It’s beginning to look more and more like Christmas these days. Pretty much since Thanksgiving, lights have begun to appear on homes in neighborhoods and kids are beginning to make their Santa Claus wish lists. The stores, of course, are promoting the holiday season with decorations and Christmas displays. Black Friday has come and gone along with Cyber Monday. Christmas is definitely on its way.
Some people like to get their Christmas trees up right away while others prefer to wait until just before the advent of the holiday, but there is one aspect most people agree on: A Christmas tree is all about decorations. It is great fun to get everyone together to put up a tree and gather together the traditional decorations.
There are lots of ways to decorate a tree. It is fun to gather the well-loved decorations from previous years to put on the tree. Often the decorations bring back memories. It is also fun to create a designer tree with color-coordinated ornaments, festoons and a theme.
However, if you don’t like taking down all the decorations off the tree after Christmas has passed, you do have the option of making edible ornaments. Hand them out on Christmas Day and the tree is virtually undecorated. Some edibles like popcorn may not lend themselves to human dining after they have sat on the tree for several weeks, but birds are not nearly so fussy. Hang them outdoors after Christmas and let the birds feast on them. Festoon the tree with strung popcorn and cranberries that make a garland that hearkens back to pioneer times.
Popcorn balls are lightweight enough to hang on trees as well. Make them with various colors of syrup and size them according to the size of your tree.
Cookies can make attractive edible ornaments. Make gingerbread cookies and put names on them along with the decorations. Small children love to look over a tree and find their name on a favorite cookie. The trick is to get them to leave them on the tree until after the holiday is over.
Almost any hard cookie will allow itself to hang on a tree. Sugar cookies are also well adapted to tree-hanging. Put a hole in the cookie dough before you bake it because it is very difficult to make a hole after without breaking the cookie. A toothpick or small straw will do the trick to make the hole.
Stained glass cookies add sparkle to the tree. They let the lights shine through and add a little sparkle to the tree. The centers are made of hard candies like Jolly Ranchers or Life Savers. The colors add the sparkle and the flavors add the conversation. They can be made using sugar cookie dough, gingerbread cookie dough or other cutable dough.
Stained Glass Cookies
(Makes 2 to 4 dozen cookies)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
30-40 hard candies (such as Life Savers), preferably in several flavors/colors
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy in a large bowl. Mix in molasses and vanilla extract. Add egg and mix until light and smooth on medium speed of mixer. Sift or stir together flour, salt and baking powder. Fold dry ingredients into wet mixture. Blend just until flour is incorporated. Divide dough in half and flatten into two disks. Wrap disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour and up to two days. Before baking, remove wrappers on candies and separate them by color into plastic bags. Use a mallet to crush the candies. Place disk between large sheets of waxed paper and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes. Transfer to parchment covered baking sheets, placing them about an inch apart. Use a smaller cookie cutter or a knife to remove the center of the cookie. Sprinkle the crushed candy into the open centers of the cookies, filling to the edges. Avoid dropping bits of candy onto the cookie dough as it will color the cookie. If cookies will be hung as ornaments or decorations, poke a small hole in the top of each cookie before baking using a small straw or making a hole with a toothpick. Bake for nine to 10 minutes. The candy should be melted and bubbling and the cookies just barely beginning to brown. Allow cookies to cool on pans at least 10 minutes; otherwise, the candy centers may separate from the dough. When cookies are completely cooled, remove and store in an airtight container. String with ribbon if you want to hang them as ornaments.
6 cups popcorn
1/2 pound marshmallows (about 32)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon peppermint flavoring
Food coloring (optional)
Place warm popcorn into a bowl and cover with a towel to keep warm. Melt marshmallows with butter until smooth. Add flavoring and food coloring. Pour over popcorn and stir to coat. Mix in gumdrops. Form into round balls. (Buttering your hands helps keep the mixture from sticking to your hands.) Anchor both ends of a small piece of ribbon into the top to make a loop for hanging on the tree. Cool.
Puffed Rice Balls
6 cups puffed rice
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons molasses
Food coloring as desired
Place puffed rice into oven in a shallow pan at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until crisp. Mix together the remaining ingredients and boil to the crack stage. Pour over puffed rice and stir together. Form into balls. Push both ends of a bit of ribbon or string into the top to harden in place to hang the balls.
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 to 5 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon soda
Sift or stir together dry ingredients. Cream shortening, sugar, milk, eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough (about two to three cups). Chill thoroughly. Roll on a lightly floured board 1/8-inch thick. Cut with floured cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for eight to 10 minutes.
Rice Krispie Treat Snowmen
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 package (about 40) regular marshmallows or 4 cups miniature marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
In large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add cereal and stir until well coated. Butter hands and form into mixture into three sizes of round balls. Stack together three different size balls to form a snowman shape. While still warm, use toothpicks to anchor them. Decorate with candies. Hang on the tree.