Posts tagged fruit

What’s your food intolerance?

A lot of people I know have an allergy or intolerance to some kind of food. Maybe they can’t eat gluten or eggs or meat or nuts.

For me, it’s dairy. And it’s getting worse as I get older. I manage it with a combination of substitution, abstinence and patience. I understand and accept that I’ll always feel sick after eating in most (non-asian) restaurants, where it is apparently incomprehensible that you can cook without oodles of butter. And I accept that I’ll never be able to eat dessert at most restaurants since ‘dessert’ is apparently a code word for ‘cream’ with the only other option being cheese.

It does frustrate me when I have to pay extra for soy milk in my coffee. With food sensitivities being so widespread, surely a café should allow for all of the soy/skim/rice milk variants when they set their basic prices. 50c extra seems like highway robbery – it’s not like us soy latte wankers are particularly rare.

And while I’m ranting, I went to a restaurant recently that didn’t have a single vegetarian main meal on the menu. And no, waitress, fish is actually meat. As is bacon. And chicken – that’s meat too. I was horrified that a pretty ritzy place wouldn’t even whip up a ‘off the menu’ option. My strict vegetarian friend had just two entrée options to choose from. Lucky she likes raw beetroot and dairy-laden artichokes.

Surely these days, all cafes and restaurants should be creative enough to offer up one allergy free option. Maybe something like this is tapioca dessert. It’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and delicious.

Proof that dairy-free, gluten-free desserts are possible!

Proof that dairy-free, gluten-free desserts are possible!

Coconut & mango tapioca (from Vegie Smugglers 2)

7-8 cups water
2/3 cup tapioca pearls
400ml coconut milk
2–3 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

To serve:
Sliced mango and banana

Add the water to a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.

Add the tapioca pearls to the water and simmer until they are mostly cooked and translucent (this can take up to an hour for large pearls). Check often during cooking; stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan (if this is happening, add another cup of water). Err on the side of undercooking – a small opaque centre is fine, they will finish cooking in the coconut milk (overcooked tapioca just dissolves into sludge).

Drain and rinse.

Return the tapioca to the pan with the coconut milk, sugar and vanilla. Simmer gently over low heat until warm and thick.
Serve in bowls with the fruit.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

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Every day ice-cream (fruit smuggling at its finest)

Nothing bad, the all-fruit ice-cream

Nothing bad, the all-fruit ice-cream

When I put this dessert down in front of my kids last night, they couldn’t believe their eyes. Post-dinner treats at VSHQ consist of fruit and yoghurt (they get ice-cream at nanny & pa’s house) so they didn’t know WHAT they had done to deserve this magnificent creation.

Little did they know that there was some serious fruit smuggling taking place and there wasn’t a single unhealthy thing before them.

You see if you blitz up a frozen banana, you magically get the consistency of ice-cream. You can leave it as a magic one-ingredient dessert if you like, or you can add in some honey or other fruit. In this case I’ve used a couple of mango cheeks, then drizzled over some pomegranate seeds and ‘sprinkles’ of toasted coconut.

Best thing about this recipe is that it’s totally flexible to suit your family. You could replace the mango with berries and experiment with other toppings like pistachios and toasted almonds. I suspect frozen kiwifruit would work too, although I’ve not tried it. Maybe you can all do some experimenting and let me know what variation works at your place.


Magic fruit ice cream

1 mango
2 bananas (ripe but not over-ripe)
Pomegranate & toasted coconut to serve (optional).

Cut the flesh away from the mango skin (if you’re not sure how, watch this video). Pop into a plastic bag and freeze along with the whole bananas. When solid, peel the bananas (totally do-able – the skin comes away in chunks).

Place the bananas into the bowl of a food processor (a mini one will be fine for this quantity) and blitz until smooth.

Add in the mango and again, blitz until smooth. Pop this back into the freezer to harden up again (blitzing may have softened it all a little). Spoon into pretty bowls and serve to your astonished and amazed children.

Serves 4 kids, or 2 kids and 2 non-greedy adults

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Finding winter time joy (in sugar)

A couple of weeks ago I slipped on my wooden stairs and slammed down on my arse. It was a graceful, elegant move designed to demonstrate to the children exactly why we don’t run on the stairs in our socks. After a couple of visits to a lovely (medically trained) young man with strong hands I’m now feeling alot better and am knowledgeable about C8, T3 and S4. After giving myself a fair whack, I have several ongoing symptoms, one of which is chronic GRUMPINESS, no doubt helped along by continued cold weather and the fact we’ve not had a decent holiday since this trip, which I sadly see is nearly two years ago.

How are you other Southern Hemisphere folks all travelling? Over it? What measures do you put in place to survive winter? I like to think that I combine a noble combination of exercise, interesting projects and a Zen attitude about the ebb and flow of nature to get me through, but actually I just tend to eat more sugar, wear ridiculous amounts of clothing and whinge. A lot. I whinge about the cold. About how unfit I am. About how much my children whinge. About the consistent stream of people telling me I need to read Sarah Wilson’s “I quit sugar” in order to pick myself up a little. Don’t they understand that sugar is my winter lifeline?

In defiance, here’s a cakey-bread loaf that I highly recommend for a little shot of food pleasure. As with most of my sweet stuff, there’s a silver lining of nutrition to ease your conscience and make that second piece seem more acceptable. It’s delicious straight from the oven, or do the classic banana bread thing, of toasting slices and spreading your sugar with lard.

vegie-smugglers-fruit-nut-loaf

See! Smiling already.

Ricotta, nut & currant bread

250g tub ricotta cheese
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1¼ cups self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
Rind of 1 orange
1¼ cups nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts & almonds are good), roughly chopped
¾ cup currants

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 14x20cm loaf tin.

In a large bowl, mix together the cheese and sugar.

Sift over the flour and baking powder. Pop the zest, nuts and currants on top and fold it all in together.

Bake in the oven for an hour or an hour and 10, until the top bounces slightly and a skewer comes out clean. While warm brush the top with warmed honey.

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Sunshine in a can. Why 1970s mums were right, after all.

Instant happy.

Buying fruit at the moment is a bit bleak, isn’t it? The oranges are nice enough. The apples are good. There’s been a bright spot of QLD strawberries, but really my cold feet and numb fingers are longing for something warmer, something more evocative of sunny climes.

So it was with enthusiasm that I found a tin of pineapple pieces shoved up the back of my pantry. Proving my theory, that sometimes disorganisation can indeed lead to happy moments.

Is this little pineapple can making you feel nostalgic? Did you eat much of the stuff when you were growing up?

My mum was possibly one of the only mums in the 1970s who resisted the urge to add pineapple to every salad, rice dish and dessert, so my approach to it is untainted by scary childhood memories of ‘Hawaiian Chicken’ or ‘Rice al la Tropicale’. Still, without those fond memories to guide me, I’m a bit hesitant to bung it into too many savoury dishes. But I promise to have a go. I’d love to hear about your MUST TRY pineapple dishes. Any culinary treat that I’m really missing out on?

While I search far and wide for new taste sensations, these happy little cakes will hit the spot for a bit of school holiday baking. Miss F helped me ice them. It made me feel all old-world ‘mom’ and I like the fact that they look fairly plain, but then you crack them open and are gifted with a world of sunshine. All that pineapple! Well, and all that butter… but hey, it’s a recipe for a fun time, not a long time.

Testing your ‘mom’-ness, I’ve written this recipe up old-school style, with minimal instructions, and an assumption that you know your plain from your self-raising, that creaming butter and sugar is just what you do most days and oven temps need not be discussed.

Looks quite sedate…

Hawaiian pineapple & coconut cakes.

Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tray and line with paper cases. Heat your oven to moderate. Cream 140g butter with 2/3 cup caster sugar. Add 4 eggs, slowly and beat well after each. (Adding a tablespoon of flour with each egg stops the mixture splitting). Fold in the remains of your 1 1/4 cup of self-raising flour, 2/3 cup desiccated coconut and the drained fruit from a 440g can pineapple pieces (reserve the liquid). Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes.

Ice with icing sugar mixture combined with enough of the reserved pineapple syrup to form a thick glaze.

…awwwwww, transported straight to Queensland.

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Yule be right – the shortest day is almost done

About 15 years ago I got really interested in Wicca. I was living in London and watching the seasons swing by. It was pretty fascinating to visit some pagan sites and become a bit in tune with nature. It made SENSE to me in a way that Christianity never has.

Of course this crazy new concept called the internet was in its infancy, so I did heaps of my research in BOOKS, with helpful chapters like “How to find a coven” and “Why were witches persecuted?”. Needless to say I never did find a coven and coming back to Australia, with the opposing seasons, it all got a bit confusing and topsy turvy.

Northern Hemisphere paganism definitely fits more nicely into the calendar year. In June, when sunk in the depths of winter depression, I always think how nice an upcoming Christmas (or ‘yule’ if you’re a witch) celebration would be. I could really use something cheery, with presents and family and food. There’s not really any need for it here in December – such an overload of good times!

For me, reaching the winter solstice is an annual milestone. I like to quietly note it. I’m thinking of including the kids in a little candle lighting ceremony this year. The tradition is to spend a minute or so in the dark, contemplating the darkest day of the year. Then light just one candle, to symbolise life being reborn (sorry, does that sound too witchy?).

At the moment week 8 tiredness has combined with winter illness to transform my children into feral creatures, so it’ll be nice to force them into stillness. Although I strongly suspect my meaningful moment will be interspersed with Mr M&P doing a fart noise, then Miss F setting half the kitchen on fire. They’re just a bit crazy like that right now.

But if we make it through, I’ll finish off with a simple dinner of celebration. You might want to too. Turkey, pork and traditional ‘Christmas’ foods are good. And finish with a dessert that pays tribute to the simple seasonality of life, like these baked apples.

Symbolic, easy and most importantly, delicious.

Baked apples

For each small/medium apple, you will need…

1 tbsp currants
6 hazelnuts (or 2 tsp hazelnut meal)
2 walnuts
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp Amaretto liqueur or brandy would also be nice (you may want to leave this out of the kid’s ones)
1 tsp treacle

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Core the apple. Slice around the circumference to avoid it bursting during cooking. Place it in a baking tray (I use a loaf tin lined with baking paper).

Mix all of the other ingredients together and fill up the empty centres. Drizzle some water (about a 1/4 cup should do) in the tray to help them cook.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until soft. Serve with icecream.

MAKES 1.

PS My husband is constantly telling me that if I want my biz & blog to be more successful, then I need to self promote more. He says I need photos of myself everywhere. But I HATE having my photo taken. So I’m compromising with my Winter-solstice, self-portrait.

Self portrait (before I light the candle).

Happy solstice to all!
x

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Living dangerously (with added nuts)

Every now and again I feel the need to live dangerously. Like last night, when I ate carbs (processed and white) at 8.15pm. Or last week, when I exited out of the carpark through the ENTRY driveway. Talk about crazy times. Not quite on par with some of the stunts from my earlier days but you know how it is – a couple of kids come along and suddenly life is being lived a little differently.

Pre-children I never gave nut allergies a care nor realised how dangerous they are (there’s a great info page here). Equipped with my new knowledge (and surrounded by my kid’s friends with these allergies) it’s hard to use nuts in a recipe without feeling like you’re being the most irresponsible parent in the world. Nuts in the hands of the wrong kids can be life-threatening. Although nuclear weapons in the hands of legendary nutter, George Bush, was also life-threatening, and yet we’ve all managed to live through that one.

Every now and then though, I break free and have a nut off. The thing is you see, that if you are in the 99% of us who are allergy free, then nuts are awesome. They offer you nutrition (lots of relevant info here) and flavour that just can’t be substituted with any other ‘safer’ ingredient. And this recipe (whilst not as full on ‘out there’ as my nut puff recipe) uses almonds in a really good way.

While not all schools are nut-free, the majority of them maintain a pretty strict policy on food. It was refreshing at our old school – which was small and had no anaphylactic kids – we could still pack peanut butter sandwiches. But I totally get that most schools are larger, and need to impose blanket bans to cover their own bums. It is interesting to note though, on this NSW Government policy PDF that ‘Banning of foods or food products is not recommended. There is a lack of evidence to suggest that banning a food from a school is helpful in reducing the risk of anaphylaxis.”

So while these muffins would be perfect in lunchboxes, you may need to pay heed to your school’s policy and most likely keep these for afternoon tea instead.

vegie smugglers choc chip almond and banana muffin

Mmmmm, I fancy one right now!

Choc chip, almond & banana muffins

Even better than the taste of these muffins is that you can measure out the whole recipe with one half cup measure! Ah the joys of no fuss baking.

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup choc chips
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grape seed oil
2 eggs
3 overripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 12 hole regular muffin tin.

In a large bowl combine the sifted flour, sugar, choc chips and almonds.

In a jug or smaller bowl, mix together the oil and eggs. Pour into the dry ingredients. Mix a bit then add the mashed bananas. Stir everything well but don’t overwork.

Divide evenly into the muffin holes. Bake for 25 minutes or so, until golden and cooked through.

Makes 12

Leftovers freeze well!

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You big tart

Serve with ice cream (low fat of course)....

Fruit desserts are great, aren’t they? Especially when they’re full of a stack of visible fruit and you can totally pretend that the copious amounts of sugar, fat & gluten are mere triffles in the overall scheme of things.

And so it is with this Bill Granger tart – but so pretty it is and so easy to make. And delicious too. I love Bill’s recipes. They’re simple, and generally they work well. He recommends plums and orange juice in his recipe, but I was short of them, so here’s my version…

Plum (and other stuff) jam tart
, from Bill’s Basics

100g unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup caster sugar
Just over 1 cup plain flour
¼ cup almond meal

Topping
800g fruit (I used 6 plums, 2 soggy nectarines, and topped them up with frozen berries)
½ cup caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp water (Bill uses orange juice, which would be great, but I didn’t have any)
Lime zest (my addition)

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 23 or 24cm springform cake tin.

Stir together the butter & sugar. Sift over the flour and a pinch of salt. Stir to form a dough. Press into the pan, bake 15 minutes until golden.

Sprinkle the almond meal evenly over the cooked base.

In a large bowl, mix the fruit, sugar, cornflour, liquid & zest. Pop over the pastry and bake 30-40 minutes until set. Cool before serving. (I ate this both warm, at room temp AND cold – all delicious).

Serves 8-10

FREE-SHIPPING2

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Hot, happy buns this Easter

The other day Miss F asked me why it is that Hot Cross buns are so cranky.

Fair comment really. And not one that reflects on my poor teachings of Bible fundamentals (I send them to scripture each week, after all). No, I’m going to cut myself a bit of slack here and blame the supermarkets for the collapse of Christian teachings in our society.

So maybe I never did mention the significance of the whole ‘cross’ thing on hot cross buns, but how on earth are my kids supposed to link these treats just to Easter when they’ve been on sale since last New Year’s Eve?

Still, I do like the idea of a fruit bun with attitude, don’t you? Just sitting with friends in a plastic bag, being angry and dour.

Of course I promised to rectify the situation and create some hot happy buns to balance out the emotional quid pro quo.

The cheeriest (and most secular) hot cross buns.

The cheeriest (and most secular) hot cross buns.


Hot Happy Buns


Don’t be afraid of cooking these – they actually really easy and fun. A nice thing to do throughout a weekend day with the kids.

1¼ cups warm milk
2 x 7g dry yeast sachets
¼ cup caster sugar
4 cups plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp salt
60g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 cup sultanas
¾ cup other dried fruit (I like a mix of currants and dried apple)

Paste:
2 tbsp plain flour
1½ tbsp water

Glaze:
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp boiling water

In a small glass bowl or jug, whisk together the warm milk, yeast and sugar. Leave for 10 minutes somewhere warm and draught-free.

In a large bowl, sift the flour and mix in the spices and salt.

After 10 minutes the milk mixture should be frothy (if it isn’t your yeast may be too old). Mix in the butter and egg. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix to form a dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Sprinkle over the fruit as you go, until it is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm and draught-free place for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until doubled.

All puffed up and gorgeous.

Grease a large rectangular baking tin. Punch the dough (yes, truly, punch it) to deflate it. Knead for another 2-3 minutes. Divide into 15 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and pop it into the tin.

Give them a bit of breathing space – they’ll rise more.

Cover, return to your warm spot and leave for 30-40 minutes until they’ve plumped up again. Preheat your oven to 200C.

In a small bowl or mug, stir the flour paste with water. Scoop into a plastic bag, snip off a tiny hole in the corner and pipe a face onto each bun.

So yes, the paste is basically glue… papermache with leftovers?

Cook for 10 minutes at 200C then reduce to 180C and cook for another 15 minutes.

Turn them out after cooking and immediately glaze by brushing them with the combined caster sugar & boiling water.

MAKES 15 delicious, gorgeously home-made buns.

vskitchen-collection-cover-400

If you like my food philosophy, you’ll love my digital cookbook full of essential family recipes!

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Apparently, life is all about ‘gratitude’

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight...

Gratitude seems to be the latest Facebook catch cry. I’m seeing it everywhere. How to cultivate it, how to acknowledge it, how to savour it and turn your gratitude into an endless patience and love.

As it turns out, I can’t be cynical about any of this, since I totally agree. I am always SO grateful and SO appreciate of my blessings that I’m always waiting somehow for them to come tumbling down. As I guess they will one day, although I hope I’ll be so busy being grateful for the minutiae that I won’t notice the wider catastrophes befalling me.

A couple of years back, when I was unhappy in my job and trying to find the courage to publish a silly little book about sneaking vegetables into children, I did what many women do and looked everywhere for omens and signs that I was choosing the right path rather than foolishly tossing away a well paid part-time job. I remember doing a psych test online, to determine my suitability to life as an entrepreneur. It told me that I wasn’t suited at all, because my strongest trait was ‘gratitude’, which I guess means I’m good at touchy-feely stuff, but not good at being a self-determined, small-business fascist. And perhaps they were right. I still struggle with being too self-effacing and embarrassed when it comes to pushing my business ‘out there’. But I refuse to submit to the theory that gratitude and success aren’t compatible.

It’s the simplest thing that has had my mind focusing back on gratitude (and joy) – the star stamp from the picture up top. As a girl I would do the whole ‘star light, star bright’ rhyme and WISH for a set of teachers stamps. I wished this wish OFTEN, hoping somehow Santa would hear and sort me out. But he never did. So this year when I was buying the kid’s school supplies I saw this stamp and bought it. And I can’t tell you how ridiculously HAPPY it makes me EVERY time.

With typical adult rationality I had to come up with a purpose for the purchase. Now instead of writing ‘PAID’ on the top of my bills, I stamp them. Oh, the joy of a paid electricity bill! And boy! What a time saver ;).

So what’s your joy? Where’s your gratitude? I’d love to know. It can be amazing how the simple things in life truly are often the best.

vegie smugglers fruit pikelets

There's no simpler joy than a perfect pikelet.

Fruit Pikelets

1 cup self-raising flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
150ml milk (soy drink works well)
1 egg, lightly whisked
¼ cup sultanas
¼ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup dried apple, finely diced
Margarine, butter or canola oil cooking spray, to grease
Icing sugar and jam,
to serve

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar.

Combine the milk and egg and pour into the dry ingredients, whisking to remove any lumps.

You should now have a nice smooth batter. Add more milk if it is too thick. Stir through the sultanas, coconut and apple.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over low heat. Grease with either margarine, butter or canola oil spray. Add tablespoonful dollops to the pan. Cook until bubbles start to appear, ease a spatula under then flip. Cook on the other side for a minute or so until golden brown.

Serve the pikelets with a dusting of icing sugar and jam, on their own, or with butter and jam.

MAKES 24

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Controversy and packing a (lunchbox) punch

Awwwww. Mr Meat & Potatoes shows off the new shoes.

I’ve got a small case of writers block. It’s two weeks since my last confession post and I’ve got a new lunchbox planner to bang on about and yet… the words don’t want to come.

So I’m digging through my emergency ideas arsenal. It’s full of word combinations that are guaranteed to at least get you all started, even if I stay relatively quiet. Usually the phrase ‘fat kids’ gets the juices flowing. As does ‘cling wrap’ and yesterday on facebook I discovered that using both ‘wiggles’ and ‘creepy’ in a sentence together gets quite a big response.

Similarly the phrase ‘healthy lunchbox’ is enough to glaze over the eyes of even the keenest adults, which is why I’m going to launch the new planner with words like ‘variety’, ‘tasty”, ‘easy recipes’, and ‘seasonal yumminess’… And with that, I declare the Term 1 planner launched (cue champagne smash).

Keeping with tradition, here’s a free preview recipe. Previously you’ve enjoyed a beetroot sandwich spread and the cheese puffs (still my favourite all time recipe) so today I’m going sweet, with these carrot, muesli and banana muffins. Fulfilling all of the criteria for a good planner recipe, they’re seasonal, quick to make, store well, freeze well and the kids will happily eat them.

In case you’re not familiar with them, the e-book planners have a weekly recipe and menu plan to keep you inspired throughout the term. Other recipes include corn relish, classic corned beef, a pesto pasta salad and chocolate chip biscuits and all for just $4.95. You can view some pages on my sample page or just click here to buy one now.

My kids will hoover this, will yours?

Carrot & muesli muffins

1 1⁄2 cups self-raising flour
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 carrot, grated
1 cup muesli
1⁄4 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 overripe banana, mashed

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease/line a 12-hole muffin tray.

Sift flour into a large bowl. Mix in the sugar, carrot and muesli.

In another bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, egg and banana. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined.

Divide out into muffin tray. Bake for 25 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.

MAKES 12.

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