Posts tagged cookbooks

5 vegie-smuggling tips for parents (and a new cookbook has arrived!)

Wow! My first magazine cover!

Wow! My first magazine cover!

Since I live in Vegie Smugglers-land all the time, I forget that some folks are new to me and my blog. The ambiguous name of this website seems to cause a bit of confusion amongst visitors, so with a surge of new readers stopping by it seems like a good time to explain myself a little.

In the interest of unbiased journalism, I’ll interview myself, in the third person. That won’t be weird, will it?…

[Fake journalist] Hi Wendy, I’ve been a big fan for a while now, but I’m keen to chat and find out more about this website. And by the way, your hair is looking GREAT today.

[Me… slight uncomfortable titter] Oh well thanks FJ! Where shall we start?

[FJ] Why did you start Vegie Smugglers?

[Me] Back in the late 2000s I was in all sorts of hell, trying to get my fussy kids to eat fresh vegies. Each night was a tense standoff and usually I was the loser who finished dinner by scraping thrown food off the floor and into the bin. One night I stopped and decided, ‘THIS IS ENOUGH.’ I was determined to find the right recipes that could help me reclaim dinnertime as a happy family time. And as a massive lover of food and cooking, I wasn’t going to let two toddlers dictate the menu.

[FJ] So you created a range of recipes that contained hidden vegetables?

[Me] My major concern at the time was to get some nutrition into my kids. Both were irritable and constantly sick. I was sure that their limited diets were not helping matters. Since neither would eat reliably, I was determined that each spoonful of a meal should be packed full of nutrients so that the few bites they would eat were beneficial. It took a while, but I came up with a range of recipes that did the trick.

[FJ] Then you have no ethical problems with hiding vegies and lying to your children about their dinner?

[Me] No. None. Their health was more important to me than the truth. To break the cycle I was happy to be as sneaky as need be. All cooking is manipulating ingredients to get a delicious result. When I eat in a restaurant I’m not bothered if I don’t know all the ingredients so long as the meal tastes good.

As soon as I had my kids eating a wider range of foods, I relaxed. It triggered a whole domino effect of positivity. They ate better. Their health was better. Their behaviour and sleep patterns were better. My sanity returned and once the immediate food issues subsided I was able to move them onto phase 2, which was teaching them about the joys of healthy eating.

[FJ] And how do you do that?

[Me] Well, obviously hiding vegies is a short term solution. The aim is to transition kids from baby to adult food and this is a long and exciting journey that is totally guided by the parents.

[FJ] In what way?

[Me] Parents are the food leaders in the household so it’s up to them to continue challenging their kids try new foods and accept new flavours. They can do this by learning to cook new recipes, including the kids when buying vegies, getting them to help cook, teaching them basic nutrition and growing food in the garden. It all creates a positive and fun food environment.

[FJ] So what makes a perfect Vegie Smugglers recipe?

[Me] Firstly it must be something that everyone can eat. Possibly you can make alterations for the militant toddler, or add extra ingredients to make it more ‘adult’ once the kids are served. But everyone needs to be eating the same dish. For two reasons really, firstly, in this busy world, no one has the time to cook multiple meals and secondly, there’s no better example for kids than seeing their parents tucking into the same dinner.

Generally a Vegie Smugglers recipe needs to have easily available ingredients and be simple to make. Not all parents are keen cooks, but that’s no impediment to eating well. Rarely does a VS recipe have two stages. Some are quicker to make than others, many can be prepared ahead on a less busy day. Many freeze well and all are full of healthy ingredients.

[FJ] I’ve heard criticism that you don’t actually hide vegies in many dishes.

[Me] This is true. As I said, once the immediate nutrition concerns are being taken care of, it’s time to progress the kids onto the next stage. So you might start grating every carrot, or blitzing it up, but slowly over time you need to move to dicing things finely, then in larger chunks, until they’re accepting adult-style meals. This can take ages, and some vegies might need to be hidden for years longer – at our house we still smuggle zucchini and mushrooms – each household can prepare ingredients to suit their situation. The recipes on the blog and in the cookbooks reflect this journey and are as flexible as possible. All contain vegies, but the amount they’re ‘smuggled’ ranges from totally, to not at all.

[FJ] What are five quick vegie smuggling tips for parents?

[Me] 1. Start by chopping ingredients finely and combine them into dinners that smell and taste great. When kids can’t see and identify ingredients, they’re less likely to pick them out and complain.

2. Use lure ingredients. Like croutons submerged in a soup or pasta smothered in vegetable sauce. The kids will go for the thing they like and taste the meal on the way. Hopefully to discover that it’s worth tucking into.

3. Be realistic
about your child’s current stage of development and how it may be affecting their appetite. Toddlers eat less because they’re busy doing other things and food just isn’t interesting every day at set times.

4. Give yourself the best chance for success.
If your kids hate green stuff, don’t serve them pesto pasta. Start with a red capsicum sauce or creamy chicken. If they like bread, serve them pancakes, or if they like meat, pack meatballs full of good stuff.

5. Relax. I know it’s incredibly hard to do this, but remember that this is another phase, that if handled well, will pass. Keep a variety of healthy foods on offer, don’t succumb to their demands. Stay in charge of the menu and cook meals that you’ll enjoy even if they reject them.

[FJ] So your kids eat well now?

[Me] Miss F is almost 10 and is still naturally fussy. She dislikes most spice but has come to trust that I always cook things she should enjoy. She will eat every meal on the blog. Some she loves, some she’d rather do without, but she understands that our family food culture doesn’t revolve around her whims. Nutrition-packed dinners are still a priority since she is a light eater. If it was up to her, she would still exist on cheese, fruit and pasta. Luckily I didn’t give in, or I’d be dealing with a fussy 9 year old with malnutrition issues.

Mr M&P was more regular and has grown out of his fussy eating stage beautifully. He is now 7 and tackles everything.

Both have a full understanding of food, where it comes from, how it’s cooked and the role it plays in our family traditions. Neither currently have food, weight or nutrition issues. Both are thriving and I’m not talking myself up too much when I say that my determination has played a major role. When I see them tucking into sophisticated meals, I’m so thrilled and am totally convinced that vegie smuggling has been worth every single bit of effort. For me, food is the crucial building block that contributes to all other aspects of child development.

[FJ] And finally, do you avoid sugar or gluten or use organic produce only? And why is this blog called ‘Vegie Smugglers’ when you cook with meat?

[Me] I use vegies in everything, but am not vegetarian. This site is about encouraging a love of fresh produce in kids (and adults). Variety is my main mantra, so some recipes are vegetarian and some use meat. Many might rely on a touch of sweetness to make them kid-friendly since toddlers’ taste-buds strongly prefer this. If a teaspoon of sugar helps a whole heap of vegies get gobbled, then I’m all for it. You can ween them off it as they get older. Some recipes are gluten-free, some are dairy-free. On a blog this size, I can’t cater for everyone, all the time. I encourage people to join in on the recipes that suit their dietary regime. Organic produce is always a great idea, but I understand that not everyone can manage this.

[FJ – stretching out his long, muscular legs] Well thanks Wendy, I’ve enjoyed our chat and have enjoyed getting to know more about the ideas behind your blog. Are you free for a drink? I believe you don’t mind a wine or two?

[Me – shyly smiling, whilst flicking my super long and lustrous Swedish-blonde hair] I’ll have to say no FJ, but I’m flattered, you’re a very attractive man. Luckily I’ve got a lovely husband who’s asked me to sit and watch ‘Escape to the Country’ tonight. So I best dash off to meet him.

[FJ] No problem. And gosh, you’re obviously a great parent. Your kids haven’t interrupted our conversation even once!

[Me – smiling graciously] Well thanks! And after you leave, I’ll even let them out from under the stairs…. now… where did I leave that key?

The new cookbook is in the shop now!

The new cookbook is in the shop now!

Vegie Smugglers’ Kitchen Collection has arrived! Packed full of 125 recipes that cover…

– basics like poaching chicken and stewing fruit
– lunchbox bakes & ideas
– everyday dinners
– meals suitable for slow cookers, pressure cookers or conventional ovens
– easy ways to feed a crowd and how to cater for entire families
– special celebration recipes for birthdays, Easter, Christmas and school fetes
– four weeks of visual meal plans

Many of the recipes are freezer friendly, many are allergy friendly. I’ve deliberately kept a wide mix of ingredients and methods so that there’s something for everyone. Download samples and a full recipe index here. Check it out in the shop.


Thanks for stopping by today. I’m proud to be an Australian independent publisher. As with most ‘mumpreneur’ businesses, I survive on tiny budgets and rely heavily on word of mouth to promote my products. I hugely appreciate all of your kind words and social media mentions.

To say thanks for reading through this whole post, I am offering you a special ‘catch up’ deal on my new book and a few other products! Click here to check it out….

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I’m giving away an advance copy of my new cookbook!

Over the past few months you may have thought I’ve slacked off, what with my posts appearing less frequently. Don’t be fooled though, no! I’ve been busy, first putting together my Thermomix e-book (you can link to it here) and in my spare time I’ve whipped up another hardcopy, hold-it-in-your-hands cookbook.

The amount of work that goes into my books is quite overwhelming. Initially I planned on launching it for last Christmas, then it was the new school year, then it was Easter… you get the idea. But the delays were all me taking my time and ensuring that I was producing something AMAZING. So many cookbooks in the shops are a bit… well… dull, and I was keen to give you something gorgeous AND hugely helpful. Finally after months of design, edits, production (blah!) and more production (blah! blah!), these pretty as punch advance copies arrived on my doorstep.

I was so happy that possibly I squealed (very not me) and hand-clapped a little. If I don’t say so myself, I’ve done a bloody good job!

Ohh! It's called "Kitchen Collection"

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.

And there you have it – a nice little sneak peak of my new 160page, 125 recipe tome. I’ll have the bulk of the books in another month or so – at this stage I have just THREE COPIES and one of them could be yours.

To win, you must be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber (PS, I do check- last comp a few people missed out on prizes because they weren’t) and you must have a postal address in Australia.

I’d love for it to go to someone who will really enjoy it as much as me. So to enter, please comment below on which Vegie Smugglers recipes are currently a hit in your house, or tell me about your fussy kids and how my recipes have helped you. There’s no need to crawl or kiss my butt – just honest truths about the success you’ve had with my recipes. So often I feel that I work in a vacuum – it’ll be nice to get the warm and fuzzies and feel that the effort I put in is making a difference somewhere.

Entries close Friday May 16 at 8pm, AEST, which also happens to be Food Revolution Day. Nice timing!

And of course, you can buy my other books here.

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What’s Jamie’s best cookbook?

Chuck a heap of coriander, mint and chilli on the adult's serves.

Chuck a heap of coriander, mint and chilli on the adult’s serves.

The inspiration for this recipe is a noodle salad from Jamie Oliver’s ’30 minutes meals’ cookbook. I’ve evolved it quite a bit to suit my family and added a stack of extras (since that’s my thing really, isn’t it). We’ve been eating it every week for most of the summer since it ticks all the dinnertime boxes. It’s easy to make, I can make it ahead and serve it cold. And it’s delicious.

Do you think ’30 minute meals’ is Jamie’s best book? I do. It’s the cookbook of his that I return to often. Heaps of great flavours, all very accessible. Each time I browse through I find something else I want to make. The food is more healthy than his early recipes which featured meat, meat and a bit more meat but not as simplistic as the recipes in ’15 minute meals’, which I didn’t like so much. I can’t quite put my finger on why I don’t cook anything from that book. Am I missing something there? I flip through that repeatedly and don’t bookmark anything. Perhaps point me in the direction of the recipes you like from that one and I promise to give them another look.

Noodle salad

250g dried egg noodles
1 red onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 carrot, peeled, grated
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
125g can corn, drained
1/2 cup cashews or peanuts, chopped
1 cucumber, halved, seeds removed, sliced
Mint & coriander to taste (I like heaps, the kids like none).
Lime wedges (optional)

In a mini-food processor, blitz together the onion, lime, sauces, sugar and oil. Set aside.

Cook the noodles according to packet directions. Drain, return to the saucepan and pour over the blitzed sauce while they’re still hot (the onion will cook and mellow a bit). Mix through the carrot, capsicum and corn.

Once the initial heat fades, you can add in the nuts, cucumber and herbs.

Serves warm or cold.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids.

Your family likes noodles? Try these dishes…
Beef Pho
Chicken & udon soup

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You know it makes sense…

There’s been sadness in my family lately with the passing of our matriarch. At 96, the death of Mollie was not unexpected, but sad nonetheless and a reminder of what does actually happen at the end of these crazy lives we lead.

We watched her spend a couple of months in and out of hospital, growing frail, then drifting away from us before dying. I watched a 96-year-old woman say goodbye to her 76-year-old son and saw the twinkle of mummy-love still glistening in her eye. It was a life affirming moment.

Sometimes I can’t wait for this stage of parenting small children to be over. Other days I’m almost distraught at how quickly it’s all flying by. But no matter how ephemeral this stage of mothering is, the indulgent love lasts a lifetime and I will adore my girl and my boy forever. They will be able to grow old and experienced and frail themselves and still they will be my joy.

Clearing out Granny’s small apartment, we were surprised by the amount of nostalgia. The cups we’d drunk from as kids, the paintings we’d looked at. The patterns from a lifetime of the domestic arts that I’m salvaging in the hope that one day I’ll have the skills to use them.

Tucked away on a kitchen shelf was a pure gem. Not Granny’s, but my great-grandma’s copy of “The Commonsense Cookery Book”. A 1914 first edition of the classic that has sold over a million copies. In terrible condition, with newspaper clippings stuck into spare pages. It’s a fantastic piece of family and social history.

I brought it home and realised that I also have a copy. A shiny, barely-flicked through one that I bought last year.

I’m drawn to the simplicity of heirloom recipes. I love the way they’re written. Back in the days when nothing needed explanation and things barely needed measurement. When women at home didn’t need to have ‘cream the butter and sugar’ explained to them. We’re a pretty hopeless, unskilled lot these days.

My copy and a 1914 edition of The Commonsense Cookery Book

Old but new, how the circle of life reveals itself in happy ways

Looking through my two matching copies is like some strange circle of life and an instant glimpse of the changes to motherhood and wifery over the last century. The new shiney copy isn’t the same as the original, it’s been revised and updated. What’s been left out? Well the whole chapter on “Invalid’s and children’s cookery”, with recipes for junket, egg flip (with sherry) and beef tea custard.

So perhaps some things are best in the past. But I think next time one of my kids is sick, I might be reaching for this simple piece of bliss…

(text from the 1914 edition of The Commonsense Cookery Book”)

Sweet Omelette

3 eggs
1 teaspoon water
1 oz. sugar (2 level tablespoons)

1. Take yolks of 2 eggs and whites of 3 eggs.
2. Boil water and sugar.
3. Add it to the yolks.
4. Beat whites stiffly.
5. Have a hot plate ready.
6. Have some hot jam also.
7. Melt the butter in an omelette pan.
8. Add the yolks to the whites.
9. Mix well but lightly.
10. Pour into the pan.
11. Cook gently and shake occasionally till set.
12. When coloured slightly underneath, brown the top by placing in the oven or under the griller.
13. Lie it on to the hot dish.
14. Spread heated jam on one half.
15. Fold the other half over.
16. Serve at once.

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