Posts tagged recipe

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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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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Chocolate balls (both naughty & nice) plus Santa’s consignment notes…

These are the NICE balls... you should see the NAUGHTY ones!

These are the NICE balls… you should see the NAUGHTY ones!

Christmas is THIS WEEK! Yep, I know, crazy – we’re just moments away from the joyous frenzy of gifts and turkey and fun (and plastic things from China).

Possibly you’re still needing a little something to take to a BBQ on boxing day, or maybe a food gift would be the perfect thing to give to your Auntie, so I’ve got easy recipes for both traditional rumballs and booze-free, healthy, chocolate bliss balls. Both are simple and quick to make. If nothing else, they’re great recipes to keep the kids busy (I find their little hands perfect for the rolling, which is sticky & fun). To see the recipes, click over to the Mother & Baby blog, where I’m guest posting today.

Since I’ve been on a bit of a blogging break, my annual unforgettable-Christmas-craft printable never quite made it to fruition this year (of course click here, if you’re desperate to make a nativity scene out of loo rolls). Knowing that you’ll all be massively disappointed(!), I’ve pulled my finger out overnight and popped this little treat together for you.

Fear not loo rolls, you are safe this year, instead, I’ve opted for a bit of parent-craft, designed to give the kids a thrill. It’s a genuine consignment note from the North Pole. Just download the PDF, print it onto card or sticker sheets and affix to Santa’s stash (remember to tick your location on the map). Guaranteed to bring an extra smile on Christmas morning.

I've hacked into Elf-central to grab this for you!

I’ve hacked into Elf-central to grab this for you!

Finally, have a fantastic Christmas and new year! I’ll be back in January. If you want to see which drink I’m sipping over the break, you can always catch me on instagram, which I’ve become quite fond of.

xxxxxx

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Recipes to save your frazzled ‘December’ brain

How’s your diary looking for December? I’m going to guess that like mine, your family calendar is groaning with concerts, celebrations, covert gift buying and daunting lists of logistics.

Last week, in one night, we had an extra scheduled saxophone practice until 5.30, cricket practice at 5.30 for an hour, then the collection of extra kids for a dance rehearsal (which was miles away) from 7.15. By the time I collapsed into bed at 10.30, I was ready to nix Christmas and all the crappy exhaustion that it entails.

At the same time though, I can’t help but love it. The kids singing proudly at school carols, receiving awards, giving gifts – so much laughter and excitement. If only I can get the stressed, organisation ‘mum’ side of my brain to relax, so that I can take a moment and relish it a little.

So, to offer some help, I’ve had a think about which recipes might come in handy for you during December, to give you a bit of breathing space… (click the pics to visit the recipe)

Nachos. Her latest favourite.

Nachos. Always a kid-crowd-pleaser.

NACHOS
Why?
Hugely popular, the meat mix can be made ahead and left to brew in the fridge for a couple of days. Easy to assemble in individual portions, leftovers are delicious in toasties or baked potatoes. Even better, make a double batch and chuck some in the freezer.
Smuggling rating: 8/10 – vegies through the mince, then more stuff snuck under melted cheese.

Remember these traffic light swirls? They've made it into the new book...

Take a plate of something fun.

TRAFFIC LIGHT SWIRLS
Why?
My favourite ‘bring-a-plate’ for kids. The pastry is junkie enough to lure them in, then they get a bit of veg thrown in for good measure. Plus, they look fancy but are really easy to make.
Smuggling rating: 5/10 – the vegies are a bit nominal, but it’s better than a bowl of crisps.

pasta salad

Tuna pasta salad. Easy to adapt to suit your family.

PASTA SALAD
Why?
This recipe makes a huge amount. Delicious hot or cold, it keeps in the fridge for several days, making it perfect for dinners, picnics and lunchboxes. And it works well with gluten-free pasta.
Smuggling rating: 6/10 – tonnes of good stuff, nothing hidden, but all colourful and enticing

Classic noodle & cabbage salad - a summer staple.

Classic noodle & cabbage salad – a summer staple.

NOODLE SALAD
Why?
Easy to chop all the ingredients ahead, and make the dressing up in a jar. Compile when ready to eat. Perfect for dinner – it goes with everything. Also great for BBQs, either at your house or when you need to take a salad somewhere else.
Smuggling rating: 8/10 – Most kids I know are mad for this recipe and will eat a massive bowl, thanks to the salty/sweet dressing. I know there’s sugar here, but who cares when so much raw veg is making it down the hatch at the same time.

So hopefully these will help you through the crazy season! If your family like them, then you might want to check out my other Christmas pressie – 15% off all my cookbooks and e-books, until December 10. Just use ‘christmas’ at the checkout.

christmas

With that I’m signing off – thanks for another great Vegie Smuggling year – I really appreciate it every time you take the time to click through and read. And I love it when I hear that something I’ve posted has been a hit or made it’s way onto your list of family favourites.

See you in 2015!

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