Posts tagged ideas

A quick easter treat – bunny tails!

vegie-smugglers-bunny-tails

Sick to death of Easter eggs? Needing a bit of crafty-cooking to fill in half an hour of school holiday time? Why not whip up some of these bunny tails. They’re easy as, too. Just melt some white chocolate (I’m lazy and do mine in the microwave, but feel free to use the bain marie method over simmering water). Dip cut slices of banana into the chocolate then toss them into a bowl of coconut (desiccated or shredded – whatever you have on hand will do) and coat well. Transfer onto a plate and leave to set in the fridge for half an hour.

Chocolate is an inevitable fact of Easter life and one that I don’t fight too much. Especially in this week before, I just let the kids get excited and have fun. At least with this piece of the sugar-a-thon you have an activity that you can do with them and you know that a couple of nutrients might be making into them, too.

DISCOUNT

I’m having an Easter sale! 15% off storewide, until midnight, April 17, 2014 (AEST).

Wishing you all a wonderful break.
x

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Those stinking, overripe bananas are your new best friend

At some stage throughout the week I find myself dashing into the supermarket to ‘grab a few things’.

The list of ‘those things’ was clear as day in my head while I was driving to the supermarket. But once inside the frenzied walls, surrounded by 40,000 products and a clock that is reminding me that I’ve only got 10 minutes to shop, pay and get to the school gate, my mind goes amazingly blank. All I’ll remember is that the list had four things on it, and that they were eclectic. So in a panic, I’ll grab milk, bananas, marinated tofu and tampons. Only to get home and find that I actually needed udon noodles, olives, deoderant and cat food.

After a few trips just like this, I end up with a dulux-colour-chart worth of banana bunches in varying states of decay. And despite lunchboxes, icecream and smoothies, I seem to constantly have a bunch of near-mush that is a degrading reminder of the inadequacies of my brain.

Lucky then, that I’ve got four sure-fire recipes that use them up in ways that transform my self image from harried, forgetful, middle-aged-woman to sexy and resourceful domestic goddess.

Click to visit the recipe…

Vegie smugglers banana bread recipe

Basis banana bread. Always delicious.

vegie smugglers choc chip almond and banana muffin

Choc chip, almond & banana muffins.

My kids will hoover this, will yours?

Carrot & muesli muffins

And finally, this piece of recipe gold….

Gluten free, egg free banana cookies

Gluten free, egg free banana cookies

‘2 ingredient’ banana cookies

These are called ‘2 ingredient’ since the only essential elements are the bananas and oats. Beyond that, you can add dried fruit, nuts and flavouring to suit your family.

2 overripe bananas, peeled
1 cup oats (gluten free is fine here)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup choc chunks (I just cut up choc melts)

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

Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl.

Add the oats, cinnamon and coconut to a mini food processor and blitz it up a bit to break the oats down a little.

Mix the oat mix into the banana, roll into balls, press onto trays and bake for 15 minutes until set.

Makes 16

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Rude words and a giveaway from some awesome ladies

Mr M&P is worried. He came to me the other day with a brow fully crinkled.

“Mum”. He was obviously nervous about what he had to say. “Mum, do you know that you’ve got a cookbook with a rude word on it?”

“Really?” said I, unsure about where this was all going.

“Yes”. He dropped his voice to a whisper. “It’s called ‘Cut out the c-word’.” His eyes were wide as he conveyed this tidbit.

I tried not to smile, but couldn’t help it. He’d just seen a copy of ‘Cut out the Crap, which is Collette White’s wonderful series of cookbooks which have been following me around the house recently. Collette’s recipes take healthy eating a step further than mine. While I focus on variety and fresh produce, she is creating delicious gluten, dairy & preservative free recipes.

Collette and I have met via social media and it’s connections like this that dispel any worries I have about whether or not so much connectivity is a good thing. There’s a bunch of us ladies online who gather (admittedly, a bit away from public view) and workshop issues we have around hosting pages, running online businesses and wider life and health issues. I adore them all and every now and again I’m going to mention a few and encourage you to visit them. If you’re interested in health/wholefoods & alternative type things then go and check out some of their pages. Visit Collette at Cut out the Crap, Sonia at Natural New Age Mum, Alisha at Naughty Naturopath Mum, Kristin at Mamacino, Kelly Burch, Brenda Janschek, Jo at Quirky Cooking, Iwa at Additive Free Bites, Rebecca at 4myearth and Bek at Cooking with Bek. They’ll keep you entertained and inspired for a while!

I’ve got a giveaway too – a collection of fantastic things from some enterprising Australian women. There’s a copy of Collette’s Cut out the Crap for Kids. Some 4myearth products (including the fantastic bread bag), and Safety Food peelers and knives from the fabulous Jackie. I’ll chuck in a copy of Vegie Smugglers 1, as well.

Win all this!

Win all this!

Enter by liking up Collette’s page, Rebecca’s page and Jackie’s page. Then comment below, paying tribute to a local business you love. Or even promote your own venture. Competition is for Australian Vegie Smuggler subscribers only. Enter before 9pm Thursday March 6, 2014. Thanks everyone – this competition is now over – our lucky winner is Kristy who told us about Splatter Gallery in West Wyalong. Congrats Kristy!

Go you good things!

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Shhh! It’s an apology letter from the tooth fairy!

The Sylvanian dude gives you an idea of the scale.

The Sylvanian dude gives you an idea of the scale.

From time to time I like to chuck a bit of craft or a free printable thingy up on the blog – something that will make the plight of parenting that little bit easier.

And I’m feeling a bit honored today, because I’ve got something extra special to share. You see, I’ve been contacted by the tooth fairy who asked me to pass on this PDF printable.

I don’t know about the tooth fairy in your neighbourhood, but my one is an extremely busy, multi-tasking fairy who sometimes can’t make it to all the houses scheduled in a night. It is devastating, first thing in the morning, to see your upset child as they realise that rather than a shiny coin in the spot where their tooth used to be, there’s just… well… the weird old tooth still sitting there. So this letter can rectify that situation. Invariably, the tooth fairy always remembers to stop by the following night – often with an extra dollar and this little apology letter.

A magnifying glass may be needed to read the text, which says sorry for the delay and encourages them to brush their teeth a little more thoroughly each morning and night.

Download it here!

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Fours ways to keep your family thriving

I avoid self-promotion, but in the interest of 'getting to know you', here's a pic of me and the kids....

I avoid self-promotion, but in the interest of ‘getting to know you’, here’s a pic of me and the kids….

Despite the fact that I’m focused on improving the health of your family, I try really hard to not be a preachy blog that dictates how you should and shouldn’t live your life. It’s your life after all, right?

And I try to keep this more as a place where I write a bit, cook a bit and share bits of my life that you might find funny, interesting and/or helpful. There are enough fanatics on the internet, after all. Even with my strong interest in nutrition I get weighed down by the online doom and the people ready to hate on me if I admit that I use flour or sugar or nuts or meat or dairy or soy or salicytes or additives or anything that was grown further than a kilometre away.

While I am all admiration for anyone who commits so thoroughly to a cause, I don’t find it achievable in my own life. I have a job. I am the primary carer for my kids. I’m involved at school. I’ve got washing to do, activities to ferry people to and I’ve also got a pretty good little publishing business that takes up a bit of my time. And I’ve got a chain supermarket about 30 seconds from my house. So realistically, that’s where I shop.

However, I do find that there are several simple eating guidelines that I impose in my household that seem to be pretty successful. And since it’s the first post of the year, I thought I’d break my ‘no preaching’ rule and share them with you – maybe there’s an idea here that you might want to work on this year. Here goes…..

FOUR WAYS TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY THRIVING

1. No sugared drinks
The growing ‘sugar is poison’ movement is pretty compelling. There’s a great lecture here that while long, will be enough to have you checking labels and reducing the amount of sucrose/fructose/corn syrup that you consume. One simple message is that children should never be drinking soft drink, flavoured milk or juice. And I agree.

But I’m a pragmatist, and don’t want my kids to crave something that’s forbidden (also they’re skinny little things), so when we’re out to dinner or at parties, they have a lemonade. And that’s fine.

2. Eat more fibre
It’s good for you and adds flavour and texture to meals. It helps you feel full and helps your body cope with the sugars that you do consume. Strangely, most people don’t eat nearly enough. Increase your intake by choosing high fibre versions of things. Add bran into your baking. Pop a can of beans into your dinner. Learn all about fibre here.

3. Plan your meals
It’s the key to feeding a busy family well. If you have all the ingredients at hand, you’re much more likely to cook. If you plan out your dinners then you can shop for exactly what you need (which also saves you money). Don’t like doing it? I’ve got a meal plan for you here, complete with a shopping list. And if you like it, you might want to buy my Meal Plan e-book, which has 6 weeks of dinners all sorted out for you. There’s an ipad version for just $4.95.

4. Cook
Buy core ingredients and cook rather than just following reheating instructions on a packet. You’ll find that it doesn’t take much more time, particularly if you have equipment to help you. A mini-food processor is the best $80 you’ll ever spend.

Need inspiration? Cruise through some pages of this blog. There are over 200 recipes to keep you cooking. Want some quick recipe suggestions? Try this okonomiyaki, this vegie bologonaise or these salmon pikelets. Or these mini-meatloaves. In fact most of my recipes are pretty simple since I’m as busy as you.

And that’s it. Preaching over. It’s unusual for me to be this serious, so I’m feeling like I need to apologise – I promise I’ll be funnier next time.

I hope you stick with me this year – there are some exciting things afoot – a new hardcopy book coming out in the Autumn and there’s the thermomix e-book just days away. Subscribe to keep in touch and to receive my new recipes straight to your inbox.

Happy 2014 – may it be a fantastic year for your entire family!
xx

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Well hello, Mrs Claus!

xmas1

For some reason, I’ve gone all lavish this Christmas. Things that I’ve resisted in previous years are suddenly my new best friends. I’m not sure if I’ve been worn down after years of pestering, or if I’ve got a special dose of Christmas fever, but this year when the kids wrote down ‘iPod or 3ds’ or their Santa list, I just smiled and nodded.
In the past I’ve kept the material side of this holiday in the background, focusing instead on family and food and love. But this year, neither kid received much for their birthday. And the oldest is now a geriatric nine-years-old and still device free. So I’ve caved in, the deed is done (and the credit card groaning) and now I can’t wait to see the excitement on Christmas morning.

Each year the kids have also hassled for a shiny shop-bought advent calendar. Because I’m a scroogey bah-humbug, poo-poo mum, I’ve never let them have one. AS IF they need any further excitement (and sugar) pre-Christmas! But with the special fever attacking my brain, this year I’ve not only given in to the whole materialistic-lolly-manufacturer-driven debacle, but I’ve MADE them an advent calendar.

But even in the midst of the mayhem, I’m essentially a meanie. They can HAVE a lolly each day and enjoy a big countdown, but they have to give me something in return. If they want to unclip their bag and each take out their lolly, they have to have a drawing or piece of writing to leave in it’s place. Something that they’ve had to sit and think about. Maybe a drawing or sentence about their favourite things, something they’ve learned this year, a portrait of someone they love, or something that they’re grateful for.

XMAS

I figure by Christmas I’ll have 24 cute pieces of paper that I can staple and store – a perfect snapshot of each of them in 2013.

xmas3

Now I think about it, I think my Christmas fever is triggered by awareness of how quickly the years are going by, and how nice it is to be SO excited about Santa and family and food and love.

Maybe you want to join in? You can download the printable with everything you need here.

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Mashed potato IN YOUR FACE… errrrr, actually….

…the mashed potato is in your pizza dough.

It’s a little trick taught to me by my friend Trish who grew up in her parent’s Italian restaurant. And it’s a great trick. If you use just the mashed insides of baked potatoes, you’ll add in the starch and help your bases to crisp up. If you add in regular leftover mash, the dough becomes light and lovely. Either way, it’s a great idea for potato smuggling (as is gnocchi – click for that recipe here).

An easy dough – fun to make & great to eat.

An easy dough – fun to make & great to eat.



Pizza Dough

3 cups bakers flour (plus 1/2-3/4 cup more as you knead the mash in)
7g sachet dried yeast
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup warm water
1 cup mashed potato (Use leftovers or bake or microwave 2 small jacket potatoes, then mash the insides)

Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Pour over the oil and water. Mix together to form a rough dough.

Turn it onto a floured bench. Knead for a minute then add in half the potato. You’ll need to sprinkle over the extra flour as you go – the potato makes it pretty gloopy (but quite fun). Continue adding mash and the extra flour. Knead for about 5-7 minutes. Eventually you will have added enough extra flour in to get the mix back to being a smooth dough. (You won’t believe me at first, when the mix is slimy and weird, but trust me and carry on).

Pop it into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm to prove for 30-40 minutes until doubled in size. Then punch out the air, divide into 3 pizzas and top with whatever toppings suit your family.

Cook for about 15-20 minutes at 220C.

MAKES 3×12 INCH BASES (these bases are quite filling – 3 feeds my family of four)

If you don’t know how to ‘throw’ a pizza base – I followed the technique in this video. It worked well and provided a frisson of risk and plenty of kitchen laughs.

Don’t forget to top it with my six-vegie pizza sauce.

This recipe makes plenty - freeze some of this too.

Six-vegie sauce to morph pizza into a super-smuggler.

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How to guarantee vegie-smuggling success (and a giveaway)

Some people like to smuggle vegies by cooking them, mashing them and re-adding them to dishes where they get cooked again and served to unwitting children. Have you heard of this method?

Unless your child is severely vegie-resistant and you’re looking for a starting point that guarantees success, I would avoid doing this. Why?…
1. By the end of this process, most of the vegie’s nutritional benefits are gone.
2. It’s too much work for time-poor parents to manage.
3. The kids don’t learn how delicious healthy eating can be.

I prefer a ‘chop chop’ method. Start with gorgeous fresh, raw produce and grate it or chop it into such small pieces that kids can’t easily identify or pick it out of their dinner.

People have complained to me, ‘but you’re not hiding the vegies – I can see them!’ to which I’ll reply, “yes, because you want your kids to realise that vegies are there, but to still eat them anyway’. If the little bits are all cooked together into a delicious and tasty whole meal, the kids will eat it (of course there are exceptions!) Mostly though, if they can’t identify exactly what vegie is what and if they’re enjoying the meal then their motivation to protest will be low.

The aim is to eventually get kids eating the way you do, so you might start off grating everything, but after a while you can move on to chopping and dicing things finely. Then the pieces can get bigger and bigger until you’re just cooking like normal. This process can take a couple of years and possibly you’ll have to backtrack if you push them too far (if you see them crying, with a huge chunk of zucchini on their fork, you’ll know that you need to go back to grating for a while).

So I recommend everyone take the time to buy a good kitchen knife and learn to use it (there’s a stack of videos online showing you how). You don’t need to be a whizz, just competent and safe. Buy yourself a good grater, too.

And also rely on gadgets to do the work for you. I use my mini-stick blender all the time. I use it to make breadcrumbs, chop vegies, whizz up homous and even make banana ice cream.

You can WIN this baby.

You can WIN this baby.

Luckily for one reader, today I’ve got an Avancer food processor to give away. In the larger machine you can make coleslaw, combine meatball mixtures, blend soups – all bound to give you vegie-smuggling success.

This meatball mix will be a doddle in it…

Hidden veg meatballs in an ALL VEG soup. Genius. And delicious.

Hidden veg meatballs in an ALL VEG soup. Genius. And delicious.



Italian meatballs

Make a double batch of these meatballs and freeze. They work great in all kinds of tomato soups and pasta sauces (like this one).

500g pork/veal mince
1 slice stale bread (any type)
2 tsp Italian herbs
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1/2 red capsicum, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line your largest baking tray with foil and spray well with olive oil spray.

Use your food processor to make breadcrumbs with the bread. Also add in the garlic and herbs and blitz to get heavenly, fragrant breadcrumbs.

Quickly blitz the carrot, then the capsicum. Pop in the mince; toss the egg on top and pulse to bring the mix together. Pop on some kitchen gloves and roll meatballs and place on the tray. If you have the time and patience, keep them nice and bite-sized (plus they cook faster).

Spray the meatballs with more oil spray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tray, carefully turn them over and return to the oven for 10 minutes more until golden outside and fully cooked through.

Makes enough for 2 adults and 2-3 kids, depending on what you add them into.

_____________________________________

WANT TO WIN THE FOOD PROCESSOR? You need to be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber, based in Australia. And since Avancer have given me the prize, you might want to check out all the Avancer products here. Simply enter by commenting below about which vegies you find the hardest to get your kids to eat. Entries close Thursday Oct 24, 8pm AEDT. ****THANKS FOR YOUR ENTRIES! AVANCER HAVE PICKED THE WINNER – CONGRATULATIONS ALISON WHITE, HOPE YOU ENJOY THE FOOD PROCESSOR!

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Holiday treat – rocky road

Last week I promised chocolate. Being a woman of my word, here’s a fab little chocolate treat just in time for the school holidays.

Cooking with the kids can be a fun educational way to spend a couple of hours together. If your kids aren’t naturally inclined towards the kitchen (like mine), then the best way to get them involved is to cook treats. Unlike the marble cake or chocolate slice from previous holiday posts, this recipe has the advantage that it’s a no-oven winner, which means that you’ll have the recipe wrapped up before anyone can stutter “I’m bored” or “what time can I play PS3?”.

And unlike those showy-offy sponges or uber-posh macarons, rocky road’s charm is in it’s randomness. Each piece is special, just a little bit ugly and best of all you can’t really get it wrong, which all appeals to a down-to-earth lass like myself.

Bumpy and imperfect, just like life.

Bumpy and imperfect, just like life.

Rocky Road

4 full cups of chunks –choose any or all of…
Marshmallows, cranberries, goji berries, sultanas, currants, dried strawberries or pears, shredded coconut, nuts (peanuts, pecans, pistachios, macadamias) turkish delight, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas
200g block dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 tbsp golden syrup
25g butter
¾ cup dark chocolate melts (or more dark chocolate, roughly chopped)

Line a 18x28cm slice tray with baking paper.

Mix your choice of chunks in a large bowl. Place the 200g chocolate, syrup and butter into a small saucepan over gentle heat and stir to melt. Remove from heat, tip in the extra chocolate (I like melts, since they quickly stick into the mix, but they’ll stay chunky enough that you’ll get good chocolate chunks through the finished mix). Pour into the dry ingredients. Combine well, tip into the tray and refrigerate.

MAKES 24 SQUARES

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Cake stall SOS

Do you think the best part of election day is the food? Of course I would, what with me being both a pig and a glutton – nothing thrills me more than a display of home-made baked things or a sizzling BBQ with the waft of bacon.

If you’re lucky enough to be voting in a church hall, then you might just get a home-made jar of jam or lemon butter along with your piece of democracy. Most of us will trundle along to our local primary school where nabbing a bacon & egg roll or sausage in a bread will mean our hands are full enough that we can happily refuse the ‘how to vote’ pamphlets. Then after casting your vote, come out and buy up big at the cake stall. For the school, it’s one of the best fundraisers of the year.

No doubt if you have school-aged kids then have had the note home requesting that you whip something up for sale. Life being the busy thing it is though, you probably don’t have time to help out… or do you? YOU DO! I’ve got your back sisters – these cake stall donations are all simple, quick AND delicious. Click the pics to go through to the recipes…

sally-wise-chocolate-cupcakes

The easiest cupcakes ever.

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac Biscuits

Microwave marmalade.

Microwave marmalade.

...awwwwww, transported straight to Queensland.

Pineapple cakes.

May the best man win….

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