Posts tagged dinner

The sixth food group – food created by Satan

Bless my Facebook page and the funny folk who pop by there, including the lovely dad who referred to ‘food created by satan’. Made me laugh for days, because HE’S RIGHT, some food, whilst edible, really just is evil.

What might be in that category for you will depend on your own tastebuds and experiences. Brussell sprouts seem to be pretty universal (just general grossness), others will lump in oysters (snot), peaches (furry texture), okra (slime), red meat (legs!) offal (ick!) polenta (slop) and many kids will include a long list of vegies for a variety of reasons.

And while this blog aims to help migrate many of these items over to the other five regular food groups, there will inevitably be an item or two that remains. And that’s fine.

There are ways to negotiate individual food preferences within a family setting. This Pesto chicken bake is a good example from my house. It’s a dairy-laden triumph that makes my lactose-intolerant innards shake with fear. So while my children see this and cheer with joy, I eat something from the freezer instead. It’s an easy fix to that 6th-food group problem. And while I advocate eating the same meal most of the time, a bit of variation is ok, so long as you’re all eating something healthy, together.

It look so innocent!

It looks so innocent!

Pesto & ricotta chicken bake

To pad this meal out to feed more people, feel free to add in a couple of cups of cooked pasta before baking.

Olive oil
600g chicken tenderloins, finely sliced (or buy stir-fry strips and save yourself a bit of prep time)
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cups finely diced cauliflower (I really hack away at it with my kitchen knife until it’s almost as if I’ve grated it)
1 large zucchini, grated
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp pesto (store bought is fine or see my recipe here)
125g can corn kernels (drained)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
250g tub ricotta
Salt & pepper

Turn the oven to 180C. Spray a medium baking dish with oil spray.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and when hot, pop in the chicken and quickly stir-fry until just browned. Remove and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium. Reheat the pan. Add more oil if needed and fry the onion and cauliflower, stirring regularly for 8 minutes or so until the edges of everything are browning and the onion is turning translucent.

Toss in the zucchini and garlic. Stir well and let the aroma of the garlic waft about to make everyone hungry. Mix through the pesto. Turn off the heat.

Add in the corn, half the cheddar cheese and all of the ricotta. Combine well and pop into your prepared baking dish. Scatter the rest of the cheese over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Serve with salad.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids.

 

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

New book out now!

Advertisements

Comments (8) »

Even Goldilocks would just sit down, shut up and eat this dinner

Most nights I can sit at the dinner table, close my eyes and instantly be transported to a fairy tale. Oh! I hear you exclaim with envy, ‘SHE HAS THE PERFECT LIFE!’.

But you’d be wrong, because unfortunately I’m not in the midst of a good Cinderella-type tale, with romance, makeovers and awesome frocks (have you seen the rude Tinderella version? Very funny.) No, I get taken straight to the story with the most annoying of annoying characters around – Goldilocks and the 3 bears. With eyes shut, my dinner companions all suddenly morph into Goldilockses, all criticism and complaints about the meal before them.

“This is too hot!”
“This is too spicy!”
“This doesn’t have enough flavour!”
“I think I saw a speck of pepper!”
“This sauce doesn’t match my underpants!”

Etc, etc, etc.

But every now and then a recipe comes along that has my entire family gushing with praise, declaring it, ‘Just right’. And thankfully, this is one of those recipes. It is a gorgeous bit of kitchen alchemy. My fairy godmother tip to you is to bake the kumura to give you a rich, sweet base.

Abracadabra. Enjoy.

Serve this on rice for a more substantial meal.

Serve this on rice for a more substantial meal.

Goldilocks chickpea patties

Feeds: 2 adults & 2 small kids, served on rice with salad
Allergy info: Vegan. Free from gluten, egg, dairy.
Substitutions?: I think this recipe is pretty perfect as is.
Freeze?: No.
Prep ahead?: Kumura mash can store in the fridge for 2-3 days. Prepared patties can be refrigerated until it’s time to cook.
Why I like it: Simple, vegie-packed, delicious. A perfect meat-free Monday recipe.
Smuggling rating: 9/10 – vegies hidden in vegies, all fried up a bit crispy.

1 1/2 cups mashed kumura (orange sweet potato)
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed, drained
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sumac (available on the spice stand at good fruit markets) OR use the zest of half a lemon
1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour) – for rolling.
Oil for frying (I like about 1/4 cup of olive oil)

To get the kumura mash, chuck a whole kumura into your oven at 180C for 50-60 minutes until squishy. (Any leftovers are great added to spag bol, or mixed into sweet muffins).

In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas and mix through the vegies and spices. Form golf ball size patties and dunk in the chickpea flour.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil (be generous) and once hot, add a few patties to the pan. Turn when golden (you’ll probably need to cook them for about 3 minutes either side.)

Serve with salad, lemon & a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Comments (11) »

Why you don’t need to detox this year

If only I had overly rouged, high cheekbones, it could be 1984!

If only I had overly rouged, high cheekbones, it could be 1984!

This morning, lucky followers of my instagram account were treated with this picture. On waking I was delighted to realise that while I definitely had sore feet (from dancing), my head was only slightly sore even after copious amounts of bubbles (it is a rare day that the hangover gods smile on me). Most importantly, I’d woken to find that my slightly-cloudy head was coifed with a perfectly done, 1980s, Dynastry-style do.

I take these things as A SIGN. To wake up on New years day with perfect 1980s hair must definitely be a sign that IT’S GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR. And such an auspicious segue from the holiday season to the regular year can only mean one thing – that’s it’s time to pull my finger out and get back on the blogging horse. Really, there’s no reason to delay it any longer. I’m so caught up on LIFE, that even my plastics cupboard has been tidied. I’ve got a stash of inspiring recipes scribbled down and my fingers are itching to get back computering. A bit of a break has been good for the soul and has gotten my juices flowing again (TMI?!).

The first thing I’m doing this year is to buck the piety trend and tell everyone that they can take their detoxes and healthy eating resolutions and shove them up their well-intentioned jaxies. Abstemious doctrines hold no lure for me this year. After watching several friends endure entirely heartbreaking years last year, I see no reason to squander good fortune. We are blessed and surrounded by abundance and this year I plan to enjoy every morsel of things that make me feel good. Food should be nourishment, colour, seduction and joy, not a cause for anxiety or stress or avoidance.

Feeding your family full of healthy and delicious meals can be a satisfying and life affirming task. Don’t believe me? Stick with me this year and I’ll prove it.

Starting here, with this simple pesto risotto. It meets so many Vegie Smuggling criteria. It’s DELICIOUS. If you grow basil, then this is pretty cheap. Finishing the cooking in the oven makes it insanely EASY and my pesto-loving kids will hoover up a full bowl of this without question (helped along by the lure of crispy proscuitto).

Eating well is a privilege we can all enjoy, all the time.

Happy New Year!

Happy food.

Happy food.

Pesto risotto

Make this vegetarian by leaving out the prosciutto and use vegetable stock.

50g butter
1 red onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 zucchini, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 & 2/3 cup arborio rice
4 cups (1 litre) hot chicken stock
1½ cups frozen peas

Pesto:
1 bunch basil
¼ cup grated parmesan (the posher the better)
¼ cup pine nuts
4 tbsp olive oil

proscuitto (optional)

Use a stove to oven dish with a lid for this recipe (like a Le Crueset).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat your pot on the stove over medium heat. Melt the butter. Add your onion and celery and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. Toss in the garlic and zucchini for 1 minute, stirring well the entire time.

Rain in the rice, pour over the stock. Mix well. Pop on your lid, transfer to the oven and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Make the pesto by adding the basil, cheese, nuts and oil to a mini food processor and blitzing thoroughly. Set aside

Remove the pot from the oven. Carefully remove the lid and scoop out a few grains to check that they’re basically tender. If still hard, return to the oven for another few minutes. If almost ready, tip in the peas and pesto. Quickly stir it in, recover the pot let it sit for another 5 minutes.

Serve with more grated parmesan, crumbled proscuitto and pepper.

NOTE: crisp the the proscuitto by laying it in a single layer on a tray and baking in the hot oven while the risotto rests.

 

real-healthy-families

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

Comments (12) »

3 words that make me horny?

Sifting through my inbox lately, I’ve noticed that the spam has phased back into the traditional style from the start-of-the-internet, all concerned with penis size, orgasms and my libido. For a few years there, I was inundated with lovely Russian women who were looking for my friendship and then all the ‘banks’ were sending me .exe files that contained critical financial information. All I had to do was open and enter my pin. But now, we’re back to sex basics.

However, without even opening the “3 words that make her horny” message, I’ve got a feeling that the email creator is giving the male population a bum steer with poorly researched advice. Unless the spammer is an overwhelmed and under appreciated wife & mother, who does actually know that the three words that make us horniest are when our partner yells from the kitchen, “dishes are done”. Or when he’s got other helpful things to say, like “dishwasher is unpacked”, “kids are clean” or “you keep sleeping”. With Christmas looming the phrase list expands exponentially. Now it includes, “presents are wrapped”, “turkey is cooked” and “it’s from Tiffany’s”. THOSE little 3-word-phrases do get my knickers all twisted, indeed.

In the spirit of international spice, and three-word phrases, here’s this week’s recipe…

Egyptian Baked Chicken

vegie smugglers egyptian chicken

Just an instagram snap, I’m afraid, no time for fancy photos this week.

Feeds: 2 adults & 2 small kids, when served on rice or cous cous
Timings: 10-15 minutes prep. Marindate all day, 5 minutes to chop veg & 40 minutes baking.
Allergies: this is gluten, egg & sugar free, there are sesame seeds in zatar.
Substitutions: Spring onions, shallots, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini would all work. Use whichever your kids like.
Freeze: No.
Prep ahead: Yes. You can marinade everything all together in the morning and just chuck it in the oven when you need to cook.
Why I like i
t: Marinade is quick to prepare and I can get it ready in the morning before work. Suits the days when I’m just getting home later in the afternoon. And the kids love to munch on a bit of crispy chicken skin.
Smuggling rating: 2/10 – the vegetables are mostly on show.

Marinade:
1 onion
1/2 fennel
1/2 lemon (juice & zest)
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp za’atar (a MIddle Eastern spice mix that contains sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, salt & sumac) – OR if you don’t have any premixed, just add whatever combination of these spices you do have in the cupboard)

700g chicken wing nibbles (these are chicken wings with the point end taken off).
2 large carrots, peeled, cut into sticks
1 red capsicum, cut into 2-3cm squares
1/2 cup frozen peas

To serve: cous cous or rice, coriander, parsley, lemon wedges

Use a mini food processor to blitz together all the marinade ingredients.

Add the chicken to a glass baking dish, pour the marinade over the make sure everything is nicely coated. Cover and refrigerate for as long as you’ve got (an hour is ok, all day long is better).

Preheat the oven to 200C. Uncover the chicken, mix through the carrots and capsicum. Bake for a total of about 40 minutes, turning once about 25-30 minutes into cooking.

Remove from the oven and scatter over the peas (the heat will thaw them).

 

ADAsset 1

Leave a comment »

Vegie-filled dinners that your toddlers can feed to themselves

As fun as it is to try and force a spoon into the firmly shut gob of a child aged between 18 months and 3, sometimes it’s entirely GREAT to be able to serve them dinner and walk away in the hope that they will manage to get something into their own mouth. Particularly if your child is going through a “ME DO IT” phase, then these dinners might bring you a little bit of relief. (Click on the photos to link through to the recipe).

Vegie Smugglers cheese puffs recipe

Cheesy puffs – serve with a side of poached chicken, beans and carrot.

thai chicken meatballs

Chicken meatballs. Noodles optional.

vegie smugglers beef triangles with vegetables and puff pastry

Beef triangles

Perfect for independent toddlers

Lentil, sweet potato & rice balls

new-book-on-sale

Leave a comment »

Your kids love milk & cheese? This dinner is for them!

Considering Miss F’s love of dairy food, it seems likely that my family must be able to trace our heritage back to Egyptian times, when Cleopatra is said to have bathed in milk. Given the choice, I’m sure my daughter would do the same. Milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice-cream. It’s all good to her and any meal that uses it liberally is down the hatch in a jiffy. Like this cheesy chicken pie, that languishes in white sauce all soaked up by a cheesy bread topping that makes those lactose intolerant amongst us shudder.

Although, on closer inspection the whole Cleopatra story is less glamorous when you realise that she actually bathed in sour donkey’s milk (supplied by 700 asses). Apparently the fermented lactose is great for skin, if not for your personal smell. Wikipedia quotes well-known Ancient Roman beauty editor, Pliny, “It is generally believed that ass milk effaces wrinkles in the face, renders the skin more delicate, and preserves its whiteness.”

Botox suddenly isn’t looking so bad.

Relax in this cheesy chicken bake.

Relax in this cheesy chicken bake.

Cheesy chicken pie

And yes, you can substitute lactose free dairy products in here, but I wouldn’t recommend soy, rice or almond substitutes.

4 slices of bread (to make 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs)
1 cup grated cheese (about 125g)

1 tbsp olive oil
500g chicken breast, diced
1 leek, white part only, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
4 medium mushrooms, very finely chopped
Large handful green beans, ends removed, finely sliced
2 tbsp fresh herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme) optional
Salt & pepper

50g butter
3 tbsp plain flour
2 cups milk

You will need a small-medium sized oven dish for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Use a small or large food processor to chop up your bread into breadcrumbs. Tip them into a mixing bowl and combine in the cheese. Set aside.

Add olive oil to a large saucepan over medium/high heat. When hot, add in the chicken and stir for several minutes until there are no more pink sides and the chicken is mostly cooked through (it does cook more later in the oven). Remove and set aside.

Reheat the pan, add a bit more oil if need be and tip in the leek, onion and cauliflower. Cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring often until everything is softening down. Add in the mushrooms, beans & herbs (if using). Season and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring just enough that nothing burns. Remove and set this mixture aside also.

Tip your milk into a jug. The milk needs to be quite warm, so I microwave the milk in my glass jug for about 1 1/2 minutes on high. Pop it next to the stove.

Return the pan to the heat. Melt the butter. Scatter in the flour and use a wooden spoon to stir for a minute until the flour has cooked off and smells nice. Patience is worthwhile now – take a minute or so to slowly drizzle in the whole amount of milk, stirring constantly. The mix with thicken up into a paste, then loosen back up into a luscious sauce. Stir briskly the entire time (it’s good exercise for your tuck shop lady arms.)

Tip your chicken and vegies back into the pot and mix everything through. Cook for another minute or so. Pour the entire lot into your oven proof dish. Evenly scatter over your breadcrumb/cheese mix and pop into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or so until it is bubbling and golden.

Serves 2 adults and 2-3 small kids.

Adults might like this served with a crisp garden salad and some sourdough bread.

real-healthy-families

Comments (8) »

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.
_________________________________

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….

Comments (33) »