Happy December, everyone! And with the new month comes a new blogging idea. With all the rushing we do this time of year to find time and gifts for all of our friends and family events, I thought posting about some Christmas hacks I use to save my sanity might help others out there. Let’s call this the Food Edition, since that seems to be the theme today. I’ll have more seasonal (non-food) hacks coming on future Thursdays, so check back.
- This first thing is super easy, but it’s something I do all the time because practically every get-together over the holidays requires those grab and go type of snacking items we always put onto relish trays. I do something like this. I’ve also used small snack crackers at the bottom stacked to look like gifts, too. The best thing about this kind of design is that it’s always easy to just refill a line as one or two starts looking thin, so you can keep the healthy snacks in easy reach at all times, but there’s no need to continually take the platter back to the kitchen to refill. .
- I love making decorated sugar cookies. One quick decorating hack I use is to mix up icing ahead of time (there’s always a butter cream recipe on packages of powdered/confectioner’s sugar) then once I add the coloring I put them into different colored condiment bottles I’ve picked up as a group at the dollar store. They make dispensing the icing really easy–whether I spread the icing with a knife after I squeeze it onto the cooled cookie or use the bottle’s tip to paint a sweet picture.
- For quick and inexpensive make-it-ahead gifts you can’t beat hot chocolate mix and chocolate spoons. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve tossed M&M’s into hot chocolate for decades (my child was aghast when she was at a elementary school friend’s house and learned not everyone did added candy to their hot cocoa!), but hot chocolate spoons like those pictured here are a great gift–whether you also give hot chocolate mix or not. (confession: I often eat these like chocolate lollypops and they never make it to a cup). The recipe for the spoons is pretty simple. I use a double boiler to melt my chocolate, but small pieces can also be melted in a microwave. Either way, check on the mixture every thirty seconds or so, giving it all another stir each time, then put it back to heat until all the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then dip the spoons (I find plastic works a little better than wooden ones, but that might just be me). You’ll need to stir the spoon around in the melted chocolate and turn it over several times to make sure the sides are all evenly covered–then set each chocolate covered spoon on wax paper to cool. And they’re ready to decorate. Try using mini-marshmallows to decorate your spoon as a snowman, or drizzle lines of caramel or white chocolate to give an added taste.
- For Hot Chocolate Mix to give by the jar, here’s a recipe I’ve been using for as long as I can remember–I get my biggest bowl and sift in 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, followed by 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (the sifting helps eliminate lumps). Next, I add in 2 cups of powdered milk and use a whisk to get it all stirred and combined evenly. And voila, put it into a jar with a pretty lid and give as a gift (or keep for yourself). You can also add mini-marshmallows to the container of powder if you like. To make it, just add equal parts of hot cocoa mix and water into a cup and stir. This mixture is good in a cabinet or pantry for 6 months.
- For another quick-and-inexpensive gift, I use cookie cutters to make and decorate individual fudge presents/treats. The cookie cutters are part of the gift and the combination adds an even more festive air to the presentation. For my fudge recipe, I always use the one from Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. It is fool-proof in my opinion, and is not only rich and delicious, but doesn’t require me to go nuts with a candy thermometer making sure the temperature is absolutely perfect. You can find that recipe by clicking Here. And trust me, no one will know you only spent a total 15 minutes making this fudge–prep to cook. They’ll just say “yum.”
That’s it for this edition of Thrifty Thursday. Have any tips you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment 🙂