Archive for Vegie smuggling techniques

Sneaky goodness at breakfast time

Year 4 has arrived and with it the joy of times tables.

Like the daggiest of mums singing along to top 40 songs I’ve no clue about, my rendition of the times tables is pretty patchy.

I’m good for the 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s. Even my 6s aren’t too bad, but once I hit the 7s I’m in trouble. Regardless, I sing along with Miss F with conviction… “seven times five is 35, seven times six is foooorrrrrrrrrrtttyyyyy… (I stretch it out so I can do some silent addition onto the previous answer) TWO! Seven times seven is 49, seven times eight isssssssssssssssssssss (pausing until she answers first and I just join in)sssssssssssss… 56!

Even more proof that my kids are smarter than me. Must be all the morning goodness that I’m shoving onto their porridge at the moment. Last year we enjoyed our magic morning powder throughout the winter. This year I’ve stepped it up a notch, cramming in even more nutrients via walnuts and cutting out the sugar. Adding in a few sultanas and currants sweetens it to acceptable levels. Although dad’s version tends to have a bit of brown sugar added in, too.

Blitz the mix until it's a texture that suits your household.

Blitz the mix until it’s a texture that suits your household.

Sugar-free porridge topping

1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pecans
1 tsp cinnamon

Pop everything into a blender and blitz until a texture you find appealing. I like mine quite gritty, but others might prefer a finer powder.

new-book-on-sale

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Is that something green in your teeth (and thumb)? PLUS a discount offer on a great product

Part of the ongoing challenge of feeding kids well is getting the balance right between educating them about food but not making nutrition into such a big issue that they’ll grow into teenagers who rebel and reject us and our quaint “here, have a carrot stick” ways. I think I sometimes do tip into the food-nazi zone. Like when my 6-year-old pushed his spoon through his noodle soup and questioned, “Where’s the protein?” it seemed obvious that we’d had one healthy food lecture, too many.

Luckily, there are more subtle ways of making food education part of the every day. Growing stuff is a perfect way to educate kids quietly. A nice way to practice what you preach.

Problem is though, that some of us have green thumbs and others don’t. I don’t. I’m too sporadic with watering, too forgetful. I’ve got possums and snails and caterpillars that love to party, gorging their green little asses on my outdoor sweat & tears.

All of which adds up to making me a perfect guinea pig for Matt, who offered me a bit of Vegepod salvation.

Generally I avoid PR posts and I’m proud to say that I don’t get paid to talk about anything on this blog (I make a coin by selling my products, instead). So if I do, it’s because it’s a product I like, generally from a small, local business that is working hard with minimal budget to promote big ideas.

Rather than blabber about the Vegepod itself (you can visit the website and find out all about it, instead), I’ll just show you this pic of what I’ve managed to grow in just over 5 weeks. With my little microclimate under the hood, I’ve even got late season basil underway, long after my other stuff in pots has all gone to seed.

Hand clap!

Hand clap!

Best yet, is that the kids are totally excited about the more exotic stuff that we’re now managing to grow. I’m always astonished at how much more enthusiastic they are about eating something that they’ve picked themselves. This silverbeet is a perfect example.

And if you’re interested in a Vegepod, Matt has offered VS readers a 10% discount by entering “smugglers” into the coupon field. Offer expires April 6.

Thanks Matt & hope you sell heaps of Vegepods!

You don't have to hide vegies, so long as they're delicious!

You don’t have to hide vegies, so long as they’re delicious!



Creamed spinach

1 bunch silverbeet, washed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
150ml pouring cream
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
pinch of ground nutmeg
pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drop in the silverbeet, a few leaves at a time. Use tongs to remove them after about 30 seconds. Transfer to a colander. Continue until the whole bunch is cooked. Set aside to cool slightly.
Squeeze out the excess water from the silverbeet, slice the leaves off the stems (discard stems) and roughly chop the leaves.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion for 6-8 minutes or until golden and soft. Toss in the spinach leaves and cream. Stir until hot, mix through the cheddar and sprinkle over the nutmeg. Season with pepper.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS as a side dish

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Enjoy watching your toddler feed themselves lentils!

Yes, it’s true, these little balls of deliciousness are perfect toddler food but they’re also a popular snack with older kids, too. The secret is that the sweet potato (or kumara), is ROASTED, so they’re rich and enticing which means the lentils aren’t noticed at all.

To get the mash, I chuck the whole sweet potato into the oven (don’t peel it or anything so tedious) and cook it for about an hour at 180C. Then, whenever you’re ready during the day, you can get onto making this super-healthy, egg-free snack.

Perfect for independent toddlers

Perfect for independent toddlers


Sweet potato, lentil & rice balls

1 cup roasted sweet potato
1 cup cooked brown rice (or white rice is ok, too)
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup cooked brown lentils (I use tinned – give them a good rinse)
1 tbsp tomato chutney (or beetroot relish is also good)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs are good, too)
Spray oil

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

Mash the cooked sweet potato in a large bowl. Evenly mix in the rice, cheese, lentils and chutney.

Roll bite-sized balls of mixture, coat in the breadcrumbs and place on the tray. Spray them with oil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn once during cooking (if you can be bothered) and give them an extra spray of oil part way through.

Makes about 30

*THESE FREEZE!

Usually you’ll have more than one cup of mash after roasting a whole sweet potato. Just up the quantities of the other ingredients to suit and make a heap – these freeze well. Just remember for reheating that you need to thaw them then bake them in the oven – they go soggy in the microwave.

 

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

Advice on how to get your toddler eating a wide variety of vegetables with 26 clever recipes that smuggle the healthy ingredients in.

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Fours ways to keep your family thriving

I avoid self-promotion, but in the interest of 'getting to know you', here's a pic of me and the kids....

I avoid self-promotion, but in the interest of ‘getting to know you’, here’s a pic of me and the kids….

Despite the fact that I’m focused on improving the health of your family, I try really hard to not be a preachy blog that dictates how you should and shouldn’t live your life. It’s your life after all, right?

And I try to keep this more as a place where I write a bit, cook a bit and share bits of my life that you might find funny, interesting and/or helpful. There are enough fanatics on the internet, after all. Even with my strong interest in nutrition I get weighed down by the online doom and the people ready to hate on me if I admit that I use flour or sugar or nuts or meat or dairy or soy or salicytes or additives or anything that was grown further than a kilometre away.

While I am all admiration for anyone who commits so thoroughly to a cause, I don’t find it achievable in my own life. I have a job. I am the primary carer for my kids. I’m involved at school. I’ve got washing to do, activities to ferry people to and I’ve also got a pretty good little publishing business that takes up a bit of my time. And I’ve got a chain supermarket about 30 seconds from my house. So realistically, that’s where I shop.

However, I do find that there are several simple eating guidelines that I impose in my household that seem to be pretty successful. And since it’s the first post of the year, I thought I’d break my ‘no preaching’ rule and share them with you – maybe there’s an idea here that you might want to work on this year. Here goes…..

FOUR WAYS TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY THRIVING

1. No sugared drinks
The growing ‘sugar is poison’ movement is pretty compelling. There’s a great lecture here that while long, will be enough to have you checking labels and reducing the amount of sucrose/fructose/corn syrup that you consume. One simple message is that children should never be drinking soft drink, flavoured milk or juice. And I agree.

But I’m a pragmatist, and don’t want my kids to crave something that’s forbidden (also they’re skinny little things), so when we’re out to dinner or at parties, they have a lemonade. And that’s fine.

2. Eat more fibre
It’s good for you and adds flavour and texture to meals. It helps you feel full and helps your body cope with the sugars that you do consume. Strangely, most people don’t eat nearly enough. Increase your intake by choosing high fibre versions of things. Add bran into your baking. Pop a can of beans into your dinner. Learn all about fibre here.

3. Plan your meals
It’s the key to feeding a busy family well. If you have all the ingredients at hand, you’re much more likely to cook. If you plan out your dinners then you can shop for exactly what you need (which also saves you money). Don’t like doing it? I’ve got a meal plan for you here, complete with a shopping list. And if you like it, you might want to buy my Meal Plan e-book, which has 6 weeks of dinners all sorted out for you. There’s an ipad version for just $4.95.

4. Cook
Buy core ingredients and cook rather than just following reheating instructions on a packet. You’ll find that it doesn’t take much more time, particularly if you have equipment to help you. A mini-food processor is the best $80 you’ll ever spend.

Need inspiration? Cruise through some pages of this blog. There are over 200 recipes to keep you cooking. Want some quick recipe suggestions? Try this okonomiyaki, this vegie bologonaise or these salmon pikelets. Or these mini-meatloaves. In fact most of my recipes are pretty simple since I’m as busy as you.

And that’s it. Preaching over. It’s unusual for me to be this serious, so I’m feeling like I need to apologise – I promise I’ll be funnier next time.

I hope you stick with me this year – there are some exciting things afoot – a new hardcopy book coming out in the Autumn and there’s the thermomix e-book just days away. Subscribe to keep in touch and to receive my new recipes straight to your inbox.

Happy 2014 – may it be a fantastic year for your entire family!
xx

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How to make friends with salad

Hopefully, over the winter you’ve accumulated a repertoire of accepted (and even enjoyed) meals that contain enough vegies and nutrition to keep you achieving your status as an awesome-parent. But the casseroles and bakes that you’ve come to rely on may hold less appeal as the weather warms up.

It’s time to lighten the menu, and traditionally it’s the time when the BBQ gets trundled out and parents are faced with the screwed up faces of little kids who are not friends with salad.

There’s often not much smuggling potential in salads. They are, after all, full of raw and highly-recognisable ingredients. To get the kids interested in them, they need to be particularly tasty. While a good dressing helps a green salad to be more agreeable, there are a couple of more creative salad recipes that are a good starting point when you’re trying to instil a BBQ & salad culture.

Start simple and convey the whole concept of cold side dishes with a couple of particularly tasty examples that they can’t resist. Our favourite noodle salad works well, luring them in with flavour and crunch. Another sure-fire hit will be this Japanese-style potato salad that uses a mayonnaise-based sauce to entice them.

Dou itashimashite.

Dou itashimashite.

Japanese potato salad

Sauce:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

4 medium mashing potatoes, peeled, quartered
1 carrot, peeled, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
250g corn kernels, drained
1 cucumber, sliced into rounds

Combine the sauce ingredients well and set aside.

Pop the potatoes into a large pot of cold water and bring to the boil (adding them cold stops the edges from disintegrating). Reduce the heat to a strong simmer and leave for 15 minutes until soft enough that you can easily push a skewer through. Drain and add to a large bowl. Use a fork to roughly mash, but leave heaps of texture with lots of large chunks.

Stir the carrot and spring onions through the hot potatoes (this cooks them slightly). Season with plenty of salt & pepper. Pour over the sauce and mix thoroughly.

Leave to cool then combine in the corn and cucumber. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

Serves 2 adults & 3-4 kids as a side dish (leftovers make great lunches).

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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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Is your toddler a fussy eater? Here’s how to solve it

Won't eat vegies. Will lick mixing bowls.

Won’t eat vegies. Will lick mixing bowls.

By far the most common email I get is from stressed parents (actually it’s always mothers, but I’m being PC) of toddlers aged 2-3 who refuse to eat anything much and particularly won’t eat vegetables.

Getting the little darlings to put food into their gobs isn’t generally the problem. Ice-creams, lollies and chips usually disappear without any delay whatsoever, but finding a way to get any amount of fresh produce down the hatch is a constant and miserable drama that is starting to impact the family wellbeing (and mum’s sanity).

Does this sounds like you? Have dinners become miserable? Is your toddler holding you to food ransom?

Firstly, let me assure you that I feel your pain. This site exists due to my own experiences dealing with these issues. Back in 2006 when my daughter started causing me these headaches, I looked everywhere and really didn’t find too much helpful information. There were ‘cooking with kids’ books, which focused around getting them to bake treats and top pizzas. And there were ‘healthy kids’ books, written by nutritionists who insisted that all I had to do was serve my kids burgul salad and all would be well. Considering the short list of foods that were acceptable at the time, this idea was beyond laughable.

These days, there are a lot of good resources to help parents out, but I like to think that I’ve got some great ideas and recipes here to help you, in fact enough that I wanted to collate them into one toddler-specific post.

The good news is, that I’m living proof that this toddler behaviour is manageable and that you can overcome it. Now aged 8 and 6, both my fussy eaters are fantastic and will eat most things. It’s been a long but worthwhile road, one I would do all over again to achieve the outcome of healthy kids, without food issues who enjoy flavours and will take a food adventure with me.

I truly believe that if I had indulged them, to keep the peace, and maintained our limited menu, I would still be dealing with children who ‘won’t eat that’. Because one thing is certain, children who aren’t offered healthy food, definitely don’t eat it.

SO LETS’ BEGIN!…

• Why do I create my recipes the way I do? Click here to see a list of ten tips for smuggling vegies.

• Feeling overwhelmed? If this toddler behaviour is all new, read this post “Please help Vegie Smugglers, my child only eats…”

• More specific help. And if you need more help about dealing with toddler food behaviour, read “How to get fussy kids to try new foods.”

• Find inspiration. Click here for more of my personal story, and a great toddler tinned-spaghetti recipe.

• Recipes. Then of course you’ll need more fabulous recipes suitable for toddlers. As with most of my recipes, I aim to make them interesting enough for the whole family (no one wants to cook twice a night). Often I’ll suggest ways to ‘adult up’ a meal, by adding extra ingredients once you’ve served the kids. I’ve got a post about that, and a recipe for tomato & lentil pasta, both for you and your toddlers here.

• Even more recipes! You can see a selection of meal ideas here. Also, browse this entire blog. There are over 150 recipes on here that are all aimed at feeding fussy kids.

If you find all of this info helpful, and want even more recipes, you may want to buy the books or ebooks. Your purchase will benefit your family AND keep me afloat and able to whip up even more great ideas for you in the future.

Good luck and keep me posted on how you go!

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