Saturday, September 22, 2018
Cooking

Deck your holiday table with these festive food garnishes

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.

Rock candy

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 [email protected]

Comments
Five ideas for date-night dinners at home

Five ideas for date-night dinners at home

For your next date night with your significant other, try staying in and cooking together. Meals eaten with your loved one are always sweeter. Literally."When we are in love … food tastes better," said Rachel Herz, an adjunct professor of psychiatry ...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/21/18
Pumpkin spice haters, back off: It’s okay to crave the seasonal flavor

Pumpkin spice haters, back off: It’s okay to crave the seasonal flavor

All right, okay, enough, I get it: You all hate pumpkin spice. But I’ve got one request as we head into fall: Can you just let us have this? There are many things on which to heap anger and despair right now, but please, that thing does not n...
Published: 09/18/18
A brown rice salad with asparagus that’s a hearty side dish

A brown rice salad with asparagus that’s a hearty side dish

This fresh, hearty side dish will stand out among its richer, creamier counterparts when the holidays roll around. We achieved perfectly cooked brown rice by boiling it in abundant water. Sprinkling the rice with bright lemon juice while it was still...
Published: 09/18/18
Taste test: Frozen Italian meatballs

Taste test: Frozen Italian meatballs

In keeping with our objective of trying to make family meals a little easier this back-to-school season, our judges figured premade meatballs could serve as a basis for a variety of meals. This week, we sampled 10 brands of frozen Italian meatballs f...
Published: 09/17/18
How to be a good host: 7 tips to follow for casual and fancy dinners alike

How to be a good host: 7 tips to follow for casual and fancy dinners alike

A couple of hours into my first time hosting a full-fledged family Thanksgiving, I completely lost it. Elbows deep in the oven, I was trying to rescue a sheet pan that had fallen off the back of the rack and threatened to ruin the entire meal. There ...
Published: 09/13/18
From the food editor: This citrus chopped salad needs a good, homemade vinaigrette

From the food editor: This citrus chopped salad needs a good, homemade vinaigrette

The emulsion was almost complete. Rice wine vinegar, check. A couple of glugs of nutty olive oil, check. Some honey, a dash of soy sauce, salt and pepper. Just one ingredient left to go, and it was a crucial one. Sesame oil. It would offer the unique...
Published: 09/11/18
Pan-fried sole is a light, delicate dish when paired with lemon-caper pan sauce

Pan-fried sole is a light, delicate dish when paired with lemon-caper pan sauce

By AMERICA’S TEST KITCHENSole piccata, a light and delicate dish that consists of lightly browned sole fillets bathed in a lemon, caper and white wine-laced pan sauce, is a classic for a reason: The fresh, bright acidity of the sauce wakes up the fla...
Published: 09/11/18
Taste test: New peanut butter snacks

Taste test: New peanut butter snacks

Since many of us are reaching for portable snacks to pack in school lunch boxes, our tasters thought this would be a good week to give some of the new snacks a try. We picked four peanut butter-flavored snacks, figuring parents and teachers would hav...
Published: 09/10/18
From the food editor: These Orange Ricotta Bars make for a light, easy dessert

From the food editor: These Orange Ricotta Bars make for a light, easy dessert

It was one of those serene kitchen days when everything just kind of works out. My husband and I were home on a Sunday, tending to our new puppy (!) as storm clouds gathered outside, and I set out to prep for dinner. Two of our friends were coming o...
Updated one month ago
Want to make sushi at home? Tips and recipes for beginners

Want to make sushi at home? Tips and recipes for beginners

Sushi was introduced to the United States through Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo in 1966. A classic staple in Japanese households, sashimi (raw fish), sushi (raw fish with sticky rice) and sushi maki (sushi rolls) took off in America. You’d be surprised h...
Updated one month ago