Posts tagged vegetarian

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

Pesto:
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.

 

real-healthy-families

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

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Why I can’t manage healthy eating all the time

Keeping all the nutrition balls in the air at all times is a task that is often too large for me (I suspect it’s too large for most modern parents). I mean, hot damn, if there isn’t a bunch of tasks clawing at us from different directions at all times keeping the domestic tension rising. It makes sense that the pressure escapes in the areas where you have the most options. So while skiving off work or dropping the kids to school at 10.15 isn’t an option, dashing into the supermarket and buying something ready-to-eat out of the packet, is.

So I get it, I really do, the fact that keeping a house full of 100% healthy food is a tricky task that is only achievable with consistent motivation and effort. Which is why I try to keep my blog pretty accessible. I’m not asking you to ferment, or make your cheese or activate nuts or only eat organic. Gold stars to all of you who do manage to do all of this – if you could please pop over and let me know all of your time management secrets; I’d be hugely appreciative.

At my place, I cook as much as I can. I consider but don’t obsess over ingredients and I do try to stand back and get an overview of our diet from time to time. Inevitably little areas of slackness have arisen that I can squish back down with some simple changes and easy recipes.

One area I get lazy with is savoury crackers. There are several brands that aren’t full of additives (yes I know, they’re all full of masses of salt), so a packet of them in the pantry can be a lifesaver. BUT, they’re not really full of anything much at all. No rubbish, but also no nutrition. And considering how popular they are with the kids as an after-school snack, it’s worth the 10 minutes it takes to mix and press out this homemade version. Just happens that this recipe is gluten and egg-free, although I like it just because these crackers are seriously tasty.

Seed crackers - nut free, so perfect for lunchboxes, too.

Seed crackers – nut free, so perfect for lunchboxes, too.

SEEDY CRACKERS

1 cup besan flour (chickpea flour, available from good fruit markets and health food stores)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp spice (I like 1/2 tsp garlic powder & 1/2 tsp cumin, but you can try paprika, sumac, coriander or zatar)
1 tbsp fresh herbs (I like rosemary & thyme)
4 tbsp seeds (any combination you like of sesame, flax, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin & chia)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 170C.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, spices, herbs & seeds.

Tip in the olive oil, the gradually add enough water until the mix comes together to form a sticky dough.

Roll it out between a couple of sheets of kitchen paper until about 3-5mm thick (if you don’t have a rolling pin, just press it out with your hand). Remove the top sheet. Score with a knife and place on a large baking sheet. Cook for 20-22 minutes until golden.

Cool before breaking into pieces.

Makes about 20 pieces

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new-book-on-sale

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I’ve gone all food PC with these gluten-free, vegetarian fritters

As you may or may not know, I have a very strict food regime here at VSHQ. This is it…

food-policy

Yep, that’s right. It’s pretty complicated. I buy good stuff and I cook yummy things. I guess COOKING is the important word though, to me it seems like the logical key to good health. Dieters in different food camps get caught up in ingredient wars and fighting to prove that their system of eating is best, but for me that’s all a personal choice. What’s really important is that you’re taking responsibility for your ingredients and creating nourishing meals at home. And it doesn’t have to be hard – here’s a great recipe for the whole family that uses one mixing bowl and one frying pan.

Included on the ingredient list is besan flour. Also known as chickpea flour, you can find it in the larger supermarkets and health food stores. I don’t often make you seek out an ingredient, but I think this one is worth while since it’s tasty and nutritious and it just so happens that it’s also gluten-free. This recipe also happens to be vegetarian, since a bit of meat-free eating is good for the environment and it gives the little cutie creatures a night off from worry.

Toddlers might like to have a bit of mango chutney spread over their fritters, adults might like some fresh herbs and a chutney with a bit of punch, along with some salad.

Great finger food for toddlers.

Great finger food for toddlers.


Corn & carrot fritters

1 cup besan (chickpea) flour – available in larger supermarkets and health food stores
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 carrot, grated
1 small red onion, really finely sliced (or grated, but if you do this, drain it a little)
400g can corn kernels
2-3 tbsp fresh herbs (optional) – try parsley, chives or coriander, depending on the tastebuds of your family
Oil of your choice for frying. Use as much as you’re comfortable with – I like quite a lot for this recipe!

Tip the flour and garam masala into a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the eggs and milk then tip into the flour, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Add in the carrot, onion, corn and herbs. Combine well.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/low heat. Add the oil and when hot, use a 1/4 cup measure to dollop in some fritter mix. Once the edges set, you can gently spread the chunkier filling out so that it’s an even thickness. Cook for 3 minutes or so on each side until the onion is cooked through.

Serve with chutney of your choice and some salad.

Feeds 2 adults & 2 smaller kids, with a side of salad & pappodums.

new-book-on-sale

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Enjoy dinner-time thrills and empty plates

Mealtime stress often causes us to lose our perspective, doesn’t it? Caught up in the angst of kids rejecting food we’ve slaved over, the misery of power plays over whether or not they are going to EAT THAT PEA or worried sick over whether our child is getting their nutritional needs met from one mouthful of meatloaf last Tuesday, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that food should be nourishing, happy and FUN.

I was reminded of this last week when I had a super-poshy dinner out at Sepia Restaurant. It was one of those Masterchef-y type places with foams and odd concoctions and food bordering on art and theatre. The dish that stands out was the mid-course sorbet, which arrived as a little perfect white globe on a huge dark blue dish scattered with icing sugar. It was the galaxy on a plate. Unsure how to approach it, or even what it was, I pushed my spoon into the sphere and it, like, EXPLODED. Sherbet-like substance in a range of colours sprinkled over the plate in a food event so fun and gorgeous that apparently I squealed. By that stage I was onto wine number 4, so possibly I can’t really tell you what it tasted like (it was citrus, I do recall), but the event was so memorable and damn fun that it was worth every extravagant penny.

And it reminded me, that sometimes it’s good to step back from nutrition and focus instead on food being fun. Make dinner enjoyable and you’ll have a much better chance of success when feeding your kids, too.

Sometimes it’s as simple of giving a slightly ugly dish a fun name, like this witches stew – a green split pea soup that my kids adore. Serve it in a black dish like a cauldron. Or place three of these traffic light swirls on a plate in a row and let them decide which colour they’re going to scoff first.

Simple presentation ideas can help your cause.

With the last of the basil (yes, gorgeously perfect out of my vegepod), I whipped up a pesto. My kids love it and it was even more fun when served through some squid’s ink pasta. Adults might baulk of the look, but the kids thought this was awesome and spent the meal scoffing it while trying to decide if it was monster’s intestines, mermaid hair or giant snot.

Food from Atlantis? Or deep space? Your kids can decide.

Food from Atlantis? Or deep space? Your kids can decide.

Possibly not the most flattering appraisal of my cooking, but a success, nonetheless.

The original pesto recipe is here. I also blitzed in a cup of cooked broccoli florets. It’s a super fantastic addition, an idea I stole from Collette at Cut out the Crap. Works brilliantly.

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Searching for food joy (for the whole family)

food-love2

Do you think the internet is good for humanity? Big question, I know, especially this early in the week, but it’s something my husband and I have been debating a bit lately.

Generally I think the internet is awesome. All that accessible knowledge. So many ways to open your mind, connect with people and experience worlds that were beyond us just 15 years ago. What a shame then, that so much of the internet tends to be a place of pointless extremes, dominated by violence, pictures of Kardashians, cats and people hating on one another. The intolerance and abuse from people hiding behind screens can be mind-boggling.

I cop a bit of hate myself. My website and my food philosophy aren’t extreme enough for many folks online. Breaking some of the current healthy eating taboos, I admit to eating all kinds of ‘poison’. A bit of sugar. A bit of gluten. Often I eat just for fun, rather than taking a strict nutritarian stance and quite often, I eat meat.

Usually I suck it up and take the abuse with a grain of salt – admiring the vehemence with which my various e-pen-pals argue their causes. Their devotion and commitment to a single philosophy does impress me and sometimes I worry that my laissez-faire attitude needs to be tightened up a little. But last week I was reading, “14 Habits of People with a healthy relationship to food“. Turns out I have nearly all of these habits. The one that particularly jumped out was, “swear by everything in moderation.”

Hallelujah.

And that’s me. I swear by everything in moderation and I keep food in perspective. No amount of kale can replace a glass of wine (and laughs) shared with good friends. And how lucky we are to live in such an affluent society that this whole food debate is even possible.

So here’s the thing. I’m not a gluten free site, although often my recipes happen to be gluten-free. If I have GF suggestions, I’ll list it in the recipe. And if I don’t, possibly you’ll have to come up with your own substitution, or skip the recipe and find something else to make.

I’m not a dairy-free site. Although I am personally lactose-intolerant. Many of my recipes ARE dairy-free and dairy-free substitutes are pretty easy to manage.

I do cook with eggs and nuts. If you’re dealing with a nut allergy, you’ll have to skip those recipes rather than emailing me demanding a nut-free version. If you’re wanting to swap out eggs, here’s a good article here to give you a range of options.

I do cook with meat.

As a 41-year-old educated woman, I’ve made that choice. I understand the ethical, environmental and health implications of my choice. There’s no need to try to convert me. The irony is not lost on me that the most abusive messages I receive are from people trying to protect animals from violence. Perhaps the animal-advocates should quit using that tactic – save the abuse and instead just seduce me with links to vegetarian fare that I can’t resist. Because, actually, I eat vegetarian food all the time. I love the creativity and diversity of it. Lots of recipes on this site ARE vegetarian, including these falafel burgers, which just happen to be egg-free and suitable for vegans, too. There’s no dairy and I’m offering some GF suggestions (although I’ve not tested them). They’re high fibre and easy to make.

Despite all that, I eat these burgers because my whole family thinks they’re delicious and they fit in perfectly with my extreme food philosophy of moderationarianism.

Something for everyone.

Something for everyone.

Falafel burgers

1 piece sliced bread (or about 1 cup of GF breadcrumbs)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
handful of parsley (optional)
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1 small red onion
1 carrot, roughly chopped
juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup plain flour (I’ve not tried, but I strongly suspect that besan flour would be perfect here)
oil spray
bread rolls (obviously optional – use a GF wrap if you prefer), salad and barbecue sauce (also optional – a bit of plain yoghurt would also do), to serve

Use a food processor or mini-processor for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Blitz the bread, garlic, spices and parsley together to make flavoured breadcrumbs. Place in a large bowl.

Pulse the chickpeas to a paste and add to the bowl. Repeat, using the pulse function to chop the onion then the carrot. Drizzle the lemon juice over and mix in well. Sprinkle over the flour and use your hands to combine.

Shape the mixture into eight equal patties. Place on the baking tray, spray with oil and bake for 25 minutes, carefully turning once during cooking.

Serve on rolls with salad and barbecue sauce.
MAKES 8 PATTIES

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Enjoy watching your toddler feed themselves lentils!

Yes, it’s true, these little balls of deliciousness are perfect toddler food but they’re also a popular snack with older kids, too. The secret is that the sweet potato (or kumara), is ROASTED, so they’re rich and enticing which means the lentils aren’t noticed at all.

To get the mash, I chuck the whole sweet potato into the oven (don’t peel it or anything so tedious) and cook it for about an hour at 180C. Then, whenever you’re ready during the day, you can get onto making this super-healthy, egg-free snack.

Perfect for independent toddlers

Perfect for independent toddlers


Sweet potato, lentil & rice balls

1 cup roasted sweet potato
1 cup cooked brown rice (or white rice is ok, too)
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup cooked brown lentils (I use tinned – give them a good rinse)
1 tbsp tomato chutney (or beetroot relish is also good)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs are good, too)
Spray oil

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

Mash the cooked sweet potato in a large bowl. Evenly mix in the rice, cheese, lentils and chutney.

Roll bite-sized balls of mixture, coat in the breadcrumbs and place on the tray. Spray them with oil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn once during cooking (if you can be bothered) and give them an extra spray of oil part way through.

Makes about 30

*THESE FREEZE!

Usually you’ll have more than one cup of mash after roasting a whole sweet potato. Just up the quantities of the other ingredients to suit and make a heap – these freeze well. Just remember for reheating that you need to thaw them then bake them in the oven – they go soggy in the microwave.

 

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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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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Dad’s turn to slack off (and be feted)

Back in May, I was quite vocal about what it was that I was looking for in my Mother’s Day. Now, as September dawns, it pains me to admit that it’s now Dad’s turn to pop the feet up, be reminded of his awesomeness and generally made to feel as though he’s king of his domain (one day won’t hurt us, will it?)

So possibly you’ve got a big brunch planned. And of course there’ll be bacon, a bit more bacon. Maybe a few chippolatas and a bit more bacon. To go with it, chuck together this brunch frittata. The best bit of it is that you can actually make it up the night before, store it in the fridge and then bake it in time for when your family descends the next morning. Handy!

See ladies, quietly, I’m still looking out for us, even though it’s not exactly our turn.

Impressive and easy - my favourite combo.

Impressive and easy – my favourite combo.

Make-ahead Brunch Frittata

2 potatoes
4 spring onions, finely sliced (use some of the green bits too)
½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
6 mushrooms, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup bread cut into a 1cm dice (this is a great way to use up day old sourdough)
1½ cups grated cheese
5 eggs
½ cup milk
Salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes. You could bake them, boil, steam or microwave them until just tender (I use the microwave as I find it the quickest and easiest way).

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line an 18x28cm slice tin with baking paper.

Once cool enough to handle, peel away the potato skins and chop into a rough dice. Add to a large mixing bowl.

Tip in the vegies, bread and cheese. Combine well.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Season well. Pour onto the vegies and mix. Tip the mixture into your slice tin and fiddle bits around so that the mix is evenly distributed and firmly packed. Leave a few cherry tomatoes on top for presentation.

Bake for 40 minutes until set and golden on top.

Cut into 8 brunch-sized slices. Serve alone or with chipolatas and bacon.

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Ummm, but isn’t that a bit obvious?

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Stuck in a doctor’s waiting room this morning I was assaulted with the thrilling spectacle that is morning television. Luckily for me I arrived just as they presented a segment on ‘eat your way to looking younger’. Perfect timing since last week my daughter said, “Mummy, I’m just going to call you a lady, because you’re not a young lady but you’re not quite an old lady either.” Ahhhh. Another moment of kid truth that DOESN’T FEEL AT ALL OUCHY.

Anyways, I tuned in to the TV, all ears and was shocked to discover that…. I need to eat more fruit and vegetables. No shit. I mean, really? Does anyone think as they scoff a lolly or cinnamon doughnut that they are doing themselves a favour?

Regardless of the ailment, I seem to hear this same message repeated by health professionals over and over again. Eat less processed foods. Eat more fruit and vegetables.

Don’t we KNOW this by now? Am I overestimating the food education of our society? I think this is basic, boring drivel. Which is why I never bother to give that part of the message here – it’s a given, isn’t it? I’m more interested in giving inspiration for what to do with all that gorgeous fresh produce so that your kids will love it, too.

And my kids do love this vegie stew/soup. Clean bowls every time (when assisted with some fresh baguette slices). Originally I posted this as a pressure cooker recipe, but I’m happy to report that I made it in the slow cooker last night and can confirm that it needs 4 hours on high (which should translate to 8 hours on low). And chop your sweet potato and cauliflower into little pieces so that they can break down and be gorgeous.

See the original recipe here

Soup + winter = cosy.

There’s still enough winter left to enjoy this.

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A (bad) chip off the old block

There was a parenting dilemma this morning as school athletics day dawned at the same time as Miss F developed an acute tummy ache. Complicating things, she and I DID both have a tummy ache earlier in the week after too much tapioca pudding.

Not known for her sporting prowess, and slightly crushed after last year’s last place, it was time to pull out the parenting big guns in order to discover the truth. “So sweetie, is your tummy too sore for a special lunchbox? Usually I would put chips and a couple of lollies in for today, but should I just keep it to plain food?”

But she was onto me, and my tactics. “Yes, just plain food, mummy.” Sniff, sniff. Rub tummy tentatively.

She thought she had a temperature too. The thermometer thought otherwise, which is always a relief – give the decision making over to a third party, I say.

In the end I had to opt for honesty. “I think your tummy is sore because you don’t want to go to the athletics carnival.”

My honesty was rewarded with her honesty. “Maybe a bit.” And then the tears came and she had a good cry. Obviously then it was time for a rousing speech about being a team player, cheering on your friends and housemates who ARE good at running, and having a go. All of these things are really important in primary school, I said.

And the whole time that these clichés were dribbling out of my mouth, my mind was diving back and remembering the horror and hell of the athletics carnival for those of us who weren’t coordinated and couldn’t do better than last place, even when we were trying our hardest. It’s horrible to see your child failing in the same areas that you failed at.

Luckily she has talents in other areas and I think it’s good for her to experience ineptitude. Keeps her modest and ready for the real world. So I fed her an acidophilus capsule, drove her to school and by the time she saw her friends, she’d perked up and looked set for a happy day. But it was hard to push her out into the world knowing that she is likely to experience the same humiliation that I went through as a child.

What she doesn’t know, is that after year 8, I’m likely to follow in my own non-sporting mum’s footprints and let her have the day off each year rather than be subjected to spirit-crushing public teen-humiliation.

So I can't run, but I can arrange my potatoes all fancy smancy.

So I can’t run, but I can arrange my potatoes all fancy smancy.

Speaking of chips (nice segue), this vegetarian cottage pie has a sliced potato topping that avoids the hassle of having to make mash. The trick is though, that they need to be sliced as thinly as possible, laid out in just one or two layers and cooked for a good 40-50 minutes.

You'll never know this cottage pie is meat free - promise!

You’ll never know this cottage pie is meat free – promise!

Vegetarian cottage pie

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated or finely diced
1 zucchini, grated or finely diced
½ red capsicum, diced
1 cup mushrooms, finely diced
1 cloves garlic, minced
400g can brown lentils
400g can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp BBQ sauce
Sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
Pepper
1 cup frozen peas
125g can corn kernels, drained
2 large waxy potatoes, peeled

Place a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and once hot toss in the onion and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. It should be almost cooked before you add in the carrot, zucchini, capsicum and mushrooms. Keep it all moving around for another 5 minutes so until the vegies have softened. Add in the garlic and stir for another minute.

Pour in the lentils, tomatoes, sauces and thyme. Season well, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Stir through the peas and corn then pour the mixture into either one large or several small ovenproof dishes.

Take your time and slice the potatoes as thinly as you can (a mandolin is ideal, but a sharp knife and patience will do a good job).

Place them over your dishes, overlapping so that they look pretty.

Brush the top with either some melted butter or a spray of oil spray. Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden and the potatoes are tender.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

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