The holidays are a time to deck the halls, but the festivities shouldn't stop there. Bring those time-honored decorating traditions to the table by going an extra step with a festive food garnish or decoration. Taking a few minutes to add some special touches to any dish will take your holiday meal up a notch. Try any of these quick and easy tricks:
Sugared cranberries and cherries
A dusting of sugar makes these sweet red fruits look like they've rolled around in the snow, which is perfect for any winter treat. Try them on top of a cake, cupcake or cookie for an old-timey winter garnish.
To make them, simply boil, on medium heat, 1 cup water in a medium saucepan with 1 cup sugar to create a simple syrup. Boil until the liquid thickens (about 10 minutes), and then let cool for 15 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place a cooling rack on top of it. Toss 12 ounces cranberries or cherries (or both) in the syrup, in batches to ensure an even coating, then place them on the cooling rack to dry. After they're dry, which will take about 30 to 45 minutes, fill a shallow dish with another cup of sugar and lightly toss the fruit in it, rolling the cranberries or cherries around until they are thinly covered. Recipe adapted from cincyshopper.com.
Frozen whipped cream
For an easy garnish to hot chocolate or a slice of hot apple pie, simply spread a container of whipped topping like Cool Whip on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You'll have to do this quickly, because whipped topping melts fast. To ensure an even spread, run a spoon or spatula under warm water for a few seconds and use the back edge to smooth out the top. Freeze for several hours, or until the cream has hardened slightly. Use a festive cookie cutter of your choice to punch out snowmen, snowflakes, gingerbread men or any other shapes. Recipe adapted from thecakeblog.com.
Pinecones made out of almonds
Almonds are a great tool for making any piece of chocolate or cheese look more festive. Arrange them atop a cheese ball or hunk of fudge for a creative addition to any appetizer spread. Shape a cheese ball or fudge recipe of your choice into a teardrop shape and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Using whole almonds and pressing firmly, stick the nuts pointy side up into the cheese or fudge, creating rows with the almonds until the entire teardrop is covered and it looks like a large pinecone. Nestle the pinecone atop sprigs of rosemary for added garnish.
Sprigs, herbs and leaves
Flora can be an intimidating garnish, especially when whatever dish you're bringing to your holiday party has to be kid-friendly. But the increasing popularity of using edible flowers and leaves makes it less daunting. Use sprigs of rosemary to resemble evergreen needles; you can insert them upright by the stem to resemble trees or use them as a bed for an appetizer or meat dish. Pull a few leaves from your poinsettias and use with sugared cherries or cranberries to resemble holly, or use cedar leaves to create a wreath on top of a cake. Use whole flowers, like poinsettias or amaryllis, to decorate a serving tray. Check with your local florist to see what they have in stock.
As if you need any more sugar during the holidays, use a clear rock candy stick as a garnish to any drink, like champagne, sangria or cider. The translucent candy looks like icicles and is fun for both kids and adults.
Contact Carlynn Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org.