Have you finished decorating your tannenbaum? Have you dusted off last year’s box of decorations only to find the tinsel is so old all the silver has worn off? Is that precious box of ornaments now a sad little box of broken colored glass?
How about cooking up your own Christmas decorations? Literally.
Gingerbread men and women, sugar cookies cut into stars, hearts and bells, and garlands of popcorn and cranberries can make your tree and your whole house look and smell so much more Christmas-y than a bunch of plastic from China. Both gingerbread and sugar cookies are pretty tough little devils; they can stand a fall from the topmost branches and still come up smiling. Plus they are crisp and solid, so they don’t really go stale. And best of all, they can be eaten all through the holidays, or at the end of the season when you are pulling down the tree, so you don’t have to worry about packing them away for another year.
Popcorn garlands are a classic adornment for the tree, as well as popcorn balls. Popcorn does in fact have a shelf life. It goes stale! Have you ever had a craving late at night for a big bowl of popcorn only to whip up a batch that tastes like it was unearthed from King Tut’s tomb? If you have an old bag of popping corn, use it to make the garlands. It beats shelling out for the plastic stuff year after year, and there is no waste since when you’re finished with it you can decorate your trees outside as a treat for the birds.
Spending a few hours baking a batch of treats/decorations could become a tradition for your family, making memories that will last much longer than the plot of a dopey made for TV holiday movie. So this year, why not go all out and make your decorations edible? It’s a great way to spend time with the kiddies, or better yet, get them to do the whole shebang while you work on your eggnog recipe.
Making garlands with popped corn is super easy. Pop as much corn as you like, and run a large-eyed needle threaded with tough thread, dental floss or fishing line through each popped kernel. This can be a little time consuming, so put on your favourite Christmas album, put out some punch and cookies and have a bunch of stories of Christmases past at the ready! Popping the corn the previous day can make the kernels easier to handle and less likely to break. Don’t cut the thread from the spool until you are ready to start the next one. Slide each kernel down to the spool; it is easier to do a number of pieces of garland two or three feet in length then tie them together, rather than attempting one super long piece.
You can decorate the garland with a little colour by tossing the kernels in food colouring, or how about running the needle through a cranberry every ten or twenty kernels?
Here are a few recipes for making your Christmas tree colourful, green, memorable …and delicious! Note-and I learned this the hard way. If you have dog, hang these treats out of reach!!
Basic Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla. Blend in flour, baking powder, and salt until well mixed.
- Divide dough in half and chill 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 2 large cookie sheets.
- On a lightly floured surface, working with half of the dough at a time, roll 1/8 inch thick. With floured cookie cutters, cut dough into shapes.
- Using a metal spatula or pancake turner, place cookies 1/2 inch apart on cookie sheets.
- Re-roll trimmings and continue to cut shapes. Bake 8 minutes, or until very lightly browned.
- Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
To decorate, use royal icing. It goes on easy, takes food colouring well, dries solid and is the best icing for both sugar cookies and gingerbread men. Furthermore it can be used as a “cement” to make gingerbread houses. If you have never mad it, have a gander at this nice demonstration by Charlene Dy.
Finally, you may have a favourite recipe for gingerbread men, we like this one from Canadian Living. Be sure to leave a large hole in “Gingy’s” head so you can run a thread through it and hang from your tree. The hole will “seal up while baking if you don’t make it large enough, but if this happens, you can still poke a hole through his head when he comes out of the oven and is still soft.