Create festive ornaments and decorations out of seasonal foods and candies
by Kendra Vizcaino-Lico, Epicurious; photos by Sara Bonisteel
The holiday season is a time for family, Christmas cheer, gifts, and lots and lots of food. This year, bring out your inner elf and use some familiar ingredients to craft fun decorations for your tree, dining table, and home. Create candy cane tree toppers, an herb wreath for the front door, citrus ornaments for your Christmas tree, and more, using just a few simple foods and basic craft supplies.
The time-honored tradition of stringing popcorn is a cozy activity on a cold winter's night. It takes quite a bit of time to create these fluffy garlands, but the end result is well worth the effort.
Equipment: 5 to 10 cups popped popcorn, thread, and a needle
Instructions: Choose popcorn with little or no flavoring (plain popcorn keeps longer than buttered). Pop the kernels according to the package directions.
Measure lengths of thread about 8 feet long; the number of strands you need will depend on the size of your tree. Pass the thread through a needle and pull it halfway through so that an equal length falls on both ends. Tie a knot about one inch from the end of the thread, then retie the knot a few times to make it larger and more secure.
Pierce a piece of popcorn with the needle, pull the needle through, and slide the popcorn down to the knotted end of the thread. Try to pierce the popcorn at its thickest point, to prevent breaking. Repeat until the string is full of popcorn, then cut away any excess thread at the needle end and tie a secure knot to finish.
Repeat with additional strands until you have enough to wrap your tree in the festive garlands. If your tree is in a cool, dry area, these garlands should last through the holiday season.
See more: The Best Baking Chocolate Taste Test
Candy Cane Tree Topper
These classic red-and-white Christmas candies, often hung from the branches of a Christmas tree, go above and beyond to top the tree in this whimsical and festive craft.
Equipment: About 15 candy canes, a hot-glue gun, hot-glue sticks, small red candies
Instructions: Hold two candy canes together with your thumb under the crooks. While still holding the canes side by side with your thumb, twist the canes apart slightly so the crooks remain touching and the stems separate to about 1 1/2 inches apart at the ends. Apply hot glue to the place under your thumb where the candy canes meet. Allow the glue to dry about two minutes.
Repeat these steps with additional candy canes until you have completed the cone shape using nine canes, with hooks pointed upward on the outside. Once this is dry (remember to support the structure as it dries, to be sure it holds together), lay the structure on its side very gently.
Then, one at a time, affix the straight part of a candy cane to the underside of a candy cane on the structure. Make sure the hooks are pointing outward at the same angle. Allow each cane to dry before adding the next cane to the structure. Then, to complete the festive look, glue a red candy to all the exposed ends of the candy canes.
The sweet scents of citrus and evergreens will fill your home when you hang these bright slices from your Christmas tree. They'll look truly beautiful when they catch the light from twinkling tree bulbs or a warm fire.
Equipment: Citrus fruits (such as oranges, lemons, and limes), decorative ribbon or string, baking sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 200°F. Cut the citrus fruits into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Blot them with a paper towel and place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 2 to 3 hours to dehydrate the citrus. (The exact time will vary based on your oven and how juicy the fruits are.) Check the fruits every 30 minutes or so and flip them over about halfway through the drying process.
Once the citrus slices are fully dried, remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool. Poke a hole near the rind and loop a ribbon or decorative string through it, or place an ornament hook through it. Hang the citrus ornaments from your Christmas tree or in a window. When the warm sunlight hits them, their citrusy fragrance becomes even more intense.
See more: How to Host a Holiday Cookie Swap
Festive flair isn't the only thing that's inviting about this wreath: The enticing scent of drying herbs will greet your holiday guests at the front door.
Equipment: 4 to 6 bunches of fragrant fresh herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano), craft glue (or a hot-glue gun and hot-glue sticks), a 10- to 12-inch Styrofoam wreath, and decorative ribbon
Instructions: Cover your work surface with newspapers or a plastic tarp. Separate the sprigs of herbs so they're not clumped together. You may want to cut longer sprigs in half to make them more manageable to work with.
Glue the herbs to the Styrofoam wreath (note: using hot glue may discolor softer herbs like sage). When attaching the herbs, you can group them by type or mix them all together. For a more finished look, try to have all the sprigs facing in the same direction.
Allow the wreath to dry for about an hour, then tie a ribbon on it and hang it on the front door or above the mantle. Wherever you place the wreath, its herbal scent will linger for days.
Bountiful Vegetable Centerpiece
Move over, poinsettias. When it comes to decorating your table, why not change things up this year with a spectacular and unexpected arrangement of colorful, sculptural veggies?
Equipment: Fresh vegetables (such as baby artichokes, radishes, asparagus, pearl onions, Brussels sprouts, rainbow chard, cauliflower florets, and broccoflower florets), a Styrofoam disk (1 inch thick , 5 to 10 inches in diameter), toothpicks, dish towels, and a large bowl
Instructions: Fill the bowl with dish towels, leaving an inch and a half of space at the top (this will help give the illusion that the bowl is full). Place the Styrofoam disk into the bowl on top of the towels. Trim long stems off the vegetables and remove any wilted leaves.
Place a layer of rainbow chard leaves on top of the disk, with the pretty fluted ends extending up and over the rim of the bowl. Poke a toothpick partway through the stem end of the smaller vegetables until secure. Then stick the other end of the toothpick through the chard leaves and into the Styrofoam. In this way, you can arrange the vegetables as you would flowers. Try to distribute the different types of vegetables throughout to create a varied, well-balanced look. When the arrangement is not on display, store it in the refrigerator, covered with a damp paper towel.
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Create festive ornaments and decorations out of seasonal foods and candies
SUPPER CLUB PICK
My after-school snack was a sacred ritual. I sat on the carpet in my parents' bedroom at a low table, the television turned to "I Dream of Jeannie," and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into neat squares. I wasn't fussy about crusts. I just loved the sticky pairing of creamy peanut butter with syrupy golden sweetness drizzled from a honey bear in diagonals across the soft white bread. Nothing else--save for maybe apples and peanut butter in a pinch--could have made for as sweet an