are as mild as it gets and still hot enough to evoke comments from Miss F about burning tongues, the cruelty of her mother and how no-one really cares about her. The rest of us enjoyed them.

In an I-go-to-wholefoods-twist, we had them on cauliflower rice. Not because I give a toss about being paleo, but because it’s tasty and variety in all things is welcome.

Curried sausages & cauliflower rice

Curried sausages & cauliflower rice


Curried sausages

1 tbsp olive oil
1 granny smith apple, finely diced
1 spanish onion, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled, finely diced
8 sausages of your choice (plain or ones with added garlic & herbs are good)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp flour
1 1/4 cups beef stock (hot)
1 tbsp BBQ sauce (I think this is the magic ingredient, but it’s optional, leave it out if you hate sugar)
1 cup peas (or green beans are also good)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Tip in the apple, onion and carrots. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every now & then, until the onion is browning and the carrots starting to soften. Remove the vegies and set aside.

Pop the sausages into the pan. Turn regularly and cook for 15 minutes until just cooked through. Also remove and set aside (but leave the fat).

Tip the curry powder and flour into the hot pan. Use a wooden spoon to stir for a minute or so, to cook off the flour and release the curry fragrance. Slowly add in the hot stock, stirring or whisking to get rid of any lumps. Add the BBQ sauce then return the vegies and sausages.

Pour the peas over the top. Mix through and as soon as they’ve thawed, serve over the cauliflower rice.

Cauliflower rice

1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets)
2 tbsp olive oil (coconut oil also works, but I prefer olive oil with this dish)

Blitz the cauliflower in a food processor (I do two batches in my mini food processor). You’re aiming for a ‘rice’ consistency.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped cauliflower and cook, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes until softened (you still want some texture, don’t over do it).

Friday

And for our dirty little secret? The kids ate fish fingers and chips, and I survived on semillon blanc, chips and a good bit of chatter with friends.

How was your week?

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The sixth food group – food created by Satan

Bless my Facebook page and the funny folk who pop by there, including the lovely dad who referred to ‘food created by satan’. Made me laugh for days, because HE’S RIGHT, some food, whilst edible, really just is evil.

What might be in that category for you will depend on your own tastebuds and experiences. Brussell sprouts seem to be pretty universal (just general grossness), others will lump in oysters (snot), peaches (furry texture), okra (slime), red meat (legs!) offal (ick!) polenta (slop) and many kids will include a long list of vegies for a variety of reasons.

And while this blog aims to help migrate many of these items over to the other five regular food groups, there will inevitably be an item or two that remains. And that’s fine.

There are ways to negotiate individual food preferences within a family setting. This Pesto chicken bake is a good example from my house. It’s a dairy-laden triumph that makes my lactose-intolerant innards shake with fear. So while my children see this and cheer with joy, I eat something from the freezer instead. It’s an easy fix to that 6th-food group problem. And while I advocate eating the same meal most of the time, a bit of variation is ok, so long as you’re all eating something healthy, together.

It look so innocent!

It looks so innocent!

Pesto & ricotta chicken bake

To pad this meal out to feed more people, feel free to add in a couple of cups of cooked pasta before baking.

Olive oil
600g chicken tenderloins, finely sliced (or buy stir-fry strips and save yourself a bit of prep time)
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cups finely diced cauliflower (I really hack away at it with my kitchen knife until it’s almost as if I’ve grated it)
1 large zucchini, grated
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp pesto (store bought is fine or see my recipe here)
125g can corn kernels (drained)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
250g tub ricotta
Salt & pepper

Turn the oven to 180C. Spray a medium baking dish with oil spray.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and when hot, pop in the chicken and quickly stir-fry until just browned. Remove and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium. Reheat the pan. Add more oil if needed and fry the onion and cauliflower, stirring regularly for 8 minutes or so until the edges of everything are browning and the onion is turning translucent.

Toss in the zucchini and garlic. Stir well and let the aroma of the garlic waft about to make everyone hungry. Mix through the pesto. Turn off the heat.

Add in the corn, half the cheddar cheese and all of the ricotta. Combine well and pop into your prepared baking dish. Scatter the rest of the cheese over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Serve with salad.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids.

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Bugger it, they can eat biscuits all year

My back-to-school stress dreams started about a week ago. After one particularly gruelling night time panic, involving lists, school bells and missing leopard-print vests, I wrote a quite funny blog post which was subsequently lost when my laptop carked it.

So I’ll have to leave the humour to your imagination and rather than try to rewrite it, I’m giving you a DIY blog post. Just fill in the blanks based on your own family’s back-to-school situation…..

On the first day of school, I have to go _____________________ to get __________________ for _______. Then I’m off to _________________ because _________________ needs _______________ and I’ve only got until _________________ to fetch them. After that we’re off to __________________ for ______________. I’ve got _______________________ planned, but we’ll see how we go. I might have to resort to plan B, where ______________________________________ and ____________________________________________. Then I’ll nip into work for a bit because I’ve got _____________________ at _______________ which really needs some ____________________ before _______________. We should be home by _______ when I’ll get _____________ to __________________ and practice _______________________ before ________________________. I think that’ll work nicely with just enough time to eat ______________________________________ and do a bit of _________________ before bed.

And so we’re back into the school year. Good luck!

Nut-free, lunchbox perfect.

Nut-free, lunchbox perfect.

Gingerbread (good luck) biscuits

Perfect for the summer lunchbox, these sturdy biscuits are packed with seeds, making them nutritious, nut-free AND delicious.

1 cup seeds (I use a combination of flax, pumpkin, sunflower & chia – skip sesame seeds which are becoming more of an allergen problem)
30g butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp treacle
1 cup self-raising flour (wholemeal flour works well, too)
1 tsp each of ginger, mixed spice & cinnamon (or cassia is great)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two oven trays with baking paper.

Add the seeds to a blender, mini food processor or thermomix and blitz them, to break them up a little (this helps hide them a little AND better helps your body absorb the nutrients). Set aside.

Use hand held beaters (or a mixmaster if you have one) to cream the butter and sugar for a minute or two, until it resembles the texture of soggy sand. (NOTE: traditional ‘creaming’ is to help dissolve the sugar, however these quantities don’t allow that to happen, we’re just giving the mix a good start).

Add the egg and use the beaters to combine it in well. Also beat in the treacle. Tip over the flour & spices (I don’t bother sifting) and use the beaters on a low setting to mix it through (a deep bowl stops flour going everywhere).

Remove the beaters, tip in the seed mixture and use a spoon to mix it through evenly. Roll the mix into 26ish even-sized balls (wear kitchen gloves if you hate getting your hands dirty). Place on the trays (allow some room for spreading) and bake for 10-12 minutes until just firm and springy. They harden up more as they cool and you don’t want them rock hard the whole way through.

Makes 26ish.

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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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And the recipe that won 2014 was…

besterest-recipe-star

Ask my accountant and he’ll be bound to tell you that numbers are not really my thing. In fact I’ll never forget that bewildered look he gave me all those years ago as I carefully explained my home-made accounting system to him. Quite frankly his look of scorn was hurtful – that excel spreadsheet and all the biro annotations had taken me HOURS.

Anyway, I’m more confident when sifting through my 2014 web stats. I do like to trawl through the figures to see which posts were well received. It helps me create future recipes and focus on areas that I know you want help with.

After a bit of collating, here are the five recipes that you checked out the most in 2014. Each pic links through to the original recipe. Helpfully, I’ve also added in my speculation about why they were popular – it’s a totally unscientific crunching of what the numbers MEAN. Some may call this talking-out-my-bum, but I prefer to see it as valid qualitative research.

Honey boo boo might leave off the coriander.

Honey boo boo might leave off the coriander.

5. Chicken & rice pilaf
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised – chicken is the most eaten meat in Australia. Teamed up with rice it is comfort food at its gluten-free finest. Plus this is a ONE-POT recipe, which always triggers happiness amongst those of us who do the dishes.

Gluten free, egg free banana cookies

Gluten free, egg free banana cookies

4. Two ingredient banana cookies
Either most of you are inundated with mushy bananas or you are outrageously LAZY! Really, two ingredients between you and home-baked joy? Well, actually this recipe has four, but nonetheless you stampeded to it with open arms.

Perfect for independent toddlers

Perfect for independent toddlers

3. Rice & lentil balls
I’m curious about this one. Evidently you all love the idea of getting these ingredients into your kids, but did you make them and did your kids eat them? I’d love to know whether there was any follow through on the good intentions of this post.

lamb and barley slow cooker soup

I promise your family will devour this with glee!

2. Slow cooker lamb & barley soup
Aaahhhhhh, slow cooker, come here you gorgeous thing, you. Give us a cuddle. Oh! Even better, give us a dinner that’s a cuddle in a bowl that we can eat…. ooh yeah, that feels goooooooood.

So easy, I barely noticed I was baking.

So easy, I barely noticed I was baking.

1. 1/2 cup lunchbox slice
And the recipe that won 2014 was……. my 1/2 cup lunchbox slice, which slid to the top of the charts with a cunning blend of easy-to-makeness and I-made-it-myselfness. Of course I could assume that this is possibly a bit more proof that we’re all a bit kitchen-lazy, but I think I’ll give you all the benefit of the doubt and assume that in our busy lives, a recipe that promised such easy maternal perfection was a godsend.

Did you make any of these? How did they go? What variations did you do make them even better?

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