Posts tagged toddlers

Getting kids to eat vegetables is completely do-able. Here’s how…

Every now and again I read an article outlining the decline in healthy eating among all age groups and want to scream. This one today in the Sydney Morning Herald reports on the declining number of 18-month-old toddlers who eat the recommended daily amount of vegies.

Getting healthy food into toddlers is not sexy or fun work. There’s plenty of frustration and effort wasted. But it is SO important to keep trying.

Originally this blog started as I struggled to feed my daughter. It was the place I posted all my successes (and fails) as I tried (and tried again) to find recipes that were full of nutrition that tasted good enough for the whole family to eat.

My little girl turns 14 this year. And she’s still not a particularly enthusiastic eater (she missed out on my glutton gene). But she DOES eat everything. Healthy food is part of her every day.

While my second child had a fussy stage but then went on to love all food, without concerted effort, my girl easily would have progressed from a fussy toddler, to child, then teen. I can’t over-emphasise how worthwhile our Vegie Smuggling journey has been for her and her healthy-life prognosis.

So if you’re struggling with a toddler who hates vegetables, don’t despair. Keep going, keep trying. You will get there.

Here are some of the basic meals that helped me find my first vegie-smuggling victories…

a meal that smuggles all vegies

Cheesy pots!

Adam's bolognaise

The best bolognaise sauce! Serve dollops in large pasta shells.

Vegie Smuggling chicken sausage rolls

Chicken sausage rolls (with mushrooms and lentils).

shepherds pie

Shepherd’s Pie (with 6 vegies)

Salmon Pikelets

Try the salmon pikelets (easy to hold and munch)

And if these recipes look good to you, check out my shop for about 300 more recipes!

Toddler Recipes: What (and how) to feed fussy eaters

Advice on how to get your toddler eating a wide variety of vegetables with 26 clever recipes that smuggle the healthy ingredients in.


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This dinner WINS nutrition (and the kids love it)

Walnuts are generally considered to be a pretty fantastic nutritional addition to the modern diet (unless, you know, you’re like anaphylactically allergic to them, in which case they’re a deady-bones type addition and worth avoiding). They’re full of awesome quantities of most stuff that’s good for you including omega 3 fatty acids and a range of minerals.

General consensus seems to be that introducing nuts to non-allergic kids is safe from 12 months. Serving kid-friendly pasta like this recipe is a good way to reap the health benefits without choking your little loves on whole kernels.

Also, this dish is like ‘Where’s Wally?’, except in a ‘Where’s zucchini?’ kind of way. If you have one of those fancy contraptions that will turn vegies into pasta twists then feel free to swap out all the pasta in this recipe. However my kids do love the tooth feel of a bit of traditional pasta and I find the zucchini just melts through effortlessly.

As is, this recipe is a total win-win-win at my place, but as always, I won’t take offence if you change it up to suit your household.

Herbs and capers 'adult' this dish up to schmancy levels.

Herbs and capers ‘adult’ this dish up to schmancy levels.

Broccoli & zucchini pasta with walnut sauce

This is adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe.

1 1/4 cups whole walnuts (toast them in a dry frying pan if you have a few minutes, but don’t fret if you can’t be bothered)
1-2 cloves garlic (depending on how stinky you like to be)
1 slice bread (no crusts) – soaked in 1 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
250g dry linguine or spaghetti
1 head broccoli – cut into dainty florets
2 zucchinis – use a peeler or mandolin to slice them thinly lengthwise then use a knife to cut them into long strips that are a similar size to your pasta.
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Add the walnuts, garlic, soggy bread, milk and oil into a food processor (my little mini one just manages to fit everything). Season well and blitz to form a smooth sauce. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. BUT – add in the broccoli 4 minutes before the end of cooking and then add the zucchini 2 minutes before the end of cooking.

Drain the pasta & veggies. Return to the cooking pot and tip over the walnut sauce. Mix through well. Season super well (this dish really does need tonnes of salt & pepper).

Mix through the parmesan. Serve the kids as is – adults might like to add some torn basil, parsley, anchovies or capers.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids (this portion size is dainty as the dish is rich – serve with a side salad).

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Ohh! It's called

Ohh! It’s called “Kitchen Collection”

There's a section on basics, then a chapter for snacks and lunchbox items...

There’s a section on basics, then a chapter for snacks and lunchbox items…

Then it's the serious business of DINNER, since that happens tediously often...

Then it’s the serious business of DINNER, since that happens tediously often…

I've converted a bunch of recipes so that there's oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker instructions...

I’ve converted a bunch of recipes so that there’s oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker instructions…

Next chapter is full of ways to feed friends and family....

Next chapter is full of ways to feed friends and family….

And I finish off with celebrations with recipes for all kinds of dietary needs.

And I finish off with celebrations with recipes for all kinds of dietary needs.


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Five pie-hole fillers, perfect for toddlers AND husbands this grand final weekend

So it’s grand final weekend – a classic time to gather together and munch on some pastry covered pieces of something-not-quite-defined.

It doesn’t take too much effort to whip up your own morsels – these recipes all go far, contain sneaky vegetables AND taste incredible. PLUS all these recipes are classic finger food, suited to toddlers (as well as husbands)….

Click the pics to see the full recipe….

Sausage rolls and chips

Classic chicken sausage rolls.

vegie smugglers pork fennel apple sausage rolls

Pub grub style – pork & fennel sausage rolls.

Sweet potato & lentil balls - nice option for vegetarians.

Sweet potato & lentil balls – nice option for vegetarians.

Tuna, egg & vegie pastry pockets

Tuna, egg & vegie pastry pockets

rice paper rolls

Beef & peanut rice paper rolls.



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The messiest child wins a prize!

A while back it came to my mother’s attention that my children did not necessarily have the world’s best table manners. And possibly, I have to admit that she was right – training them up on the finer points of silver service mealtime hadn’t been my priority. While my kids could use a knife and fork correctly, they were a long way from being sophisticated cutlery-champions. And when I stopped to think about it, basic table manners are pretty nice and worth pursuing (surely one day they’ll want to have the skills to impress potential partners in restaurants).

Since it is just a skill to learn, we did deliberately start off on a bit of a utensil-mastery-mission. We began with pancakes on Sunday mornings. Unlike dinnertime, we were all fresh and could handle the mess with humour. Pancakes proved to be the perfect practice food, too. Once we mastered them, we moved onto sausages and chips and worked our way to the point where they can use a steak knife and manage their way through most meals.

But it’s taken time and in our defence, most of the dinners we eat are fork or spoon affairs – we’re not much of a meat-and-three-veg family.

Graceful-soup-eating however is still a bit elusive. We have soup spoons and we’ve tried to teach the kids the whole dipping-at-the-back-of-the-bowl trick, but to no avail. Especially if they’re hungry and the soup is yummy, like this one.

In a moment that made me feel like I was living “The Castle”, my husband had one sip of this and declared, “Darl, I’d be bloody happy if I was served this in a restaurant.” Because it’s THAT good apparently.

It’s perfect too, for kids who only like white food.

Dairy-free creamy cauliflower soup

Dairy-free creamy cauliflower soup

Lactose-free, cream of cauliflower & potato soup

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garam masala
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated ginger
1 potato, peeled, roughly diced
1 litre vegetable stock
270ml coconut milk
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Pop the cauliflower onto a baking tray. Scatter over 2 tbsp of the olive oil and garam masala. Toss well then bake for 20-25 minutes until tender (you can push a fork through).

Meanwhile, heat the last tbsp of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the onion, and cook, stirring frequently for 6-8 minutes until golden. Tip in the garlic, ginger and potato. Fry this off for a minute or two before adding in the cooked cauliflower and veggie stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the potato and cauliflower is all really soft.

Remove from the heat. Use a stick blender to blitz everything up until smooth. Pour in the coconut milk and blitz further to combine. Season well, to taste (I like a lot).

Serve with coriander, a slurp of coconut milk on top and bread.

Serve 2 adults and 2-3 kids



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Sometimes the simplest things truly are the best

A few weeks back, while chowing down on a very tasty bibimbap, Miss F turned and said, “when I have kids, I’m not going to feed them all this fancy pantsy schmansy stuff. I’m just going to cook them simple stuff. Cause that’s what we like.”

And she may have a point. In my quest for new and interesting ways to get vegies into my kids, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet, or exotic, every night.

To fulfill her minimalist dreams, I made the kids this super-simple beef mince & macaroni dinner and it was hoovered up. I made it again the next week and in the rarest of rare moments, both kids asked for SECONDS.

They love it. It’s one of those deadset simple, family dinners that ticks ALL THE BOXES. It’s easy, tasty, nutritious (five vegies), can be gluten-free (use rice pasta), it’s perfect for toddlers, stores well in the fridge or freezer, is full of affordable ingredients AND it gets gobbled up. Every. Single. Time.

Self-effacing food.

Self-effacing food.

Pasta & mince basic bolognaise

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, grated
1 small eggplant, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 tsp Italian herbs
500g beef mince
400g can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato chutney
1/2 cup water
Salt & Pepper

To serve: Cooked macaroni, cheese, parsley

You need a large pot or frying pan with a lid.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and stir often for 6-8 minutes until golden. Place the mince into the pan. Use the spoon to break up lumps and brown it all over (takes 5-6 minutes).

Pop in the garlic for a minute until fragrant then add the vegies and dried herbs. After a couple of minutes, the vegies will be starting to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes, puree and chutney. Cover and bring to a strong simmer. Then lower the heat let it bubble away for 10-15 minutes.

Season & serve with pasta of your choice (I like macaroni). Adults can add olives, dried chilli flakes & capers!

Serves 2 adults and 2-3 kids.

This recipe is from my Kitchen Collection cookbook!


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Vegie-filled dinners that your toddlers can feed to themselves

As fun as it is to try and force a spoon into the firmly shut gob of a child aged between 18 months and 3, sometimes it’s entirely GREAT to be able to serve them dinner and walk away in the hope that they will manage to get something into their own mouth. Particularly if your child is going through a “ME DO IT” phase, then these dinners might bring you a little bit of relief. (Click on the photos to link through to the recipe).

Vegie Smugglers cheese puffs recipe

Cheesy puffs – serve with a side of poached chicken, beans and carrot.

thai chicken meatballs

Chicken meatballs. Noodles optional.

vegie smugglers beef triangles with vegetables and puff pastry

Beef triangles

Perfect for independent toddlers

Lentil, sweet potato & rice balls



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Mysterious mummy superpowers (and some cute widdle salmon cakes)

I’ve managed to convince my kids that I have x-ray vision.

My superpower was revealed last weekend during a session of “guess what colour undies I’m wearing”. To the utter astonishment of my children I was able to correctly guess what colour undies they were both wearing AND my own AND daddy’s, too.

“How’d you do that?!” they wanted to know.

“I have x-ray vision.”

“No really! How’d you do that?!”

“I REALLY have x-ray vision.”

Nodding, they looked at me in awe, oblivious to the fact that as chief buyer, washerer and folderer of all the smalls at VSHQ I had a distinct advantage in the game and I’d simply just guessed the most common colour from their clothes pile.

It was luck that I was right every single time. But my status as the ‘undie-whisperer’ was cemented, and I’m now known for my mysterious super-powers – a fact which I’ll be sure to remind them off during their teenage years when they think I can’t see that packet of ciggies stashed in the bottom of their school bag.

Test out your superpowers by telling your kids to eat these mini salmon cakes, then you’ll practice your x-ray powers by looking into their tummies to count the number in there.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can't.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can’t.

Itsy widdle salmon cakes

2 large potatoes
1 cup cauliflower florets
180g can salmon in springwater, drained
2 spring onions, very finely sliced
Handful of green beans, very finely sliced (or pulsed in a mini food processor)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste (I like a big squeeze)
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
Salt & pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or blitz up a few slices of stale bread and leave it out to get even more stale for a couple of hours)
Spray oil

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Cook your potatoes. It’s up to you whether you bake them, steam them or be terribly unfashionable like me and just microwave them until the insides are a mashing consistency.

Cook your cauliflower. Same as above. You want it 90% cooked, still firm enough to dice finely, so that it will disappear into the potato.

Add your cooked potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Mash with a fork and mix in the cauliflower and all of the other ingredients (except the breadcrumbs). Season and combine really well.

Roll bite-sized balls of mixture, coat in breadcrumbs and place on your tray. Spray with oil spray and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully turn the balls over, spray with extra oil and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden.

Serve as is or with a dollop of mayonaise and salad.

Serves 2 adults & 2 small kids, along with salad.



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