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    Updated on Nov 22, 2019. Posted on Dec 13, 2017

    9 Holiday Hacks That We Know Are Actually Legit

    Stress-free shortcuts are the absolute best.

    by , ,

    The holidays are so busy that we're always looking for ways to make cooking and decorating just a little easier.

    Hallmark

    So we decided to test out a bunch of popular holiday hacks! Below, you'll find nine of our favorites that worked and that we think are definitely worth your time.

    New Line Cinema

    HACK #1: Freeze Cool Whip on a sheet pan, then use cookie cutters to make hot chocolate floaters.

    Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: According to No Biggie, you can spread Cool Whip (or fresh whipped cream) on a foil-covered sheet pan, let it freeze overnight, and use cookie cutters to make fun holiday shapes to float in your hot chocolate.

    Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

    THE RESULTS: This is just fun, and so easy as long as you have the freezer space. A few tips: Let the Cool Whip thaw a little in the fridge before you try to spread it on the cookie sheet (I didn't, so spreading it in an even layer was a *challenge*). Make sure your Cool Whip layer is pretty thick. And because Cool Whip won't freeze completely solid, leave the cutter on your shapes and peel the edges away when ready. Then use a thin spatula to transfer them to your hot chocolate. —Natalie Brown

    HACK #2: Slide a sock onto your cup for a reusable coffee cozy.

    Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: Cut the foot off from a lone sock and slide it onto your cup to keep your hot drink insulated. From Diana Rambles.

    THE RESULTS: This is super straightforward and was an awesome way to repurpose a lone sock (this one was from my favorite pair😪). Though it was a little awkward to try to stretch a sock around a hot cup of coffee, I surprisingly loved this. The sock also works so much better than that flimsy piece of cardboard from the café because it actually insulates the cup. Plus, it covers the entire thing rather than just a small sliver, so you won't burn your hands. —Emily Shwake

    HACK #3: Make the easiest latkes ever with frozen Tater Tots or hash browns.

    Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: Latkes can be kinda tedious to make and grating potatoes on a box grater can be a bit of an arm workout. The easiest alternative? Tater Tot latkes. According to blogs like Wonder How To, you can use frozen Tater Tots or hash browns instead of fresh potatoes to make latkes.

    Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

    THE RESULTS: These are great if you're looking to save time. I used frozen hash browns from Trader Joe’s, and about five frozen patties made a big plate of latkes. The Tater Tot version didn’t taste exactly like traditional potato pancakes with their wispy, crisp edges and tender center. (They were much thicker and chewy all around.) But with a dollop of sour cream and chives on top, they were really tasty. After making regular latkes, I can definitely see the appeal in skipping the potato grating and taking the easy way out. —Hannah Loewentheil

    HACK #4: Add some fresh cranberries to ice cubes to make your drinks or punch look ~festive~.

    Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: It's super straightforward! Fresh cranberries + ice cube tray + water = cute ice cubes. Just make sure to rinse your cranberries first.

    Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

    THE RESULTS: You guys, I LOVE these! I tried 'em in two different ice cube trays: one with a lid, which pushed the cranberries down into the ice cubes, and one without, where they floated to the top. (Both looked equally good.) My biggest struggle? I liked them best when they had 5 or 6 cranberries in them, but the cubes with just 2 or 3 took longer to melt. Oh, and they did eventually turn my water a light pink, but I don't mind a little cranberry ~infusion~. —NB

    HACK #5: Fill squeeze bottles with icing to make cookie decorating a little easier and a lot less messy.

    Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: Mix food coloring into the icing, and then pour it into a bottle with a thin nozzle. I got a few from Michael's for $1.99 each. From blogger Bake at 350.

    Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

    THE RESULTS: This was the best part of my day! Just doodling on cookies — and there wasn't a ton of cleanup! This would be great for kids. The bottle allowed me to draw on the cookies with a little more dexterity, and I didn't have to deal with a bunch of messy piping bags. And the bottles clean out really easily, so I can use them again and again. It took a bit of patience to pour the frosting into the bottles, but luckily I have a set of dry measuring cups (you can get a set from Amazon for $9.99) with pour spouts that made it easy. —ES

    HACK #6: Use less filler by sticking an empty toilet paper roll in the middle of your hurricane vase.

    Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: According to the blog Dandelions and Dust Bunnies, the toilet paper roll will take up space in the middle of your vase that you'd otherwise have to use filler to, um, fill.

    Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

    THE RESULTS: After some trial and error, I hacked this hack. The mini ornaments I'd bought didn't completely cover the bottom of the roll, so I wrapped it in a few inches of red fabric ribbon. Then, I realized that in order to put filler on *top* of the roll, I needed to close off its top — enter the square sticky note and tape. But in the end, I had a festive vase with a secret inside! —NB

    HACK #7: Make no-knead challah bread that's virtually impossible to mess up.

    Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: To many people (including me), the idea of baking bread from scratch is very intimidating. So when I saw this recipe for no-knead bread on Food52, I was intrigued, especially after reading all the positive comments. I figured it would be tough to mess up. Basically, the recipe explains that by using time and a few simple turns of the dough, you can mimic the effect of kneading. At first glance, I was shocked that this recipe takes over 24 hours. But then I realized that there’s very little active cooking involved, and most of the time is just waiting for the dough to rise in the fridge overnight.

    Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

    THE RESULTS: I’d never made challah in my life, so I seriously couldn’t believe how well this bread turned out. First, I made the dough. Then every 30 minutes for the next two hours, I would grab the edges of the dough, fold it into the center, flip it over, let it rest for 30 minutes, and repeat. (If that sounds confusing, the Food52 recipe does a great job of explaining the process.) Once I finished the folding process, I braided the dough into two loaves and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes. To my surprise, the challah came out perfectly. It was yellow and moist on the inside, with a tougher, glossy crust. Not to mention, my apartment smelled like amazing, freshly baked bread all day. If you’re committed to following the directions and taking this methodic approach to baking, anyone can make this recipe. —HL

    HACK #8: Seamlessly hang a wreath using an upside-down Command hook on the back of a door.

    Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: You can hang a wreath using an upside-down Command hook on the back of your door and some ribbon.

    Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

    THE RESULTS: Pure holiday cheer — no wreath hanger or nails required! Even better: You can adjust the exact height you want your wreath to hang. Btw, make sure to follow *all six* steps to hang your hook so it actually supports the weight it should and comes off cleanly in January. —NB

    HACK #9: Simmer fruits and spices in water to make your home smell like the holidays.

    Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

    THE IDEA: Boil apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla in a large pot of water, then reduce to a simmer and leave the pot on the stove all day so that the steam can fill your house with lovely holiday smells.

    RESULTS: So, I was really anticipating that the house would smell like Christmas on crack. It smelled wonderful around the pot and the steam really warmed up the kitchen, but the smell wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be. That being said, I might've just acclimated to the smell, because when my roommates came home they looked at me and asked, "OMG, what are you making?!" My guess is that the second your guests walk in the door, they'll feel like they just crossed the threshold into heaven. —ES

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