Posts tagged cooking techniques

From no-cake, to cake, in 5 minutes.

There are times when my tea looks at me, sitting on the bench and I can’t help but think that it seems very lonely. On Gourmet Farmer I heard the lovely quote, “A cup of tea without a biscuit is a wasted opportunity” and I can’t help but agree. But the problem is that I keep my cupboard lean and free from too many sweet temptations. To avoid additives and mucky weird processed food, I also have a general rule that I only eat baked goods that I’ve made myself.

Thankfully then, I’ve discovered this lifesaver of a recipe. It’s a cake that is prepared with a tablespoon measure and one jug then cooked in a large mug in the microwave. All in under 5 minutes.

So if you don’t use gluten, sugar or the microwave, please don’t email me or comment with a tonne of nasty abuse, just look away and come back next week – I promise you a healthier recipe then (or click here for my cocoa bliss balls). The rest of you, keep this on file for the next time your cup of tea needs a friend.

A few berries on top will make you feel more virtuous.

A few berries on top will make you feel more virtuous.

2-minute chocolate & coconut cake

1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk (or soy milk also works)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (melted butter would also work, but cool it a little)
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp raw sugar (or golden caster sugar or coconut sugar both also work)
3 tbsp self-raising flour

(I mix this together in a 2-cup glass jug, which makes it super easy to pour into the cup and then goes straight into the dishwasher).

Use a fork to whisk your egg in a jug or bowl. You don’t need the entire egg; especially if it’s a large one, so tip out about a quarter of it (don’t worry about being too precise!).

Whisk in the vanilla, milk and oil. Once combined, continue to whisk in the coconut, cocoa, sugar and lastly the flour.

Pour into a large mug and microwave on high for 2- 2 1/2 minutes (you might have to try a couple of times to find the timing that is perfect in your microwave).

Serves 2 kids, or 1 greedy adult.

new-book-on-sale2

Comments (21) »

Slow cooker tomato & pasta soup

Is it just me, or has Facebook become increasingly bossy? My feed is inundated with THINGS I MUST DO: 9 photos every mother should have on her phone. 22 things to do with your kids before they move out. 5 essentials for their daily lunchbox. 15 foods to stop eating IMMEDIATELY. 17 tips for a loving marriage. 8 ways to express gratitude to your children. 18 things to do with old socks. 101 tips for a fulfilling life…. etc etc etc etc

All of which leaves me exhausted, harangued and vaguely guilty (since I’ve only got 3 photos, 15 things done, 2 lunchbox essentials, 5 foods I won’t eat, 12 more things needed for my marriage to be a success, all my old socks go straight into the rubbish and I never finished reading about everything needed for fulfillment).

So this post isn’t bossy at all. It’s just one way, which happens to be a really easy way, to make tomato soup that is very kid friendly and easily jazzed up to be delicious for grown ups too. The slow cooker makes it insanely simple.

Make it if you want – or don’t. Totally up to you.

vegie smugglers slow cooker tomato and pasta soup

Only one idea here, but it is a nice easy one.

Slow cooker tomato & pasta soup

1 1/2 litres vegetable stock
800g can crushed tomatoes
1 large tomato (or two roma tomatoes), diced
1 red onion, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled, chopped into a few pieces
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup risoni soup pasta (stick to small pasta that cooks in under 8-9 minutes to avoid a starchy mess – the pasta in the picture is the biggest I’d try)

Place everything, except the pasta, into your slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours (it’s actually ready after 6, but cooking it for longer to suit your day’s schedule won’t be a problem).

Use a stick blender to blitz your soup up to a smooth consistency. Toss in the pasta. Stir well and recover. Leave for 25-30 minutes until your pasta is cooked.

Serve with bread, grilled cheese on toast, or adults might like a scattering of parsley, basil, chopped fresh tomato, feta and olives.

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids

family-food-made-fun

Comments (9) »

The current slurping favourite

Like my men, I prefer a hearty & full flavoured soup with chewable chunky bits that will leave me sated for hours afterwards. (Apologies, I know that’s a tawdry joke, straight from the gutter – my brain is suffering winter shrinkage.)

Being an innocent and gorgeous little child, Miss F prefers a more refined soup, lump-free with a mild and gentle flavour.

Usually I make rough & ready soups like this chicken noodle, or this lamb & barley, but in a moment of sophistication I recently whipped up this roasted vegie soup for the family and it is now a firm favourite. Last time I made it, Miss F devoured THREE SERVES, which was an absolute first. It was helped along of course, by sourdough dippers.

Not often do I ask you to do a recipe in two stages (here you roast vegies before adding them to your pot), in fact I only ask you to do it, if it’s worth doing. And in this case, it is. Roasting the vegies brings out the natural sweetness and adds a definite yumminess.

Silky smooth carrot, parsnip & cauliflower soup.

Silky smooth carrot, parsnip & cauliflower soup.


Roasted carrot (and other stuff) soup

5 large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise
1 large parsnip, peeled, sliced into lengths the same thickness as the carrot
Olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp curry powder
8 cups stock (I like the salt-reduced chicken stock, but obviously vegie stock will keep this dish vegetarian)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/4 cup red lentils, rinsed, drained
Salt & pepper
Cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 220C. Line a baking tray with kitchen paper. Spread the carrots and parsnips over in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat evenly. Bake for 35-40 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile, place a large saucepan over low/medium heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and when hot, toss in the onion. Cook, stirring often for 6-8 minutes until softening and turning golden. Throw in the garlic and spices. Stir for a minute so that the fragrance of the spice releases. Pour over the stock, cover the pot and bring to the boil.

When boiling, add the cauliflower and lentils. Recover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes, adding the roasted vegies whenever they’re ready (they need to simmer in with everything for at least 10-15 minutes, so just extend the simmering time if need be).

Use a stick blender to blitz the soup into a lovely smooth texture. Season to taste.

Serve with crusty bread and an optional slurp of cream. (Adults might also like a scattering of coriander.)

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids.

Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

Comments (10) »

I’ve gone all food PC with these gluten-free, vegetarian fritters

As you may or may not know, I have a very strict food regime here at VSHQ. This is it…

food-policy

Yep, that’s right. It’s pretty complicated. I buy good stuff and I cook yummy things. I guess COOKING is the important word though, to me it seems like the logical key to good health. Dieters in different food camps get caught up in ingredient wars and fighting to prove that their system of eating is best, but for me that’s all a personal choice. What’s really important is that you’re taking responsibility for your ingredients and creating nourishing meals at home. And it doesn’t have to be hard – here’s a great recipe for the whole family that uses one mixing bowl and one frying pan.

Included on the ingredient list is besan flour. Also known as chickpea flour, you can find it in the larger supermarkets and health food stores. I don’t often make you seek out an ingredient, but I think this one is worth while since it’s tasty and nutritious and it just so happens that it’s also gluten-free. This recipe also happens to be vegetarian, since a bit of meat-free eating is good for the environment and it gives the little cutie creatures a night off from worry.

Toddlers might like to have a bit of mango chutney spread over their fritters, adults might like some fresh herbs and a chutney with a bit of punch, along with some salad.

Great finger food for toddlers.

Great finger food for toddlers.


Corn & carrot fritters

1 cup besan (chickpea) flour – available in larger supermarkets and health food stores
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 carrot, grated
1 small red onion, really finely sliced (or grated, but if you do this, drain it a little)
400g can corn kernels
2-3 tbsp fresh herbs (optional) – try parsley, chives or coriander, depending on the tastebuds of your family
Oil of your choice for frying. Use as much as you’re comfortable with – I like quite a lot for this recipe!

Tip the flour and garam masala into a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the eggs and milk then tip into the flour, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Add in the carrot, onion, corn and herbs. Combine well.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/low heat. Add the oil and when hot, use a 1/4 cup measure to dollop in some fritter mix. Once the edges set, you can gently spread the chunkier filling out so that it’s an even thickness. Cook for 3 minutes or so on each side until the onion is cooked through.

Serve with chutney of your choice and some salad.

Feeds 2 adults & 2 smaller kids, with a side of salad & pappodums.

new-book-on-sale

Comments (4) »

BBQ chicken to the rescue

No one wants to cook every day. Even when I was working on Vegie Smugglers full time, I would still find myself out of time and searching the supermarket for easy last-minute dinners.

Now I’m back in the workforce part-time, with the added issue of kid’s commitments right on dinnertime. When I’ve got hungry kids and no dinner plans, I find a trusty ol’ BBQ chook can come to the rescue.

And really, it’s one of the better take away options. But just don’t just eat it as is – the greasy mass that stews away in those creepy bags isn’t so enticing, anyway.

Chuck away any stuffing (I think the supermarket ones are nearly inedible). Toss most of the skin – although if you’re end-of-the-day starving, I DARE you to resist it entirely. Shred up the meat and do something creative with it.

When the kids were younger it was meat and salad with mayo in wraps. Then for a while I’d knock up a quick Portuguese-style chicken & rice soup. But these days we make this Asian-style salad. It’s full of the crunchy vegies that my kids enjoy and I put them to work on it, so they learn how to make something and it’s on the table within 15 minutes. Plus, Mr VS & I can pop on a tonne of coriander and chilli and have something adult-tasty.

And before you know it, there's something almost gourmet on the table.

And before you know it, there’s something almost gourmet on the table.

BBQ chicken asian salad

1 BBQ chicken
Handful green beans
Handful snow peas
125g can corn kernels
Bean sprouts
1 carrot, finely shredded or grated

Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp oil (grapeseed or avocado)

To serve (all optional): peanuts, coriander, mint & sweet chilli sauce

While you shred the chicken, put the kids to work, washing then top and tailing the beans and snow peas. They can practise their chopping skills – cutting each into 3-4 pieces and tossing them into a salad bowl. They can also tip in the drained corn and play with add in the bean sprouts.

You might want to shred the carrot yourself. Add it and the chicken into a large bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients together well then tip over and mix through.

Serves 2 adults & 2 kids

Comments (8) »

Enjoy dinner-time thrills and empty plates

Mealtime stress often causes us to lose our perspective, doesn’t it? Caught up in the angst of kids rejecting food we’ve slaved over, the misery of power plays over whether or not they are going to EAT THAT PEA or worried sick over whether our child is getting their nutritional needs met from one mouthful of meatloaf last Tuesday, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that food should be nourishing, happy and FUN.

I was reminded of this last week when I had a super-poshy dinner out at Sepia Restaurant. It was one of those Masterchef-y type places with foams and odd concoctions and food bordering on art and theatre. The dish that stands out was the mid-course sorbet, which arrived as a little perfect white globe on a huge dark blue dish scattered with icing sugar. It was the galaxy on a plate. Unsure how to approach it, or even what it was, I pushed my spoon into the sphere and it, like, EXPLODED. Sherbet-like substance in a range of colours sprinkled over the plate in a food event so fun and gorgeous that apparently I squealed. By that stage I was onto wine number 4, so possibly I can’t really tell you what it tasted like (it was citrus, I do recall), but the event was so memorable and damn fun that it was worth every extravagant penny.

And it reminded me, that sometimes it’s good to step back from nutrition and focus instead on food being fun. Make dinner enjoyable and you’ll have a much better chance of success when feeding your kids, too.

Sometimes it’s as simple of giving a slightly ugly dish a fun name, like this witches stew – a green split pea soup that my kids adore. Serve it in a black dish like a cauldron. Or place three of these traffic light swirls on a plate in a row and let them decide which colour they’re going to scoff first.

Simple presentation ideas can help your cause.

With the last of the basil (yes, gorgeously perfect out of my vegepod), I whipped up a pesto. My kids love it and it was even more fun when served through some squid’s ink pasta. Adults might baulk of the look, but the kids thought this was awesome and spent the meal scoffing it while trying to decide if it was monster’s intestines, mermaid hair or giant snot.

Food from Atlantis? Or deep space? Your kids can decide.

Food from Atlantis? Or deep space? Your kids can decide.

Possibly not the most flattering appraisal of my cooking, but a success, nonetheless.

The original pesto recipe is here. I also blitzed in a cup of cooked broccoli florets. It’s a super fantastic addition, an idea I stole from Collette at Cut out the Crap. Works brilliantly.

Comments (3) »

Searching for food joy (for the whole family)

food-love2

Do you think the internet is good for humanity? Big question, I know, especially this early in the week, but it’s something my husband and I have been debating a bit lately.

Generally I think the internet is awesome. All that accessible knowledge. So many ways to open your mind, connect with people and experience worlds that were beyond us just 15 years ago. What a shame then, that so much of the internet tends to be a place of pointless extremes, dominated by violence, pictures of Kardashians, cats and people hating on one another. The intolerance and abuse from people hiding behind screens can be mind-boggling.

I cop a bit of hate myself. My website and my food philosophy aren’t extreme enough for many folks online. Breaking some of the current healthy eating taboos, I admit to eating all kinds of ‘poison’. A bit of sugar. A bit of gluten. Often I eat just for fun, rather than taking a strict nutritarian stance and quite often, I eat meat.

Usually I suck it up and take the abuse with a grain of salt – admiring the vehemence with which my various e-pen-pals argue their causes. Their devotion and commitment to a single philosophy does impress me and sometimes I worry that my laissez-faire attitude needs to be tightened up a little. But last week I was reading, “14 Habits of People with a healthy relationship to food“. Turns out I have nearly all of these habits. The one that particularly jumped out was, “swear by everything in moderation.”

Hallelujah.

And that’s me. I swear by everything in moderation and I keep food in perspective. No amount of kale can replace a glass of wine (and laughs) shared with good friends. And how lucky we are to live in such an affluent society that this whole food debate is even possible.

So here’s the thing. I’m not a gluten free site, although often my recipes happen to be gluten-free. If I have GF suggestions, I’ll list it in the recipe. And if I don’t, possibly you’ll have to come up with your own substitution, or skip the recipe and find something else to make.

I’m not a dairy-free site. Although I am personally lactose-intolerant. Many of my recipes ARE dairy-free and dairy-free substitutes are pretty easy to manage.

I do cook with eggs and nuts. If you’re dealing with a nut allergy, you’ll have to skip those recipes rather than emailing me demanding a nut-free version. If you’re wanting to swap out eggs, here’s a good article here to give you a range of options.

I do cook with meat.

As a 41-year-old educated woman, I’ve made that choice. I understand the ethical, environmental and health implications of my choice. There’s no need to try to convert me. The irony is not lost on me that the most abusive messages I receive are from people trying to protect animals from violence. Perhaps the animal-advocates should quit using that tactic – save the abuse and instead just seduce me with links to vegetarian fare that I can’t resist. Because, actually, I eat vegetarian food all the time. I love the creativity and diversity of it. Lots of recipes on this site ARE vegetarian, including these falafel burgers, which just happen to be egg-free and suitable for vegans, too. There’s no dairy and I’m offering some GF suggestions (although I’ve not tested them). They’re high fibre and easy to make.

Despite all that, I eat these burgers because my whole family thinks they’re delicious and they fit in perfectly with my extreme food philosophy of moderationarianism.

Something for everyone.

Something for everyone.

Falafel burgers

1 piece sliced bread (or about 1 cup of GF breadcrumbs)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
handful of parsley (optional)
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1 small red onion
1 carrot, roughly chopped
juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup plain flour (I’ve not tried, but I strongly suspect that besan flour would be perfect here)
oil spray
bread rolls (obviously optional – use a GF wrap if you prefer), salad and barbecue sauce (also optional – a bit of plain yoghurt would also do), to serve

Use a food processor or mini-processor for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Blitz the bread, garlic, spices and parsley together to make flavoured breadcrumbs. Place in a large bowl.

Pulse the chickpeas to a paste and add to the bowl. Repeat, using the pulse function to chop the onion then the carrot. Drizzle the lemon juice over and mix in well. Sprinkle over the flour and use your hands to combine.

Shape the mixture into eight equal patties. Place on the baking tray, spray with oil and bake for 25 minutes, carefully turning once during cooking.

Serve on rolls with salad and barbecue sauce.
MAKES 8 PATTIES

Comments (29) »

An apple cake to impress your kids with

Apples are tippety-top at the moment, especially if you can grab some from a farmers market or grocer. Lucky, isn’t it, that their peak coincides with the time of year where there’s nothing better than a warm fruit dessert. Somehow a mouthful of them magically reaches right down to my toes and spreads a happy glow right back up to my heart.

Seeing as it’s also still school holidays here, it seemed right to make a good ol’fashioned cake recipe. Miss F and I made this one together the other day. There’s a bunch of traditional baking skills to pass on while you whip this up. There’s lining the tin, creaming butter and sugar and all the little baking tips, like making sure everything is at room temperature and if the mix starts to curdle when you add the eggs, chuck in a spoonful of flour to pull it all back together.

Even if you’re not a proficient cake maker, this recipe is easy enough that you can fake your way through it and earn some serious kudos from your kids who will be delighted by the smells and textures and very pleased with the end result of your handiwork. Particularly if you drizzle over a dollop of cream.

Apple heaven, and easy, too.

Apple heaven, and easy, too.



Traditional apple cake

3 eating apples (I used royal gala)
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice 1/2 lemon
150g butter – cubed, at room temperature
Just over 3/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs – at room temperature
Just over 1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

Glaze:
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp boiling water

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line the base of a 23cm springform tin with baking paper and grease the edges with oil spray or butter.

Core and slice the apples (about 4-5mm slices). Toss them into a bowl with the combined cinnamon, vanilla & lemon juice. Combine well.

Add the butter to a bowl and cream using hand held beaters (or do this in your mixmaster if you have one). Add in the sugar, a large spoonful at a time until combined well and your mix is creamy and pale brown (it’s worth taking your time with this step).

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. (If the mix starts to curdle at this stage, adding a spoonful of flour will pull the mix back together.) After the eggs are well combined, mix through the flour (mix the baking powder into the flour). Drain off the juice from the apples and stir that through gently.

Transfer the mix into your cake tin. Use a spatula to spread it our evenly. Tip your apples on top – make them look a bit pretty if you like, but don’t go crazy, the cake mix rises up to engulf them quite a bit.

Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes until a skewer pushed down into the cake part comes out clean. (Check the cake at 40 minutes and if the edges of apple are starting to burn, cover it with foil).

Mix together the sugar and boiling water. Use a pastry brush to dab it over the whole cake while it is still hot, straight out of the oven. Leave to cool slightly before undoing the pan.

Serve warm or cold, delicious on it’s own, but a bit of cream will make it even more indulgent.

_____________________________

Like apple desserts? Try this recipe for stewed apples.
Or try these apple, pear & prune pastry squares.

_____________________________

Comments (4) »

Enjoy watching your toddler feed themselves lentils!

Yes, it’s true, these little balls of deliciousness are perfect toddler food but they’re also a popular snack with older kids, too. The secret is that the sweet potato (or kumara), is ROASTED, so they’re rich and enticing which means the lentils aren’t noticed at all.

To get the mash, I chuck the whole sweet potato into the oven (don’t peel it or anything so tedious) and cook it for about an hour at 180C. Then, whenever you’re ready during the day, you can get onto making this super-healthy, egg-free snack.

Perfect for independent toddlers

Perfect for independent toddlers


Sweet potato, lentil & rice balls

1 cup roasted sweet potato
1 cup cooked brown rice (or white rice is ok, too)
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup cooked brown lentils (I use tinned – give them a good rinse)
1 tbsp tomato chutney (or beetroot relish is also good)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs are good, too)
Spray oil

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

Mash the cooked sweet potato in a large bowl. Evenly mix in the rice, cheese, lentils and chutney.

Roll bite-sized balls of mixture, coat in the breadcrumbs and place on the tray. Spray them with oil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn once during cooking (if you can be bothered) and give them an extra spray of oil part way through.

Makes about 30

*THESE FREEZE!

Usually you’ll have more than one cup of mash after roasting a whole sweet potato. Just up the quantities of the other ingredients to suit and make a heap – these freeze well. Just remember for reheating that you need to thaw them then bake them in the oven – they go soggy in the microwave.

 

Toddler Recipes: What (and how) to feed fussy eaters

Advice on how to get your toddler eating a wide variety of vegetables with 26 clever recipes that smuggle the healthy ingredients in.

Comments (24) »

4-ingredient frozen yoghurt

Do your kids fight? Mine do, in fact, they can manage to find an argument in pretty much every circumstance. This week, with a bit of welcome rainfall, we’ve been focusing all our squabbles on THE UMBRELLA.

Rain has been such a rare event this summer that as we were dashing out the door the other day, I couldn’t find an umbrella each, so the two kids had to ‘work together’ (my quote) and use the one large umbrella, which theoretically is more than large enough to shelter them both.

You’ll probably not be shocked to hear that so far with this system we end up at our final destination with someone dry & victorious and someone soggy & bitterly wronged. ‘Working together’ will have to wait for another week, apparently.

Working together perfectly are the four ingredients in this ‘frozen yoghurt’. And it’s a simple blitz & chill which takes about 2 minutes to make. Since the fruit content is high, it freezes hard, so remember to pop it out of the freezer a half hour before you want to eat to ensure it’s a scoopable consistency.

So pretty!

So pretty!



Fruity Frozen Yoghurt

1 banana, frozen, peeled, roughly sliced
½ pear, peeled, roughly diced
½ cup frozen berries
½ cup vanilla yoghurt

Pop all your ingredients into the bowl of a blender (or pop them into a large sturdy jug and use your stick blender). Blitz until smooth. At this stage you have a delicious berry smoothie, but if you pour it into a container and freeze for an hour or so, it will harden more and you’ll be able to serve scoops of delicious frozen yoghurt.

Serves 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

PS: this is the perfect recipe to pop in some Superfoodz for kids “C Berry Blast”, for a bit of added nutritional oomph!

C Berry Blast – 200g

Ad

$39.95
$35.96

Comments (6) »