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Countdown to Kindergarten – lunchbox baking

20 Jan

J starts big school on the 31st of January, and I’m almost as excited as she is. We are counting the sleeps, labelling clothing and packing her bag (yes already!). I’ve also been preparing food for the freezer to make packing her lunchbox each day just a little bit easier.

Today I salvaged a whole load of woody carrots from the garden by turning them into carrot and pineapple mini muffins. It worked brilliantly!

The recipe was from the Coles website here

Jan 20DSC_6642

I didn’t ice them. I simply made them according to the recipe then threw them into zip lock bags and straight into the freezer. They will go with some blueberry muffins I made earlier. Hopefully I’ll have time to make quite a few things that I have planned (including savouries) so she can have a bit of variety in her lunchbox from day to day.

The ideas I have so far are:


Blueberry (and other sweet or savoury muffins)

Cheese and bacon scrolls

Cheesymite scrolls

Zucchini slice made into muffin trays

Home-made muesli bars

Mini quiches



Corn and Zucchini fritters


Hard boiled eggs (could boil a dozen at a time and leave in the shells in the fridge)

Veggie sticks for dipping…

Does anyone else have any good recipes for kids’ lunch boxes? I’m hoping to avoid lots of packets of things and the rubbish that goes with it.


Tuesday Night Vego – Chilli with Tortilla Chips

7 Aug

No specific recipe here because I bungled my way through it, adding a bit of this and a bit of that. Here’s a general description:

Fry a very large onion (diced) with some added brown sugar in vegetable oil over low heat until golden and soft.

Add 2 cups or so of diced fresh tomatoes (or canned crushed tomatoes), a few tablespoons of tomato paste and a cup of water.

Add 4 cups of cooked (or canned) beans. I started with dried red kidney beans, black turtle beans, chickpeas and red lentils then gave them 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. The lentils were obliterated but add thickness to the dish and the larger beans were cooked perfectly.

Add spices – cumin (more than a tablespoon because I like it), a good shake of ground coriander seed and smoked paprika, a little ground cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste. A generous amount of chilli if you don’t have wussy children. I left the chilli out and added jalapenos to my serving.

Add a can of corn kernals and some diced mushrooms and heat through.

Serve with tortilla chips – I made these by cutting tortillas into wedges, coating with canola spread, garlic and a little salt. Bake at 200 degrees for a few minutes.

I also served with sour cream, avocado, jalapenos and grated cheese.

If you multitask you can achieve this in the 30 minute limit governed by the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge. I was a bit less focussed.

Nameless Tomato Soup – A family heirloom

26 Jul

Tomatoes are a wonderful summer fruit. They are amazing in a Caprese salad, fabulous on bruschetta, and great even on their own – straight from the garden -sprinkled with salt. But when you are fortunate enough to be able to grow tomatoes in winter (and that’s anyone in coastal NSW and further north) you really need a great cold-weather recipe to show them off.

This soup is legendary in our family. My Gran used to make it, and I was thrilled to find a copy in her collection after her death. It had been cut out of an old American magazine and was credited to Gary V Travers of Oakland, California.

After making it this week it was clear that Gran had made some adjustments to the recipe, primarily increasing the quantity of tomatoes. I’ve adapted the recipe to match her method – it’s a great way to use fresh tomatoes in winter if you have them, or alternatively you can use canned.

1.2 kilos ripe tomatoes
4 cups water
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup diced, uncooked ham
1/2 cup each of diced onion, celery and carrot
2 sprigs parsley, minced
2 slices green capsicum, minced
1 can consomme or beef broth
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
3 sprigs thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch paprika
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Peel the tomatoes by cutting crosses in the base, cutting out the stem part and blanching in boiling water. The skin should start peeling away after a couple of minutes and can be peeled off easily. Dice the tomatoes and set aside. In a large soup pot add butter to ham, vegetables and seasonings, and saute for 5 minutes. Combine all ingredients and cook slowly for 1 1/4 hours, adding water if necessary to increase liquid. Serves 6-8.

3 x 400g cans of tomatoes may be substituted for the raw ones.

Because of the ham, the beef stock and the seasonings this soup is heartier than your average tomato soup, or even a minestrone. It tastes even better after a day or so in the fridge, and freezes beautifully.

Tuesday night Vego – Cabbage and Corn Fritters with Caper Mayonnaise and a tomato salad

17 Jul

Getting back on top of things and picking heaps of veggies, so time for another Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe. I had 1/2 of a smallish wombok in the fridge, so I wanted to use it somehow.

The recipe for the cabbage and corn fritters came from here.

I used Linda’s caper mayonnaise recipe from here.

Then I served the fritters with a tomato salad of diced fresh tomatoes, a bit of finely sliced spring onion and the last of my basil, miraculously still clinging onto the bedraggled plant. I dressed with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil.

The fritters were simple but completely delicious, and I’m not sure I’ll buy mayonnaise ever again.

Tuesday Night Vego – Home Grown Minestrone

12 Jul

My friend Laura is vegetarian, so when we catch up this year we have been doing so on Tuesdays to coincide with the nights that I’d be cooking vegetarian anyway.

Yesterday I harvested a huge basket full of produce from the garden, so wanted a recipe where I could use a wide variety of veggies in the one meal. Minestrone fit the bill, and it was perfect for a winter’s day.  I took it as a special challenge to cram as many different types of vegetables in as possible- I don’t think I did too badly.


  • Few tablespoons Olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6 Dutch carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly diced
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1/2 swede, diced
  • 6 wombok leaves
  • 100g daikon
  • 1/2 choko, diced
  • 100g kale, trimmed
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced plus 1 400g can.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons small pasta shapes
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Fry the onion, celery and carrots in the olive oil until softened slightly. Add potato and swede, then fry for another minute, stirring. Add tomatoes, wombok, choko ,stock and tomato paste. Stir to combine.

In a separate saucepan, bring water to the boil and briefly parboil the daikon to remove the bitterness. Drain the daikon then add it to the soup. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.

Add the kale and adjust seasonings. Add the small pasta shapes and cook until pasta is al dente.

Serve topped with grated Parmesan and accompanied with bread. I used my home-made linseed and chia loaf.

Optionally, you could also add ham to the soup if you didn’t want a vegetarian soup.

Australian Native Finger Limes and Speckled Finger Lime Curd

4 Apr

After much resisting, Louise from Garden Glut‘s boasting about her finger lime tree just made me too jealous. In a moment of weakness I ordered a tree of my own, and it arrived from Daley’s (in Kyogle) yesterday.

It is beautifully structured and incredibly spiky. Might have to position it strategically to stop Little D from climbing the retaining wall towards the street.

If you have never encountered a finger lime, you are in for a treat. They are an Australian native citrus with a flesh that resembles caviar – tiny little balls of limey deliciousness. You cut them in half and squeeze out the flesh – great in salad dressings because you get little surprise bursts of acidity with an amazing texture.

They also come in a great range of colours – from clear  through to light green, dark green, pale and dark pink. The flavour varies too from quite sweet to very acidic like a normal lime.

I had 2 finger limes in the fridge (a gift from a friend) and a handful of beautiful tahitian limes from my next door neighbour that I wanted to use.

The finger limes were dark-skinned and vivid pink in the flesh. The limes were large and juicy – freshly picked from the tree. I thought they all deserved to be used in a special way.

So I planned a lime curd – a special one with little pink speckles. Very decorative and appropriate for Easter I thought.

I based the recipe on this one from

I added half the finger lime flesh before it thickened, then reserved the remainder until it was finished – concerned that I’d overcook and curdle the mix, then need to strain it to salvage the situation. It was fine in the end – induction cooking is incredibly good for fine control at low temperatures.

I agonised about the level of thickness. Recipes use useless descriptions such as ‘so it coats the back of a spoon’. What does that mean? I wanted a thick curd, but I knew it would thicken further when cooled. In the end I let it thicken to the point that it wasn’t quite thick enough for my liking, but passable if it didn’t get any thicker. Whenever I stirred it vigorously it stuck to the sides of the pan without running back down on its own.

The finished product was quite pretty in the jars – I gave a jar to my neighbour who supplied the limes and I have another for my friend who gave me the finger limes.

I planned to water bath preserve the curd at the end so I could store it in the cupboard, but I chickened out, concerned that the eggs would overcook and go lumpy in the jars. Maybe some things are just better stored in the fridge.

Tuesday Night Vego – Souper Salad

3 Apr

When I was 7 I spent 6 weeks in California. I actually celebrated my 8th birthday over there with my American cousins. I think Australian and American culture has blended over time, but in 1987 it really did seem like a ‘foreign country’.

I remember going to a restaurant soon after we arrived and the waitress asking if I wanted a ‘super salad’. I said yes.

But she was actually asking if I wanted soup or salad with my meal. That was tricky – couldn’t I have both? I have always really loved soup so I find it difficult to refuse, but it was the middle of a Californian summer so salad made a bit more sense.

Since that time I’ve enjoyed constructing meals of both soup and salad in my not-really-very-rebellious spirit. I like to call it a ‘Souper Salad’ meal. Tonight was one of them.

My neighbour gave me some leeks and limes yesterday from his garden. I used the limes earlier today (I’ll give details tomorrow), but the leeks went to dinner tonight. I needed something fairly bland because P and J have a tummy bug. Joy.

Leek and Potato Soup

3 leeks, thinly sliced, green tops discarded.

2 potatoes, diced in 1.5cm cubes

3 tablespoons butter (or dairy-free spread, like I have to use)

1.5 litres stock (vegetable or chicken)

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium-high heat and saute the leeks until they are wilted but not browned. If you have the time, you can reduce the heat and let the leeks caramelise slightly for better flavour, but I was in a rush tonight.

Add stock and potatoes, bring to the boil then simmer until potatoes are tender and the flavour of the soup is developed.

Season with salt and pepper. Puree if desired, but I’ve always made this soup chunky because my brother requested it that way the very first time I made it. Tonight I actually pureed after I added the stock and before I added the potatoes, because my 4 year old is convinced she hates onions. It didn’t seem to affect the flavour.

Sounds really simple (and bland), but leeks have an amazing flavour  – you can’t go wrong. Once I convinced the 2 year old to try the first spoonful tonight he ate almost 3 bowls.

I served this with a simple garden salad of wild rocket, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber.

For some really inspiring vegetarian meal options, visit Linda’s blog to see what other people are serving tonight. Probably all more inspiring than my simple soup 🙂

Wish me luck tonight – I really don’t want to be cleaning any more puke off carpet, particularly as we are supposed to be going away for Easter.