Pine Cone Cheeseball

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Here’s a riff on a cheese ball recipe we made around Thanksgiving, but this time instead of shaping it into a turkey we turned it into a winter solstice pine cone!

Ingredients:

  • 5 multi-grain crackers
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 ounces non-dairy cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Roasted almonds, for garnish
  • Rosemary sprigs, for garnish
  • Multi-grain crackers, for serving
  1. Place 5 crackers in a zip-top plastic bag and seal. Crush lightly with the back of a spoon. Mince the rosemary and thyme and add to the crackers. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, butter, salt, garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon cracker mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until combined.
  3. Spoon the cream cheese mixture onto plastic wrap, gather into a ball and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  4. Roll the cheeseball in the remaining cracker mixture, then shape with your hands into a pine cone shape on a plate.
  5. Garnish with the almonds and a few extra sprigs of rosemary to look like a pine cone!

Travis thought this was spot-on and so beautiful!

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How could we not serve it with steaming cups of hot cocoa?

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We turned it into an impromptu “family date” for a board game night, the kids gleefully dipping into the cheeseball and sipping their cocoa as we played favorites like Candyland and Guess Who?

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In sum, one little recipe turned into a whole winter evening of fun.

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Homemade Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix

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Hot cocoa mix is one of our favorite things to gift around the holidays. This year, we put a peppermint spin on it by adding crushed candy canes! To crush, place the candy canes in a zip-top plastic bag and mash with a mallet into pieces.

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To assemble the mix, layer the following ingredients in a pretty glass jar:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

3 crushed candy canes

1/3 cup non-dairy mini chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life)

1/2 cup vegan marshmallows (such as Dandies)

Add a pretty bow or ribbon, along with a gift tag that includes instructions for preparing the cocoa.

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To prepare, simply remove the marshmallows from the jar, then heat the mix and 6 cups non-dairy milk over medium heat until it reaches your desired temperature.

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Of course we set aside one batch of this mix to prepare for ourselves. We weren’t going to let the gift recipients’ have all the holiday fun!

Tabletop Christmas Tree

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This easy toddler project makes the perfect centerpiece for a holiday table! The little tree is just the right size if you find your family gathering is smaller this year due to COVID-19.

To start, I printed out a Christmas tree template from Hands on As We Grow. Trace the tree shape onto two pieces of cardboard, then cut out from the cardboard. I wasn’t in the mood to wrestle with thick cardboard so used an old cereal box instead. In retrospect, it might have been worth using the thicker kind, since thin cardboard wasn’t entirely sturdy standing up. It also meant we had to paint over the printing on the cereal box.

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Luckily, green paint hid most of the cereal box writing! Veronika helped apply two thick coats of sparkly green paint to both sides of the tree shapes and we set them aside to dry.

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Next, cut slits in the two trees so they can slot together. That means you’ll need to make a slit in the center top of one tree and in the center bottom of the other. Slot together until they sit flush against a tabletop.

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Time to decorate! Veronika helped add lots of white glue, and then we stuck on red and green pom poms and beads.

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Any other holiday items from your craft bin would work great here, too, like holiday stickers or ribbon.

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We think this makes the perfect little Christmas tree.

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Puffy Snowmen with Shaving Cream and Glue

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I’ve been on a hunt this winter season to find the best toddler snowman project, whether stamping it with marshmallows, turning it into a melted snowman, and more. In this version, the snowman shape isn’t cut out until the end, meaning your toddler can simply have fun with painting on a more sensory level.

First, we needed to make puffy paint, which is fast becoming a favorite around here. I squirted equal parts white glue and shaving cream onto a paper plate and Veronika helped mix it all up with a paintbrush.

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She began to smear it thickly over a sheet of white craft paper. I encouraged her to use all her senses for this particular paint. The shaving cream mixture smells fresh and soapy and has a wonderful goopy texture.

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I encouraged her to make a handprint…

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…which led to gleefully squeezing the mixture between her hands. We had a quick hand wash and then finished covering the white paper with the puffy paint.

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Once dry, I taped a snowman template onto the back of the paper and cut out. Be careful as you cut not to squeeze the puffy paint mixture, or it may flake off.

The snowmen looked so cute in the window, and almost like they were covered with real bits of snow!

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