Posts tagged baking

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).

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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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Banana chickpea muffins

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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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This dinner is a bit fancy, a bit good with a noice secret ingredient!

How great is it when you rediscover a ‘classic’ flavour combination that has been lost in the mists of time. In food land that usually means that it’s an ingredient or two that has gone out of fashion or doesn’t fit the current food trends.

But always being a bit rebellious in my tastes, I can’t help but flirt with these flavours a little, finding all that is good in them. And good this soy/tomato sauce/honey combo is. Sure, it’s a flash straight out of the 80s, but who cares when it shrouds a bunch of healthy ingredients and gets gobbled up in moments.

Vegie Smugglers Chinese Chicken tray bake

Chuck it all in and bake for 40 minutes. Too easy!

Chinese chicken tray-bake

700g chicken wing nibbles
2 red onions, peeled, cut into wedges
3 potatoes, chopped into largish bite-sized pieces (leave the skin on)
1-2 cups pumpkin in pieces slightly larger than the potato
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 4cm chunks
1 red capsicum, cored, cut into large squares
1/4 fennel, sliced
8 button mushrooms, halved
8 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole

1/3 cup oil of your choice (I like olive)
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder

Broccoli (to serve)
1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Add the chicken, all the veggies and the garlic into a large baking dish. Use your hands to toss it all together.

Whisk together the oil, sauces, honey and 5-spice. Pour over the chicken & veggies. Toss well.

Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the chicken is golden and cooked through and the veggies are tender.

Cut the broccoli and lightly cook by steaming or microwaving. Scatter over the tray. Squeeze the lemon juice over the whole dish.

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids.

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Five mix & bake dinners, that will make this week a doddle…

I love nothing better than a dinner that cooks itself. So much so I’ve got a whole e-book dedicated to them (check it out here). I particularly love those mix and bake dinners, you know, where you do a bit of chopping and mixing then everything is popped into one dish and baked.

The baking time gives you a chance to bath kids, help with homework or pack tomorrow’s lunchboxes, which means by the time you sit down for dinner you’re feeling in-control and ultra-efficient, two notions that are as deluded as they are fleeting.

Have a great week!

Easy to make. Easy to eat. Chicken pasta bake.

Easy to make. Easy to eat. Chicken pasta bake.

Zucchini slice (vegetarian & gluten free)

Zucchini slice (vegetarian & gluten free)

Gluten-free chicken pesto bake

Gluten-free chicken pesto bake

Tuna rice bake - so easy and a total hit with the kids.

Tuna rice bake – so easy and a total hit with the kids.

Mix, shape & bake these felafel patties

Mix, shape & bake these felafel patties

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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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Beef & Chorizo Empanadas

Every now and again I do love to draw upon my past life as a Nicaraguan coffee farmer’s wife and whip up some tasty Latin American morsels. My kids go mad for them. As soon as I chuck the chorizo into the pan they’ll come running with a hopeful, “Are we having empanada’s for dinner?” The chorizo is the cheat ingredient that gives a tonne of flavour really simply. Traditionally you can shove pretty much any ingredients into them, including beans and eggs, but I find this recipe is the right mix of yum/simple/popular.

Best yet, you can make this in several stages to suit your day. If you’re free in the morning then make the mince mix and even get the empanadas made up. Just cover them with cling wrap or pop them in a sealed container in the fridge until you need them. Then just preheat your oven, brush them with egg and you’re away.

Besterest yeterest, this recipe makes a good amount so I’ve always got a ready-to-go bit of something for the lunchbox for the following day. Doesn’t matter that they’re cold – they’re apparently still completely yum.

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Beef & Chorizo Empanadas

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 chorizo sausage, finely diced
500g beef mince
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
1 cup grated pumpkin
2 tbsp tomato paste (or leftover pizza sauce is also good)
1 cup frozen peas
6 sheets shortcrust pastry

1 egg, whisked for glazing

Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat. Add the oil then the onions. Cook, stirring often for 5-6 minutes until starting to turn golden. Add in the chorizo for a minute or two then also carefully pop in the mince. Use the spoon to break up the lumps and keep it moving around for several minutes until it is all browned.

Chuck in the garlic, capsicum, pumpkin & tomato paste. Stir everything through well. Simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it – there’s not much liquid so make sure it doesn’t burn.

Tip in the peas – mix them through and take the mixture off the heat to cool slightly.

Remove the pastry sheets from the freezer & separate them out onto your bench (a bit of bench space or a large kitchen table makes this easier!)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a couple of oven trays with baking paper.

Once the pastry sheets have thawed, use a small bowl or saucer as a guide and use a small sharp knife to cut four circles from each sheet (this gives a nice traditional shape but I’m not gonna fuss if this is all a bit hard & you instead use squares to fold into triangles). Brush half the edge of each circle with egg. Dollop about 2tbsp or so of mix into the middle of each circle. Fold over and seal the edges. Give them a crimp or just squish the edge shut with a fork.

Place on the baking trays, brush with egg and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.

Makes 24.

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PS. After 5 years and 3 print runs, it looks like I’m about to sell out of the last hard copies of the original Vegie Smugglers cookbook. The good news? There’s still a handful left if you want to grab one quickly. The better news? There’ll be a digital version hitting your i-shelves soon.

Visit the shop here.
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