Posts tagged rice

My dirty-little-secret pantry dinner…

Generally I’m ALL FOR cooking with lovely fresh produce in creative and interesting ways that promote vibrant good health, happy bowels and an I-never-eat-processed-food glow. At other times, say later in the term (mainly on a Thursday night) when all I’m really looking for is wine and a bit of silence, I’m happy to bend my rules to create a healthy dinner with the minimal amount of effort.

So here it is, my dirty-little-secret dinner that is perfect for those nights, later in the term when everyone has their grumpy heads on. All the ingredients can be stored long-term in the pantry or fridge (most of you can crisper-dive to find a squishy carrot & soggy spring onions, I’m sure). All you do is mix it up and bake, then serve to kids who adore this easy-to-eat, comfort-food dinner.

So easy and a total hit with the kids.

So easy and a total hit with the kids.

Thursday night tuna & rice bake

1 microwave bag of rice, cooked (about 1 1/4 cups cooked rice)
180g tuna in water, drained
440g can cream of mushroom soup (YES, TRULY!!!!!)
125g corn kernels, drained
1 carrot, peeled, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
3/4 cup frozen peas
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 cup grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a pie dish with spray oil.

In a large bowl, combine everything, except 1/4 cup of the cheese. Season. Add in parsley or chives if you’re feeling fancy. Tip into the oven dish, spread it evenly and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids.



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

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Why you don’t need to detox this year

If only I had overly rouged, high cheekbones, it could be 1984!

If only I had overly rouged, high cheekbones, it could be 1984!

This morning, lucky followers of my instagram account were treated with this picture. On waking I was delighted to realise that while I definitely had sore feet (from dancing), my head was only slightly sore even after copious amounts of bubbles (it is a rare day that the hangover gods smile on me). Most importantly, I’d woken to find that my slightly-cloudy head was coifed with a perfectly done, 1980s, Dynastry-style do.

I take these things as A SIGN. To wake up on New years day with perfect 1980s hair must definitely be a sign that IT’S GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR. And such an auspicious segue from the holiday season to the regular year can only mean one thing – that’s it’s time to pull my finger out and get back on the blogging horse. Really, there’s no reason to delay it any longer. I’m so caught up on LIFE, that even my plastics cupboard has been tidied. I’ve got a stash of inspiring recipes scribbled down and my fingers are itching to get back computering. A bit of a break has been good for the soul and has gotten my juices flowing again (TMI?!).

The first thing I’m doing this year is to buck the piety trend and tell everyone that they can take their detoxes and healthy eating resolutions and shove them up their well-intentioned jaxies. Abstemious doctrines hold no lure for me this year. After watching several friends endure entirely heartbreaking years last year, I see no reason to squander good fortune. We are blessed and surrounded by abundance and this year I plan to enjoy every morsel of things that make me feel good. Food should be nourishment, colour, seduction and joy, not a cause for anxiety or stress or avoidance.

Feeding your family full of healthy and delicious meals can be a satisfying and life affirming task. Don’t believe me? Stick with me this year and I’ll prove it.

Starting here, with this simple pesto risotto. It meets so many Vegie Smuggling criteria. It’s DELICIOUS. If you grow basil, then this is pretty cheap. Finishing the cooking in the oven makes it insanely EASY and my pesto-loving kids will hoover up a full bowl of this without question (helped along by the lure of crispy proscuitto).

Eating well is a privilege we can all enjoy, all the time.

Happy New Year!

Happy food.

Happy food.

Pesto risotto

Make this vegetarian by leaving out the prosciutto and use vegetable stock.

50g butter
1 red onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 zucchini, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 & 2/3 cup arborio rice
4 cups (1 litre) hot chicken stock
1½ cups frozen peas

1 bunch basil
¼ cup grated parmesan (the posher the better)
¼ cup pine nuts
4 tbsp olive oil

proscuitto (optional)

Use a stove to oven dish with a lid for this recipe (like a Le Crueset).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat your pot on the stove over medium heat. Melt the butter. Add your onion and celery and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. Toss in the garlic and zucchini for 1 minute, stirring well the entire time.

Rain in the rice, pour over the stock. Mix well. Pop on your lid, transfer to the oven and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Make the pesto by adding the basil, cheese, nuts and oil to a mini food processor and blitzing thoroughly. Set aside

Remove the pot from the oven. Carefully remove the lid and scoop out a few grains to check that they’re basically tender. If still hard, return to the oven for another few minutes. If almost ready, tip in the peas and pesto. Quickly stir it in, recover the pot let it sit for another 5 minutes.

Serve with more grated parmesan, crumbled proscuitto and pepper.

NOTE: crisp the the proscuitto by laying it in a single layer on a tray and baking in the hot oven while the risotto rests.



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

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Taking the spice challenge with this lamb pilaf

Along with a strong dislike of most vegetables, my delightful daughter has always been vehemently anti-spice. And while I’ve now gotten her to a point where she will eat a wide variety of vegies and a whole range of flavour profiles, she will still FREAK OUT if there’s anything in her dinner that makes her tongue HOT.

My workaround has always been to create mild versions of dishes that use small amounts of all the flavour spices but omit any ‘hot’ ingredients like cayenne pepper or chilli. Generally this has worked well. But following my theory that you should continually push kids just slightly out of their food comfort zone, I’ve continued to push her heat boundaries.

Finally a couple of years back I found a breakthrough dish – this nachos recipe which has a decent slug of sweet chilli sauce. She adores it to the point where she actually begs me to make it. That felt like a major achievement. But never one to rest on my laurels, I’ve continued to push with the amount and type of heat I can use. There’s been a few misses and a few hits, the latest being this lamb pilaf, which actually has a half teaspoon of chilli powder. I use a mild mexican one which adds a hint of oomph, but is still insanely child-friendly.

So the days of a vindaloo may still be far off, but on nights when the rest of the household is seeking a bit of flavour, I’m finding this dish is working well.

lamb pilaf vegie smugglers

Extra milk for Miss F who needs several glasses to sooth her burning tongue.

Lamb pilaf

1/4 cup pinenuts

2 tbsp oil of your choice (or use ghee)
400g lamb rump steaks, finely diced
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 finger eggplant, finely diced
1 cup basmati rice
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
1 cup pumpkin, grated
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups beef stock (hot)
1 cup peas

Mint & parsley (optional)

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the pinenuts and stir and toast until golden (keep an eye on them, they go from raw to burnt in a jiffy). Remove & set aside.

Place a large saucepan over a medium/high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and when hot toss in the lamb. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly until brown all over. Remove and set aside.

Add the rest of the oil and reheat the pot. Toss in the onion and cook, stirring often for 4-5 minutes until turning golden. Add the garlic, spices and eggplant. Stir for another minute then pour in the rice. Combine everything really well before adding in all of the grated vegies. Carefully pour over the hot stock and add the paste. Return the meat to the pan, mix everything together and pop on the lid. Simmer on medium heat for 12 minutes until the rice is 95% cooked.

Quickly toss through the peas and recover for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for another 5 minutes to allow the last of the liquid to absorb. (This dish does tread a fine line between uncooked rice and mush – you’ll need to use these times as a guide only and adjust to suit your kitchen’s cooking conditions).

Toss through the pinenuts and the herbs (if using).

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids.


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A simple (gluten-free) mix and bake

Is there anything better than a dinner that gets mixed up in one bowl, then pressed into one tin and cooks in one oven? Perhaps only the addition of Bono, sitting up on the benchtop in his onesie, belting out a little acapella version of ‘One’ while I sip one wee glass of vino while I’m wearing my onesie. That’d be nice, if a little weird.

If you’re free Bono, pop over tonight and we’ll whip this zucchini slice up together.

One piece.

Just one piece.

Zucchini & rice slice (Gluten free)

There’s no smuggling going on here really, since pretty much the whole dish IS vegies. Smuggling vegies within vegies…

2 zucchinis, grated
1 carrot, peeled, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
125g can corn kernels, drained
1 cup cooked rice (white or brown) – I always make extra rice whenever I’m cooking a stir-fry, so I can make stuff like this the next day
2-3 tbsp fresh chives and/or parsley, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (plus extra for the top)
1/2 cup mild feta, crumbled
4 eggs, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a 20x30cm slice tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything well. Press the mixture into the tin, top with a handful of grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes until set.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids


Like this recipe? Why not try out my Baked tuna & tomato rice.


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The world’s easiest side dish?

Here’s a quick fix for those nights when you just want something easy and super-quick. Possibly you could make it in a saucepan, but WHY WOULD YOU when you can do it so effortlessly in a rice cooker. (I’ve seen these Kambrook ones online for under $20). I use mine at least twice a week and I adore the fact that you don’t have to think – just set it going and then get on with everything else that fills your early evening.

They’re also good for ‘entertaining’ (I love using that word – makes me feel very 1970s). It’s a simple way to feed a stack of people. Have it loaded and ready to go, and then just click it to cook when you’re ready. Although I will admit to drinking too much champagne one night and forgetting to even click it on. C’est la vie. Once I remembered it was ready in less than 20 minutes – just enough time to refresh everyone’s glasses and pass around the cabanossi on sticks.

Ta da!

Ta da!

Spanish rice

This makes a great side dish to baked chicken or fish or even kebabs from the BBQ.

2 cups long grain white rice
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (chicken is good, but vegie is great too)
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 red capsicum, finely diced
1 green capsicum, finely diced
400g can corn kernels, drained

Rinse and drain the rice in a sieve, then pop it into your cooker with the stock and tomatoes. Hit ‘cook’ and leave it until it switches to ‘keep warm’.

Quickly mix through the capsicum and corn then recover and leave on ‘warm’ for another 10 minutes or so, until you’re ready to serve.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids as a side dish

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Carry on holidays

Waking up on holidays the other morning, I had my eyes still closed, but I could tell that I was surrounded by a lot of skin. I was smashed up against a deliciously broad back and I sighed contentedly. I love sun-kissed, hedonistic holidays. Then I realised that there was another hand poking through into my tummy. Oooo-errr! And another arm was around my middle and a leg pushed in between mine. Saucy!

Wriggling over in the limited space I was accosted by surprisingly bad breath and then a wee hand smacking me on the boob, bringing me back to my senses. This was no scene of wild holiday abandon. This was an early-morning wake up on our very-family-oriented getaway. And the double bed was crammed full of a snoring Mr VS and two children seeking refuge – one from the scary cockroach on the wall of our van-park cabin and the other from a tangled and smelly old quilt cover which was discarded on the floor.

Note to self. Must arrange a mid-year getaway with husband. Alone.

In the meantime, this mild Caribbean rice side-dish will keep the holiday vibe going. Just a hint of coconut and a stack of vegies. As always, everything is optional. Use whatever will work with your family. I’m including instructions for this in either a rice cooker or in a regular saucepan.

Why not garnish with an umbrella. Cute.

Why not garnish with an umbrella. Cute.

Caribbean ‘I’m still on holidays’ rice

2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 litre water (boil the jug and use that to make cooking quicker)
160g coconut milk
1 cinnamon stick
Several stalks of fresh thyme (use half a bunch if you have it)
1/4 red capsicum
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 zucchini, grated (peeled if your kids hate green)
400g can borlotti beans, rinsed, drained
125g can corn kernels

Heat your rice cooker on the saute function or heat a saucepan over medium/high heat. Add your oil and saute the spring onion and garlic for a minute, stirring frequently.

Pour in the rice and stir really well to make sure it is thoroughly coated and the edges are just starting to turn translucent. (This takes a minute or two).

Carefully tip in the coconut milk and stir. Then add the water, cinnamon and thyme. Stir well. Turn the rice cooker to the cook function and cover OR reduce the heat on the stovetop to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid (a glass lid so you can peak in, is perfect).

Once little vertical tunnels appear in the rice, it is practically cooked (about 15 minutes), so really quickly remove the lid and chuck in the vegies and beans. Stir briefly, recover, and leave for another 5 minutes or so (I actually tend to switch my cooker to ‘warm’ for this stage – the residual heat is enough to warm everything through).

Serve with salad and some meat from the BBQ – something tasty like jerk chicken is perfect (I’ll post a recipe for that next week.)

Serves 4 adults & 4 kids as a side dish.

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End of term fatigue (and the rot sets in)

As we saw in NSW over the weekend, all good things must end. And before they end, they will usually become corrupt, festering things, self-interested and spoilt. And so endeth the first school term of Miss Fruitarian. Without checking the calendar, I knew when week 8 had dawned.

The mornings have been getting progressively tougher. Teeth brushing is taking a good 15 minutes, even with me keeping a watchful eye over proceedings. Uniforms are being put on back-to-front, school hats left in the car and the reading folder is never ready for return on time.

The exhaustion comes like a wave and finally crashes down to shore. Today, Miss F has collapsed and is in need of a day at home. Luckily, being a WAHM, I can accommodate it. In the olden days it would have been tears all around as I forced her into a uniform and off to early morning care. These days, it’s just tears on my part as I try to get work done around a complaining patient who has perked up considerably since I announced she didn’t have to go to school.

Dinner tonight needs to be something comforting yet healthy, that I can make whilst being constantly interrupted. This baked rice dish fits the bill – and it uses up the last of the eggplant and basil from the garden.

A more-ish, pick-me-up dinner for tired kiddlies

Baked tuna & tomato rice

Butter, for greasing
4 cups chicken stock
1½ cups arborio rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 finger eggplant, very finely diced
1 medium zucchini, grated
500ml passata (bottled tomato puree found in the supermarket near the Italian pasta sauces)
½ cup boiling water
150g cheddar cheese, grated
125g can corn kernels, drained
185g can tuna in oil, drained
Handful of basil leaves, torn
Black pepper

Parsley sprigs, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a lasagne or casserole dish.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the stock to the boil, then add the rice and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times until par-boiled. Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and eggplant and cook for 3 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid sticking.

Add the drained rice and zucchini and cook for a minute or so, stirring. Add the passata and water. Stir until well combined. Add the cheese, corn, tuna and basil and mix thoroughly. Season to taste and remove from heat.

Spoon into lasagne dish and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until the top is golden. Top with parsley sprigs and serve with green salad.


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“This dinner is so bad, even Jesus wouldn’t eat it”

Recently a friend’s facebook status included her daughter’s critique of her cooking. “Mum, this dinner is so bad even Jesus wouldn’t eat it”.

There’s nothing quite like the straightforward criticism of a child to discourage your valiant efforts at feeding the family. Being demoralised by preschoolers sucks.

My poor kids are subjected to a fair share of kitchen experiments. Usually it’s pretty obvious if a dish is a winner, but sometimes when things are being picked at in a ‘so-so’ way, I have to put myself out there and pry for truth in the name of research. Miss Fruitarian is now a big school girl and conscious of not hurting my feelings too much but without Jesus on her side her criticism is generally straightforward. Last week I’d made fishballs in a curry sauce. “What do you think of it?” I asked tentatively.
“Oh mum, you’ve done great. Great cooking!”.

Good girl, I’m thinking, but of course she wasn’t finished. “But I just don’t like the flavour of the red stuff or the feel of the lumpy things”. Scratch that one off the list then.

Try not to be discouraged when your kids reject stuff. It is entirely irksome to have to throw good food away. Try to be Zen about it and maintain optimism that you’re one meal closer to one they’ll love! Here’s a recipe that endured a couple of rejections, but this version was a total winner.

Even Jesus would love to munch on these

Even Jesus would love to munch on these

Tuna, rice & zucchini puffs

Canola oil cooking spray
250g packet microwaveable brown or white rice
4 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp finely chopped dill or basil
1 cup grated cheese
1 large (or 2 small) zucchini, grated
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Black pepper
185g can tuna in olive oil (drained)

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

Cook the rice according to packet directions, then set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients (including rice) and mix until combined. Divide evenly between the muffin cases and bake for 25 minutes until golden.

Serve immediately or reheat the next day, topped with chives.


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