Posts tagged salad

Rock your BBQ with these bowls of magic…

So we’re about to smack straight into the celebration season. Possibly you’re like me, with a list of weekends ahead that hold the promise of bubbles, nurofen and oodles of food.

Whether you’re hosting or being a guest, there’s no better way to get into the party vibe than with food that looks a bit more fancy and special than usual. So why serve a boring run-of-the-mill green salad when you can shift to colourful and fun dishes like this one.

Fregola is a cute little Sardinian pasta, similar looking to cous cous but more of a hot-cousin version that has been down the gym for a serious work out. Usually it’s toasted and has a slight nutty flavour. If your local shop doesn’t stock it, substitute with wimpy, regular cous cous.

This dish gets more pink as it gets tossed about, which is PERFECT, because, you know… PARTY.

Colourful, festive, impressive AND super tasty.

Colourful, festive, impressive AND super tasty.

Roast vegie & fregola salad

Serve this dish warm or cold. It’s fancy enough to be great with roast meats or a nice change from your usual array of BBQ sides. Crumbled feta is also delicious on top.

1 1/4 cups dried fregola (toasted if you can find it – I get mine at the local posh greengrocer)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice (about half an orange)

5-6 baby beetroot
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 4-5 cylinders
Olive oil (to drizzle)
1 red onion, cut into thick wedges
1 baby fennel, cut into thick wedges
1/2 punnet small tomatoes (any type will do)
1 red capsicum, cut into large squares
salt & pepper
Juice & zest 1/2 lemon

Cook the fregola according to packet directions. Drain, pop into a salad bowl and toss through the combined oil, vinegar & orange juice. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Wrap the beets in foil. Pop them in the oven for about 45-50 minutes until you can easily pierce them with a skewer. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile (use a second shelf in the oven), chuck the carrots in a small roasting tray. Pour over some olive oil and salt & pepper and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and mix in the onion wedges and fennel (add oil if looking dry). Return for 20 minutes then add in the tomatoes and capsicum and bake for another 20 minutes.

Peel the beetroot (kitchen gloves are a good idea). Cut into easy-to eat size pieces and add to the fregola. Also tip in the veggies and mix everything through including the parsley and lemon juice.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.


Other salads that will do the schmancy party trick….

Asian noodle salad

Asian noodle salad

Pumpkin & haloumi salad.

Pumpkin & haloumi salad.

vegie smugglers panzanella

So delicious, the kids might just join in for this one.

There’s a bunch more salad & side recipes in the ‘Entertaining’ section of Vegie Smuggler’s Kitchen Collection. And if you use code ‘xmas2015’ you can buy it right now for 10% off. Valid until Nov 31, 2015.


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The dressing that saved salad

This will make friends with salad!

This will make friends with salad!

Ah, salad! That divisive item that has people either in raptures or hell. Kids tend to fall firmly on the side of ‘hell’ and getting fussy eaters onto the stuff can be tricky. I do have two tips though, which I call the ‘dress & lure’ principle (sounds slutty, really isn’t). You can read all about it today over at Mother & Baby where I’m guest blogging.

Even those of us with salad-friendly families can find ourselves in a bit of a rut by the end of the crunch season. Which is why I’m sharing the recipe which has revived salad for us this summer. It packs a punch, being a bit of a honey/mustard/ranch-type concoction. You don’t need too much for it to work its magic.

Lately I’ve been making these ‘salad cups’ – tuna plus a bunch of leaves, basil, carrot, etc – in fact whatever I have on hand, chopped pretty finely with dressing and a cherry ‘olive’ on top. I find the slightly opaque glass works a treat. They look fun and taste great, which is enough to ensure that they will be gobbled up.

vegie-smugglers-salad cups

Honey/Mustard/Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup mayonaise (good quality, not low fat)
1/4 cup fresh herbs (I used a chive/basil/parsley combo)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (start with one – I I usually end up adding the second)
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil (something bland)

Blitz everything together. Taste and add the extra lemon juice if you’d like it more tangy. Store in a jar in the fridge for a week or so.



Get ready for 2017 with my Complete Lunchbox Planner! Visit the shop to check it out.

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How to make friends with salad

Hopefully, over the winter you’ve accumulated a repertoire of accepted (and even enjoyed) meals that contain enough vegies and nutrition to keep you achieving your status as an awesome-parent. But the casseroles and bakes that you’ve come to rely on may hold less appeal as the weather warms up.

It’s time to lighten the menu, and traditionally it’s the time when the BBQ gets trundled out and parents are faced with the screwed up faces of little kids who are not friends with salad.

There’s often not much smuggling potential in salads. They are, after all, full of raw and highly-recognisable ingredients. To get the kids interested in them, they need to be particularly tasty. While a good dressing helps a green salad to be more agreeable, there are a couple of more creative salad recipes that are a good starting point when you’re trying to instil a BBQ & salad culture.

Start simple and convey the whole concept of cold side dishes with a couple of particularly tasty examples that they can’t resist. Our favourite noodle salad works well, luring them in with flavour and crunch. Another sure-fire hit will be this Japanese-style potato salad that uses a mayonnaise-based sauce to entice them.

Dou itashimashite.

Dou itashimashite.

Japanese potato salad

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

4 medium mashing potatoes, peeled, quartered
1 carrot, peeled, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
250g corn kernels, drained
1 cucumber, sliced into rounds

Combine the sauce ingredients well and set aside.

Pop the potatoes into a large pot of cold water and bring to the boil (adding them cold stops the edges from disintegrating). Reduce the heat to a strong simmer and leave for 15 minutes until soft enough that you can easily push a skewer through. Drain and add to a large bowl. Use a fork to roughly mash, but leave heaps of texture with lots of large chunks.

Stir the carrot and spring onions through the hot potatoes (this cooks them slightly). Season with plenty of salt & pepper. Pour over the sauce and mix thoroughly.

Leave to cool then combine in the corn and cucumber. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

Serves 2 adults & 3-4 kids as a side dish (leftovers make great lunches).



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Just like heaven, only not

On paper, being a member of the VS household looks awesome. There’s the constant smorgasbord of tasty treats, my hilarious jokes and lots of wine good times – it must be great to live with me!

You’ll be surprised to hear that my kids would strongly disagree with the greatness of their situation. And on days when he’s feeling brave, Mr VS might too. You see, most days, I’m experimenting in the kitchen with new recipes. And results can be mixed. Rarely is there a disaster (there hasn’t been anything inedible for a while), but it can definitely take a few goes before I create a concoction that is truly delicious. Being helpful, my kids and Mr VS often give their input along the way. We’ll dissect the flavour profile of a meal and discuss in detail how successful it is. Luckily my skin is quite thick as their feedback can be brutal.

Finally though, I’ll crack a recipe, or cook something that hugely tickles their fancy. Success! Hurrah! But the joy is fleeting. No sooner has Mr VS declared, “Oh my god, this is so good, I could eat this every week”, than I’ve snapped a photo, posted the recipe and moved on to something else.

So here Mr VS is that coleslaw that you really, really, really liked, but probably will never get to eat again.

Just chopping, no cooking. Love.

Just chopping, no cooking. Love.

Winter coleslaw

This is great with pork or chicken.

1 crispy red apple (royal gala is perfect), cored and thinly sliced
1/2 lemon
3 cups shredded red cabbage
1 carrot, peeled, shredded or grated
2 sticks celery, finely sliced

3 tbsp grape seed oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Put the apple into a medium-sized salad bowl. Squeeze the lemon over it and coat the apple well in the juice (to stop it browning).

Throw in the rest of the salad ingredients, combine the dressing ingredients in either a bowl or jug and pour over. Toss well.

Serves 2 adults and 3 kids as a side dish.


Like this? Why not try my Crispy noodle & cabbage coleslaw.
Or, for something tangier, try this noodle salad. My kids adore both!

Want a pulled pork recipe to go with this? You'll find one in my new e-book!

Want a pulled pork recipe to go with this? You’ll find one in my new e-book!

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What’s Jamie’s best cookbook?

Chuck a heap of coriander, mint and chilli on the adult's serves.

Chuck a heap of coriander, mint and chilli on the adult’s serves.

The inspiration for this recipe is a noodle salad from Jamie Oliver’s ’30 minutes meals’ cookbook. I’ve evolved it quite a bit to suit my family and added a stack of extras (since that’s my thing really, isn’t it). We’ve been eating it every week for most of the summer since it ticks all the dinnertime boxes. It’s easy to make, I can make it ahead and serve it cold. And it’s delicious.

Do you think ’30 minute meals’ is Jamie’s best book? I do. It’s the cookbook of his that I return to often. Heaps of great flavours, all very accessible. Each time I browse through I find something else I want to make. The food is more healthy than his early recipes which featured meat, meat and a bit more meat but not as simplistic as the recipes in ’15 minute meals’, which I didn’t like so much. I can’t quite put my finger on why I don’t cook anything from that book. Am I missing something there? I flip through that repeatedly and don’t bookmark anything. Perhaps point me in the direction of the recipes you like from that one and I promise to give them another look.

Noodle salad

250g dried egg noodles
1 red onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 carrot, peeled, grated
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
125g can corn, drained
1/2 cup cashews or peanuts, chopped
1 cucumber, halved, seeds removed, sliced
Mint & coriander to taste (I like heaps, the kids like none).
Lime wedges (optional)

In a mini-food processor, blitz together the onion, lime, sauces, sugar and oil. Set aside.

Cook the noodles according to packet directions. Drain, return to the saucepan and pour over the blitzed sauce while they’re still hot (the onion will cook and mellow a bit). Mix through the carrot, capsicum and corn.

Once the initial heat fades, you can add in the nuts, cucumber and herbs.

Serves warm or cold.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids.

Your family likes noodles? Try these dishes…
Beef Pho
Chicken & udon soup

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A salad to serve warm or cold

Here’s one last BBQ side dish for the summer – my version of a pumpkin, haloumi and spinach salad. You can serve it cold in summer or warm in the winter, so all you Northern Hemisphere smugglers can enjoy it right now as well.

It’s back to the idea I talked about when I made Panzanella – just serve good healthy stuff and enjoy it and hopefully the kids will join in a bit. Miss F likes the squeaky cheese and spinach (with the yummy sweet dressing). Mr M&P doesn’t find much to his satisfaction here yet, with the exception of the cashews and pine nuts. Sometimes these things take time.

Cashews and pinenuts are the big lures.

Cashews and pinenuts are the big lures.

Roast pumpkin & haloumi salad

600g butternut pumpkin, peeled, cut into 1.5cm cubes
Olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup roasted, unsalted cashews
1 block haloumi cheese
Baby spinach leaves
Baby cos leaves
3 spring onions, finely sliced
½ red capsicum, finely diced

1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp grapeseed oil (olive oil will do and if you have it, a bit of hazelnut oil mixed in is DELICIOUS!)

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

Toss the pumpkin cubes in the olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a single layer on the tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until just tender but not totally squishy.

Place a frying pan over medium heat and add the pinenuts. Dry roast, stirring often to avoid burning. Remove and set aside.

Return the pan to the heat and add some olive oil. Slice the haloumi into 1cm thick slices and fry on each side until golden.

In a large salad bowl, mix together the leaves, onions and capsicum. Toss through the nuts and tear up the haloumi into bite-sized pieces. Pop in the pumpkin.

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and pour over. Give everything a good mix and either serve warm, or leave in the fridge and serve cold.

Serves 4 adults and 4 kids as a side dish.

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Pass me the berocca

Gee I like holidays. Even with my kids I like them. And without my kids I liked them even more. Here’s how it went…

Wake up (at a time of my choosing). Swim. Coffee. Eat. Chat. Sun. Read. Swim. Chat. Eat. Rest. Drinkie. Chat. Snacks. Chat. Swim. Sunset. Chat. Eat. Perhaps a wee cocktail or three.

Now whilst I don’t condone excessive drinking, I must admit that I did toss back quite a few, which I blame entirely on the delirium we experienced being a bunch of women away from small children for the first time. Somehow the years slipped away and it felt more like schoolies week all over again. Except we’re pretty wrinkly now. And way beyond the acceptable age range for such shenanigans. We’re not schoolies. Not even toolies. Quite possibly we’re moulies – the mother version, who drink with gay abandon, delirious in their solo-ness and removal from menial tasks such as preparing vegetable purees.

Time though, for something far more healthful.

Easy to make and will get me back on track on no time.

Chicken & brown rice salad

5-6 cups cooked brown rice
600g poached chicken breast (see below for how to poach), sliced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
Handful green beans, sliced
410g can corn kernels, drained
¾ cup raw cashews, roughly chopped
½ bunch parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1-2 tbsp maple syrup

Add all the salad ingredients into a large bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, mustard and maple syrup. Drizzle over and stir through.

Serves 2 adults & 3 kids. NOTE kids might like to have theirs served before you mix in the parsley.

I like to halve my chicken breasts horizontally, so they’re nice and thin. Fill a medium saucepan with water (add some vegie or chicken stock powder), 10 black pepper corns, a fresh bay leaf or two and any other herbs you have handy. Cover and bring to a vigorous boil. Remove from the heat, slip in the chicken, swish them about, cover quickly and leave for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

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Why mini food-fascists shouldn’t ruin your day

vegie smugglers panzanella

So delicious, the kids might just join in after all.

So you’ve looked at the picture and now I can hear you screeching, “Has she gone mad! There’s NO WAY my kids would eat that”. And possibly you’re right. The vegies are all on show, there’s A LOT of them and there’s even little bits of poison like olives included in this panzanella.

But the thing is, kids are never going to eat a salad like this if they’re never introduced to it. I get sick of parents saying to me “my kids just WON’T eat (insert item name)”, to which I say, “do you ever serve (insert that item name)”, then usually they sheepishly admit that no, they never do.

I understand that you’re battle weary, but how on earth will your kids ever eat a wide variety of food if you’ve stopped serving it?

The kids shouldn’t hold us hostage, destined to a life of sausages and carrot sticks. They need to understand that while you do spend time creating their favourite dishes, sometimes they have to join in with your favourite dishes too. They need to see adults enjoying healthy food. And if you serve this at your next BBQ, they can see lots of adults oohing and aahing over it. Being that kids are such classic joiner-innerers, they might even have a stab at it. At this stage, my kids will munch on the bread, capsicum, cucumber and olives.

Who knows, by the end of summer, after seeing and eating it multiple times, I’m betting that they’ll just tuck straight in.

If cooked till nice and black, the skin will peel off the capsicums easily. No need to place in bags/tea towels or anything.


½ red onion
2 red capsicums
½ Baguette (or slices of sourdough – it’s delicious and chewy)
2 large cloves garlic
1 large Lebanese cucumber
2 punnets of cherry or roma tomatoes OR 3 big vine ripened OR 4 roma tomatoes
Handful of olives
½ bunch basil
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Slice the red onion and place in a cup of iced water. This takes the ‘bite’ out of the onion but still leaves it firm and crunchy. Leave to soak for at least 10 minutes then drain and set aside.

Cut the cheeks off the capsicum and place under a hot griller until totally blackened. Remove and set aside until they’re cool enough to handle. Once they are, peel and discard the skin.

Grill the baguette or sourdough slices until toasted. Do both sides then remove. Rub garlic over one side while the bread is still hot.

Chop your tomatoes (just in half for little ones) and add to a salad bowl. Add in the chopped cucumber and chopped capsicum flesh.

Tear over the basil and the toasted bread. Toss through the onion and olives.

Mix the oil and vinegar together (whisk with a fork) and pour over.

This salad can be served fresh but its nice to leave it sit for a couple of hours so that the flavours can combine.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

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