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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Super yum dinner with bugger-all cooking required

This blog made it into my dreamspace the other night, in one of those intensely real, detailed dreams that have you swept up believing that they are actually happening.

In it I was putting together a video-recipe (already farfetched considering I’d rather chew the toenails of strangers than appear on camera) full of horribly complicated instructions on how to bake the perfect roast potato. The essential first step was to puncture the entire spud by creating endless potato-gun pellets before boiling, drying, dipping in oil then baking until crispy perfection. Even in the dream I was thinking that locating an old-style toy for a single recipe was a bit of a stretch for readers, especially considering I only blog simple, everyday recipes.

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Miss F demonstrates the first step of my dream-potato dish.

Still, the potatoes were insanely good, as is this week’s recipe. Thankfully this real-life recipe is at the opposite end of the preparation spectrum. Just marinade some chicken, then toss in a few extra bits and bake. DONE. And it’s super tasty.

vegie-smugglers-indian-chicken-tray-bake

Younger kids can have theirs chopped up and mixed through the rice. Adults can top with coriander & fresh chilli.

Indian baked chicken

This is advanced vegie-smuggling, since there’s nothing hidden. To serve younger kids, hack away at the finished dinner with kitchen scissors and mix everything through the rice, making it more of an Indian-fried rice type thingy.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp brown sugar (optional but recommended, honey also works)
700-800g chicken thigh fillets
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into thick batons
1 large red onion, peeled, cut into 8-10 wedges
1 cup peas

1 cup basmati rice
1 zucchini, grated

To serve: Mango chutney, pappadums

Mix the oil and spices and sugar all together in a glass or ceramic dish (since I’m lazy and hate washing up, I use an oven proof one that I’ll later roast everything in).

Cut any excess fat off the chicken and cut each fillet into about 3 even-sized pieces. Roll them into the marinade, cover and leave for as long as you’ve got (somewhere between 5 seconds and all day, depending on your schedule).

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the cover from the chicken. Mix in the carrot and onions. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the carrot is tender and the chicken is cooked through. Toss over the peas and mix through. Leave to sit for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rice whichever method you like best (I use my trusty and beloved rice cooker). When just cooked, mix through the zucchini and leave it to cook with the residual heat of the rice for several minutes).

Serve the chicken on top of the rice, with a dollop of chutney and a papadum for crunch. Adults might also like coriander and fresh chilli.

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids.

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Fundraising for a playgroup or daycare? You can sell my cookbook and keep 33%! Email me for more info…. vegiesmugglers@gmail.com

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Other chicken dishes to try…

Our favourite chicken pasta

Kid-friendly, one-pot chicken pilaf

Chicken sausage rolls – a Vegie Smuggling classic!

Slow cooker Chicken noodle soup.

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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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The dinner that looks pants but taste great

Food styling has never been my forte. When I photograph my recipes it’s always with the general urge to show a dish as it is, in all its everyday yumminess. Usually there are kids hovering and pestering, wanting to just get on with eating their dinner. Late in the day the light is often fading and quite often I end up snapping a not-great-shot and think, bugger it, IT WILL DO. The readers will get the idea and they’ll just have to trust me that if I’m bothering to post a recipe, then it is definitely worth trying.

Wraps, however, are my particular food styling nemesis. And it’s a shame that I can’t figure out how to make them look good, since they are kid-feeding-gold. I roll all sorts of combinations of healthy yum into them and they get scoffed nice and quickly. They can be messy, especially for younger kids, so take the time to secure them with a bit of foil. It’ll catch the drips from the end and add some fun – my kids enjoy peeling it away as they continue eating.

AND, they end up a bit like swords, which always keeps my son extremely happy.

 

vegie-smugglers-beef-wraps

Our latest hit dinner (that also doubles as a sword)

Extremely tasty and good for you wraps

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely diced
500g beef mince
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Mexican spice mix (or 1 tsp each cumin, paprika, oregano)
400g can kidney beans, rinsed, drained
2 large tomatoes, finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled, grated or finely chopped
1 zucchini, grated or finely chopped
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
1 tbsp brown sugar (optional, but recommended)

Serve in wraps with your choice of grated cheese, avocado, lettuce, jalapeños and sour cream.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat.

Add the oil then pop in the onion, and cook, stirring often for 5-6 minutes. Place the mince carefully into the pan and use your spoon to break up all the lumps and brown it all over. This usually takes another 6-8 minutes.

Chuck in the garlic for a minutes before adding the spices. Combine them through the mince before adding in all of the veggies and sugar (if using).

MIx everything together well, reduce the heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes uncovered (you want liquid to evaporate and for this to be a pretty dry mix). If you have time, just let this simmer away for 45 minutes or so, while you repack lunches, solve homework problems or plow through the day’s family admin. Do give it all a stir every now and again to avoid sticking.

Serve on wraps. Sprinkle over cheese, then any extras that take your fancy.

Makes enough to feed 2 adults & 4 kids. Leftover mince freezes well and is also great on baked potatoes.

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EVERYONE LIKED THIS? Other wrap dinners to try (and more dodgy food styling to check out)…..

Spicy chicken wraps.

Middle Eastern-style lamb

Beef & lentils

Fish & vegies

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Pea pea balls

Shhhhhhh. Can you hear that? That’s right…… Listen again……… Got it? Yep. The glorious sound of silence as the kids head back to school.

Just quietly, I might be missing them a teeny bit.

The stretch of free time does allow me some uninterrupted cooking before the end of the day though. These ‘pea pea balls’ are the latest hit snack around here. The fun name has the kids laughing enough that they’ve scoffed a few down before they even think to ask what’s inside.

vegie-smugglers-pea-balls

Pea pea balls. Not poo poo balls.

Pea Pea Balls

2 slices wholemeal bread
1 1/4 cups peas (thawed if frozen)
400g can chickpeas. Rinsed, drained.
1-2 tbsp mint
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sumac (buy from good greengrocers – so delicious and worth getting your hands on – if you can’t find it replace with lemon zest)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
Pepper (optional)

Olive oil spray

Serve with yoghurt & sweet chilli sauce

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with non-stick paper.

In a mini or full-sized food processor (or a thermy) blitz the bread into breadcrumbs. Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until you’ve got a thick paste.

I’d say ‘roll’ balls of mixture, except it’s a sloppier mix than that, really you’re just going to use spoons to shape dollops into bite-sized pieces on the oven tray. Spray with oil. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip then over and spray again and bake for another 10-15 until golden and firm. Serve warm with yoghurt & sweet chilli sauce.

Makes enough to feed 4-6 people as a snack.

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If you’re dreading getting back into the school lunchbox routine, pick up a copy of my Complete Lunchbox Planner. It has 40 weeks of easy menus & seasonal recipes. Visit the shop for more info.

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All my silliest and most sublime Christmas craft projects…

So it’s the end of November and time to wipe off our cynicism and let ourselves get swept up into Christmas fun. My poor deprived kids have to wait until next weekend to get the tree underway (really, I think you have to wait until December for that one), but there’s no reason that we can’t start ripping through a few of our favourite festive season projects.

These are all silly and fun ideas – good ways to fill an impatient hour here and there over the next month. And best yet – they all recycle come January.

To keep the happy Christmas vibe happening, make sure you get your 10% discount in my shop – it’s valid until midnight Monday November 30. Just use ‘xmas2015’ at the checkout. See all my fabulous products here in my shop.

 

a christmas fairy made from a toilet roll

Silly and fun – a Christmas fairy made from a loo roll.

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Baby Jesus gets a loo-roll makeover, too!

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Add to your scene with Mary and Joseph!

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This tree will keep kids busy colouring for a bit.

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An give & take advent calendar (make them work for their treats!)

10%off-text

 

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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
Parsley

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.

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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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This dinner WINS nutrition (and the kids love it)

Walnuts are generally considered to be a pretty fantastic nutritional addition to the modern diet (unless, you know, you’re like anaphylactically allergic to them, in which case they’re a deady-bones type addition and worth avoiding). They’re full of awesome quantities of most stuff that’s good for you including omega 3 fatty acids and a range of minerals.

General consensus seems to be that introducing nuts to non-allergic kids is safe from 12 months. Serving kid-friendly pasta like this recipe is a good way to reap the health benefits without choking your little loves on whole kernels.

Also, this dish is like ‘Where’s Wally?’, except in a ‘Where’s zucchini?’ kind of way. If you have one of those fancy contraptions that will turn vegies into pasta twists then feel free to swap out all the pasta in this recipe. However my kids do love the tooth feel of a bit of traditional pasta and I find the zucchini just melts through effortlessly.

As is, this recipe is a total win-win-win at my place, but as always, I won’t take offence if you change it up to suit your household.

Herbs and capers 'adult' this dish up to schmancy levels.

Herbs and capers ‘adult’ this dish up to schmancy levels.

Broccoli & zucchini pasta with walnut sauce

This is adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe.

1 1/4 cups whole walnuts (toast them in a dry frying pan if you have a few minutes, but don’t fret if you can’t be bothered)
1-2 cloves garlic (depending on how stinky you like to be)
1 slice bread (no crusts) – soaked in 1 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
250g dry linguine or spaghetti
1 head broccoli – cut into dainty florets
2 zucchinis – use a peeler or mandolin to slice them thinly lengthwise then use a knife to cut them into long strips that are a similar size to your pasta.
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Add the walnuts, garlic, soggy bread, milk and oil into a food processor (my little mini one just manages to fit everything). Season well and blitz to form a smooth sauce. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. BUT – add in the broccoli 4 minutes before the end of cooking and then add the zucchini 2 minutes before the end of cooking.

Drain the pasta & veggies. Return to the cooking pot and tip over the walnut sauce. Mix through well. Season super well (this dish really does need tonnes of salt & pepper).

Mix through the parmesan. Serve the kids as is – adults might like to add some torn basil, parsley, anchovies or capers.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids (this portion size is dainty as the dish is rich – serve with a side salad).
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Needing a helpful & unique Christmas gift? How about a copy of my latest gorgeous cookbook? It has 125+ recipes that cover all aspects of the family food year including lunchbox solutions, basics, dinners, recipes to feed a crowd and special event cooking! Buy it soon so you can use the Christmas recipes!  CLICK TO VISIT THE SHOP & SEE ALL MY PRODUCTS…

Happy shopping!

Ohh! It's called

Ohh! It’s called “Kitchen Collection”

There's a section on basics, then a chapter for snacks and lunchbox items...

There’s a section on basics, then a chapter for snacks and lunchbox items…

Then it's the serious business of DINNER, since that happens tediously often...

Then it’s the serious business of DINNER, since that happens tediously often…

I've converted a bunch of recipes so that there's oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker instructions...

I’ve converted a bunch of recipes so that there’s oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker instructions…

Next chapter is full of ways to feed friends and family....

Next chapter is full of ways to feed friends and family….

And I finish off with celebrations with recipes for all kinds of dietary needs.

And I finish off with celebrations with recipes for all kinds of dietary needs.

CLICK TO VISIT THE SHOP

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