Posts tagged mealtime

Vegetable subterfuge (and when to tell the kids the truth)

Admittedly, the placement is poorly thought through.

Turns out that Mr Meat & Potatoes has been in the habit of overshooting the toilet and weeing in the plastic bathroom bin. Doing its job well, the swing-lid has been closing post-stream and I’ve been none the wiser. Now, without revealing too much about my lax home-making abilities, I had noticed a smell but thought I’d just give it a few more days before investigating. You know, in case it was going to fade away all by itself and my intervention was unnecessary.

It didn’t though. The smell got stronger, almost to the point of rancid and then I realised I was going to have to do something about it.

So I sniffed about and there in the bottom of the bin was a puddle of urine that dated back several days.

I wondered if this was my little boy’s subconscious way of getting back at me for all of the vegetables that I’ve hidden in his food over the years. Perhaps his angelic little face is hiding a brain that is secretly ranting, “and this hidden piss mum, THIS is what I really think of all of your hidden zucchini”. Or perhaps I’m just reading a bit too much into it?

Often I get asked about how much subterfuge goes into my meals. Do I TELL my kids what they’re really eating?

The answer is yes and no. When they first sit down and see something pleasing and smell something delicious, I’m not going to kill the mood by blurting, “hope you enjoy the mushrooms”. But once they’re finished, or if they ask mid-meal, I happily let them know what ingredients they’re gobbling up. Since I’m past the emergency, early days of absolute food rejection, I’ve now moved onto food education, which is a really important second stage. I need my kids to know now, that a meal is more than a single ingredient. That even an ingredient that they don’t THINK they like, can be combined with other ingredients in truly tasty ways that they DO like.

So yes, I DO tell my kids what they’re eating. It’s a vital part of teaching them that healthy food is part of the every day and something to be celebrated and enjoyed. And once your kids are eating a wider range of meals, it’s a good time to start with the wider education at your place. Get them talking ingredients, teach them how to choose good produce, encourage them to help out with little tasks in the kitchen.

And perhaps one day soon, they’ll even be big enough to start cleaning the bathroom.

Wee little meatloaves (boom tish!!).

Individual meat loaves

These are an easy to make vegie-smuggling basic. They store in the fridge for several days, can be cut up for sandwiches or wraps and crumbled into baked potatoes. And they freeze really well too.

Canola oil cooking spray
2 slices multigrain bread
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1 zucchini, roughly chopped
Handful of green beans, ends removed, halved
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 frozen chopped spinach cubes (about 50g), thawed, OR a big handful of English spinach, finely chopped
500g beef mince
2 tbsp tomato chutney
1 tsp soy sauce
1 egg
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C. Spray a 12-hole muffin pan with cooking spray and line with paper cases.

Use a stick blender to do the chopping for you. Start with the bread. Make your breadcrumbs and add to your mixing bowl. Then chop the carrots then zucchini, then the beans and spring onions, adding to a mixing bowl each time.

Use your hands to combine the remaining ingredients. Divide the mix into 12 portions and press firmly into your muffin tray.

Bake for 20 minutes or until browned on top and cooked through. Serve with salad, steamed corn cobs and tomato sauce.


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Rice v. pasta

My first job was waitressing in an Italian restaurant.

The things I remember most about it were never remembering which way the coffee machine dial turned off (no-one ever told me ‘righty-tighty’), the embarrassment of returning to a table where I’d just been to admit that I’d just forgotten what they’d just ordered and one really busy night, after a quick loo break, running through the kitchen back into the restaurant with the back of my skirt tucked into my stockings.

Generally then, it’s safe to say that I was a crap waitress and the whole experience was vaguely traumatising.

For years afterward I didn’t touch pasta. And if I was held at knifepoint and ordered, “you must choose only one main meal carbohydrate for the rest of your life” I would happily marry rice and leave pasta, cous cous and potatoes behind forever.

Perhaps it’s karma then, for all the incorrect orders that I took, that my kids love pasta. I think nearly every kid in the whole wide world does. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if your kid hates the stuff, they are weird. WEIRD.

Nutritionally, there’s nothing in pasta to get excited about. I’ve even seen it called BAD CARBS. Well said. Mind you, white rice falls into that category too so I guess my argument for rice is baseless and quite prejudiced. Did I mention that my kids don’t care about any of that and that they still LOVE PASTA? They do.

And so it’s been sneaking back into the house over the last few years. It’s still only once a fortnight or so, but now even I am a bit partial to a bolognaise or smoked salmon, dill & lemon or this spaghetti carbonara. On the scale of smuggling success, it’s fairly low, there’s little room to hide anything, but I still cram in spring onions and long strips of zucchini which just meld in(to the bacon fat).

It’s worth sharing, as it’s pretty much the only dish I’ve trialed this year that resulted in TWO EMPTY BOWLS, which is my version of THREE HATS, only better, cause there’s nothing to scrape before stacking the dishwasher.

vegie smugglers spaghetti carbonara

The pasta will win tonight.

Spaghetti Carbonara

3 eggs
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
400g spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
250g bacon, rind removed, large areas of fat removed, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 spring onions, sliced
2 zucchinis – use a peeler to slice into thin pieces, then cut vertically so that you have long spaghetti-like strands (whether you leave the skin in or discard it is up to you and what you need to do to get your kids to eat it).

Whisk the eggs in a small jug, mix through the cheese. Set aside.

Now do two things at once…
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook spaghetti according to packet directions. Drain, drizzle over half the olive oil and mix through (tongs makes this easier).

2. Heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the spring onions, garlic and zucchini and stir until the zucchini starts to wilt (about 2 minutes).

Return the drained pasta to the saucepan, pour over the vegies and use the tongs to mix a bit, then pour over the egg & cheese mixture. Combine quickly, season and serve, topped with optional parsley, pepper and extra parmesan.

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First ever VS weekly menu plan (with a pretty shopping list)

At the risk of sounding very ‘organised housewife’, this post is a menu plan for next week. Despite urging emails, I’ve always avoided posts like this because they sound… so… well… bossy, really. You know, it’s YOUR house and eat whatever the hell you like, I say. But nonetheless, I’ve had enough requests now that I’m GONNA DO IT. And knowing how much I love a free printable, I’m even including a complete shopping list (complete with a key so you know what to buy for which meal).

Main problem devising a meal plan for strangers is that I don’t know your schedule. But I’m assuming that you’ve got a couple of days a week at home, and a few afternoons a week that are crazy busy and I’m suggesting dinners that you can move to whichever day fits best.

So here goes…


Family dinner, or friends coming over? What about this Sang Choy Bao? It’s a messy, fun, communal dinner. Don’t know about you, but my mess tolerance is better on weekends, when I’m not trying to combine dinner with homework and tired children. And it’s a quick cook too, because you’ve probably spent the day at birthday parties or sport or (god forbid) Bunnings.

Vegie Smugglers Sang choy bow recipe

Lettuce delights for your munching pleasure


Nice healthy Fish Pie tonight.

Mmmmmm, cauliflower

And while you’re hanging about the house in cooking mode, also make up a batch of Spag bol. It makes heaps so you can divide it up and pop some in the freezer for next week, and some in the fridge for Monday night.

Adam's bolognaise

I freeze this, pasta and all, in kid-sized serves


Spag bol.


Another crazy day ahead? In the morning make up the mix for these Vegie & bean quesadillas.

Onions, carrot, capsicum, tomatoes, kidney beans, avocado. YUM.

Then they’re easy to whip up once you get home from swimming or tennis or dance or whatever other activity you’ve just sat through (as if you have nothing better to do with your time than sit on an uncomfortable bench or wait in the car for the afternoon). Of course, if you meat-free Monday, then you really should have cooked these yesterday.


Got a moment to cook today? What about this chicken & vegie pasta soup?

vegie smugglers chicken pasta and vegetable soup

Pasta, chicken and bacon amongst the vegies...

Maybe you’ve been feeling excessive love for your little gorgeouses today and have indulged them with these berry and oat muffins… awwwwww mum… you’re the best!

Ready for this arvo & tomorrow (if there are any left).


Use up all the soggy vegies in this Vegetable Slice. Leftover are good in wraps for lunch on Friday.

Vegetable slice

Working the soggy contents of the crisper drawer.


Zzzzzzzz…. What! Sorry! You want dinner AGAIN? See I’ve lost interest tonight, which is just what I discussed last week in ON THE SEVENTH DAY. Toast, pizza muffins, something else will do.

And here’s the shopping list to download. Best thing about the list is that it shows you just how many vegies your kids are going to eat this week! Hope this helps.


Don’t forget that you can buy an e-book of meal plans at the shop.

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Foolproof roast chicken & cous cous salad

On the fridge all year - Miss Fruitarian's 'to do' list for 2011

Each year I have a ‘to do’ list. You know, a list of things that I’d like to master in the coming year. Important stuff like “make choux pastry” and “be thankful every day”. Miss Fruitarian jumped on the bandwagon this year and has done well on her list, which included ‘get a kitten’ and ‘skip to 100’.

My list was blown out of the water by a house purchase, house sale, house move and job change (husband). I’m still catching my breath, and actually can’t even remember what was on my list for this year, let alone WHERE the piece of paper might actually be.

So with the year hurtling to a close, it’s lucky that my list in 2007 included ‘cook a perfect roast chicken’ – you know, where the vegies and meat are all cooked perfectly and AT THE SAME TIME. It’s a skill that comes in handy during the festive season.

Just in case you’ve got the chicken cooking thing on the list for next year, here’s a recipe that will cut you a bit of slack – a roast chook with a cous cous salad that is SO delicious and suited to hot Australian nights.

This cous cous salad is the best I’ve tried – it’s based on a recipe from Ainsley Harriott’s Barbeque Bible. It’s his spice combination and cooking method, which seems to produce perfectly fluffy cous cous. I’ve just added in a stack of vegies (of course).

Do my kids eat this salad with all the green flecks and pumpkin (their least favourite) bits? Surprisingly yes. The first time I made it, I thought they wouldn’t, which really vouches for how yummy it is. I do have to cut up Mr M&P’s chicken and mix it through as a lure, and Miss F does gag if she hits a chunk of coriander, but apart from that it disappears.

Now, if only I could get my kids to eat with their cutlery properly and have some vague semblance of table manners, I’d be feeling pretty accomplished. I guess I better put it on the ‘to do’ list for next year.

Fancy enough for the festive season, methinks.

Roast chicken with a delicious cous cous salad

1×1.8kg chicken
1 lemon, halved
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

¼ cup pinenuts

2 cups pumpkin (Jap is good), peeled and cut into a 1cm dice.
2 tsps honey
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp sweet paprika
¾ cup cous cous
¾ cup chicken stock
Pinch saffron (optional)
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, grated
½ red capsicum, finely diced
Handful fresh herbs (any combination of mint, parsley & coriander)
Juice ½ lemon (plus the zest if you can be bothered)

Preheat the oven to 170C fan-forced. Have a rack down low (for the chook) and one up high (for the pumpkin).

Don’t be squeamish and don’t think about how a wee chicken carcass feels vaguely like holding a baby… Wash the whole chook well. Use paper towel to dry it both inside and out. Place a rack in a roasting tray then pop the chicken on top (breast side down). Pour about ¼ cup of water and the juice of half a lemon in the tray. Shove the squeezed half and the full half of lemon inside the birdie. Close up the legs (a girl’s gotta have some dignity), drizzle over olive oil & salt & pepper.

Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile…

Pour your dry cous cous into a heat-proof bowl.

In a small non-stick pan, toast your pinenuts and set aside. Add about one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then fry off the garlic, coriander, cumin & paprika for a minute or so. Pour in the chicken stock. Add the saffron (if using) and the spring onions (this takes the onion tang out of them). Pour into the cous cous bowl. Use a fork to quickly combine, then cover with plastic wrap.

Spread the pumpkin out on an oven tray (lined with baking paper), drizzle over olive oil and honey. Toss lightly.

Pull out your chicken. Turn over (carefully), baste or drizzle a touch more oil. Season. Pop back into the oven & also put in the pumpkin (on the top tray).

Bake everything for about 40-45 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft and the juices of the chicken run clear. (There’s a demo of how about 1:40 into this video – or push a skewer in behind the drumstick then press to see the colour of the juice)

Cover the chicken with foil for a bit while you fork through the cous cous then toss in the rest of the ingredients in. Then carve the chicken (good ‘how to’ video about carving chickens, turkeys etc here), serve and EAT. Yum.

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A week of healthy dinners (is it possible?)

Back working again this week, so thought you might be interested to see what I do to get through a week of healthy eating when under time constraints and general exhaustion. Can I do it? Am I authentic? Or am I a vegie-smuggling fraud who espouses healthy eating but actually feeds my kids jam sandwiches all week once the going gets tough.

Here is this week’s plan…

Sunday night dinner: Fried rice

During the afternoon I’ll make tomorrow night’s pumpkin soup to put in the fridge and my best-friend will whip up a quick fried rice for tonight’s dinner.

Monday night dinner
: Pumpkin soup

I’m not working on Monday so I’ll devote a couple of hours to cooking. I’ll make chicken pies – see the recipe below.

I’ll also make some beef cannelloni in a big dish that can sit for 48 hours in the fridge, ready to bake. Both these dinners are good serving sizes so that I’ll have enough to feed the kids, us and my parents who are doing a spot of emergency childcare for me.

Tuesday night dinner: Chicken pies

Wednesday night dinner: Beef cannelloni

Thursday night dinner: Quesadillas

I’ve got everything that I need for these in the pantry, fridge or the garden and they’re super quick to make.

Friday night dinner: Bolognaise
Same deal, my best friend made a double batch of this last week.

And there you have it. I have a big shop on the weekend, then two big cook-offs and I’m done for the week. I never usually feel like it, but stay motivated remembering how fantastic it is to walk in at the end of a work day and not have to spend any time pfaffing and thinking about what I can throw together for dinner – it’s already done, just waiting to be reheated.

So that’s mine, but what’s on your menu this week?

If minis look too fiddly, just buy a savoury flan case and make 1 big pie instead.

Chicken pies

1 tbsp olive oil
400g chicken breast fillets, trimmed, chopped into 1cm pieces
1 leek, finely chopped
4 bacon rashers,
finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
40g unsalted butter
¼ cup plain flour
2 cups chicken stock, warmed
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus (or green beans), trimmed, thinly sliced

Canola oil cooking spray
3 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry
1 egg, whisked, for
2 sheets frozen
puff pastry

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink on the outside (don’t overcook). Remove from the saucepan and set aside.

In the same saucepan, cook the leek and bacon for 2–3 minutes. Add the garlic for another 30 seconds then remove from the saucepan and set aside.

Melt the butter in the same pan over medium heat. Add the flour and use a wooden spoon to stir for 1 minute until the floury smell fades and there are no lumps. Gradually add the stock and stir briskly until it is thick and combined. Return the chicken and leek mixture to the pan. Add the mushrooms, asparagus and black pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5–10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (test by picking out the largest piece you can see and chopping it in half).

Set aside to cool slightly and prepare the pastry cases.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin with cooking spray.

Use a small saucer as a guide and cut out four circles from each thawed shortcrust pastry sheet. Ease the circles into the muffin holes and use your fingers to smooth out the folds. Leave some overhanging the top so that you can join the lids on. Brush the overhangs with the egg.

Divide your chicken mixture evenly between the pies.

Cut circle pie tops out of the puff pastry, place on top and press the edges to seal. Lift the edges slightly to keep the pies from touching (and to make it look pretty).

Brush with egg and bake for 25 minutes or until golden.


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Bring on summer (and my secret obsession with American mustard)

Finally, a bit of heat over the weekend. Back to being covered in miscellaneous bug bites and sunscreen. The kids are loving the longer days, although trying to get them into bed while it’s still twilight is a challenge. Then they’re up at the crack of dawn (as is the new kitten). I always forget how sleep deprived and cranky they get at this time of year!

As the weather warms up I’m always trying out new recipes that are a bit lighter and use more salad ingredients. Rest assured, I can find a way to stuff some vegies into nearly anything and this burger is a great example. Once you’ve tried burgers with extra hidden ingredients, you won’t want to go back to the bland, supermarket ones. There’s just so much more flavour and texture to enjoy in these.

Melting cheese over the top of the pattie does a double job of hiding the bits that aren’t brown and luring the children to eat more… more… MORE!

While I don’t deliberately avoid McDonalds, it does seem as though I can usually find a lot of other places I like to eat at first, so it’s with real glee that my kids like to tuck into a burger ‘just like McDonalds’.

The bun in the picture below is all fancy looking, but I usually serve them in the regular supermarket ‘sugar bread’ buns to get that real authentic burger vibe going on. And my secret, guilty pleasure – American mustard – is a great addition. Even if you’re already using the relish and tomato sauce, there’ll still be a place for a bit of the iridescent yellow stuff.

Here’s the recipe for the burger pattie – the relish recipe can be found in the new Vegie Smugglers 2 cookbook. Did you see that I’ve discounted the postage on it for a bit? It’s my way of apologising for any inconvenience as I find myself out of stock on Vegie Smugglers 1 until late November.

Guilty pleasure... American mustard on this is trashy but tastes great.


500g lean beef mince
250g chickpeas, rinsed, drained (about half a cup)
1 carrot, peeled, grated
½ red capsicum, seeded, roughly chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly whisked

Olive oil
4 cheese slices

To serve: Bread rolls or burger buns, tomato slices, lettuce, onion relish (recipe in the book), tomato sauce, American mustard.

Place the mince in a large bowl. Use a stick blender to blitz the chickpeas, carrot, capsicum and parsley. You can do this by hand, but the blender is good for lazy people like me.

Add the chickpea mixture, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg and black pepper to the bowl with the mince and use your hands to combine and make good-sized patties. Squeeze them firmly, then shape into thin patties.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the patties and squish down to 1-centimetre thick. This helps them cook through and makes them easier for small kids to eat.

Cook for 5 minutes, gently flip over and cook the other side for 4–5 minutes until cooked through. While the second side is cooking, place a cheese slice on top and let it melt over.

Serve the burgers on bread rolls or buns, topped with tomato, lettuce and onion relish.


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Controlling, fat and unnecessary

Aren’t commas great? They make a mundane, uptight phrase so much more interesting.

You see, “controlling fat and unnecessary additives” should really be today’s headline, but it’s a bit dry, isn’t it. I much prefer ‘controlling, fat and unnecessary’, which sounds much more salacious and intriguing. You read that and think, “Is she talking about herself, her mother-in-law, who else?”

But actually, I’m talking about how just a little effort can go a long way toward improving your family’s diets.

Now, I’m as big a fan of convenience foods as the next stressed-out-over-scheduled parent, but there’s one mass selling processed food that I just don’t understand – frozen chips. And here’s why…

You have to preheat the oven to 200C. Open the packet; pour them onto an oven tray. Bake 10 minutes then turn and bake for another 10. And then you have a half soggy chip that has been processed in a factory and shipped in plastic, then bought (at a premium) by you and prepared.

Here’s what I do for my chips.

My new fav kitchen toy - makes vegies instantly more fun

I buy potatoes. Not in plastic. I preheat the oven to 200C. I peel my potatoes and chop them with my new favourite wiggly chopper. It takes about 3-4 minutes to do 3-4 potatoes. I put them on the tray, and toss them with olive oil, salt & pepper. After 10 minutes, I sprinkle over parmesan cheese and bake for another 10-15 minutes until they are golden and crunchy and delicious.

REALLY yum, REALLY easy.

So my total extra effort isn’t much. And the result is SO much better. You can control the amount of olive oil and salt that you use (remember that every teaspoon of olive oil contains 4.5g of fat – .621g of which is saturated).

Like my muesli bars and beetroot tzatziki, sometimes we can easily produce a better tasting, healthier version of ‘convenience’ foods at home. Just sayin’.

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A spoonful of sugar (or croutons) helps the vegies go down

A big fat yummy bowl of witches' stew

Last week I served up an aesthetically challenged split pea soup that could best be visually compared to a bowl of snot. Full of vegetables and lacking in glamour, there was little chance of the little lovelies voluntarily hoeing in. Which is a shame, since it was absolutely delicious.

In these situations it’s important to remember the Vegie-Smuggling philosophy of sugar coating meals – that is, finding lures that will be irresistible to your kids that will ensure certain success with a risky dinner. For me, these include dollops of tomato sauce, mayonnaise and with soups, croutons.

There’s something FUN about discovering a crunchy delight in a thick soup and it works on my kids without fail.

I dump a load of them into a bowl and ladle the soup over. The first crouton goes in, coated in soup and the kids realise that the flavour is good and then they go back for more. I PROMISE you, that both the kids ate up full bowls of this soup and said they’d happily eat it again. We even had a laugh about the ugly look of it. Once the croutons were submerged, Miss Fruitarian renamed it ‘Witches stew’, which I think is a title just as enticing to kids as the oily, garlic bread.

This is an advanced Vegie Smuggling dish – if your kids aren’t used to soup, try my Chicken & pasta recipe instead, but if your kids are used to a nice thick hearty texture (and like peas), try this out. It’s not my recipe (it’s from Gateway Gourmet), I’ve only added the croutons and made minimal changes, which is why it’s not in the cookbook, only online.

Witches stew

2 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled, diced
3 celery sticks, diced
1 parsnip, peeled, diced
1 ¼ cups green split peas, rinsed, picked over
4 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Half a bunch fresh thyme leaves (remove stalks)
Salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the vegies and cook, stirring often for 8-10 minutes to soften. Add the split peas, stock, herbs and some seasoning.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1-1¼ hours. Remove the bay leaf. Use a stick blender to process until smooth. Add 1/4-1/2 cup extra water if the texture is too thick. Season further to taste.

Serve over croutons.

vegie smugglers croutons

Not healthy, but will make the rest of it magically disappear


Preheat oven to 200C. Line oven tray with baking paper.

Slice 1 small breadstick into cubes. Scatter on tray.

Combine 2-3 tbsp olive oil with 2 cloves garlic and 1 tsp Italian herbs. Mix well. Pour over bread and toss to coat.

Bake 10-15 minutes until as golden as you like.

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Crowd pleasers – feeding 4, 14 or 40

School holidays and my home is abuzz with a variety of children coming and going. After 18 months at school, we are now firmly entrenched in the local community and I’m having kids (with siblings) dropped off for a few hours, then all picked up and taken elsewhere – without tears or clinginess, just excitement and adventure.

It’s a nice contrast to those early baby days, where I was home, alone for 12 hours at a time, barely even knowing neighbours, with a whole long depressing day stretching out ahead of me. Now it’s all action and I love it. A little magic mirror to this time would have made those endless first days of motherhood much easier.

These days my biggest parenting stress is figuring out how many kids I’m going to be feeding each night, which is why I’m sticking to a range of flexible recipes that easily stretch out to serve everyone.

Sneak vegies into heaps of kiddies with ease!

Corn & chickpea fritters

If your kids are chickpea-phobic, blitz them up in a hand-held food processor before adding to the mix.

²/³ cup self-raising flour
1 egg
²/³ cup milk
315g can corn kernels, drained
1 medium carrot, peeled, grated
400g can chickpeas, rinsed, and drained
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Handful of basil and parsley leaves, finely chopped (optional, but recommended)
Black pepper
Canola oil, for frying
Salad and lemon wedges, to serve

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the combined egg and milk, whisking as you go to avoid lumps.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the batter and mix until evenly combined.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the canola oil and ensure it is nice and hot before adding ¼ cup amounts of batter to the pan.

Cook for 3 minutes then flip over and cook on the other side for a further 3-4 minutes until nice and golden. Repeat with remaining batter. Drain on kitchen paper.

Serve warm with salad and lemon wedges.


By the way, do you MAMABAKE?
If you love to make big batches of food for the freezer, don’t forget to track down your local Mamabake group, where you can team up with local parents and have lovely big social cook-offs. Feed everyone AND join in with your local community. Perfect!

You also might like to try these flexible recipes…

Lamb and feta meatballs

Cook the meatballs ahead then stretch the meal with extra pasta

Vegie dots

It’s easy to double or triple quantities of these Vegie Dots

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What the kids eat in… China

Actually, I suspect more folks outside of China might actually eat this dish. But let’s not worry about pesky facts and just enjoy this delicious messy mass of tasty goodness. I did try to research the origins, but perhaps it’s one of those ‘from everywhere’ dishes with no particular source, although I did see claims of origin from Thai to Cantonese to the good ol’ USA. One cute internet fact (and maybe even true) is that the name translates as ‘lettuce delights’, which sounds so lovely!

I got thinking about this dish after my 14-year-old niece whipped up a version at a recent family get-together. At 14 I could melt cheese onto corn chips in the microwave, she can whip up a meal for 12 people. Very impressive stuff. The kids LOVED having her cook for them and ate up every little morsel. So I’m naming this dish in her honour.

Apparently teenagers aren’t necessarily too fussed on vegies either, so I’ve built on her recipe quite a bit, smuggling in a stack load more vegies. Use iceberg lettuce to wrap the mixture up as tightly as possible. The result is hot/cold/crunchy and absolutely delicious. Just keep a washer handy and lettuce delight indeed…

Chicken mince in sang choy bow

Lettuce delights for your munching pleasure

Sarah’s sang choy bao

2 tbsp shao hsing wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp corn flour

Lettuce leaves (iceberg or cos both work well)
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, finely diced
500g chicken mince
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
4 green onions, finely sliced
225g tin water chestnuts, drained, finely diced
1 cup mushrooms, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
125g can corn kernels

Combine all of the sauce ingredients together and set aside. Carefully remove whole lettuce leaves, wash and drain on clean tea towels.

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium/high heat. Add the onion and stirfry for 3-4 minutes until translucent and turning golden.

Add the chicken mince and stirfry until it changes from pink to white. Break up lumps as you go to ensure there are no hidden raw bits.

Add the garlic, ginger, green onions, water chestnuts, mushrooms, carrot and corn. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until the green onions are tender and the mushrooms are nice and soft. Pour the sauce over the top and stir-fry for another minute or two until everything is piping hot and cooked thoroughly. (NOTE: if you are making this to reheat later, leave everything slightly undercooked)

Spoon -1 cup quantities of mixture into the lettuce leaves, wrap up carefully and enjoy!

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