Archive for The best way to smuggle…

Mashed potato IN YOUR FACE… errrrr, actually….

…the mashed potato is in your pizza dough.

It’s a little trick taught to me by my friend Trish who grew up in her parent’s Italian restaurant. And it’s a great trick. If you use just the mashed insides of baked potatoes, you’ll add in the starch and help your bases to crisp up. If you add in regular leftover mash, the dough becomes light and lovely. Either way, it’s a great idea for potato smuggling (as is gnocchi – click for that recipe here).

An easy dough – fun to make & great to eat.

An easy dough – fun to make & great to eat.

Pizza Dough

3 cups bakers flour (plus 1/2-3/4 cup more as you knead the mash in)
7g sachet dried yeast
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup warm water
1 cup mashed potato (Use leftovers or bake or microwave 2 small jacket potatoes, then mash the insides)

Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Pour over the oil and water. Mix together to form a rough dough.

Turn it onto a floured bench. Knead for a minute then add in half the potato. You’ll need to sprinkle over the extra flour as you go – the potato makes it pretty gloopy (but quite fun). Continue adding mash and the extra flour. Knead for about 5-7 minutes. Eventually you will have added enough extra flour in to get the mix back to being a smooth dough. (You won’t believe me at first, when the mix is slimy and weird, but trust me and carry on).

Pop it into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm to prove for 30-40 minutes until doubled in size. Then punch out the air, divide into 3 pizzas and top with whatever toppings suit your family.

Cook for about 15-20 minutes at 220C.

MAKES 3×12 INCH BASES (these bases are quite filling – 3 feeds my family of four)

If you don’t know how to ‘throw’ a pizza base – I followed the technique in this video. It worked well and provided a frisson of risk and plenty of kitchen laughs.

Don’t forget to top it with my six-vegie pizza sauce.

This recipe makes plenty - freeze some of this too.

Six-vegie sauce to morph pizza into a super-smuggler.

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How to guarantee vegie-smuggling success (and a giveaway)

Some people like to smuggle vegies by cooking them, mashing them and re-adding them to dishes where they get cooked again and served to unwitting children. Have you heard of this method?

Unless your child is severely vegie-resistant and you’re looking for a starting point that guarantees success, I would avoid doing this. Why?…
1. By the end of this process, most of the vegie’s nutritional benefits are gone.
2. It’s too much work for time-poor parents to manage.
3. The kids don’t learn how delicious healthy eating can be.

I prefer a ‘chop chop’ method. Start with gorgeous fresh, raw produce and grate it or chop it into such small pieces that kids can’t easily identify or pick it out of their dinner.

People have complained to me, ‘but you’re not hiding the vegies – I can see them!’ to which I’ll reply, “yes, because you want your kids to realise that vegies are there, but to still eat them anyway’. If the little bits are all cooked together into a delicious and tasty whole meal, the kids will eat it (of course there are exceptions!) Mostly though, if they can’t identify exactly what vegie is what and if they’re enjoying the meal then their motivation to protest will be low.

The aim is to eventually get kids eating the way you do, so you might start off grating everything, but after a while you can move on to chopping and dicing things finely. Then the pieces can get bigger and bigger until you’re just cooking like normal. This process can take a couple of years and possibly you’ll have to backtrack if you push them too far (if you see them crying, with a huge chunk of zucchini on their fork, you’ll know that you need to go back to grating for a while).

So I recommend everyone take the time to buy a good kitchen knife and learn to use it (there’s a stack of videos online showing you how). You don’t need to be a whizz, just competent and safe. Buy yourself a good grater, too.

And also rely on gadgets to do the work for you. I use my mini-stick blender all the time. I use it to make breadcrumbs, chop vegies, whizz up homous and even make banana ice cream.

You can WIN this baby.

You can WIN this baby.

Luckily for one reader, today I’ve got an Avancer food processor to give away. In the larger machine you can make coleslaw, combine meatball mixtures, blend soups – all bound to give you vegie-smuggling success.

This meatball mix will be a doddle in it…

Hidden veg meatballs in an ALL VEG soup. Genius. And delicious.

Hidden veg meatballs in an ALL VEG soup. Genius. And delicious.

Italian meatballs

Make a double batch of these meatballs and freeze. They work great in all kinds of tomato soups and pasta sauces (like this one).

500g pork/veal mince
1 slice stale bread (any type)
2 tsp Italian herbs
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1/2 red capsicum, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line your largest baking tray with foil and spray well with olive oil spray.

Use your food processor to make breadcrumbs with the bread. Also add in the garlic and herbs and blitz to get heavenly, fragrant breadcrumbs.

Quickly blitz the carrot, then the capsicum. Pop in the mince; toss the egg on top and pulse to bring the mix together. Pop on some kitchen gloves and roll meatballs and place on the tray. If you have the time and patience, keep them nice and bite-sized (plus they cook faster).

Spray the meatballs with more oil spray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tray, carefully turn them over and return to the oven for 10 minutes more until golden outside and fully cooked through.

Makes enough for 2 adults and 2-3 kids, depending on what you add them into.


WANT TO WIN THE FOOD PROCESSOR? You need to be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber, based in Australia. And since Avancer have given me the prize, you might want to check out all the Avancer products here. Simply enter by commenting below about which vegies you find the hardest to get your kids to eat. Entries close Thursday Oct 24, 8pm AEDT. ****THANKS FOR YOUR ENTRIES! AVANCER HAVE PICKED THE WINNER – CONGRATULATIONS ALISON WHITE, HOPE YOU ENJOY THE FOOD PROCESSOR!

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A simple (gluten-free) mix and bake

Is there anything better than a dinner that gets mixed up in one bowl, then pressed into one tin and cooks in one oven? Perhaps only the addition of Bono, sitting up on the benchtop in his onesie, belting out a little acapella version of ‘One’ while I sip one wee glass of vino while I’m wearing my onesie. That’d be nice, if a little weird.

If you’re free Bono, pop over tonight and we’ll whip this zucchini slice up together.

One piece.

Just one piece.

Zucchini & rice slice (Gluten free)

There’s no smuggling going on here really, since pretty much the whole dish IS vegies. Smuggling vegies within vegies…

2 zucchinis, grated
1 carrot, peeled, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
125g can corn kernels, drained
1 cup cooked rice (white or brown) – I always make extra rice whenever I’m cooking a stir-fry, so I can make stuff like this the next day
2-3 tbsp fresh chives and/or parsley, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (plus extra for the top)
1/2 cup mild feta, crumbled
4 eggs, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a 20x30cm slice tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything well. Press the mixture into the tin, top with a handful of grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes until set.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids


Like this recipe? Why not try out my Baked tuna & tomato rice.


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The best way to smuggle… apricots

I haven’t done one of these posts for a while. If you’re new to the blog, these are the posts where I tackle a specific ingredient. In the past I’ve offered solutions for tricky vegies like mushrooms, spinach and beetroot. You can view a full list here.

So apricots seem a bit lame in comparison, but I figure with summer drawing to a close, you’ve probably got a few of these guys about, possibly looking a little worse for wear. Chuck them in this cake and you’ve got a nice alternative to banana bread. If though, you’re inundated with aging bananas, then you can see a recipe for banana bread here.

Apricots magically disappear!

Apricots magically disappear!

Apricot slice

RECIPE EDIT: Please note that this recipes has changed since first being published. Originally I left out the egg! Huge apologies.

1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
½ cup LSA mix (or just almond meal is also good)
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup shredded coconut
5 fresh apricots, finely chopped (or use 10 tinned apricot halves – this is a better option than reconstituting dried ones)
140g tub apple puree (or peel & chop two apples, and make your own)
50g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 20x30cm lamington tray with baking paper.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the LSA mix and sugar. Combine in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. It takes a while to get the mixture really combined. Depending on your apricots and apple puree, you may need to add a splash of grapeseed oil or 10g extra butter to hold everything together). Press the mix evenly into your tray.

Bake 30-35 minutes until springy to touch. Cool and cut into squares.

MAKES 30ish squares.

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Five tricky vegies (and how to smuggle them)

Chances are that if you sit the kids down and read out a list of the following vegies (and one legume), they will do all sorts of face contortions, with tongues out, shoulders up and arms flapping. They will quite possibly spend much energy and passion telling you just how much all of these things are GROSS. Which is a shame, because they are packed with a massive amount of nutrients that your kids really need to eat if they ever want to grow up to be astronauts or ballerinas.

So while I really like to spend a lot of time educating kids about how to eat well, at other times, I just like them to shut up and eat dinner. On some nights, with some ingredients, full scale smuggling is required.

I think these five ingredients are prime vegie smuggling candidates. Apparently disgusting on their own, with a bit of effort, you can transform them into delicious dinners that are down the hatch before the kids even have a chance to utter the phrase ‘I’ve been duped’.


shepherds pie

Shepherd’s Pie




a meal that smuggles all vegies

Cheesy pots


Vegie Smugglers chilli with no chilli recipe

Chilli (with no chilli)


vegie smugglers spaghetti carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara

Toddler Recipes: What (and how) to feed fussy eaters

My latest e-book makes feeding your fussy kids a breeze. Visit the shop!

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The best way to smuggle… fennel (is in sausage rolls, of course!)

egg glaze for sausage rolls

Hide the sausage (roll).

So perhaps spring isn’t this vegie’s best time of year, but due to the supermarket’s supernatural powers, there were some good specimens staring at me the other day and I was inspired. Fennel is a divisive and often little loved vegie that even many adults baulk at. Not everyone loves the aniseed flavour. Which is a shame. When used well, it adds the best little dash of ‘noice & unuuuusssssual’ to a range of dishes.

After some thought, I decided the best way to entice you all to use it is to combine it with my most popular recipe of all time – sausage rolls. Consistently a winner with even the fussiest kids, a bit of puff pastry can hide a multitude of things – in this case it’s fennel, combined gorgeously with pork (which I don’t cook with often), apple, onion and carrot.

My kids were licking the plate at the end of this dinner, which is a rare and joyous occasion (last time it happened was this spaghetti carbonara). Anytime such a miraculous event occurs, I thank the gods and quickly dash to the computer to jot the recipe down. Et voila, a new family favourite to add to your repertoire.

Since the recipe only needs a cup of fennel, you’ll have leftovers. While the kids might not be so keen on it raw, I’m happy enough to eat it up sliced in green salads. And it’s also delish in this beef cannelloni.

vegie smugglers pork fennel apple sausage rolls

Smells fantastic and are seriously delicious.

Pork, apple & fennel sausage rolls

5 sheets puff pastry
500g pork mince
2 slices wholemeal (or white) bread
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1 small Granny Smith apple, quartered & cored
1 cup fennel, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 red onion, peeled, roughly chopped
1 egg, whisked, for sticking and glazing
Sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Remove the puff pastry from the freezer. Separate out 5 sheets. Score down the middle with a sharp knife and snap into two long rectangles. Set aside to thaw while you mix the filling.

Add the mince to a large mixing bowl. Use a food processor (I use my mini one) to make this prep really quick. Add the torn up bread and garlic to the processor and blitz to make lovely garlic breadcrumbs. Add to the mince. Blitz the carrot and add to the bowl. Repeat with all the vegies. (I do them all separately as they need different amounts of chopping time – eg, the carrots can handle a good blast, but just pulse the apple, to avoid everything turning into pulp).

Sprinkle everything with a stack of pepper, then use your hands (wear kitchen gloves) to combine the mixture really well. Roughly divide into 10, to give you a idea of quantities, then shape into sausages and place down the centre (lengthwise) of your pastry rectangles. Make sure the filling goes right to the edges so that no-one gets ripped off!

Brush egg down one side then use the plastic backing to help you ease over the pastry. Peel back the backing sheet and seal edges together firmly.

At this stage, I cut the backing plastic down the middle and wrap it around the rolls to protect the pastry from drying out while I finish off. Work quickly on the rest. Set aside what you need for dinner tonight, then roll each of the remaining ones in a layer of cling wrap and pop into the freezer. (I freeze them on a tray, then transfer to a zip lock bag for even more protection against freezer burn).

Cut tonight’s up into whatever lengths you like, place on the oven tray, brush with egg and sprinkle over sesame seeds (if using). Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through. Serve with salad and these chips.

Makes 10 sticks (about 40 pieces).

DEFROST THESE: for 24 hours in the fridge, then once totally thawed, cook as usual.

NO FOOD PROCESSOR? Then buy breadcrumbs from the shops, grate the apple, carrot and onion and super finely dice the fennel and celery.

If you LOVE sausage rolls, check out this lamb sausage roll recipe too.

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Fifty shades of red (the best way to smuggle… raw tomato)

There are some current trends that I’m managing to avoid. One Direction, orange jeans, and MKR have been easy to skip. The Fifty Shades of Grey e-book though, piqued my interest as soon as I heard it classified as ‘mummy porn’. Realising that I’m their target market and determined to do my best to stay up with the trends I downloaded it IMMEDIATELY. Admittedly around page 40 when first introduced to the ‘playroom’ I had second thoughts. I don’t want to seem like a prude but I’m a bit of an Elizabeth/Mr Darcy kind of a girl and 480 pages of bondage wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind. Still I’ve done my best and have gallantly just finished book 2. I’ve stuck with Grey and Annnnaasssttaaaaassssssia through romps in bed, in the boathouse, on boats and in the playroom (eeewwwwwww).

As a way to spend some time, it’s somehow reminding me of a sexed up, book version of ‘Escape to the Country’ – I’m glued with promises of the next scene, the next escapist fantasy, a new reception room (where of course they will stop for a dalliance). Basically a bunch of absorbing snippets that compile to make a vaguely dissatisfying whole. At the end I’m feeling slightly hoodwinked and not sure why I’m spending any of my life consuming it.

Anyway despite posts on porn film food, and an admission that I had inadvertently introduced my toddler to internet nudity, this blog is supposedly about good food, not erotica and the real point of today’s post is to tackle a tricky ‘best way to smuggle’ – raw tomato.

Unlike other vegies that are easy to sneak into gorgeous meals (like spinach, mushrooms & cauliflower), raw tomato with its high acid content is pretty tricky to hide. While the kids like a mushed up raw tomato pasta sauce, gazpacho isn’t quite floating their boats just yet. And hiding it raw can be tricky, so my best option is to dress is up, Fifty Shades style, with a delectably kinky dressing.

My hubbie concocted this quick salad and my kids LOVE it. Dolloped into wraps, and onto burgers – it’s been a real success. And yes, before you email me with outrage, I know that it has SUGAR in it (the irony is not lost on me that porn will make none of you irate, but sugar is akin to the devil). It melds with the balsamic and cuts through the acid. I have no qualms about the sweet content – anything that gets mouthfuls of vitamin rich, raw tomato into my children’s tummies is just fine with me.


Dressed up, with somewhere to go.

Adam’s ‘dressed up’ tomato salad

8 roma tomatoes (or equivalent quantities of cherry, grapes or vine tomatoes)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
Salt & pepper (be generous – they are essential to balance out the sweet/salty combo)

For the adults: chopped parsley.

Chop the tomatoes finely, pour over the vinegar, sprinkle the sugar, season generously and stir. Garnish with parsley if you like.

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The best way to smuggle… red lentils

I think quite possibly, red lentils are the holy grail of vegie smuggling. They have that unique flavour of… well… dirt really, that makes them tricky to hide in a delicious, kid-friendly meal. I have tried all sorts of dahls & stews. I’ve tried to hide them in chillis, fajitas (a way that works briliantly with brown lentils) but time and time again I’ve served them up and gotten a big ‘not happy Jan’ from the kids.

But finally after 18 months of trying and trying I’ve cracked it with this amazingly good pumpkin soup recipe. It is a magic recipe. My kids don’t like pumpkin and they don’t like lentils, but this dish makes them swoon. Admittedly, the quantity of lentils is small, but from modest beginnings I can build. It seems like the trickiest part of vegie smuggling is discovering the first acceptable dish that contains a forbidden ingredient. Once the first meal goes in, the taste seed is planted and you can move on to bigger and bolder things. From here I’ll build a dahl recipe with similar flavours and before I know it, the kids will be pestering ME for a trip down to the local Indian.

vegie smugglers pumpkin and lentil soup recipe

Food alchemy.

Pumpkin, corn & lentil soup

1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled, chopped into 1.5cm cubes
Olive oil
1–2 tsp Moroccan spice mix (the better quality the mix, the better the flavour)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 litre good-quality chicken stock
¼ cup red lentils, picked over, rinsed
420g can creamed corn
Grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and top with the pumpkin in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and as much spice mix as suits your family. Toss to combine and bake for 15–20 minutes until the pumpkin is soft but without too much colour.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium–low heat. Add the onion and cook for 6–8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the pumpkin, stock and lentils to the pan. Stir well and cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the lentils are tender.

Stir through the corn and black pepper. Remove from the heat and use a stick blender to blend until creamy.

Slice the baguette, scatter with cheddar and grill under a preheated grill on medium until it is melted and golden. Cut some slices into cubes and keep some whole.

Serve the soup in cute bowls, with both cheesy cubes hidden throughout and a large slice on top.



If your kids like soups, why not try these other recipes…

Chicken, vegie & pasta soup

Witches Stew

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The best way to smuggle… cauliflower

I was always a good eater as a kid, but cauliflower was one of the few vegies that made my tastebuds recoil. My recollection is that we ate the drab thing a lot – but perhaps that’s just me unfairly forgetting the 6 nights a week that we ate stuff that I really loved (my mum is a great cook).

Funny how the food aversions stick around. I talk to parents all the time who worry about their kid’s eating habits, only to confess mid-conversation that they are themselves modelling the fussy-food behaviour. And I realise that cauliflower is the vegetable that I don’t buy as often as I should (since it’s full of fibre, vitamins and anti-cancer compounds). I use all sorts of excuses in the supermarket – it’s expensive and the kid’s don’t like it… but hang on a minute – that’s not actually true… I never expect the kids to like it but actually my kids DO like it (particularly smothered gratin-style in a cheese sauce and baked).

Recently I bought a chunk of it and served little florets along with broccoli simply microwaved and drizzled with lemon juice – the kids were excited and ate it all up (I think I even heard ‘yay! cauliflower!). Just goes to show what a bit of variety can achieve.

So my lessons learned were..
1. Don’t pass my food aversions onto my children.
2. Don’t assume anything about what they will and won’t like.
3. Keep the vegies served on a regular rotation (absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder).

And if you are nervous about introducing cauliflower to the family, try out this fish pie, which artfully smuggles both cauliflower and parsnip into the top layer. It’s a great recipe for autumn when cauliflower is just coming into season and the unaffordable excuse disappears too.

This is not the vegie of my childhood nightmares!

Family fish pie

Butter, for greasing
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 zucchini, grated (peel first if necessary)
400g white fish, cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp plain flour
1 cup milk, warmed (soy is fine)
¾ cup grated cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped chives and/or parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp white wine
Salt & black pepper
Canola oil cooking spray

4 medium potatoes, peeled, chopped
1 parsnip, peeled, chopped
1 cup cauliflower florets
25g butter
½ cup milk (soy is fine)
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a lasagne or casserole dish.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft (but not brown). Add the garlic for 1 minute then add the carrot and zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the fish and carefully mix through for 3-4 minutes.

Add the flour and milk and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, chives, lemon and wine. Mix through and season well.

Meanwhile, for the topping, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the potatoes, parsnip and cauliflower. Boil for 10-15 minutes. Test one of the largest pieces with a fork. If it skewers easily, drain the vegies into a colander, then return to the pan. Add butter and milk. Mash well. Taste and add more milk or butter if the mixture needs it.

Spread the fish mixture evenly over the bottom of the dish. Carefully put the potato layer over the top. Spray with cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes until golden.


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The best way to smuggle… beetroot

So, since we can’t have the beetroot brownie too regularly for dinner, I guess I’ll move onto recommending this delightful pink meatloaf as a way of getting beetroot into your kiddies. Using fresh grated beetroot gives it a definite pink tinge, which is perfect for little girls with a meat aversion (like Miss Fruitarian). A 225g can of beetroot can be substituted, but boring brown will prevail.

Apparently (so you’ve told me on Facebook), meatloaf is a bit popular. It IS a perfect easy-cook, that can sit in the fridge all week and be easily reheated or put on toasties or spuds. And an egg-free meatloaf recipe was requested, which is why you’re getting this snippet recipe from the second Vegie Smugglers cookbook (buy the digital cookbook here).

vegie smugglers beetroot meatloaf

All hail the photographers and stylists who can make meatloaf look good.

Pink meatloaf

500g beef mince
1-cup fresh breadcrumbs (about 1 slice of bread)
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, chopped
1 beetroot, peeled, quartered
1 carrot, peeled, chopped
3 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180C. Spray a 10x18cm loaf tin with canola spray and line with baking paper.

Add the mince to a large mixing bowl.

If you have a hand-held food processor, use it to make the breadcrumbs from a slice of bread. Add to the mince. Pulse the onion and garlic, add to the mince. Pulse to chop the zucchini, then carrot, then beetroot (use gloves to avoid staining your hands), adding to the mince mixture each time. (NOTE – A grater will work perfectly for those of you without small kitchen contraptions).

Pour over the sauces and season really well. Use your (gloved) hand to mix everything together really well, then press into the loaf tin.

Bake 45-50 minutes until cooked through.



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