holiday recipe and projects collage

Hello and happy December! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We lucked out with a gorgeous, 50+ degree holiday and spent the majority of it outdoors around a fire pit while Ben smoked the most delicious turkey he’s ever made, and we drank all the wine in the whole entire world. Oh my gosh it was so juicy (the turkey…the wine too, I suppose) and the smoked gravy he made from the drippings? Totally unforgettable. Maybe I’ll have him smoke another one sometime over the next couple of months so I can document the process and share in time for T-giving 2021.

Ahh, 2021 – WE SEE YOU.

But first, we Christmas! This is the first Christmas in our new home so the kids and I were eager to bust out the holiday tubs and get to decorating. I purchased a couple new garlands to drape over the railings in hopes to create a cozy, Little Women Christmas vibe.

Christmas garland with bows

I also had grand plans of anchoring the garlands with big, beautiful bows but failed several YouTube tutorials and ended up going with simple classic bows. I think Marmee would approve. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Christmas garland with bow

Something I recently shared on Instagram that got great feedback are these Candy Cane Stocking Holders. If you have kids and/or pets and worry about them pulling down stockings, these are a must have. Each holder weighs about as much as an actual candy cane so no issues if they’re pulled down by curious hands or paws.

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We had a scare with Cameron a couple years ago who very narrowly missed getting knocked in the head by a heavy stocking weight and so we’ve never looked back after ordering these lightweight holders instead. (Here are our stockings.)

stockings hung on a mantle

With the holiday decorations up, and Christmas tunes playing on repeat (currently jamming to this playlist on Spotify!) it feels like we’ve got full permission to move full steam ahead with all things holiday projects, baking, and gifting, which is what I want to talk about today!

Most schools around here are virtual for the time being, and it’s looking as though they’ll stay that way through Christmas, so I know a TON of families are looking for ways to fill empty afternoons while they work, or just hope to not stick their kid in front of a device for hours on end. That said, the recipes and projects I’m sharing today are ones you can streeeeetch to fill an afternoon or two. Most importantly, they’re FUN and tasty too.

If that isn’t a concern of yours, these ideas are still wonderful ways to celebrate the holidays. Plus I’ll fill you in on how to turn them into gifts for loved ones to spread holiday cheer.

Alrighty, turn up the Mannheim Steamroller (ooo, important poll: team Manheim Steamroller or Transibrrian Orchestra?!) and let’s get to it!

5 Fun Things to Make and Eat This Holiday Season

2-Ingredient Cinnamon Ornaments

This project is wonderful not only because it’s a blast, but also because you can stretch it out over the course of two days. Day 1: mix up the dough then cut into shapes and bake. Day 2: Decorate. Kids LOVE this project!!! Cinnamon Ornaments are also great to make then mail to family members who you may not be able to see this holiday season, to let them know you’re thinking about them.

The boys and I made these last year and they held up perfectly – and retained their cinnamon-y scent – in our extremely unpadded ornament box that even went through a move.

Easy Cinnamon Ornaments christmas tree cut out

 

Fruit Christmas Tree

I recently assembled a Fruit Christmas Tree for a holiday segment I filmed for a local news station and forgot how much fun they are to make! Gorgeous, fresh, and festive, plus your kids will love picking out which fruits they like best to decorate the “tree”. My Mom usually makes one with the grandkids on Christmas day, but hey – a random Wednesday in December? Why not.

If your kids do better with individual projects, you can have them make “mini trees” with just the pears. Slice off the bottoms first to give the pears stability.

Celebrate the holidays the healthy way with a beautiful, fresh Fruit Christmas Tree. Perfect for parties, potlucks, and Santa! | iowagirleats.comCelebrate the holidays the healthy way with a beautiful, fresh Fruit Christmas Tree. Perfect for parties, potlucks, and Santa! | iowagirleats.com

 

Soft and Chewy Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

Nothing says “Christmas” like baking cookies and my Soft and Chewy Gluten Free Sugar Cookies are a holi-dream. Just the thought of mixing up the dough with holiday music playing, rolling then cutting out shapes, and finally, frosting and devouring, is giving me major cozy vibes. Plus these cookies are so delicious that I’ve had countless people tell me they’d never, ever guess they’re gluten free.

Again, if you have kids, this project is a huge, huge hit!

You'd never know soft and chewy gluten-free sugar cookies are made with gluten-free flour! Make into drop cookies or roll and cut into any shape you like. | iowagirleats.com

 

2-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

This super simple and festive Peppermint Bark recipe is SUCH a fun holiday recipe. Pairs oh so well with a cup of coffee and, since it’s made with dark chocolate chips, you don’t have to feel guilty about snagging a nibble here and a nibble there anytime you pass through the kitchen. Antioxidants and all that!

If you have friends or family members who are comfortable receiving homemade gifts, a clear treat bag tied with a pretty ribbon filled with Peppermint Bark would be a slam dunk.

2-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark couldn't be simpler and is perfect for holiday snacking. Package up and tie in a bow for a sweet homemade gift! | iowagirleats.com

 

Chocolate-Peppermint Puppy Chow

If you like Thin Mints then you’ll LOVE Chocolate-Peppermint Puppy Chow. A reader recently commented on Facebook that she made and ate an entire batch in one day. #relatable THAT is how delicious and addicting it is!

Again, if you have kids, they’ll love shaking up the warm, chocolate and candy cane-coated cereal in the powdered sugar “snow” then dumping it out on the counter to dry.

Chocolate-Peppermint Puppy Chow is another excellent gifting candidate. Fill up a holiday tin, baggie, or heck, ziplock bag, then leave on the doorstep of someone in need of a sweet, holiday treat.

Close up photo of Chocolate Peppermint Puppy Chow

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, and HAVE FUN!