Archive for Sweets & treats

Lunchbox bars. Egg free, nut free. Easy.

When the kids were in pre-school I never used to bake anything. I mean, REALLY? Who the hell had time? I was too busy mashing carrots, picking up stray turds from the hallway and spending endless hours playing hide-and-seek (i.e., child closes themselves in the built-in wardrobe and squeals, “where am I?” and then opens the door, “here am” until they finally slam their finger in the sliding door).

These days, with both kids at school and a bit more sleep, I do summons semi-regular baking sessions, particularly lunchbox treats that I know are relished and add a bit of variety to the mix. But being a practical lass, I need my lunchbox baking recipes to freeze well, so that during less-organised weeks I can quickly grab portioned, ready-to-go treats and instantly fancy up my mid-week box (sorry, can’t help myself).

vegie-smugglers-fruit-seed-bars

Sometimes during the day I catch the Sylvanian Family figures out and about hoping for their big modelling break. Today I indulged them.

Fruit & seed bars (nut-free, egg-free, no-sugar)

3/4 cup mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower & chia)
1 cup plain flour (wholemeal if you have it)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup dried fruit (I used apricots & dates)
1 apple, cored, quartered
1/3 cup honey
125g butter

A mini food processor makes this dish a breeze!

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 18x28cm slice tray with baking paper.

Pop the seeds into the food processor and blitz them up. (This make them easier to smuggle and easier for our digestion systems to benefit from).

Tip them into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the flour and oats.

Pulse the dried fruit (this is just a lazybones way of chopping it finely). Add it to the mix. Also do this with the apple, but pulse carefully – you want bits, not juice). Mix this through thoroughly, set aside.

Pop the honey and butter into a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to melt and combine. Tip it into your dry ingredients. Mix really well before scooping everything into your prepared tray. Press the mixture evenly into the tray. Bake for 30 minutes until golden on top.

Leave to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes about 12. Freezes well for about a month.

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Like this recipe? Try my…

Orange mega-seed muffins
Chocolate bran & zucchini muffins
Choc chip & chick pea cookies

Or visit my shop and buy yourself a gorgeous cookbook!

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Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

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Healthy desserts! Genius!

And you pop fruit on the top which makes them DOUBLY healthy.

And you pop fruit and yoghurt on the top which makes them DOUBLY healthy.

There’s a trend doing the rounds for nutritious and healthy desserts. Have you caught it? Hard not too – Instagram thrives on luscious pictures of gluten-free and refined-sugar-free treats. The key to them is omitting the current health-scare foods and ignoring the fact that what’s left is nearly-as-bad for us. Then, of course, there’s all those nutrients in nuts etc, so using them is entirely justified. And of course, the cacao powder is ORGANIC, which is a double tick and the virgin coconut oil is ‘healthy fats’, so that’s fine too.

Isn’t life great!

Of course some might argue that rather than waste our more-precious-than-gold spare time whipping up treats, our time might be better spent cooking up a healthy dinner from scratch, but hey, we can’t have it all. And you know, DESSERT.

Am I sounding too cynical? I am, aren’t I?! Actually the wave of new desserts are pretty great. I’m all for exploring ingredients and getting as much variety into your diet as possible, so I’m a big fan. Don’t fool yourself though, this isn’t ‘slimming’ food. This isn’t for every day.

It’s for happy days, when you want to make your family ooooohhhhh and aaaaahhhh and give them a bit of a thrill.

Mondo Organics Chocolate Tart (modified slightly from their gorgeous cookbook)

This recipe is incredibly simple to whip up in a thermomix.

1/2 cup dates (medjool if possible) – soaked in hot water for 20 minutes.
1 cup combined walnuts and almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup cacao powder (or cocoa powder is also fine)
2 tbsp maple syrup (use the real stuff)
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted or quite soft.

250g good quality dark chocolate
300g silken tofu
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I use cassia, just because that’s what’s in my cupboard right now)
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey.

Blitz together the drained dates, nuts, seeds, cacao, syrup and oil. Add in a bit of the date water if you need to loosen it a bit.

Line a 22cm tart tin with cling wrap. Wear kitchen gloves and use your hands to press the mixture evenly into the base and sides. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Melt the chocolate either in a bain marie (a metal bowl placed over a saucepan of boiling water – don’t let it touch the water) or the microwave. (This is the bit of the recipe where the thermomix comes into it’s own). Leave the chocolate to cool slightly then blitz in the tofu, cinnamon and sweetener. Pour the mixture into the tart base and return to the fridge to set. (needs a good hour, several hours is better).

Serve with berries and a nice tart yoghurt (these healthy desserts tend to be insanely rich, so the yoghurt cuts through nicely).

**This recipe also works in a 20cm flan tin – double the tofu, cinnamon & syrup.

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Liked this?
Try making my Cacao bliss balls, or my Dairy-free coconut muffins, or this coconut, coconut, coconut, coconut and banana cake.

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Banana chickpea muffins

vegie-smugglers-banana-chickpea-muffin-tall

Suddenly my calendar is telling me that it is OCTOBER! How the hell did that happen? And it does seem to be true – the kids headed back to school in summer uniforms yesterday.

This recipe will add a bit of interest to the craziness that is term 4. It will use up all your soggy bananas AND give you that brief moment of parental superiority as your child heads off with an additive-free, home-made lunchbox.

Banana chickpea muffins

1 cup self-raising flour (wholemeal or regular)
1/2 cup besan flour (chickpea flour, available at health food stores)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
50g butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 overripe bananas – mashed
1/2 cup sultanas (or choc chips are pretty yum too!)

Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin or line with paper cases.

In a large bowl, combine the flours (no need to sift) and sugar.

In a smaller bowl or jug, whisk together the egg, milk and butter. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Combine roughly, then mix through the bananas and sultanas.

Divide between your muffin cases. If you like, top with walnuts (not for school lunch boxes, obviously) or chia seeds.

Bake for 25 minutes or so, until golden and springy.

Makes 12. Extras freeze well.

Full of solutions for the rest of your food year!

Full of solutions for the rest of your food year!

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The magical power of CAKE and how my kids revealed themselves to actually be competent

My mission recently has been to ‘skill’ my kids. Apparently the best way to help with their self-esteem is not to talk them up, but rather to teach and help them conquer a wide and varied set of skills. Which includes the glorious and the mundane. Sure, learn how to snorkel, read novels and ride bikes but also learn how to polish your shoes, sort through the washing and take care of yourself.

Enthusiasm for the various tasks swings wildly. Feeding the cat is low on the list. They can never remember where the cans are kept. Is it that cupboard? This one? Out in the garage?

Same with breakfast. I reckon they can sort themselves out. But they’re not so sure. What? Find the milk myself? But the container is nearly full and much too heavy for a small wee child to pour. Surely mummy would do a better job….

Which is why I was all agog the other night post-dinner when freshly flopped on the couch I remembered that there was some leftover apple sponge pudding in the fridge. “Kids,” I yelled, between sips of pinot gris, “there’s dessert for you if you can find it.” I mentioned cake, yoghurt etc and in a flash they were off. Five minutes later they returned, pleased as punch with themselves. Somehow they’d found the cake, dished out servings, heated it in the microwave and topped it with yoghurt.

Astonishing what they are actually capable of.

SO delish, and keeps in the fridge for several days.

SO delish, and keeps in the fridge for several days.

Apple sponge pudding – based on a recipe by Nola Treloar from a Country Women’s Association cookbook

25g butter
4-5 apples (any sort), peeled, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown or raw sugar

Sponge
80g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup self-raising flour
Pinch salt

Heat a frying pan over medium/high heat. Melt the butter then add in the apple. Stir every couple of minutes until softening nicely. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and sugar. Mix for another minute or so, then set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease a baking or pie dish. Tip the apple mix evenly over the base – include all the juices.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and vanilla. Then whisk in the sugar, then the egg. Mix through the milk. Sift over the flour and salt. Whisk it all together into a glorious, lump-free batter.

Pour the mixture over the apples. Pop into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden.

Serve as is, or with yoghurt or ice-cream.

Serves 6-8

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These baked treats will pull you out of your parenting slump…

Inevitably, years of parenting do not pass by without periods of slump. Like any job, enthusiasm for certain tasks ebbs and flows. Of course the suckish part of parenting is that you’re in your job 24/7, so unlike regular employment, the hard times are not just an aspect of life that isn’t working, it’s more a feeling like YOUR WHOLE LIFE ISN’T WORKING.

Of course, it’s never that bad, but there’s something about the inability to get breathing space that does make perspective and negotiating your way out of a parenting lull quite tricky.

Usually the fixes are pretty easy to find. Maybe the kids will move out of their current frustrating stage, or you’ll just wake up one day with a fresh bit of perspective. Or they might do something particularly loveable, like give you lots of cuddles or manage to wee IN the toilet for a day or two (sometimes it’s the little things).

And sometimes you have to just suck it up and jolly yourself out of it. A bit of attitude adjustment and tackling things in a new way can make a massive difference.

In my job (as a graphic designer) I tackle tricky clients by pouring love onto them. You know, if a client is complaining I totally take their side, shower them in attention and find that pretty much any situation is instantly diffused. I take the same tactic with my parenting – I find the core issue, and pour some love on it. Whether it’s just a conscious bit of mental reassessing of a situation or a more physical manifestation like cooking my way out of it. Which is why I say these muffins will pull you out of a parenting-hole, particularly if it is lunchbox-shaped and demanding attention five days a week.

Make a double batch of these and freeze them. Then instead of groaning at the thought of packing lunch on yet another day, you’ll have a bit of instant relief. And it’s home-made too, which is positive for you AND the kids.

chocolate seed muffins lunchbox

Just the sight of that cute damn dog cheers me up!

Chocolate seed muffins

1/2 cup seeds (any combo of black chia, sunflower, pepitas, flax)
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
1 egg
Juice 1 orange (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
3 tbsp maple syrup (optional but recommended)
1 small ripe avocado

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease or line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Give the seeds a blitz in a blender, food processor or mortar & pestle – you need to break them down a bit. Tip them into a large mixing bowl and toss in the flour, cocoa, sugar and oats.

In a separate bowl or large jug, whisk the egg, then combine in the orange juice, milk, butter & maple syrup.

Tip the wet ingredients into the dry and stir gently until just combined.

Use a fork to mash the avocado in a small bowl, then add that the the muffin mixture and combine in.

Divide evenly between the cases and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops spring back with touched and a skewer comes out clean.

Makes 12

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Need more ideas? Check out my 40-week lunchbox planner, full of super simple and seasonal ideas!

 

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Aaaahhhh. Fiji. And what I learned from resort holiday fun.

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island in all it’s glory!

In a happy chance my return from Fiji coincided with some winter sunshine and a cheap bulk buy of passionfruit at my local fruit shop. Which resulted in these sweet little morning tea treats that have me closing my eyes and drifting back off to the tropics (scroll down for recipe).

This trip was our first family-resort holiday. Usually we’re a van-park type of family, but stuff it, I hate winter and a few days of heat seemed entirely MEDICINAL. Of course the credit card may not agree for the rest of the year.

But we did create some pretty amazing family memories. With my kids a bit older, we skipped the kids club in favour of family frolics and some pretty adventurous snorkelling afternoons. It was so impressive to watch the kids step up, overcome some fears and get stuck in.

We moved about, but our favourite place was Mana Island – I can’t say enough good stuff about it and it’s still currently under renovation. It will be incredible in another six months or so.

And my tips for taking kids to a resort holiday in Fiji?

• If possible, find flights that don’t have you up for bus transfers at 3am. Or 2am. It kind of squishes some of the fun out of a short trip.

• Take a bunch of muesli bars and snacks to tide them over from buffet to buffet.

• Smother everyone in sunscreen all the time. Don’t trust the kids to do it themselves (speaking from experience).

• And even though the big resorts want you to tip when you pay the bill, slip cash to the staff who’ve been awesome. It makes a big difference to fantastic people who’s daily pay is about what you’d pay for a couple of beers. I find being the affluent-Aussie-in-poorer-countries thing quite awkward. The lady who was bringing me my cocktails by the pool had four kids under six and worked 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. And she smiled the whole time.

Lesson learned.

vegie smugglers passionfruit coconut madeleines

Regular patty pans will do instead of madeleine trays. And sorry for the rubbish pic – I was too lazy to dig out the good camera

Passionfruit & coconut madeleines

3 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar (or golden caster)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
4 passionfruit (juice & seeds). Use 3 tbsp tinned passionfruit if you can’t find fresh
75g melted butter
Icing sugar to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease madeleine or patty pans with HEAPS of butter – or they’ll stick.

Pop the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk for several minutes until lighter and thick (sounds tedious, but very good for tuck shop lady arms).

Sprinkle over the flour and coconut and fold through gently. Stir through the passionfruit and butter.

Scoop tablespoon quantities into the trays and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and springy (these don’t rise much).

Leave to cool for several minutes before turning out and tossing in a bit of icing sugar (optional).

Makes 30ish.

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For another tropical treat, try my delicious little pineapple cakes.

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Turning pantry slops into lunchbox gold

Exciting times at VSHQ with a complete kitchen renovation just days away. For the past month we’ve eaten our way through the pantry and now I’m down to the SLOPS. All those supermarket impulse buys and double ups that have me now scratching my head as to just how I’m going to combine water chestnuts, lychees, olives and four jars of seeded mustard into one delicious meal.

Tinned fruit seems to be the single thing I buy, but never use. Here’s what I was left with….

I know, it's a massive shame that the leopard print contact that lines all my cupboard is about to go...

I know, it’s a massive shame that the leopard print contact that lines all my cupboards is about to go…

Yesterday I managed to rid myself of the cherries and pineapple (too easy). The cherries were combined with frozen blackberries and apple in a traditional crumble (use this recipe here) and the pineapple worked perfectly with desiccated coconut (another ingredient I always have too much of) in a lunchbox treat that has the kids singing my praises.

You can win a set of 4myearth snack wraps!

Pineapple & coconut muffins

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup raw sugar
440g crushed pineapple in juice. Drain the fruit over a bowl – keep the juice.
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup grapeseed oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tray or line with paper cases.

In a large bowl combine the flour, coconut & sugar. Mix together.

In a separate jug, combine 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice with the egg, milk and oil. Whisk this together thoroughly.

Tip the wet ingredients into the dry. Combine roughly then add in the crushed pineapple. Stir to mix through then divide evenly between your muffins holes.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and springy to touch.

Makes 12
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Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

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

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