Posts tagged family

Vegetarian sung choi bao

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Even my meatlovers enjoy this vegetarian goodness.

One day you wake up and realise that both your kids are in high school. Yes! HIGH SCHOOL. I’m not sure how that happened, but apparently they’ve been touched by the magical ageing fairy who’s in charge of puberty, grey hairs, sore knees and wrinkles. She has been busy at our house in recent times.

Still, the good side of this ageing thing is that the kids are pretty independent, just needing me for the odd chat, regular lifts to far flung places and plenty of cuddles (we’re never too old for those).

My life has returned to being more about me, which is an interesting shock that has taken some getting used to. The workforce has drawn me back and I enjoy the chance to dig back into my career and personal goals. Not that it’s easy – the juggle is real and while I’ve let go of some domestic standards (I mean, their rooms are their business, right?), dinner still remains a priority. Often though, I rely on meals that I’ve made ahead, or that can be cooked quickly. Sung choi bao is a staple. Make it ahead (or not). It’s simple enough that the kids can cook it too. And it’s a social meal – get messy together, and enjoy a bit of face to face time with the growing people who are so often absorbed elsewhere.

Vegetarian sang choi bao

5-6 tbsp olive oil
1 onion (finely diced)
Packet of vegetarian mince, quorn or vegetable protein
1 eggplant (finely diced – if your kids dislike the skin, peel first)
1 zucchini (grated or finely diced)
225g can water chestnuts, drained, finely diced
225g can bamboo shoots, drained, finely diced
4 spring onions (finely sliced)
125g can corn kernels (drained)
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp ginger
3 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp shao hsing wine

Lettuce leaves (iceberg or cos works best)
Chilli sauce, coriander (optional)

Heat half the oil in a large frying pan or wok over high heat. Stir fry the onion for a couple of minutes until golden. Add the rest of the oil. Pop in the ‘mince’ and all of the vegies (except the corn). Cook for a couple of minutes before adding in all the flavourings. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until everything has combined well. Stir through the corn, then pop mixture into lettuce leaves.

Adults might like coriander leaves and some chilli sauce.

Serves 2 adults & 2-4 kids (depending on their size and appetite).

 

real-healthy-families

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

 

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Teaching gratitude to teenagers

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Big kids. Enjoying a bit of cheese in Paris.

 

Those of you who’ve followed me for years will have kids the same age as mine. So you are likely to also be mired in the joy of teen and pre-teen children. There’s adjustments to be made at this stage for sure, but generally I completely adore this bit of parenting. The kids are interesting, engaged and independent. But also slowly removing themselves from family life in a heartbreaking way. I miss them and their pestering little ways. The silence is sometimes deafening. But then it’s also pretty nice to have time back. I can read a book. Or sleep in. Or eat grown-up food. Suddenly my life has returned to a version of pre-kid normal. But with added people to love. It’s pretty great.

Of course, while they’re off catching buses and pursuing their own interests (screens, screens, more screens) it’s easy to forget that parenting continues. And that lessons you think are obvious may not be. We somehow assume that being a good human comes naturally. And while they do soak in the world around them by osmosis, there’s also room for a bit of blunt parental intervention. No one expects them to learn algebra without a teacher. And I think a bit of forced guidance over some of life’s more intangible aspects doesn’t go astray. Which is why I’ve created this super-simple gratitude sheet. At first they resisted doing it (of course). But then they got right into it, and we had a really good laugh comparing their answers.

And a little bit of learning may have happened. A reminder that we can be grateful every day, and it’s always good. Crucial life-lesson stuff that no-school can teach.

It’s nothing fancy at all, but feel free to download your sheet here.

gratitude-list

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How to get your kids packing their own healthy lunches

That first week back to school is exciting, isn’t it! We’re back into the year with a thud – both my kids have switched schools, so there’s new routines, buses, uniforms, friends, and a new level of independence from me. They are loving it all, and I’m trying to not take it personally that they’re so happy to be free.

Miss F has started HIGH SCHOOL. Something that still freaks me out. She’s also the same height as me and has longer feet, so I guess I’ve had an inkling for a while that she’s growing up. With her new independent lifestyle, comes a new chunk of responsibility – one of which is packing her own lunchbox.

She’s happy to take on this bit of adulting. But it’s interesting to realise that even after years of daily lunches that follow the same formula, she wasn’t too sure of how to go about it. So I’ve done her up a help sheet, to give her a visual cue about the proportions she’s aiming for. You can download one too, by clicking here.

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A quick visual cue to help the kids navigate their way.

We’re packing the lunches together this week (I still do my son’s), then she’s away. I’ll check in from time to time, but since there isn’t much junk in my pantry, I know that her choices will probably be pretty good. Any junk she buys from the canteen will be with her money and there’s nothing I can do about that. I remember eating Mars Bars and drinking Coke at school. I turned out ok.

Letting go of the kids is tough, but it’s important to recognise when to stop babying them. For me, it’s time to take on the role of life coach, rather than tyrant.

(Note that this sheet is based loosely on the Australian Government’s healthy eating guidelines – I find these proportions suit my household. Many people don’t agree and if you don’t, then maybe just take the idea and draw up your own helpsheet that reflects your ethos – please don’t email me to correct my nutrition ignorance…)

 

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If you need help navigating lunch boxes for younger kids, check out my ebook!

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Your reminder to take care of yourself

sunshine

Blue skies. Palm trees. Sunshine.

It’s been MANY months since I last blogged, neatly reminding me of the fact that this has been a tough year.

I think all of us have those moments where life seems to collapse. Unexpected events, illness, death, mental health issues, self-imposed mummy breakdowns. Awful things that can actually be helpful from time to time – they keep you humble and living consciously. They make you stop the autopilot, question everything and slowly piece together new solutions.

When you tackle them right, you come out of them stronger, with the knowledge that life goes on, love always wins, and small daily actions make the biggest difference to long-term happiness. I’ve come to realise that some habits are crucial for my general well being. I’m sharing them. Because maybe you’re having a tough time and can’t find the perspective you need to shift things. So consider this a reminder of helpful life choices that will help the sun reappear in your world.

  1. Yoga. I’ve banged on about it before, but this is the thing that helps me the most. It can ground, energise or sooth  me. Mostly I use http://www.yogaglo.com – they have all yoga styles in classes of varying lengths, so there’s no reason for me to miss too many days. Here’s a link to one of my favourite teachers and a practise I use OFTEN….
  2. Meditation. Again, you don’t have to spend long on this. Often a 5 or 10 minute session will do. Check out the Insight Timer app. It’s awesome. If you need to check out for a few days, try the Brahma Kumaris centres.
  3. Exercise. High intensity gym-stuff isn’t my thing. Walking is basically all I do (you don’t even need activewear). I walk alone or with my hubby and kids. Walking in nature is nearly my favourite thing. We’ve been doing that a lot.
  4. Good food. In times of crisis, a burger is not your friend. Chocolate will not save you. I promise. Shoving as many healthy ingredients into your gob is the best way to feel good. Perhaps cooking doesn’t appeal, but there’s still a bunch of easy recipes that barely cause a mess and that taste great. Try these…
vegie-smugglers-green-smoothie

Green smoothie. A cliche, yes. But a great way to start the day.

vegie smugglers breakfast ice cream

An easy and excellent breakfast idea.

Easy pumpkin soup (only 4 ingredients)

Easiest pumpkin soup, ever.

vegie-smugglers-pantry-tuna-shakshouka

Shakshouka makes a great brunch, lunch or dinner and uses up anything you’ve got in the pantry.

  1. vegie-smugglers-quesadillas

    Vegie quesadillas – easy. Yum.

     

5. Feed your brain something new. By this I mean, make sure you’re reading something interesting, studying something that gives you new skills, listening to music that affects you, spending time (even 15 minutes) being creative or watching Love Island and having a laugh. New stimulus leads to new thoughts and keeps life fresh.

Starting new habits can seem like a hassle, but please keep going. So many mums work exhaustively to keep their kids healthy, but do nothing for themselves. Fuss over yourself a bit. You’re worth it.

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It also feels good to finish off any projects. Like this one – I’ve had this on the go for a couple of years, but I’ve finally finished it. It’s everything I’ve learned about feeding fussy kids! Find more details over at the shop.

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.

 

And while I rarely post here, I am still about a bit on Instagram and Facebook.

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Aaaahhhh. Fiji. And what I learned from resort holiday fun.

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island in all it’s glory!

In a happy chance my return from Fiji coincided with some winter sunshine and a cheap bulk buy of passionfruit at my local fruit shop. Which resulted in these sweet little morning tea treats that have me closing my eyes and drifting back off to the tropics (scroll down for recipe).

This trip was our first family-resort holiday. Usually we’re a van-park type of family, but stuff it, I hate winter and a few days of heat seemed entirely MEDICINAL. Of course the credit card may not agree for the rest of the year.

But we did create some pretty amazing family memories. With my kids a bit older, we skipped the kids club in favour of family frolics and some pretty adventurous snorkelling afternoons. It was so impressive to watch the kids step up, overcome some fears and get stuck in.

We moved about, but our favourite place was Mana Island – I can’t say enough good stuff about it and it’s still currently under renovation. It will be incredible in another six months or so.

And my tips for taking kids to a resort holiday in Fiji?

• If possible, find flights that don’t have you up for bus transfers at 3am. Or 2am. It kind of squishes some of the fun out of a short trip.

• Take a bunch of muesli bars and snacks to tide them over from buffet to buffet.

• Smother everyone in sunscreen all the time. Don’t trust the kids to do it themselves (speaking from experience).

• And even though the big resorts want you to tip when you pay the bill, slip cash to the staff who’ve been awesome. It makes a big difference to fantastic people who’s daily pay is about what you’d pay for a couple of beers. I find being the affluent-Aussie-in-poorer-countries thing quite awkward. The lady who was bringing me my cocktails by the pool had four kids under six and worked 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. And she smiled the whole time.

Lesson learned.

vegie smugglers passionfruit coconut madeleines

Regular patty pans will do instead of madeleine trays. And sorry for the rubbish pic – I was too lazy to dig out the good camera

Passionfruit & coconut madeleines

3 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar (or golden caster)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
4 passionfruit (juice & seeds). Use 3 tbsp tinned passionfruit if you can’t find fresh
75g melted butter
Icing sugar to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease madeleine or patty pans with HEAPS of butter – or they’ll stick.

Pop the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk for several minutes until lighter and thick (sounds tedious, but very good for tuck shop lady arms).

Sprinkle over the flour and coconut and fold through gently. Stir through the passionfruit and butter.

Scoop tablespoon quantities into the trays and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and springy (these don’t rise much).

Leave to cool for several minutes before turning out and tossing in a bit of icing sugar (optional).

Makes 30ish.

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For another tropical treat, try my delicious little pineapple cakes.

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Should we audition for Family Feud?

Grant Denyer is not really my cup of tea. I don’t have anything against him per se, more just a general mistrust of people who are always that ‘on’ (even if that’s what they’re paid to do).

So I don’t watch Family Feud. Midweek TV is rare at our place and when it is on, my kids are so immersed in Adventure Time that nothing else gets a guernsey. But I get the FF idea. Perky host with equally perky families play word games with hilarious results.

Sometimes my family seems quite perky. I’ve seen snippets of FF during ad breaks and wondered if maybe we should ring to audition. But I had a reality check last week.

Ad flash. Smiling Grant with an enthusiastic question, “Name something that gets passed around?”

Within a blink of an eye Mr VS & I were both on the buzzer.

“A JOINT” shouted MR VS.
“HERPES” shouted me.

Who knew we were such naturals at this game! I can practically smell the gameshow riches!

But it turns out we were both wrong. The correct answer?

Hat.

Call the doctor!

Call the doctor!

Chicken Pox Pies

Ok, yes, they’re chicken pot pies. But pox pies, sounds more fun, don’t you think?

1 tbsp oil
600g chicken breast (or thigh), diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped cauliflower
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp plain flour
1 cup hot chicken stock
1/2 bunch English Spinach, finely shredded
1 cup peas
125g can corn kernels, drained
125g can creamed corn

2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg, whisked, for glazing

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Saute the chicken and until browned all over and mostly cooked through. Remove and set aside. Add the onion and saute, stirring quite often for 6-8 minutes until browning. Pop in the vegies for a couple of minutes and once softening, toss in the garlic. When fragrant, return the chicken to the pan.

Sprinkle over the flour and cook this off for a minute or so, then slowly add in the hot stock, stirring the whole time (use a wooden spoon for all this). Bring the mixture to a strong simmer, then lower the heat a bit and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is completely cooked.

Add in the spinach, peas and all the corn. Combine really well.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Find a bunch of oven-proof pots (or one big pot pie is fine, too).

Divide the mixture between your pots. Line the edge of your pots with 1cm strips of pastry (this will help adhere the lids). Brush with egg, then cut circle lids and press them in place. Brush the entire top with egg and decorate however you like. I made spots with cookie cutters and the kids thought this was just a little bit awesome.

Feeds 2 adults & 2-3 kids.

Did you see my chocolate-free Easter recipe over on Mother & Baby? See the carrot bliss ball recipe here.

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Have you bought my latest book yet?

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Dad’s turn to slack off (and be feted)

Back in May, I was quite vocal about what it was that I was looking for in my Mother’s Day. Now, as September dawns, it pains me to admit that it’s now Dad’s turn to pop the feet up, be reminded of his awesomeness and generally made to feel as though he’s king of his domain (one day won’t hurt us, will it?)

So possibly you’ve got a big brunch planned. And of course there’ll be bacon, a bit more bacon. Maybe a few chippolatas and a bit more bacon. To go with it, chuck together this brunch frittata. The best bit of it is that you can actually make it up the night before, store it in the fridge and then bake it in time for when your family descends the next morning. Handy!

See ladies, quietly, I’m still looking out for us, even though it’s not exactly our turn.

Impressive and easy - my favourite combo.

Impressive and easy – my favourite combo.

Make-ahead Brunch Frittata

2 potatoes
4 spring onions, finely sliced (use some of the green bits too)
½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
6 mushrooms, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup bread cut into a 1cm dice (this is a great way to use up day old sourdough)
1½ cups grated cheese
5 eggs
½ cup milk
Salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes. You could bake them, boil, steam or microwave them until just tender (I use the microwave as I find it the quickest and easiest way).

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line an 18x28cm slice tin with baking paper.

Once cool enough to handle, peel away the potato skins and chop into a rough dice. Add to a large mixing bowl.

Tip in the vegies, bread and cheese. Combine well.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Season well. Pour onto the vegies and mix. Tip the mixture into your slice tin and fiddle bits around so that the mix is evenly distributed and firmly packed. Leave a few cherry tomatoes on top for presentation.

Bake for 40 minutes until set and golden on top.

Cut into 8 brunch-sized slices. Serve alone or with chipolatas and bacon.

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