It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Cut out the stress that often accompanies holiday gatherings with these helpful shortcuts from bloggers so you can focus on spending time with family and friends.
Turn a glass vase into a centerpiece or mantel accessory with this stylish idea from Kelly Rowe of Live Laugh Rowe, who lives in St. Louis, Mo. Place a pillar candle inside the vase and fill with a grapevine wreath, acorns, dried leaves, cranberries or peppermint candies. Get step-by-step instructions here.
O, Pita Tree
No cooking is required for these merry bites that come together in no time.
Cut pita bread into 8 triangles. Insert a pretzel stick into the shortest edge of the triangle. Lightly toast pitas, if desired, in a 350°F oven. Combine 2 Tbsp pesto with 4 oz softened cream cheese and spread on top. Decorate with roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips, to form a garland.
Hot Chocolate Bar
This make-it-your-way bar will become your family’s most requested holiday tradition for Christmas Eve, after sledding or while opening presents. Start with your favorite hot chocolate recipe. Place mix-ins in small bowls or a muffin tin and let everyone build their own sweet sipper.
- Mini marshmallows
- Mint chocolate chips (like Andes Crème de Menthe Baking Chips)
- Peanut butter chips
- Peppermint sticks or crushed peppermint candies
- Cinnamon sticks
- Caramel squares
Shortcut Party Prep
Guests on their way? Look to this 10-minute checklist from Dana K. White, blogger at A Slob Comes Clean and mom of three who has a new book out called How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind (Thomas Nelson). She starts with your appearance (Hair brushed? Lipstick on? Matching shoes?), then suggests quick room checks to make sure everything is guest-ready (Clean hand towels in the bathrooms? Couch pillows fluffed? Kitchen sink empty?).
Best-Ever Holiday Breakfast
Make mornings special with this six-ingredient orange and chocolate bread from Kate Dean of I Heart Eating. “It looks and tastes so good that no one will guess what a snap it was to make,” says the Phoenix, Ariz., mom of three. Get the Cannoli Bread Braid recipe here.
These super-easy cookies help you serve something homemade without dirtying up a sink full of dishes, says Southern Plate blogger Christy Jordan, author of Sweetness (Workman). “Cake mix makes an excellent starting point, and these stay fresh for more than a week,” says the Huntsville, Ala., mom.
Cake Mix Cookies
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl mix 1 (12- to 14-oz) box cake mix (use the kind without pudding), 2 eggs and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended, about 2 minutes.
Form the dough into balls a little smaller than golf balls and place them 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets. Bake until very lightly browned at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from baking sheets. Makes about 2 dozen
Mix it Up: Add 1 cup of chocolate chips, chopped nuts or dried fruit after mixing the dough.
More Last-Minute Treats
Combine 2 cloves garlic, 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, 1 (15-oz) can pumpkin puree, 1 tsp ground cumin, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and a dash of cayenne pepper in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Add cold water as needed to reach dip consistency. Makes about 3 cups
Serve with bell pepper strips and carrot and celery sticks.