Posts tagged Christmas

All my silliest and most sublime Christmas craft projects…

So it’s the end of November and time to wipe off our cynicism and let ourselves get swept up into Christmas fun. My poor deprived kids have to wait until next weekend to get the tree underway (really, I think you have to wait until December for that one), but there’s no reason that we can’t start ripping through a few of our favourite festive season projects.

These are all silly and fun ideas – good ways to fill an impatient hour here and there over the next month. And best yet – they all recycle come January.

To keep the happy Christmas vibe happening, make sure you get your 10% discount in my shop – it’s valid until midnight Monday November 30. Just use ‘xmas2015’ at the checkout. See all my fabulous products here in my shop.


a christmas fairy made from a toilet roll

Silly and fun – a Christmas fairy made from a loo roll.


Baby Jesus gets a loo-roll makeover, too!


Add to your scene with Mary and Joseph!


This tree will keep kids busy colouring for a bit.


An give & take advent calendar (make them work for their treats!)



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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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Chocolate balls (both naughty & nice) plus Santa’s consignment notes…

These are the NICE balls... you should see the NAUGHTY ones!

These are the NICE balls… you should see the NAUGHTY ones!

Christmas is THIS WEEK! Yep, I know, crazy – we’re just moments away from the joyous frenzy of gifts and turkey and fun (and plastic things from China).

Possibly you’re still needing a little something to take to a BBQ on boxing day, or maybe a food gift would be the perfect thing to give to your Auntie, so I’ve got easy recipes for both traditional rumballs and booze-free, healthy, chocolate bliss balls. Both are simple and quick to make. If nothing else, they’re great recipes to keep the kids busy (I find their little hands perfect for the rolling, which is sticky & fun). Both recipes can be found in my Kitchen Collection e-book, which you can download instantly (for 40% off) from my newly revamped shopify shop! Code ‘xmas2017’ will get 40% off everything until Dec 31!

Since I’ve been on a bit of a blogging break, my annual unforgettable-Christmas-craft printable never quite made it to fruition this year (of course click here, if you’re desperate to make a nativity scene out of loo rolls). Knowing that you’ll all be massively disappointed(!), I’ve pulled my finger out overnight and popped this little treat together for you.

Fear not loo rolls, you are safe this year, instead, I’ve opted for a bit of parent-craft, designed to give the kids a thrill. It’s a genuine consignment note from the North Pole. Just download the PDF, print it onto card or sticker sheets and affix to Santa’s stash (remember to tick your location on the map). Guaranteed to bring an extra smile on Christmas morning.

I've hacked into Elf-central to grab this for you!

I’ve hacked into Elf-central to grab this for you!

Finally, have a fantastic Christmas and new year! I’ll be back in January. If you want to see which drink I’m sipping over the break, you can always catch me on instagram, which I’ve become quite fond of.



xmas discount-01

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Hostess with the most-ess

Hello 1970, it's great to see you.

Hello 1970, it’s great to see you.

I am the proud new owner of a punch bowl. I’ve never felt the urge to have one before, but something overcame me this year and I couldn’t rest without one.

Since moving to the suburbs, we entertain much more and have greater numbers of people around at once. Primarily the adults are drinking alcoholic stuff, but it is nice to have something else on offer, particularly for the kids, who are all old enough now to be pestering for fizzy drinks.

Like everything else, my policy on soft drink is that ‘everything is ok in moderation’. But at this time of year, with fun parties nearly every night, I’m looking for a bit of an alternative.

So I’m compromising with punch. There’s still sugar and fizz, but it’s slightly diluted and packed full of fruit. Use Christmas cookie cutters to make cute shapes from watermelon and rock melon and you’ve got something pretty appealing. Serve it in small plastic cups and the kids will tend to drink much less than a standard size softdrink can.

This is my current recipe, but I’m sure it will change. My mum favors tea-based recipes, but I like the colour of the cranberry. What about you? Have you got a favourite version? I’m keen to try a few out.

I won't tell if the adults decide to pop a bit of vodka in.

Shhhhhhh. Adults might like to pop a shot of vodka in their glass too.

Cranberry punch

2 parts cranberry juice
1 part ginger beer
1 part lemonade
1 part mineral water
Heaps of berries, rock melon, watermelon & mint (although kids tend to stress about green leaves in their drinks).

And with that, I’m off for a bit of a blogging break. Thanks so much for supporting my business and blog throughout 2012. It’s been another great year and I wish you and your family all the best for Christmas and the New Year.


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What my children and twitter have in common

I’ve been trying to teach my kids the finer art of conversation.

Talking isn’t a problem for them but actually having a two-way discussion around a topic is. Most of the time, they are like a twitter feed brought to life. Short-sentence comments unrelated to anything else (eg. “my brain is itchy”). Often they don’t make any sense at all (eg. “you blew big underpants”). Private jokes and brains farts that I have neither the understanding nor patience to reply to.

Despite my public urgings for families to eat together (it’s great for kids to see adults eating healthily and provides a positive and happy opportunity for family bonding), during the week the VS household rarely manages it. We make sure we have both breakfast and dinner together on the weekends, but I suspect more regular family dinners would improve the quality of their chatter quite a lot.

Like many families, we have little choice – Mr VS is off working long hours at Temple & Webster, providing Turkish towels and cushions for the needy, so the kids and I are left to our own devices. Half the time I let them eat alone (sometimes even with the TV on), the rest of the time I eat with them and that’s when I drill them on the finer points of using cutlery and how to have a good and rewarding discussion.

It seems to be working, gradually. Last night Mr VS did make it home and as he sat down, Mr M&P piped up with “and how was your day, daddy?” It was cute.

Apparently the other kids in infant’s school are unbothered by the Tourette’s-style conversation from my children. Somehow they have made a bunch of friends and we’ve reached that time of year where they all start loading each other up with Christmas cards and candy canes. Poor teachers.

Perhaps unluckily for my kids, I still had half a batch of gingerbread dough in the freezer. So I made the biscuits (little tiny ones) and then they spent an hour decorating them. We handed them out yesterday and they were a big hit. Of course, they’re no good if your friends have allergies, but luckily we’ve only got one BFF affected and we’ve bought her a little notepad instead.

It was raining, so I had a Martha Stewart moment.

It was raining, so I had a Martha Stewart moment.

They were concentrating so hard they even stayed quiet for a bit.

They were concentrating so hard they even stayed quiet for a bit.

gingerbread biscuits

Just add a sprinkle of icing sugar and they’re good gifts for adults too.

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Just because

Miss F and Mr M&P were outside on the weekend, setting the ground rules for an imaginative play game. Being a Virgo, Miss F likes to have the back-story fully told, with characters thoroughly fleshed out before the playing begins. Usually she will transform herself and her brother into animals, so the species, colour, familial relationships, full names, colour preferences and purpose of journey/adventure will all be established before she get into character (and the dirt) ready to play.

Mr M&P is a less complicated fellow but happily goes along with it all. He was nodding away, agreeing to all the details and finally added his own, “and all their last names will be ‘Doodle’”. Smirk smirk snigger.
“Why?” demanded Miss F, more than a bit annoyed by his flippancy.
“Just because” said Mr M&P with such a sense of finality that I was impressed.

I loved evesdropping on perfect a moment of childhood. Just because. There is no reason. Just because doodle is a funny word and it makes him (and me) laugh.

I realised that I don’t do much ‘just because’. There doesn’t seem to be much room for ‘just because’ when you’re an adult. Everything seems to need a reason, a justification for why I’m spending energy on it. Things can be fun, but they are usually with purpose.

Perhaps this is why I love summer so much. There’s a whole lot more opportunity for ‘just because’. Sure you have a swim for the valid reason that you need to cool down, but while you’re under water it’s nice to have a glide about and pretend you’re a mermaid (if only for a few seconds). Just because it’s good for your soul to have a bit of silly fun from time to time. And I’m thinking that the pursuit of ‘just because’ might be one of my new goals for 2013.

Before that though, we’ve got the Christmas season to get through. The barrage of upcoming events is likely to cause havoc to your usual routines, which is why I’m proposing a pasta salad this week. Make a batch of it and you’ll have instant dinners and lunches ready to go whenever you need them. Should give you more ‘just because’ time.

Basic balsamic salad dressing
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all of these ingredients and mix well. Keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

pasta salad

Ready, delicious and waiting (in the fridge)

Tuna pasta salad

500g pasta (I like orecchiette)
½ quantity basic balsamic dressing (if you like really glossy salads, you may want to use more)
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
5 spring onions, finely sliced
400g can tuna in spring water (drained) – Omit this ingredient for a vegetarian salad!
1 large carrot, peeled, grated
½ red capsicum, finely diced
400g can corn kernels, drained

(other yum ingredients include fennel, cannelini beans, red onion, artichoke hearts, green beans and banana chillis)

Cook the pasta according to packet directions. Drain quickly and return to the hot pan. Pour over the salad dressing and toss through the tomatoes and spring onions (the residual heat of the pasta cooks them slightly).

Mix through the rest of the ingredients. Season well with pepper. Serve warm or pop straight into the fridge and enjoy later on, cold.

Serves a family of four for dinner, then enough for lunches the next day too.

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Yes, it’s that time of year again (and a FREE e-book for you)

Plum pudding muffins! So easy, so yum. Just one of the recipes for you.

It’s usually around this time of year that I start to innocently pester my kids about what they’re going to hit up Santa for. I like to get them to start locking things in, which gives me enough time to sort my life out and get whatever they’re wanting at a good price with the minimum of panic.

It also gives me time to gradually knock any crazy suggestions on the head and introduce the idea of something more suitable. Like last year when Miss F started off wanting ‘a life-sized rocking horse’. I spent November working on that one, reminding her that Santa would probably think her room too small. But by December 1st, she was even more adamant that That. Was. What. She. Wanted.

Still I worked away, with reasons ranging from ‘I don’t think the elves make those’ (yes they do, she assured me), to ‘don’t you want something more grown up?’ (no, was the answer there). When we visited Santa mid-month, she sat on his knee and loudly and proudly asked for ‘a life-sized rocking horse’. Santa, bless him, raised his eyebrow, glanced at me in a mild panic and said “well, I can’t promise anything”. Which was a better response than the badly-briefed David Jones Santa who, the year before, when asked for a scooter (which I already had in the garage), asked “and what colour would you like?”
“Pink,” said Miss F.
“Done,” said Santa.
Bastard. The scooter in storage was plain silver. Luckily I was able to exchange it, but it was an element of pre-Christmas hassle that I didn’t need.

I know, I hear many of you exclaiming that I was crazy to care, but I do care. I remember asking Santa for a toy cash register and being ASTONISHED when it arrived under the tree. I like the magic of the big man. I like to advance his myth.

So what happened last year? Well, the rocking horse didn’t fit in the sleigh, but he did leave a lovely, detailed letter with a voucher for a horse riding lesson.

And what’s on the list for her this year? Well after watching Brave earlier this year, the ongoing yearning is for an adult’s archery set. Complete with arrows with real points. Joy.

To ease the pain of Christmas, I’ve done up a special Vegie Smugglers Christmas PDF, with some recipes, colouring in, gift tags and some cute gift ideas. You’ll receive a link to download your free copy once you become a subscriber of this blog (see, top right). If you’re already a subscriber, send me a message to Just pop ‘book please’ in the subject and I’ll forward you a link too. (But please, make sure you’re already a subscriber before you email me.)

I used to always use Facebook to keep you peeps close. But my FB posts only reach a tiny portion of you now and I’d like to avoid sponsored posts, so this is my incentive to get you to cut out the middle man and deal with me direct. Subscribing just means that you’ll receive my recipes and posts straight to your inbox, ready to read whenever suits you.

All my PDF books are fantastic on the ipad!

PS: 10am Sunday… The lovely Em has just pointed out that there’s a missing ingredient on the turkey meatball recipe… ummmm… the turkey mince! I’ve fixed it now, but anyone who downloaded earlier today, remember to put 500g turkey mince into your mix. They’ll be pretty measley without it.

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January 4. Time to put the chocolate DOWN

How much chocolate, how many chips and how many glasses of wine have you had since mid-December? I’ve no idea either, but I do know that it’s been A LOT. Daily, in fact. Whilst I’ve still been getting good quantities of fruit into the kids, and some vegies, a large amount of sugar, salt and fat has been passing their lips too. And now, with the work year back underway, it’s time to stop.

The first few days back on track are difficult. I know at 4pm today, my fingers will be itching for chips and my thirst for wine will be difficult to ignore. After dinner I’ll be digging through the cupboards to see if maybe there’s just one piece of something a bit naughty left… (there’s not)

Best news is that within a few days I’ll be starting to feel much, much better. My energy will return, the kids will settle down, and the world will be a shinier, happier place. And I’ll remember why it is that I love eating well and why I bother trying to get so many vegetables into my children.

Start your detox gently, with this chicken & pasta soup. It’s satisfying enough to fill our overstretched tummies, but the flavours are clean and there’s a good hit of vegies. Best of all, it works well for the whole family. Blend it up for baby food, drain off most of the liquid for the smaller kids. Leave as is for the rest of the kids and the adults can add generous amounts of parsley, pepper and parmesan.

vegie smugglers chicken pasta and vegetable soup

My kind of detox – pasta, chicken and bacon amongst the vegies…

Chicken, vegie & pasta soup

1 tbsp olive oil
500g chicken thigh fillets, fat trimmed, sliced into thin pieces
100g bacon, diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 potato, peeled, finely diced
1 swede, peeled, finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled, finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced
½ cup finely diced celery
3 tbsp chopped herbs of your choice (choose any combination of basil, parsley, oregano and chives)
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
¾ cup risoni
Salt & black pepper

Crusty bread, to serve

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken for 4-5 minutes until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same saucepan, cook the bacon and onion, stirring often, for 5 minutes until onion is soft.

Add the diced vegies and cook for another 7-8 minutes, stirring often to avoid sticking.
Mix through the herbs, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chicken, peas and pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes until pasta is cooked. Season to taste.

Serve in bowls with crusty bread. Try topping soup with chopped parsley and grated parmesan.




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

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Bring a plate

It’s night after night of celebrations this week. Picnics, carols, swimming parties. It seems never ending. So to avoid the kids eating 16 straight meals of chocolate, chips and candy canes, these little swirls provide a vague notion of health on these balmy evenings.

Have a great party season, I’ll see you all next year…

Vegetables hidden in these traffic light swirls.

Stop, go, stop, go, stop go, slow down!!!!!

Traffic light swirls

3 sheets frozen puff pastry

1/2 cup roasted capsicums
1/2 cup semi-dried tomatoes

125g creamed corn
1 small carrot
Handful grated cheese (mozzarella or pizza cheese is good)

Store-bought pesto
1 small zucchini, grated

Egg, for glazing

Preheat the oven to 200C. Cover two baking trays with baking paper. Separate out the pastry sheets and leave to thaw.

For the red: blitz together the capsicums and tomatoes. Spread over the entire pastry sheet.

For the amber: blitz together the corn and carrot. Spread over the entire pastry sheet. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

For the green: Spread the pesto over the entire sheet. Scatter over the grated zucchini.

Use the plastic backing on the pastry sheets to help you roll them up into a swirl. Cut through the roll into 15-20mm slices. Place on the trays (so they look like little sushi rolls). Brush with egg. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden.


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Christmas silly but fun (festive ways with loo rolls!)

a christmas fairy made from a toilet roll

Fairy perfection! and in January, just chuck her in the recycling

Nothing demonstrates the joy of starting and the hell of finishing a task more than the annual Christmas tree experience. The excitement! The fun! Decorating the tree each December is one of the best jobs of the year. So full of promise and hope! So different to January 10 last year when you finally had to admit that the damn thing was dead and the lovely smell of pine needles had descended into a vaguely compost-tainted stink.

Then of course the rotting tree sat down the side of the house until the council clean up in March, when brave husband lugged the (excitingly big on it’s arrival) enormous thing out onto the footpath, spiders, cockroaches and all.

This year our tree is done. Covered in school-and-daycare-made treasures. Plus some tinsel and baubles to tizz it up a little. And the pinnacle of tree-joy is, of course, the fairy. A stoic, serene little thing. Stuck in the ornament box all year, then dusted off, fixed with sticky tape and shoved precariously on the top.

This year I’m fully committing to the vaguely-daggy-craft-tree experience, complete with my loo-roll Christmas fairy. She matches in perfectly with all the other handmade stuff. A few paper chains and the tree is complete.

And why is my fairy so happy? Well, she’s a loo roll, with a lovely easy spot to shove the tree, meaning total comfort for her throughout this festive season.

Click the pic to download the fairy PDF


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