Posts tagged parenting

BBQ chicken to the rescue

No one wants to cook every day. Even when I was working on Vegie Smugglers full time, I would still find myself out of time and searching the supermarket for easy last-minute dinners.

Now I’m back in the workforce part-time, with the added issue of kid’s commitments right on dinnertime. When I’ve got hungry kids and no dinner plans, I find a trusty ol’ BBQ chook can come to the rescue.

And really, it’s one of the better take away options. But just don’t just eat it as is – the greasy mass that stews away in those creepy bags isn’t so enticing, anyway.

Chuck away any stuffing (I think the supermarket ones are nearly inedible). Toss most of the skin – although if you’re end-of-the-day starving, I DARE you to resist it entirely. Shred up the meat and do something creative with it.

When the kids were younger it was meat and salad with mayo in wraps. Then for a while I’d knock up a quick Portuguese-style chicken & rice soup. But these days we make this Asian-style salad. It’s full of the crunchy vegies that my kids enjoy and I put them to work on it, so they learn how to make something and it’s on the table within 15 minutes. Plus, Mr VS & I can pop on a tonne of coriander and chilli and have something adult-tasty.

And before you know it, there's something almost gourmet on the table.

And before you know it, there’s something almost gourmet on the table.

BBQ chicken asian salad

1 BBQ chicken
Handful green beans
Handful snow peas
125g can corn kernels
Bean sprouts
1 carrot, finely shredded or grated

Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp oil (grapeseed or avocado)

To serve (all optional): peanuts, coriander, mint & sweet chilli sauce

While you shred the chicken, put the kids to work, washing then top and tailing the beans and snow peas. They can practise their chopping skills – cutting each into 3-4 pieces and tossing them into a salad bowl. They can also tip in the drained corn and play with add in the bean sprouts.

You might want to shred the carrot yourself. Add it and the chicken into a large bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients together well then tip over and mix through.

Serves 2 adults & 2 kids

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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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4-ingredient frozen yoghurt

Do your kids fight? Mine do, in fact, they can manage to find an argument in pretty much every circumstance. This week, with a bit of welcome rainfall, we’ve been focusing all our squabbles on THE UMBRELLA.

Rain has been such a rare event this summer that as we were dashing out the door the other day, I couldn’t find an umbrella each, so the two kids had to ‘work together’ (my quote) and use the one large umbrella, which theoretically is more than large enough to shelter them both.

You’ll probably not be shocked to hear that so far with this system we end up at our final destination with someone dry & victorious and someone soggy & bitterly wronged. ‘Working together’ will have to wait for another week, apparently.

Working together perfectly are the four ingredients in this ‘frozen yoghurt’. And it’s a simple blitz & chill which takes about 2 minutes to make. Since the fruit content is high, it freezes hard, so remember to pop it out of the freezer a half hour before you want to eat to ensure it’s a scoopable consistency.

So pretty!

So pretty!



Fruity Frozen Yoghurt

1 banana, frozen, peeled, roughly sliced
½ pear, peeled, roughly diced
½ cup frozen berries
½ cup vanilla yoghurt

Pop all your ingredients into the bowl of a blender (or pop them into a large sturdy jug and use your stick blender). Blitz until smooth. At this stage you have a delicious berry smoothie, but if you pour it into a container and freeze for an hour or so, it will harden more and you’ll be able to serve scoops of delicious frozen yoghurt.

Serves 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

PS: this is the perfect recipe to pop in some Superfoodz for kids “C Berry Blast”, for a bit of added nutritional oomph!

C Berry Blast – 200g

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$39.95
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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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Working 9 to 5 (and still feeding the family)

Astute watchers of VS will have noticed that I’ve been a bit absent. Never one to veer into idleness, I’ve gone and filled up my spare middle-of-the-day hours with a part time job that landed in my lap quite fortuitously. Too scared to resist fate, I’ve gone with it, figuring I can still tend Vegie Smugglers well in the hours left over.

Interestingly, after ‘living the dream’ of working from home for a year, I find I’m happy to be back out in the workforce. Seems I quite like having a reason to chuck on some lippie and I quite like contact with real people. But immediately I’m thrown back into those fraught post-work dinnertimes where the kids are cranky, I’m tired and the fridge is ominously empty.

But it doesn’t have to be a disaster. It is possible to work all day and still feed the kids a healthy dinner. Here’s how…

PLAN

Yes, I know. Boring. But as the old cliché goes, fail to plan, plan to fail. Spending an hour on your weekend or day off doing a menu plan and large grocery shop will ensure you have everything you need for food success, all week. If you hate doing it, buy my e-book. I even give you shopping lists and meals for 6 weeks. Or use one of my free plans as a guide. Click here or click here.

EBB & FLOW

When you make your plan, you’ll hopefully see the spots in your week where cooking is possible. Grab these opportunities and make larger than you need quantities. Especially things you can freeze, or rejig for the next night. Make a meatloaf that will feed you tonight, and still tastes good sliced on toasties tomorrow. Or cook enough pasta for a leftover pasta frittata.

FREEZER LOVIN’

No matter what your work status, your freezer is your friend. Use it. Love it. Stack it. Bless it on those nights when you get home to find absolute chaos erupting.

Try filling it with these (click the pic to go to the recipe)…

Adam's bolognaise

Bolognaise actually tastes better after a sit in the freezer. Genius!

End the war with a stockpile of mash in the freezer.

Freeze in portions then reheat and mix with tinned tuna & extra cheese.

vegie smugglers chicken pasta and vegetable soup

Pasta, chicken and bacon amongst the vegies…and it defrosts just fine.

This recipe makes plenty - freeze some of this too.

Freeze in small containers and you can always make a quick healthy pizza.

My kids love these so much, they don't care about what's inside.

My kids ate these weekly for almost two years.

DINNER SOS

And on the nights when it’s all gone totally pear shaped? English muffin pizzas, eggs pots, microwave rice with packet tofu & frozen vegies, scrambled egg wraps with smoked salmon & avocado, toasties with tuna, cheese & corn, or good old 2-minute noodles (ditch the flavour sachets) with frozen vegies. Or grab sushi on your way home (avoid fried ingredients or mayo).

No matter what the dinner outcome, the main thing is to relax and remember that the most important part of every evening routine is the cuddle and kiss with your gorgeous little terrors at bedtime. All is forgiven in that moment of stillness.

Got other good ideas for instant dinners? Make sure you share them below…

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What kind of a woman are you? And what kind of woman will your daughter be?

Can you guess what my favourite TV show is at the moment? Possibly you might think that it’s Jamie, what with all of his new budget recipes. And I am a massive fan of his so it might surprise you when I say that I’ve not caught even one episode of his new series.

Well then, is it Adam Liaw trawling around Japan and presenting some of the best-ever looking sashimi on TV? Nope, not Adam (although I am religiously watching him on Thursday nights).

Actually it’s not a food show at all. No, it’s a show that can teach me MUCH MORE ABOUT LIFE. And that show is, of course, The Bachelor Australia.

I can’t get enough of it.

Being a simple girl, free of hair extensions and matching mani/pedis, I’m finding that I have SO MUCH TO LEARN. Like how to apply so much makeup that I look homogenously like every other girl. How to make high heels look ‘right’ when I’m visiting sand dunes. How to wear hotpants with confidence. How to appear charming at not-at-all-awkward cocktail parties where there’s just me and 20 other girls who all hate my guts. And how to attract the attentions of a not-at-all-boring fella, who I imagine is being paid a lot of money in order to nod with compassion and state, straight-to-camera, “this is all obviously really intense for the girls, all wanting to get my attention.”

In the same week, I watched Anne Summers chat with Julia Gillard. As a staunch supporter of women’s rights, I lapped it up. Evidently Julia didn’t do such a great job as PM, but I thought it was just a little bit awesome that after such a tumultuous time, she finally got to be in a room full of adoring women who wanted to say THANK YOU, for being the first female prime minister. And THANK YOU for enduring the personal slander that poured over you in the guise of legitimate political criticism. THANK YOU Jules, for paving the way.

I suppose we’ve hit true female liberation – this is a time when girls can grow up and choose where they belong on this vast range of femininity. But part of me can’t help but worry that the women choosing to perpetuate the stereotypes and inhabit the decorative part of the scale aren’t just making life a little bit harder for those who are trying to prove that a woman is worth more than just her looks.

And while I try to remain open-minded, I have to admit that I already know at which end of the woman-scale that I hope my daughter chooses to place herself. What about you?

From Vegie Smugglers 1. Have you bought a copy yet?

From Vegie Smugglers 1. Have you bought a copy yet?

Liberated ‘chick’pea & corn fritters

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, drained, mashed a little
4 spring onions,
finely chopped
Handful of basil and parsley leaves, finely chopped
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.

MAKES 10

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Am I being firm or unkind?

Don't ask why, but THIS is the 'cool' cap, he's so desperate for.

Don’t ask why, but THIS is the ‘cool’ cap, he’s so desperate for.

Drama at school this morning as Mr M&P arrived for mufti day only to realise that unlike the rest of the boys in his class, he had forgotten to wear a cool cap and instead was sentenced to an embarrassing day with only his daggy green wide-brimmed hat to protect him from the harsh Australian sun.

Trying to instill the idea that he needs to be responsible for his own items for school has been an ongoing battle – readers, library books, notes etc are ignored and forgotten with such tedious regularity that I really felt that I had to hold my ground, even though he had worked himself up into quite a tizz.

He wanted me to go home and return with his cool cap. I told him that he’d have to wear his regular school hat, instead. The conversation deteriorated to this point…

Him: “But muuummmmmmmmyyyyy, if you loved me, you go and get my cap.”
Me: “If I really loved you, I let you learn the lesson that you need to be in charge of all your own things.”
Him: “But I haven’t learned that lesson yet.”
Me: “Yes, you’re learning it right now.”
Him: “But I’ll look stupid.”
Me: “No, you always look handsome and I always love you.”

Bell rings, saving me.

He sucked it up and joined the line with all the little boys wearing the coolest assortment of caps known to man.

I’ve got to go out again soon, and I’m thinking that I might just go via school and pop his cap into his bag, ready to surprise him at lunchtime. Is it the right thing to do? Or am I a sucker?

_______________

Now apologies – there’s no recipe this week. I’m desperately trying to finish off my new cookbook instead. I promise you a chocolately, awesome treat next time, which definitely is worth the wait.

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