Posts tagged meal plan

5 recipes that bring you unlikely (but welcome) dinnertime wins…

Have you noticed that at some point in most magazine articles about musicians, there’s a bit of the interview that goes… “Yeah, I guess my love of [insert hipster genre] music began as a child, listening to my parent’s [Hendrix/Bowie/soul/reggae/early hip hop etc] albums.”

I get a slight wistfulness for a childhood that was, you know, like, cool. Not that my childhood wasn’t lovely, but I grew up listening to Glen Miller-1940s-swing and Tijuana Brass albums. Which I guess is why I write recipes on a blog called ‘Vegie Smugglers’ and am featured in Super Food Ideas Magazine rather than writing ear-worm songs and featuring in Rolling Stone.

Anyway, back to what I do best (click the pic to visit the recipe)…

vegie smugglers beef pho

Vietnamese Beef Pho

Cucur- urdang - Malaysian food for kids.

Cucur udang – Malaysian prawn fritters.

vegie smugglers cauliflower and cashew pilaf

Cauliflower & cashew pilaf. Fun to say and good to eat.

slow cooker pea and ham soup

Genuine ham & pea soup, in the slow cooker.

Salmon mornay. Truly. With a bit of paprika - delicious.

Salmon mornay. Truly. With a bit of paprika – delicious.

And for dessert, why not some chocolate & beetroot brownie!

And for dessert, why not some chocolate & beetroot brownie!

I'mnotslow

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The piece of paper that stops my head falling off

Such is the reputation of my memory that my kids treat me as though I am a little bit SIMPLE. “Poor mama”, they say, as they pat me on my shoulder, “her brain is like Swiss cheese, all full of holes.”

Before you get outraged at my mild acceptance of such rudeness from the little rascals, I need to explain that I would love to tell them off, but the impact is lost when I have to screech, “Oi! Thingybob! Enough cheek! Get yourself over to the out time on the steppy stone timber things. And number two, you go do that homework before you fail year 2!” In the heat of the mid-week tempo, I’m generally unable to put a sentence together, let alone a nice pithy one that successfully puts everyone in their place.

“Year 2!” my trouble maker would screech indignantly. “But I’m in year 3, cheese lady!” And his point would be proven. Because the truth IS that my memory is horrible.

During a lucid moment I have actually explained to them that it’s not that mummy is stupid, it’s just that mummy’s brain is very FULL. And not really with anything fun. Just fadmin stuff, like permission notes, planning when to do the dark load of washing so that everyone’s sports clothes are clean for Friday and what on earth is going to be popped into the lunchboxes each morning.

Possibly it’s the quantity of thoughts or perhaps it’s just the mundane nature of them that renders it essential that I WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN at the start of the week. It only takes a jiffy and then my brain can rest, ready to take on the next thrilling parenting challenge.

Once I've written it down, I just don't have to think about it anymore.

Once I’ve written it down, I just don’t have to think about it anymore.

Perhaps you find your brain is a little leaky too, in which case you might like to download and print out this simple planning sheet. Stick it to the fridge to help you unclog your brain (I’ve filled out a demo on page one, showing you what my week looks like).

As you can see, it’s a quick weekly planner for lunch boxes and dinners. Also, I’ve allowed a side bar for a mid-week shopping list. Even doing one massive shop a week doesn’t get me right through, generally I have to duck into a store on Wednesday afternoons.

And while we’re talking lunchboxes, here’s a nice little high-fibre muffin that uses up soggy bananas and gives the kids a chocolate treat.

And they freeze too, for those days when you've forgotten to make something.

And they freeze too, for those days when you’ve forgotten to make something.

Chocolate & banana muffins

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup bran bits (I use original All bran cereal)
1/2 cup brown or coconut sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter or grapeseed oil
2 overripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 12-hole standard muffin tin or line with paper cases.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour (no need to sift), bran, sugar, cocoa and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the egg, milk and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently. Add the banana and stir until just combined.

Divide the mixture evenly among your muffin holes and bake for 25 minutes or until they spring back when touched and a skewer comes out clean.

Makes 12.

For more lunchbox help, don’t miss my Complete Lunchbox Planner e-book, which just happens to be on sale at the moment! Visit the shop to check it out.

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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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A gluten-free weekly meal plan

This month’s meal plan is dedicated to the gluten-intolerant amongst us. As a society, Westerners are extraordinarily wheat-dependent, so even if you’re not coping with celiacs in your household, you still might want to incorporate a few of these meals into your repertoire. Besides which, they’re all super yummy (as always, click the photos or the links to go to the recipe)….

MONDAY

And we’re off! Starting with meat-free monday and this tomato & lentil soup. Obviously, don’t serve it with bread!

A monday detox to push through any weekend overindulgence.

A monday detox to push through any weekend overindulgence.

TUESDAY

Slow cooker chicken satay is so yum and really easy. Just double check that your peanut butter is gluten free and use a naturally fermented soy sauce (they’ll be GF on the label). Thickening slow cooker meals with corn flour near the end is a nice GF alternative to adding wheat flour earlier in the process. And it works better (I think).

Slow cooker chicken satay

Slow cooker chicken satay

WEDNESDAY

Wrap these beef & lentil fajitas in gluten-free wraps and double check that your sauces are all ok. Rolling them up in foil makes them instantly more fun and kid friendly as the kids focus on munching and peeling rather than investigating the contents. Plus, the foil holds everything in place. SCORE.

Beef & lentil fajita recipe

Beef & lentil fajitas.

THURSDAY

Make sure you have an extra cup of rice leftover from Tuesday night and you’re able to easily whip up this zucchini slice. I love a simple mix & bake later in the week once we’re all getting tired. To ensure the rice will still be safe, make sure you set aside a cup of it as soon as it was cooked on Tuesday. As soon as the steam clears, pop it into an airtight container and chuck it straight into the fridge. OR, you can always pop it into the freezer.

Zucchini slice

Zucchini slice

FRIDAY

These chickpea flour fritters are the perfect relaxed Friday night tea.

Great finger food for toddlers.

Great finger food for toddlers.

SATURDAY

A BBQ is a great idea and super tasty. This week has had a lot of vegetarian food, so you might want to pop some lamb or fish on the BBQ and serve it with this coleslaw….

Just chopping, no cooking. Love.

Just chopping, no cooking. Love.

And for a treat? Well, it doesn’t matter what food intolerance you deal with – this coconut & mango tapioca dessert is gluten and dairy free. And if you like, you can swap out the caster sugar for coconut sugar.

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

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

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What are you eating this week? Maybe one of these?

As always, click the pics to link through to the recipes. And happy eating to you and your family this week….

MONDAY

Meat-free monday and I’m loving the simplicity of these chickpea fritters.

vegie-smugglers-corn-chickpea-fritters

TUESDAY

At least once during the week I turn to my slow cooker. Cooking with it is so simple that I find it a great way to get ahead. So you can make this lamb chop casserole on Monday and let it brew away in the fridge for 24 hours before reheating it for Tuesday dinner, which makes flying in the door at the end of the day with cranky post-oosh kids a whole lot more pleasant.

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

Saucy! Great for dipping into with crusty bread.

WEDNESDAY

This potato/kumura bake can cook away over the afternoon. Serve it with sausage, fish or whatever protein gives you a thrill. A few carrots and peas on the side and my kids will be happy campers.

vegie-smugglers-pasta-bake

THURSDAY

I’m at home working on Vegie Smugglers on Thursdays, so early in the day I can get these Kulebyaka prepped and into the fridge ready for cooking later once we get home after the post-school activities run.

Crunch, yum. Crunch, YUM. Feet still cold though.

Crunch, yum. Crunch, YUM. My version of a Russian favourite.

FRIDAY

It’s ‘can’t be bothered’ day, so click through to the post for these easy egg tarts. The competition on this post is long over, but the joy of this super-simple dinner is still worth a million.

Bread tart cases.

Bread tart cases.

SATURDAY
If you’re in on Saturday night, how about a simple chicken curry? It’s comfort food that is gentle enough for the whole family. Adults can add some chopped fresh chilli and coriander to give it a bit of punch. Chuck on a movie and you’re in relaxation heaven.

Parents can add chilli & coriander.

Super-gentle chicken curry & rice.

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What’s on the menu this week?

Needing a bit of inspiration? Here’s what’s on the menu at my place this week…. (as always, click the photos to go through to the recipes)…

MONDAY
It’s gonna be a busy day, so I’ll get the rice cooker going to make this cauliflower & cashew pilaf….

vegie smugglers cauliflower and cashew pilaf

Pilaf. Fun to say and good to eat.

TUESDAY
I finish work at 3, so I’ve got time in the afternoon to whip up some some chicken yakitori skewers (and yell at the kids to do their homework)…

vegie smugglers yakitori skewers

Food on sticks is always a winner.

WEDNESDAY
Wednesdays are busy. I’m at work during school hours and then it’s swimming classes. So I actually will have whipped up this beef canneloni earlier in the week and it’ll be in the fridge, waiting for us to just reheat it…

Cheese, pasta (and tomatoes, onions, fennel, spinach & carrot). Shhhhh.

Cheese, pasta (and tomatoes, onions, fennel, spinach & carrot). Shhhhh.

THURSDAY
One thing that we could eat more of is fish, so I’ll pop this on the list for this week. My kids will eat anything if it’s rolled up into a lightsaber-style wrap. Roll them tight and secure with foil. The kids can peel as they munch, which somehow makes it all a more fun scenario.

vegie smugglers fish burritos

Adults might like some bottled jalapenos to add a bit of kick.

FRIDAY
Our latest quick dinner favourite is baked potatoes. If I’m exhausted by friday night then I just mash the insides together with grated cheese, a tin of tuna (with the oil) and 125g can of corn. On a better night I’ll also add in a finely chopped mushroom, tomato and even fennel. Top it with some cucumber and spinach leaves and it’s all just DELICIOUS. And wine. Did I mention wine? There’s always wine on a Friday night.

SATURDAY
With the cold weather still lingering, I’m loving an old-style Saturday night family dinner. With Mr VS home late all week, this is often the only night where we get to all have a meal together. So I make sure that it’s something that everyone loves. And often there’ll be dessert. These cutlets and crumble will be perfect.

Yum, and easier cooked in the oven.

Yum, and easier cooked in the oven.

Just quietly - this apple & berry crumble is a bit yummier than the one my granny used to make!

Just quietly – this apple & berry crumble is a bit yummier than the one my granny used to make!

Have a great week!

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What I’m eating this week…

Well done everyone, you've made it through the darkest days....

Well done everyone, you’ve made it through the darkest days….

I heard the young kids on JJJ joking about winter solstice yesterday. Rather than calling it the shortest day, they pointed out that it is actually the LONGEST NIGHT. Which is great for “all those old people who need to party early so that they can get to bed in time to be up for the gardening and pruning the next day”. BRAVO YOUNG PEOPLE, you’ve obviously been looking through my diary.

Anyway, the chills are here so the emphasis is on the wintry good stuff that warms our toes.

SUNDAY:

We’ve had a night away to celebrate the solstice and we’re tired today. I’m going to make this risotto which is always popular and super easy to prepare. Recipe can be found in VS1 or there’s a version for the Thermomix in my TM e-book.

I'm actually going to crumble some crispy baked proscuitto over mine.

I’m actually going to crumble some crispy baked proscuitto over mine.

MONDAY:

I’ve been experimenting with an Egg Foo Yung recipe. I’ll post the recipe in a couple of weeks but in the mean time you might want to try this Okonomiyake recipe, especially if you’re working all day – it’s a nice quickie.

Okonomiyaki recipe

Chinese cabbage & carrot hiding in here.

TUESDAY:

Vegetarian bolognaise, which I’m planning to serve over store-bought ravioli.

Vegie Smugglers vegetarian bolognaise

This is a simple one-pot pasta sauce that not only hides veg but IS all veg.

WEDNESDAY:

Slow cooker day, to fit in with our schedule of being out at activities all afternoon. This pea & ham soup is a current favourite.

slow cooker pea and ham soup

Ham hock & split peas. Easier than you think.

THURSDAY:

Brunch frittata – made more dinnerish with a side of salad and crusty bread (and a big fat wine for me, who is usually quite shattered by Thursday night).

Impressive and easy - my favourite combo.

Impressive and easy – my favourite combo.

FRIDAY:

Term 2 finishes this Friday, so it will be a relaxed night. I’ll treat my tired little kids with some fish fingers, which I’ll serve with cooked carrots & peas (both favourites) and my home-made chips.

REALLY yum, REALLY easy.

REALLY yum, REALLY easy.

Hope you all have a happy week.

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