Posts tagged feeding the family

There’s a touch of both worthiness and authority in every bite of this salted-cinnamon granola

The term ‘wholefoods’ kind of irks me. Partly because it’s imbued with such worthiness and partly because it gets thrown around so often, with such authority and I’ve never really known what it means (except that I’ll pay a hefty surcharge if I see it written on a packet).

Finally I looked it up and was pleasantly surprised to realise that ALL THIS TIME, I have been living the wholefoods dream and I didn’t even know it.

You know, those carrots I buy? WHOLEFOODS.

And the organic meat I cook with? WHOLEFOODS.

And the cashews I feed the kids after school? WHOLEFOODS.

Because wholefoods just means that you buy unprocessed ingredients and cook stuff.

I was, of course, stoked by this discovery and quite delighted by my unwitting cool-ness and ability to throw my new word into conversation, with both authority and worthiness.

I think the problem with much of the new health-food evangelism is that it is spouted by born-again healthy people. Extreme folks who used to drink 20 can of Coke each day, but after imbibing their first green smoothie four months ago, have now seen the light and have set a new mission to pervade the entire electronic world with their message. Which is, of course, is delivered with authority and worthiness.

For me, my food history is boring. I definitely eat better now than I did 10 years ago, but I’ve always enjoyed clean food and cooking. Which makes my story dull and less compelling. I have less authority and worthiness. Although now that I realise that I’m a wholefood-devotee of 40 years, without weight or health issues, perhaps I do have the chance to up my personal sell with motivational spurtings about ‘wellness’ and ‘holistic living’.

So while ‘wholefoods’ can be a blurry term, ’whole grains’ are quite a specific thing. According to the Whole Grains Council (yes, they exist) this is the definition…. “100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain.” The theory being that they deliver more fibre, nutrition and help prevent disease. (I’ll leave the science of all that up to the sciencey-people to quibble over.)

Paleo folks dismiss the entire grains oeuvre, but I’m still a fan. I feel good when I eat them. I feel nourished and happy and well. So I eat them. And I’m quietly delighted when I find a little gem of a book being published like Megan Gordon’s “Whole Grain Mornings”. So many lovely & original ideas for people like me, who still quietly eat carbohydrates (behind closed doors, of course).

Apparently she’s terribly famous for ‘Marg’s Granola’, and she generously shares the recipe. It’s a basic granola that you can twist & adapt to suit your own household, which is what I’ve done here…

vegie smugglers salted cinnamon granola

Worthy, authoritative, but most importantly, DELICIOUS.

Salted Cinnamon Granola

4 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 cups nuts & seeds (I like flaxseeds, pumpkin, sunflower, flaked almonds & pecans)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (or cassia, if you can get your hands on it)
1/4 cup sweetener (seriously, don’t email me, just use whatever damn sweetener you like, or leave it out altogether if you’re born-again sugar free)
1/4 cup liquid fat (again, your choice, I like olive oil. Coconut oil also works fine) And just quietly, 1/4 cup barely does it, if you want serious crunch, you need a bit more.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a big deep oven tray. Mix all these ingredients together, pop them evenly into the tray and bake for about 35 minutes, stirring a couple of times along the way.

When cool, combine in with…

2 cups dried fruit (I like currants, sultanas & dried apple)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups bran bits. This is optional, leave it out for a wheat-free granola
2 cups puffed corn. Again, this is optional, but I like to pad my granola out a bit – it’s not a cheap breakfast, after all.

Mix everything together and ENJOY your breakfast, knowing that each spoonful contains its own little bit of both worthiness and authority. AND its delicious.

vegie smugglers cheese spinach sticks

Earlier this week I published an easy little recipe for cheese & spinach sticks. Did you see it? Click over to Mother & Baby for that one.

freeshipping

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Forgive me, for I have sinned…

Easy & delish. A treat that was instant happiness.

Easy & delish. A treat that was instant happiness.

Sunday morning and I have to confess that I’ve been a bit naughty, cooking again with flour and sugar. I popped the pic on Instagram last night and had several requests for the recipe, so here it is….

Irish Apple (& raspberry) Cake

(this is from “The Country Women’s Association Classics” cookbook, page 458, by Noela Macleod, from Essendon, VIC). It’s a super easy cobbler-type cake – one of those recipes that makes you look like a better cook than you are!

250g self raising flour
125g sugar (I used raw)
125g butter
3 cooking apples, cored, chopped (I didn’t bother peeling them)
1 egg, beaten,
1/3 cup milk (I found I needed to add a few extra splashes to get the mix to hold together)

I also added in about 2/3 punnet of fresh raspberries.

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm round tin (I have a springform one which is great).

Combine the flour & sugar. Cut in the butter roughly (no need to rub or cream). Add apples. Stir in egg & milk to form a stiff, lumpy mixture. Mix in half the raspberries.

Tip the mix into the tin, press it in evenly and push the rest of the berries into the top. Bake for 1 hour (I covered with foil at the 45 minutes mark).

Serve hot with icecream/cream/custard.

Serves 8.

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A meal plan for the week full of hungry mouths and no time…

Trying to see the silver lining in all situations, I’m happy to report that this year I find myself with about 5 hours a week of extra thinking time. This is, of course, due to the fact that my daughter has changed schools and being too nervous to catch two buses (she is only 10), I’m currently driving her both there and back each day. So the thinking time eventuates when I’m in the car, waiting for traffic lights to change colour.

Rather than getting flustered and irate as another cycle passes with the intersection blocked by cars from the other direction, I’m choosing to be all zen, drifting away instead to sweeter thought patterns that mainly revolve around chiseled abs, child-free nights and too many cocktails food.

Perhaps it’s lucky that I find myself with time to think and plan our week’s worth of dinners, since by the time that I finally get through the last fucking set of lights I’ve got bugger-all time left to cook anything.

Here’s how I coped last week….

Saturday

Silky smooth carrot, parsnips & cauliflower soup.

Silky smooth carrot, parsnip & cauliflower soup.

Silky roast vegie soup. Requested by Miss F, who cares not for seasons and was feeling hardly done by since it has been months since I last cooked her favourite meal.

Sunday

This will make friends with salad!

This will make friends with salad!

Steak & salad.

Finally the kids will tuck into a nice little piece of steak, which is making this dinnertime easy. I love the hit of iron at the start of the week, and I use all my secret salad tips, including a dollop of our current favourite dressing.

Monday

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

On my day off I had the slow cooker going and I also whipped up some nachos mince. I find cooking two meals on the one day is the key to keeping us healthy all week. The slow cooker meal was a lamb & pasta dish, which I’ve not had the chance to type up – try this lamb chop slow cooker recipe for something similar.

Tuesday

Nachos. Her latest favourite.

Nachos. The kids love it. The mince was made and awaiting me in the fridge, which was great, since I’d worked during school hours and we’d had cricket practice until 6.30. Whipped up in a jiffy and devoured by all.

Wednesday

Another work day, and swimming after school. I chucked some potatoes in the oven before we went. The kids and I had the innards of ours mixed through with tuna, cheese, olive oil, corn, mushrooms & fennel. Mr VS had the leftover nachos mix dumped on his, which he assured me was as satisfying as a cold beer on a sunny day while you’re looking at a pretty view (preferably with a pretty woman, too).

Thursday

Thursday was SAUSAGES NIGHT. I tend to do a big shop on the weekend, so by later in the week I’m onto the protein that keeps well for a curious number of days without spoiling. Tuna tins, ham hocks, sausages etc fill the brief nicely. To complete the vibe of our-life-is-from-the-70s, I whipped up these curried sausages, which are as mild as it gets and still hot enough to evoke comments from Miss F about burning tongues, the cruelty of her mother and how no-one really cares about her. The rest of us enjoyed them.

In an I-go-to-wholefoods-twist, we had them on cauliflower rice. Not because I give a toss about being paleo, but because it’s tasty and variety in all things is welcome.

Curried sausages & cauliflower rice

Curried sausages & cauliflower rice


Curried sausages

1 tbsp olive oil
1 granny smith apple, finely diced
1 spanish onion, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled, finely diced
8 sausages of your choice (plain or ones with added garlic & herbs are good)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp flour
1 1/4 cups beef stock (hot)
1 tbsp BBQ sauce (I think this is the magic ingredient, but it’s optional, leave it out if you hate sugar)
1 cup peas (or green beans are also good)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Tip in the apple, onion and carrots. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every now & then, until the onion is browning and the carrots starting to soften. Remove the vegies and set aside.

Pop the sausages into the pan. Turn regularly and cook for 15 minutes until just cooked through. Also remove and set aside (but leave the fat).

Tip the curry powder and flour into the hot pan. Use a wooden spoon to stir for a minute or so, to cook off the flour and release the curry fragrance. Slowly add in the hot stock, stirring or whisking to get rid of any lumps. Add the BBQ sauce then return the vegies and sausages.

Pour the peas over the top. Mix through and as soon as they’ve thawed, serve over the cauliflower rice.

Cauliflower rice

1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets)
2 tbsp olive oil (coconut oil also works, but I prefer olive oil with this dish)

Blitz the cauliflower in a food processor (I do two batches in my mini food processor). You’re aiming for a ‘rice’ consistency.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped cauliflower and cook, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes until softened (you still want some texture, don’t over do it).

Friday

And for our dirty little secret? The kids ate fish fingers and chips, and I survived on semillon blanc, chips and a good bit of chatter with friends.

How was your week?

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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!

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And the recipe that won 2014 was…

besterest-recipe-star

Ask my accountant and he’ll be bound to tell you that numbers are not really my thing. In fact I’ll never forget that bewildered look he gave me all those years ago as I carefully explained my home-made accounting system to him. Quite frankly his look of scorn was hurtful – that excel spreadsheet and all the biro annotations had taken me HOURS.

Anyway, I’m more confident when sifting through my 2014 web stats. I do like to trawl through the figures to see which posts were well received. It helps me create future recipes and focus on areas that I know you want help with.

After a bit of collating, here are the five recipes that you checked out the most in 2014. Each pic links through to the original recipe. Helpfully, I’ve also added in my speculation about why they were popular – it’s a totally unscientific crunching of what the numbers MEAN. Some may call this talking-out-my-bum, but I prefer to see it as valid qualitative research.

Honey boo boo might leave off the coriander.

Honey boo boo might leave off the coriander.

5. Chicken & rice pilaf
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised – chicken is the most eaten meat in Australia. Teamed up with rice it is comfort food at its gluten-free finest. Plus this is a ONE-POT recipe, which always triggers happiness amongst those of us who do the dishes.

Gluten free, egg free banana cookies

Gluten free, egg free banana cookies

4. Two ingredient banana cookies
Either most of you are inundated with mushy bananas or you are outrageously LAZY! Really, two ingredients between you and home-baked joy? Well, actually this recipe has four, but nonetheless you stampeded to it with open arms.

Perfect for independent toddlers

Perfect for independent toddlers

3. Rice & lentil balls
I’m curious about this one. Evidently you all love the idea of getting these ingredients into your kids, but did you make them and did your kids eat them? I’d love to know whether there was any follow through on the good intentions of this post.

lamb and barley slow cooker soup

I promise your family will devour this with glee!

2. Slow cooker lamb & barley soup
Aaahhhhhh, slow cooker, come here you gorgeous thing, you. Give us a cuddle. Oh! Even better, give us a dinner that’s a cuddle in a bowl that we can eat…. ooh yeah, that feels goooooooood.

So easy, I barely noticed I was baking.

So easy, I barely noticed I was baking.

1. 1/2 cup lunchbox slice
And the recipe that won 2014 was……. my 1/2 cup lunchbox slice, which slid to the top of the charts with a cunning blend of easy-to-makeness and I-made-it-myselfness. Of course I could assume that this is possibly a bit more proof that we’re all a bit kitchen-lazy, but I think I’ll give you all the benefit of the doubt and assume that in our busy lives, a recipe that promised such easy maternal perfection was a godsend.

Did you make any of these? How did they go? What variations did you do make them even better?

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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.

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Recipes to save your frazzled ‘December’ brain

How’s your diary looking for December? I’m going to guess that like mine, your family calendar is groaning with concerts, celebrations, covert gift buying and daunting lists of logistics.

Last week, in one night, we had an extra scheduled saxophone practice until 5.30, cricket practice at 5.30 for an hour, then the collection of extra kids for a dance rehearsal (which was miles away) from 7.15. By the time I collapsed into bed at 10.30, I was ready to nix Christmas and all the crappy exhaustion that it entails.

At the same time though, I can’t help but love it. The kids singing proudly at school carols, receiving awards, giving gifts – so much laughter and excitement. If only I can get the stressed, organisation ‘mum’ side of my brain to relax, so that I can take a moment and relish it a little.

So, to offer some help, I’ve had a think about which recipes might come in handy for you during December, to give you a bit of breathing space… (click the pics to visit the recipe)

Nachos. Her latest favourite.

Nachos. Always a kid-crowd-pleaser.

NACHOS
Why?
Hugely popular, the meat mix can be made ahead and left to brew in the fridge for a couple of days. Easy to assemble in individual portions, leftovers are delicious in toasties or baked potatoes. Even better, make a double batch and chuck some in the freezer.
Smuggling rating: 8/10 – vegies through the mince, then more stuff snuck under melted cheese.

Remember these traffic light swirls? They've made it into the new book...

Take a plate of something fun.

TRAFFIC LIGHT SWIRLS
Why?
My favourite ‘bring-a-plate’ for kids. The pastry is junkie enough to lure them in, then they get a bit of veg thrown in for good measure. Plus, they look fancy but are really easy to make.
Smuggling rating: 5/10 – the vegies are a bit nominal, but it’s better than a bowl of crisps.

pasta salad

Tuna pasta salad. Easy to adapt to suit your family.

PASTA SALAD
Why?
This recipe makes a huge amount. Delicious hot or cold, it keeps in the fridge for several days, making it perfect for dinners, picnics and lunchboxes. And it works well with gluten-free pasta.
Smuggling rating: 6/10 – tonnes of good stuff, nothing hidden, but all colourful and enticing

Classic noodle & cabbage salad - a summer staple.

Classic noodle & cabbage salad – a summer staple.

NOODLE SALAD
Why?
Easy to chop all the ingredients ahead, and make the dressing up in a jar. Compile when ready to eat. Perfect for dinner – it goes with everything. Also great for BBQs, either at your house or when you need to take a salad somewhere else.
Smuggling rating: 8/10 – Most kids I know are mad for this recipe and will eat a massive bowl, thanks to the salty/sweet dressing. I know there’s sugar here, but who cares when so much raw veg is making it down the hatch at the same time.

So hopefully these will help you through the crazy season! If your family like them, then you might want to check out my other Christmas pressie – 15% off all my cookbooks and e-books, until December 10. Just use ‘christmas’ at the checkout.

christmas

With that I’m signing off – thanks for another great Vegie Smuggling year – I really appreciate it every time you take the time to click through and read. And I love it when I hear that something I’ve posted has been a hit or made it’s way onto your list of family favourites.

See you in 2015!

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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).

 

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My latest (gluten-free) can’t-be-bothered dinner

I’ve had a couple of weeks of working four days a week and it’s always a good reminder about the challenges that working parents face. Finding the time to whip up a healthy dinner when you’re struggling in late with wretched kids, lunchboxes to clean and repack, clothes to wash and life to organise is hard.

By later in the week I’m grateful for a dinner of wine and a carrot, but surprisingly enough the kids aren’t as keen on this combination. They want, you know, like food that tastes nice and fills up their tired bones after a few days of racing about. So this dinner has been making a few appearances. It’s my latest favourite-thing-to-do-with-a-BBQ-chicken (see my previous favourite here). Mix up a super easy salad and wrap it and some chicken in a rice paper roll and you’re done. Once you get the knack they’re easy to do. Watch this video if you don’t know how.

Another advantage of this dish is you can make them and store them in the fridge, perfect for those nights when people are coming and going and need to eat on the run. AND they are still ok the next day, which makes them a pretty great gluten-free lunchbox addition.

vegie smugglers BBQ chicken rice paper rolls

A bit of dipping sauce and you’re away!

BBQ chicken rice paper rolls

1/2 BBQ chicken – bones removed & discarded
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1/2 cup fennel, finely shredded
125g corn kernels, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Juice 1/2 lemon
Pepper

Rice papers

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, carrot, fennet, corn, mayo and lemon juice.

Soak a rice paper in warm water for 10-20 seconds until pliable. Place on your chopping board. Pile about a 1/4 cup of salad onto the paper. Top with chicken (adults might like coriander & vietnamese mint). Roll up (watch the video link above if you don’t know how). Eat.

Makes 12.

digital-editions

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Meat-lover’s pasta bake

If you’re vegetarian, skip this post and just click here for a vegetarian pasta bake recipe. Everyone else can stick around to enjoy this carnivorous dinner which feeds an army and keeps pasta-loving kids extremely happy.

The secret ingredient in this dish is… pate…. yes that’s right, chicken livers. I kid you not, a dollop of the stuff mixes through the sauce and after simmering and baking gives the most delish-but-can’t-quite-pinpoint-what-it-is flavour. If you’re unsure how your family will take to it, start with just a tablespoon and see how they go.

And the reason for including a random bit of offal? Iron deficiency can be a major problem for kids, often undiagnosed, causing lethargy and a range of other issues. The best way to avoid it is by eating iron-rich foods. A fantastic source of iron is liver, but there is almost zero chance that anyone born after 1965 will cook with it. Reflecting this, even buying it can be tricky, with it being phased out of supermarkets over the past few years. (Specialty chicken shops will usually stock them).

Even for me, an occasional pate is the only time I cook with livers. So as a challenge, I originally worked up this recipe using them, tossed in with the mince. It’s tasty and really economical and if your family enjoys the flavour then you might want to give that variation a try.

But I figured the number of liver-lovers was minimal and I hate posting recipes that no one will try, which is why I’ve substituted the pate instead. It’s a good way to introduce the flavour to see if it’s an ingredient you might be able to incorporate more of in the future.

One for the carbivore/carnivores

One for the carbivore/carnivores

Meat-lover’s pasta bake

500g pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
500g veal/pork mince mix
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 cup mushrooms, very finely diced
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
50-100g chicken liver pate (remove any jelly topping. Or make your own basic pate from the recipe in my latest cookbook)
800g can chopped tomatoes
Bay leaf
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (pizza mix is good)

Cook the pasta according to packet directions, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease an extra large lasagne dish – the one I use is 28x32x6cm (or use two smaller ones)

Heat the oil in a frying pan over med/high heat. Fry the onion for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Tip in mince. Use your spoon to break up all the lumps in the mix and keep everything moving well.

Once the meat is all browned, add in the carrot, mushies and capsicum. Stir through the pate and add the can of tomatoes. Combine really well, add the bayleaf and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover and leave it cooking for 15-20 minutes.

Pour the sauce through the cooked pasta. Season well, mix in 1 cup of cheese. Tip it into your lasagne dish, top with the rest of the cheese and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serves 2 adults and 6-8 kids (leftovers make great lunches)

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