Posts tagged vegetables

Rock your BBQ with these bowls of magic…

So we’re about to smack straight into the celebration season. Possibly you’re like me, with a list of weekends ahead that hold the promise of bubbles, nurofen and oodles of food.

Whether you’re hosting or being a guest, there’s no better way to get into the party vibe than with food that looks a bit more fancy and special than usual. So why serve a boring run-of-the-mill green salad when you can shift to colourful and fun dishes like this one.

Fregola is a cute little Sardinian pasta, similar looking to cous cous but more of a hot-cousin version that has been down the gym for a serious work out. Usually it’s toasted and has a slight nutty flavour. If your local shop doesn’t stock it, substitute with wimpy, regular cous cous.

This dish gets more pink as it gets tossed about, which is PERFECT, because, you know… PARTY.

Colourful, festive, impressive AND super tasty.

Colourful, festive, impressive AND super tasty.

Roast vegie & fregola salad

Serve this dish warm or cold. It’s fancy enough to be great with roast meats or a nice change from your usual array of BBQ sides. Crumbled feta is also delicious on top.

1 1/4 cups dried fregola (toasted if you can find it – I get mine at the local posh greengrocer)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice (about half an orange)

5-6 baby beetroot
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 4-5 cylinders
Olive oil (to drizzle)
1 red onion, cut into thick wedges
1 baby fennel, cut into thick wedges
1/2 punnet small tomatoes (any type will do)
1 red capsicum, cut into large squares
salt & pepper
Juice & zest 1/2 lemon

Cook the fregola according to packet directions. Drain, pop into a salad bowl and toss through the combined oil, vinegar & orange juice. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Wrap the beets in foil. Pop them in the oven for about 45-50 minutes until you can easily pierce them with a skewer. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile (use a second shelf in the oven), chuck the carrots in a small roasting tray. Pour over some olive oil and salt & pepper and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and mix in the onion wedges and fennel (add oil if looking dry). Return for 20 minutes then add in the tomatoes and capsicum and bake for another 20 minutes.

Peel the beetroot (kitchen gloves are a good idea). Cut into easy-to eat size pieces and add to the fregola. Also tip in the veggies and mix everything through including the parsley and lemon juice.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.


Other salads that will do the schmancy party trick….

Asian noodle salad

Asian noodle salad

Pumpkin & haloumi salad.

Pumpkin & haloumi salad.

vegie smugglers panzanella

So delicious, the kids might just join in for this one.

There’s a bunch more salad & side recipes in the ‘Entertaining’ section of Vegie Smuggler’s Kitchen Collection. And if you use code ‘xmas2015’ you can buy it right now for 10% off. Valid until Nov 31, 2015.


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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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Vegie-filled dinners that your toddlers can feed to themselves

As fun as it is to try and force a spoon into the firmly shut gob of a child aged between 18 months and 3, sometimes it’s entirely GREAT to be able to serve them dinner and walk away in the hope that they will manage to get something into their own mouth. Particularly if your child is going through a “ME DO IT” phase, then these dinners might bring you a little bit of relief. (Click on the photos to link through to the recipe).

Vegie Smugglers cheese puffs recipe

Cheesy puffs – serve with a side of poached chicken, beans and carrot.

thai chicken meatballs

Chicken meatballs. Noodles optional.

vegie smugglers beef triangles with vegetables and puff pastry

Beef triangles

Perfect for independent toddlers

Lentil, sweet potato & rice balls


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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.

Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

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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.


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A new slow cooker favourite

Have you ever played that game with your kids where you say a word and then they say the next word that pops into their little minds? It’s good for a laugh on a long car trip. Astonishing how often a word can be followed on by the word ‘fart’ (unless you have lovely daughters, whose vocabularies are possibly a little larger).

It makes you realise how many words really do belong together. I’ll play it with myself to demonstrate.

“Bert?” “Ernie”.
“Posh?” “Becks”.
“War?” “Peace”.
“Kylie?” “Botox”, “Jason”.

Likewise, there’s a long list of flavours that just belong together.

“Bacon?” “Eggs”.
“Macaroni?” “Cheese”.
“Fish?” “Chips”.

During the winter you could come over and I could offer you a warming bowl of lamb soup, but really it sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it? Lamb & barley soup however is a classic food combination that gets people seriously excited and for good reason. It’s fan-tas-ma-gorically good, especially when combined with a heap of vegies and chucked into the slow cooker for 8 hours. This recipe is one of those golden moments of family food since it’s easy to make (no browning anything, just chuck it all in), envelops your house in a day-long saliva-inducing fragrance and results in a dinner that requires diddly-squat effort throughout the afternoon.

Even better, this pulps up beautifully into baby food and toddlers can have this as more of a stew with some of the liquid drained off.

Really it’s one of those blissful kitchen moments. Enjoy.

lamb and barley slow cooker soup

I promise your family will devour this with glee!

Slow cooker lamb & barley soup

I would urge you to make this according to the recipe without leaving anything out. All the ingredients meld to make a truly fantastic winter dish.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel, finely chopped (please don’t leave this out – it is the KEY ingredient – if you truly think you hate it, then just use half)
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 cup peeled, diced sweet potato
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed (I give them a good thump with the side of my knife)
1 litre salt-reduced beef stock
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary spring
1 fresh bay leaf (invest in a bay tree in a pot – hugely handy & the leaves are MUCH tastier than dried)
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed, drained
2 lamb shanks

Put all the vegies into the cooker bowl. Toss to mix them thoroughly. Pour over the stock & tomatoes. Add in the herbs and barley. Push in the shanks.

Cover and set to low for 8 hours.

Just before serving, remove the shanks to a bowl, use forks to shred the meat. Discard the bones and mix the meat back through the soup. Discard the bay leaf.

Serve with a smattering of parsley & crusty bread.

Serves 2 adults & 3 kids

This recipe (& a bunch of others) is in my new e-book!

This recipe (& a bunch of others) is in my new e-book!

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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…


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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