Posts tagged beef

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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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.

vegie-smugglers-empanadas-tall

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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Sometimes the simplest things truly are the best

A few weeks back, while chowing down on a very tasty bibimbap, Miss F turned and said, “when I have kids, I’m not going to feed them all this fancy pantsy schmansy stuff. I’m just going to cook them simple stuff. Cause that’s what we like.”

And she may have a point. In my quest for new and interesting ways to get vegies into my kids, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet, or exotic, every night.

To fulfill her minimalist dreams, I made the kids this super-simple beef mince & macaroni dinner and it was hoovered up. I made it again the next week and in the rarest of rare moments, both kids asked for SECONDS.

They love it. It’s one of those deadset simple, family dinners that ticks ALL THE BOXES. It’s easy, tasty, nutritious (five vegies), can be gluten-free (use rice pasta), it’s perfect for toddlers, stores well in the fridge or freezer, is full of affordable ingredients AND it gets gobbled up. Every. Single. Time.

Self-effacing food.

Self-effacing food.

Pasta & mince basic bolognaise

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, grated
1 small eggplant, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 tsp Italian herbs
500g beef mince
400g can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato chutney
1/2 cup water
Salt & Pepper

To serve: Cooked macaroni, cheese, parsley

You need a large pot or frying pan with a lid.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and stir often for 6-8 minutes until golden. Place the mince into the pan. Use the spoon to break up lumps and brown it all over (takes 5-6 minutes).

Pop in the garlic for a minute until fragrant then add the vegies and dried herbs. After a couple of minutes, the vegies will be starting to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes, puree and chutney. Cover and bring to a strong simmer. Then lower the heat let it bubble away for 10-15 minutes.

Season & serve with pasta of your choice (I like macaroni). Adults can add olives, dried chilli flakes & capers!

Serves 2 adults and 2-3 kids.

This recipe is from my Kitchen Collection cookbook!

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Sounds fancy, actually easy. And yum.

By Thursday nights I am tired. The last commitment of the day is picking up big girl from Junior Guides at 7pm. And then we all pop on our jammies and flop together on the lounge for some quality food TV.

Possibly the kids don’t give a toss about world cuisine, but the chance to stay up until 8.30 means they’ve got a new-found love of SBS travel/cooking shows. Over the past couple of years we’ve watched Adam Liaw tour Japan (I’m hoping to retrace his steps some day), Rachel Khoo relishing France and at the moment we’re enjoying Shane Delia travelling Turkey, which takes me back to my own travels there in the 1990s. I remember how new and exotic the flavours and smells were.

As much as it pains me to contemplate them leaving, I hope my kids grow to be curious about the world and want to head off on their own adventures. To encourage them along, I’ve been enjoying making these burek, which sound fancy, but are actually super-simple family food. Just a savoury mince wrapped in filo pastry, coiled up and baked in the oven. The kids just call them ‘fancy meatpies’, which isn’t so culturally sensitive but is pretty accurate.

meat & vegetable burek

Schmancy meat pies. Sauce optional.


Beef & vegie burek

You can make the mince ahead, to wrap and bake later in the day, or make these up and store in the fridge until it’s time to brush them with butter and bake for dinner.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
500g beef mince
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 finger eggplant, finely diced (peel it first if your kids will fuss about the skin)
1 green capsicum, finely diced
Handful spinach leaves, this stalks removed, leaves finely shredded
2 tbsp parsley (optional)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp Allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Filo pastry
2 tbsp melted butter
1 egg, combined with a splash of milk for glazing.

The key to success with filo is to make sure it is completely thawed (if frozen) and at room temperature. Then it’s pretty easy to work with.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat. Add the oil and pop in the onion. Cook, stirring often for 4-5 minutes until golden. Carefully place the mince in the pan. Use your spoon to break up lumps and totally brown all the meat (this take about 5 minutes). Add in the garlic and all the vegies for 2-3 minutes before scattering over the spices. Stir well and continue to move everything around regularly for 5 minutes or so. Move the pan off the heat and leave everything to cool for a bit (so that you can handle it easily).

Preheat the oven to 200C. Find whatever round dishes you have – make several small bureks or one large one – totally up to you.

Lay out your block of filo. Brush melted butter over the top sheet. Flip it over and lay it on top of the sheet below. Spoon a line of mince mixture along the length of the filo, about 3-4 cm in from one edge. Lift the top two layers of filo and carefully roll your pastry up into a long snake. Coil it around and squeeze into your round dish. (To make a large burek, just keep adding snakes onto the end until you’ve filled your dish.)

Brush with the combined egg/milk and bake for 25 minutes until golden.

If the filo bit sounds too hard (I promise it’s not), just scoop the mix into a dish, scrunch of some filo sheets and add them to the top, pie-style).

Serves 2 adults & 3 kids

Make a line of mixture along to whole length of pastry.

Make a line of mixture along to whole length of pastry.

Roll into a long cigar.

Roll into a long cigar.

Coil and squeeze into whatever oven-proof dishes you have.

Coil and squeeze into whatever oven-proof dishes you have.

family-food-made-fun

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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.

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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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50 shades of appliances (and a July giveaway)

Last winter I had a short and intense love affair with my slow cooker. At first I was a novice and a bit nervous, but I overcame my slight hesitation once I experienced some food thrills. I swooned as I discovered that I could make beef stews, fabulous dumpling topped casseroles and even chicken satay and it ONLY TOOK 8 HOURS. Sigh.

Perhaps it’s flighty, but this winter, slightly bolder, I was looking for something new. After a taste of appliance life I was wanting more and I find now that I’ve been seduced away by something much more hardcore. Like a red room of pain that holds such threat and the promise of such pleasure I’ve been lured into the world of PRESSURE COOKING, where I can make all the same stuff BUT IN 20 MINUTES.

Admittedly there’s a time and place and both. Each has nuances to offer. I can’t imagine dumplings being so great in the pressure cooker and I can’t get my slow cooker to simmer away thickening a sauce in the way my pressure cooker does.

But why limit yourself to just one when you can swing and have the best of both worlds, right? Which is why this month’s giveaway prize is so totally exciting. It’s the Kambrook Pressure Express Digital Pressure Cooker, valued at $120 and it has all the joys of a pressure cooker PLUS a slow cook function. YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL.

I have the exact same model and it’s awesome. To get you inspired, here’s a recipe that originates in the Woman’s Weekly slow cooker book. It’s a great combination of flavours and works really well tweaked as a pressure cooker recipe.

Joy in 8 hours, or 20 minutes? Whatever takes your fancy.

8 hours, or 20 minutes? Whatever you can handle.



Pressure cooker Italian Beef Stew

1 cup red wine
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Italian herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
8 pickling onions, peeled but left whole
250g bacon
12 button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
Pepper
1 kg chuck steak, cubed
1 bulb fennel, diced
2 large carrots, peeled, thickly sliced
1/2 cup grated pumpkin

Combine the wine, paste, vinegar and herbs in a bowl or jug and set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium/high heat. Add the oil then brown the onions and bacon. Toss in the mushrooms and cook for several minutes, turning often-ish. You want to get nice browned spots on your onions and the bacon to be cooked through.

Toss over the garlic and stir for 30 seconds before adding in the tomato mixture. Bring it all to a strong simmer, then tip it into the pressure cooker along with the bay leaf, meat, fennel, carrots and pumpkin.

Following the safety instructions, seal the lid, bring to pressure and cook for 20 minutes.

Release the pressure. Serve over mash or pasta, topped with parsley.

Serves 2 adults and 6 kids.
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HOW TO WIN?

I’m thinking you need a challenge in order to win this fabulous prize. How about comment below with a rhyme or limerick or some clever sentence about how much you like to COOK. (see, it’ll be very easy for you to get the sponsor’s name in there – which might just make them happy enough to donate more prizes in the future). Other conditions? You must be living in Australia – you must be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber and I would strongly urge you to check out the Kambrook Facebook page and also check out their Perfect Pantry blog – which is no hardship considering it’s packed with great recipes.

Entries close next Thursday July 18 at 8pm AEST. **CONGRATULATIONS TO MELANIE WHO WON THE COOKER WITH HER LOVELY RHYMES….

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Mystic mum predicts the future

I predict this wise-looking guy will NEVER ACCURATELY time anything.

I predict this wise-looking guy will NEVER ACCURATELY time anything.

Unlike my entirely credible astrologer sister, my basis for claiming psychic status is more a result of consistent proof, that when it comes to my family, I WILL ALWAYS KNOW how things are going to turn out BEFORE they happen.

Like when, on New Year’s Eve, I let my kids stay up until 2am. I predicted that the next day they would both have silly accidents, end up crying and need to be carried to bed by 7.30pm. AND I WAS RIGHT. And when, on that same night, I drank an innocent enough looking thimble full of Jagermeister, I predicted that I would start 2013 with a hangover. AND I WAS RIGHT.

Since I’m so consistently right and all-knowing, I’m thinking of changing my name from ‘mum’ to ‘oracle’. Life would then sound like this….

Child [yelling from other room] “ORACLE. WHERE ARE MY SLIP ON SHOES?”
Mum [calmly] “One is behind your bedroom door and the other under the dining table.”

Child [yelling from other room] “ORACLE. MR M&P IS USING MY YELLOW TEXTA WITHOUT ASKING.”
Mum [calmly] “Let it be so, and avoid feckless squabbles.”

Child [standing by bedside, whispering to oracle as if oracle is awake, even though oracle is asleep] “Oracle…”
Oracle [on waking] “IF YOU ARE GOING TO ASK ME ANYTHING ABOUT WHEN YOU CAN PLAY SKYLANDERS, I SUGGEST YOU GET OUT OF HERE NOW”.

And child exits room immediately without another word; such is the wisdom and grumpiness foresight of oracle.

It goes along with my ability to see my child pick their nose and eat it BEHIND ME. My knowledge that I’ll need a packet of wipes in my bag if we’re going to eat choc tops at the cinema, and that each and every time I reveal that THIS IS THE NIGHT FOR A HAIRWASH, my kids will cry and scream as though I am releasing a plague of locusts upon them.

I can also predict that this week I won’t have any time to whip up anything new, so this recipe is from Vegie Smugglers 2, a fabulous book that you all should buy. I can predict, that this is the link you will need to do just that.

rice paper rolls

I predict the adults may want to add in fresh chilli.



Beef & peanut rice paper rolls

1 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
500g lean beef mince
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp minced ginger
1 yellow capsicum, seeded, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, grated
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
White (or black) pepper

To serve:
10 rice paper rounds
Crushed roasted peanuts
Bean sprouts
Spring onions, cut into sticks
Cucumber, cut into sticks
Dried rice vermicelli (prepared according to packet directions, rinsed under cold water, drained)
Mint and coriander leaves, to taste (I like lots)
Sweet chilli sauce
Lime juice

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. (Cooking over a higher heat cooks off the liquid, keeping the mixture quite dry.)

Cook the onion for a couple of minutes, then add the mince, garlic and ginger. Toss through until the mince is brown, breaking up lumps as you go. Add the capsicum and carrot and stir for another couple of minutes.

Add the soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mince is thoroughly cooked.

Prepare the rice papers according to packet directions. Start by adding a few tablespoons of the meat mixture to the paper then add whichever ingredients you like, roll up and enjoy!

MAKES 10

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