What Jason Derulo, the Old El Paso family and my kitchen have in common…

Sometimes you have to give advertising agencies a little golf clap. While they devote their days to making content that leaves us half-demented, they do get their job done, achieving their goal of successfully branding a product to the point where we can’t walk past an item on the supermarket shelves without humming its jingle or having the tagline drift through our brains.

So it is with Old El Paso, whose little cute cheering families and mariachi tunes play around in my mind every time I walk past their products. Which is pretty crazy, since I don’t even buy them. I think other brands do better tortillas and even my jalapeños are now bought from a brand at the greengrocer. Still, I couldn’t help but imagine the little Mexican family gathered together, giving me a cheer as I presented this dinner the other night.

My kids weren’t quite as jubilant as their TV counterparts, but they devoured these completely simple-to-make wraps. And as Jason Derulo will testify is possible, the trumpets of celebration played in my head, which is close enough.

Pop foil around the kid's ones to avoid too much mess.

Adults can pop in jalapenos and fresh herbs.

One dish, one bowl, Mexican chicken wraps

Marinade
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mild paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp BBQ sauce (optional, but recommended!)

800g chicken thigh fillets
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1/2 red capsicum, cut into thick slices

Salsa
310g can corn kernels, drained
1 roma tomato, finely diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Coriander (optional – my kids hate it, so I just add it to mine after I’ve served them)

To serve (you choose what will suit your household): wraps, avocado, jalapeños, sour cream, parsley or coriander

If you remember, pop the chicken in the marinade in the morning and let it spend all day in the fridge getting extra tasty.

Combine the oil and spices in a glass dish or ceramic bowl. Remove the excess fat from the chicken, cut into a couple of pieces and smother it in the spice rub.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Place the chicken into your oven tray (line with foil or baking paper to help with the clean up). Toss over the onion wedges.

Bake for 20 minutes. Use tongs to turn the pieces over. Mix through the capsicum. Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (thigh meat stays a bit pink, but also doesn’t dry out, so if you’re not entirely sure if it’s cooked, just chuck it back in for another 5-10 minutes).

Meanwhile make your salsa: Combine everything in a bowl. Done. It’s a tough recipe. See how you go.

The big reveal:
Serve the chicken sliced up on wraps, topped with the roasted onions, capsicum, salsa and your choice of avocado, jalapeños & sour cream.

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids

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

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.

real-healthy-families

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The sauce of all knowledge….

Every now and then I post a perfect recipe… I know, I’m blowing smoke up my own arse (a favourite phrase of mine that I’ve just discovered derives from the 1700s when doctors did actually blow smoke up people’s arses)… but if there’s one recipe that should really be in your repertoire then I’m pretty sure it’s this tomato sauce. It’s so simple to make, using all fresh ingredients. You can prepare it as you need it, have it in the fridge ready to go or make a triple batch and freeze some for a night that’s not going so well. It’s a prime example of how easy it is to choose fabulousness over supermarket blah. It suits babies, toddlers right up to oldies and even the most annoying food snobs. The secret is all in the presentation.

Whip up the base sauce. Serve it mixed through pasta for the kids – top it with just cheese or add some ham. A bit of grated carrot is good, and also some chopped grape tomatoes are a nice addition. Adults can add in a bunch of basil and parsley, extra pepper, olives, capers and some posh-as-you-like prosciutto.

Really, how good is a basic dish that will please everyone. It’s a rare and completely wonderful thing.

vegie-smugglers-summer-pasta-sauce

Summer pasta sauce

2 red capsicums
3 large tomatoes, halved horizontally
3 cloves garlic – leave whole and in their skins
3 tbsp olive oil (the better, the better)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (use white wine vinegar if that’s all you have)
Pepper & salt to taste

Preheat oven to 200C

Slice the cheeks off the capsicums and place under the grill. Leave them to completely blacken (this lifts the skin off so it’s super easy to remove the skin). Leave to cool, remove the skin.

Place the tomatoes and garlic in an oven tray. Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes or so until the garlic is squishy and the tomatoes have softened considerably.

Tear the capsicum up and pop it into a mini food processor or blender. Squeeze in the centre of the garlic and the tomatoes (peel off the skins as you tip them in).

Add everything else and blitz. Done.

Serve mixed through pasta of your choice with whatever toppings suit your family. My suggestions are parmesan, fresh herbs, prosciutto (yes, I’m one of them annoying food snobs), olives and capers.

Recipe makes enough to top a meal for 2 adults and 2 kids – it also makes a great pizza sauce.

digital-editions

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I wish the internet would just chill the hell out…

Usually on my instagram page I post lovely pics of recipes I’m trying out, coffee I’m about to gulp and probably too many photos of alcohol (I live on Sydney’s northern beaches, which is nearly as thirsty as Alice Springs, but with more seagulls). Today I broke ranks and posted a selfie!!!!! I know right, I never post pics of myself here, but I’m gonna do that too!!!!! Why? A moment of vanity? A love of overt punctuation??? A need to out myself unshowered? If only the screen was scratch and sniff!

Urgh! I know! An exercise selfie....

Urgh! I know! An exercise selfie….

No, I’d just got back from an early morning walk and glancing in the mirror I thought I looked ok. Now most ladies will know that this tends to be a rare and big moment. So I snapped it. And posted it. Just because I wanted to combat all the ‘wellness’ extremism that stalks me online. I don’t have a 6-pack! I’ve got no 12 week program to pitch you. I’m not detoxing or committing to an unachievable eating plan.

Here’s what I wrote…

“I eat sugar & carbs. And also tonnes of veggies and delicious tasty food that I usually cook myself. But not always. I’m busy. I work. We eat takeaway. I love wine. I refuse to be anxious about what goes in my mouth. I make food about joy not stress. I exercise most days. But just walking or yoga… It’s totally possible to find wellness within moderation. I’m sick of the internet bullying people into health extremes.”

For full disclosure I’ll also add that I love coffee. And anything sweet. And kisses. And cuddles. I’m nearly 43. 52kgs. 5 foot tall (I prefer the term ‘petite’ to ‘shortarse’. I’m doing just fine.

And the real secret to my success?

Tiny choices every day… Go for a walk. Eat a piece of cake. Maybe don’t eat the third piece of cake. Take a salad to work for lunch. Don’t drink soft drink. Cook as much as you can manage. Listen to YOUR body and eat what seems to suit it.

It seems pretty simple, yet the internet likes to make this shit hard.

By posting this pic my message is this… Keep wellness simple. Enjoy living. Be grateful. Have fun.

Here’s five dishes that are a steady and regular part of my ‘wellness’ routine…

Easy to cook, everyone loves it. We feel great afterwards.

Vegie stew/soup. Easy to cook, everyone loves it. We feel great afterwards.

Dou itashimashite.

I’ve been making this Japanese potato salad constantly. Goes with everything. Everyone loves it. Keeps a couple of days in the fridge.

Salad. I eat heaps of salad. Top it with this amazing dressing.

Salad. I eat heaps of salad. Top it with this amazing dressing.

vegie smugglers egyptian chicken

Quick, easy, single-tray baked dinners work well at my house right now.

I make muffins pretty much every week! Did I mention that I love cake?

I make muffins pretty much every week! Did I mention that I love cake?

Click the pics to visit the recipe. My stats will show me the recipes you choose…. I know you’ll all click the cake 🙂

If you like my food philosophy, you'll love my cookbook!

If you like my food philosophy, you’ll love my cookbook!

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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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Five pie-hole fillers, perfect for toddlers AND husbands this grand final weekend

So it’s grand final weekend – a classic time to gather together and munch on some pastry covered pieces of something-not-quite-defined.

It doesn’t take too much effort to whip up your own morsels – these recipes all go far, contain sneaky vegetables AND taste incredible. PLUS all these recipes are classic finger food, suited to toddlers (as well as husbands)….

Click the pics to see the full recipe….

Sausage rolls and chips

Classic chicken sausage rolls.

vegie smugglers pork fennel apple sausage rolls

Pub grub style – pork & fennel sausage rolls.

Sweet potato & lentil balls - nice option for vegetarians.

Sweet potato & lentil balls – nice option for vegetarians.

Tuna, egg & vegie pastry pockets

Tuna, egg & vegie pastry pockets

rice paper rolls

Beef & peanut rice paper rolls.

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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

******* CELEBRATE THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS WITH 15% OFF EVERYTHING IN MY SHOP! USE CODE ‘holiday’ UNTIL MIDNIGHT, OCTOBER 3, 2015. VISIT THE SHOP, HERE…

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