Posts tagged Quick dinners

Vegetarian sung choi bao

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Even my meatlovers enjoy this vegetarian goodness.

One day you wake up and realise that both your kids are in high school. Yes! HIGH SCHOOL. I’m not sure how that happened, but apparently they’ve been touched by the magical ageing fairy who’s in charge of puberty, grey hairs, sore knees and wrinkles. She has been busy at our house in recent times.

Still, the good side of this ageing thing is that the kids are pretty independent, just needing me for the odd chat, regular lifts to far flung places and plenty of cuddles (we’re never too old for those).

My life has returned to being more about me, which is an interesting shock that has taken some getting used to. The workforce has drawn me back and I enjoy the chance to dig back into my career and personal goals. Not that it’s easy – the juggle is real and while I’ve let go of some domestic standards (I mean, their rooms are their business, right?), dinner still remains a priority. Often though, I rely on meals that I’ve made ahead, or that can be cooked quickly. Sung choi bao is a staple. Make it ahead (or not). It’s simple enough that the kids can cook it too. And it’s a social meal – get messy together, and enjoy a bit of face to face time with the growing people who are so often absorbed elsewhere.

Vegetarian sang choi bao

5-6 tbsp olive oil
1 onion (finely diced)
Packet of vegetarian mince, quorn or vegetable protein
1 eggplant (finely diced – if your kids dislike the skin, peel first)
1 zucchini (grated or finely diced)
225g can water chestnuts, drained, finely diced
225g can bamboo shoots, drained, finely diced
4 spring onions (finely sliced)
125g can corn kernels (drained)
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp ginger
3 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp shao hsing wine

Lettuce leaves (iceberg or cos works best)
Chilli sauce, coriander (optional)

Heat half the oil in a large frying pan or wok over high heat. Stir fry the onion for a couple of minutes until golden. Add the rest of the oil. Pop in the ‘mince’ and all of the vegies (except the corn). Cook for a couple of minutes before adding in all the flavourings. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until everything has combined well. Stir through the corn, then pop mixture into lettuce leaves.

Adults might like coriander leaves and some chilli sauce.

Serves 2 adults & 2-4 kids (depending on their size and appetite).

 

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Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

 

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Whaddya call this darl?

This recipe has been rolling around the VS kitchen for a couple of years, getting made regularly and eaten with gusto, every time. It is of course, a MEATLOAF, that daggiest of daggy old recipes, so derided and laughed at. Poor little meatloaf, it doesn’t deserve the slagging. I’m here to sing it’s praises and remind everyone of why it became so ubiquitous in the first place…

  • The recipe takes only 15 minutes to prepare, then an hour to cook, giving you crucial multitasking time to wash kids, make lunches, sneak a wine or do whatever else needs doing before serving up a delicious dinner.
  • The cooked meatloaf keeps super well in the fridge for 3-4 days and it actually gets yummier as it sits. Make it on a Sunday, eat it Monday night, then use leftovers for sandwiches, toasties or inside baked potatoes as the week goes on. It’s the meal that keeps on giving.

A few times I’ve tried to photograph it, but meatloaf falls into the category of ‘impossible-to-photograph-in-a-way-that-looks-yum’, especially these days. Working five days a week means that my good camera is dusty and everything is snapped on the iphone, moments before it gets gobbled. So forgive the poor visuals, I assure you that this is a neat little recipe, that will slot perfectly into your rotation of family-favourites.

Vegie_Smugglers_meatloaf

Italian-ish meatloaf

1kg beef mince
2 slices bread (any kind)
3 garlic cloves
2 tsp Italian herbs
1 zucchini
1 onion
1 egg (lightly beaten)
400g can crushed tomatoes
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp apple cidar vinegar

A mini food processor makes this recipe super quick & easy to prep!

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease/line a loaf tin.

Add the mince to a big mixing bowl. Place the bread (tear it up a little), garlic and herbs to the food processor to blitz into breadcrumbs. Add to the bowl. Blitz the zucchini and add to the bowl, repeat with the onion. Tip in the egg and 1/2 cup of the tomatoes. Season well.

You need to combine everything really well. A spoon works, but hands are best. Use kitchen gloves if you’re squeamish. Pack the mixture firmly into the prepared dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and vinegar, then add the rest of the tomatoes. Pour over the top of the meatloaf. Bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Leave to sit for 15 minutes, drain off excess liquid.

Serve with mash, or pasta, and more vegies – we like broccolini, carrots and peas.

Serves 2 adults & 4 kids.

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The end of parenting? It feels like it here.

Last year I looked at my kids and realised that they were growing up. Quickly.

All those hours of blood (theirs), sweat (mine) and tears (all of ours), spent on my parenting quest were reaching a crescendo. While I know that parenting never ends (just ask my mum, who still parents me brilliantly at 76), it was apparent that the first phase of raising kids was almost done. Miss F catches two buses to get to school. Mr M&P walks himself home. Both wash their own hair, wipe their own bums and can unpack the dishwasher without breaking stuff. There’s no more cuddling at the school gate or overt PDAs.  Especially in front of tween friends. I mean, like, muuuuuuummmm, like, you are, like, WAY embarrassing.

And I reached that curious point where I realised it’s time to take charge of my own life and try to negotiate my way back into my career. To update my qualifications I’ve headed back to uni for a bit of postgrad study. It’s a big culture shock considering the last time I studied I didn’t even have an email address, but so far the challenge is stressful awesome.

But I was kidding myself that I’d have to time to do it all. The kids, while increasingly independent still need constant care. There’s the domestics, a part-time graphic design job and this business to tend.

Which leaves bugger-all time for blogging. Especially about cooking, which I’m doing less of. So over the next few months my posts may dry up. Do keep popping by – as I find favourite new recipes I’ll be sure to share (like this insanely good stirfry, below).  They’ll probably be healthy, tasty  & quick meals that suit my older kids. If that appeals to you, you might want to subscribe so you don’t miss any.

And of course if your focus is still toddlers and fussy eaters, there’s always all the lovely cookbooks that you can buy here at my shop.

For me, this Vegie Smuggling journey has been entirely worth all the effort. Watching my kids happily tuck into a huge range of healthy food is one of my proudest parenting achievements.

vegie-smugglers-easy-stirfry

 

Super easy stirfry

2 tbsp peanut oil (or olive oil is fine)
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp freshly grated ginger (use the jar stuff if you prefer)
1 red onion, diced
500g pork mince
1/2 eggplant, peeled, finely diced (I mean it – about a 5mm dice)
1 red capsicum, diced
1 small head of broccoli, cut into little florets or use a bunch of broccolini, slicing all the stalks thinly.
Snow peas

To serve: rice, coriander, basil, chives, chilli

Mix the oil, sauces, garlic and ginger in a ceramic or glass bowl. Add the mince and use a spoon (or your hand) to combine everything well. If you have time, leave this mix to marinate (you can leave it all day if you like).

Heat a wok or large frying pan over your highest heat. Add a splash of oil and stir fry the onion for a couple of minutes until turning translucent and golden. Pop in the mince and use the spoon to break up lumps and brown it well. Chuck the eggplant into the pan. It will suck up any pork fat and after 3-4 minutes will be soft and yum. Don’t rush this stage – the eggplant just gets gorgeously gooey and takes up all the flavour, so make sure you cook it well now (uncooked eggplant is gross).

Finish by adding in the capsicum and broccoli for a couple of minutes, before mixing through the snow peas.

Serve over rice and top with plenty of fresh herbs & chilli (kids might like to skip this bit).

Serves 2 adults and 2 bigger kids.

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Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

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Pea, potato & haloumi frittatas

It’s a deadset crappy day outside today – which seems to happen a lot during school holidays! So we’re making the most of it by doing bugger-all. Miss F is reading on the couch. Mr M&P is fluffing about – a bit of reading, a bit of drawing evils guys with crossbows and a little bit of doing a lovely portrait of mummy.

My boobs aren't looking so great, but at least I'm smiling.

My boobs aren’t looking so great, but at least I’m smiling.

Thankfully my kids are pretty calm little people. They can handle a day of doing nothing – they relish it as much as I do. I’ve always thought that a bit of nothing time is essential for the spirit. Creative juices get to flow about, minds can wander over and around all sorts of random topics. Often we end these times recharged and ready for life. But I guess it is a chicken or egg thing – are my kids calm because I give them lots of calm times, or are we able to have calm times because they’re calm people? I can’t decide.

I can decide that these little frittatas have been a massive hit around VSHQ lately. Peas (my favourite vegie of ALL TIME) with haloumi flavour bombs, all padded out with potato making them almost Spanish omelette-like.

Back to my book.

vegie-smugglers-pea-potato-haloumi-frittata

Pea, potato & haloumi frittatas

These gluten-free little tasties are great hot, but also delicious cold, making them a great lunchbox item, too.

2 large potatoes, peeled, cubed into 1cm cubes
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
225g block haloumi cheese, in 5mm cubes
1 small carrot, peeled, grated
7 eggs, lightly whisked
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (not the powdered stuff)
3 tbsp fresh herbs (any combo of chives, mint, parsley is good), finely chopped
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin or line with paper cases.

Par cook the potato cubes by either steaming or microwaving them until barely tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine everything (complicated recipe, I know).

Divide between your muffin holes. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and puffy.

Serves with salad.

Makes 12.

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This dinner is a bit fancy, a bit good with a noice secret ingredient!

How great is it when you rediscover a ‘classic’ flavour combination that has been lost in the mists of time. In food land that usually means that it’s an ingredient or two that has gone out of fashion or doesn’t fit the current food trends.

But always being a bit rebellious in my tastes, I can’t help but flirt with these flavours a little, finding all that is good in them. And good this soy/tomato sauce/honey combo is. Sure, it’s a flash straight out of the 80s, but who cares when it shrouds a bunch of healthy ingredients and gets gobbled up in moments.

Vegie Smugglers Chinese Chicken tray bake

Chuck it all in and bake for 40 minutes. Too easy!

Chinese chicken tray-bake

700g chicken wing nibbles
2 red onions, peeled, cut into wedges
3 potatoes, chopped into largish bite-sized pieces (leave the skin on)
1-2 cups pumpkin in pieces slightly larger than the potato
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 4cm chunks
1 red capsicum, cored, cut into large squares
1/4 fennel, sliced
8 button mushrooms, halved
8 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole

1/3 cup oil of your choice (I like olive)
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder

Broccoli (to serve)
1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Add the chicken, all the veggies and the garlic into a large baking dish. Use your hands to toss it all together.

Whisk together the oil, sauces, honey and 5-spice. Pour over the chicken & veggies. Toss well.

Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the chicken is golden and cooked through and the veggies are tender.

Cut the broccoli and lightly cook by steaming or microwaving. Scatter over the tray. Squeeze the lemon juice over the whole dish.

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids.

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Five mix & bake dinners, that will make this week a doddle…

I love nothing better than a dinner that cooks itself. So much so I’ve got a whole e-book dedicated to them (check it out here). I particularly love those mix and bake dinners, you know, where you do a bit of chopping and mixing then everything is popped into one dish and baked.

The baking time gives you a chance to bath kids, help with homework or pack tomorrow’s lunchboxes, which means by the time you sit down for dinner you’re feeling in-control and ultra-efficient, two notions that are as deluded as they are fleeting.

Have a great week!

Easy to make. Easy to eat. Chicken pasta bake.

Easy to make. Easy to eat. Chicken pasta bake.

Zucchini slice (vegetarian & gluten free)

Zucchini slice (vegetarian & gluten free)

Gluten-free chicken pesto bake

Gluten-free chicken pesto bake

Tuna rice bake - so easy and a total hit with the kids.

Tuna rice bake – so easy and a total hit with the kids.

Mix, shape & bake these felafel patties

Mix, shape & bake these felafel patties

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Easy pumpkin soup (only 4 ingredients!)

Easy pumpkin soup (only 4 ingredients)

Isn’t it lucky that we’re never too old to learn stuff.

Important stuff, too, like the fact that Youtube videos on how to cut your own hair make it look deceptively simple. I learned that this week. And that a new mirrored splash back will cause your cat to MELT DOWN as they fight a territorial war with the new cat who has moved into their kitchen (don’t even ask why he’s on the benchtop). And that the end of term is a tiring time for everyone (mummies included).

Thankfully there are salves for all these issues. Luckily my ‘haircut’ looks ok once blowdried in it’s new daringly short style. A squirt bottle of water can keep cats off bench tops. And veggie-filled recipes DO exist that are incredibly easy to make and soothing to eat. Like this one. Perfect for tired kids. Perfect for tired mums.

Easy Pumpkin soup

1 litre chicken stock (salt-reduced)
8 cups (about 1.1 kg) of evenly cubed vegies (you can use all pumpkin, but I like about 800g pumpkin & a couple of big carrots)
1 tbsp Italian herbs
425g can baked beans in tomato sauce (salt-reduced)

Pour the stock into a large pot and bring it to the boil. Add the vegies and herbs and reduce to a strong simmer.

After 10-15 minutes the vegies should be tender (you can easily pierce the pumpkin with a skewer). Tip in the beans and sauce. Stir them through to heat up then remove the pot from the heat.

Use a stick blender to whizzy it all up (or transfer to a traditional blender when cool).

Serve with bread, pumpkin seeds, or last week’s cheese & sweet potato rock cakes.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids.

And if you struggle to get your little kids to eat soup, click over to the Mother & Baby blog where I’m discussing how to make this genre a success with small kids.

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If you like this recipe, why not try…
Roasted carrot & parsnip soup
Pumpkin & red lentil soup
Green split pea soup

 

If you love slow cooking, you'll love my latest e-book!

If you love slow cooking, you’ll love my latest e-book!

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