Here are more than a dozen fabulous ways to make holiday foods that stand out.
Lively Lemon Sorbet Using a zester/scorer, score around a lemon, removing a long, narrow strip of peel; discard strip. Cut lemon in half, and remove the pulp with a melon baller; discard pulp. Place the hollowed-out citrus bowls in festive glasses and add scoops of lemon sorbet. Garnish with mint leaves.
Fruited Ice Pieces Place fresh mint leaves, quartered thin orange slices, and pomegranate seeds in a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. Place pan in freezer. Pour a thin layer of distilled water into pan to cover ingredients. Freeze. To chill beverage, break ice into pieces appropriate for the glass size.
Chill and Trim To decorate and chill punch without diluting the flavor, in a ring mold, freeze a shallow layer of fruit juice that will complement the punch flavor. Arrange fruit, such as thinly sliced lime halves and fresh cranberries, on top of the frozen layer in the mold. Add about 1 inch of fruit juice to hold the fruit in place as it freezes. When frozen, add additional fruit juice to fill the mold and freeze it solid. Unmold and float it in the punch bowl.
Ole, Guacamole! Turn margarita glasses into serving containers. Prepare several glasses in advance and serve one glassful at a time, keeping the rest refrigerated for replenishing the appetizer table. To prepare, rub the glass rim with a lime slice; then dip into coarse salt. Spoon in guacamole. Fill small bowls (such as unused votive candleholders) with salsa and press them into the guacamole, inserting them off center to allow more room for dipping. Surround base of glass with tortilla chips and garnish the rim of the glass with a thin lime slice.
Puffy Snowflakes Use a snowflake or star cookie cutter to cut thawed frozen puff pastry sheets. Bake in a 400 degree F oven about 10 minutes or until golden. Lightly dip tops of pastries into melted white chocolate. Add a little sparkle by sprinkling with coarse sugar.
Plate Writing Depending on the plate color, melt regular or white chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. (If desired, tint white chocolate with paste food coloring.) Cool chocolate slightly; then pour into a small resealable plastic bag. Cut off a tiny corner from the bag. Pipe names or holiday words such as "Noel" or "Love" along the plate's rim.
Appealing Potato Slices Garnish vegetables or cream soups with potato cutouts. Peel and thinly slice a white potato. Use small holiday cookie or hors de'oeuvre cutters to cut several potato slices into shapes. In a small skillet or saucepan cook slices in a small amount of oil until golden brown and crisp.
Leaf-Topped Rolls Decorate quick-to-fix brown-and-serve dinner rolls by brushing the unbaked rolls with a mixture of 1 beaten egg white and 1 tablespoon of water. While the mixture is still moist, place a small sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley or other small herb leaves on the rolls. Brush again with the egg-white mixture before baking.
Baked-On Cookie Trim Place sugar cookie dough cutouts on a cookie sheet. Before baking, place a very small cookie cutter or stencil on each cutout. Sprinkle inside the stencil with one color of sugar. If desired, add a stencil with a different shape on top, slightly overlapping designs; sprinkle with a second sugar color.
Two-Tone Cheese Ball Decorate your favorite cheese ball by rolling half of it in a mixture of snipped dried cranberries or cherries. Roll the other half in chopped pistachio nuts. Be sure to roll the ball along a straightedge so there's no definite division where the two ingredients meet.
Quick Champagne Toast Add a dash of fruit liqueur to a champagne flute. Carefully pour champagne over the liqueur. If desired, garnish each serving with a long strip of orange peel (made with a zester) that's been curled tightly around a bamboo skewer. To make an alcohol-free version, substitute carbonated water for the champagne and fruit-flavored syrup for the liqueur.
Easy Bread Wreath Thaw 14 portions of purchased frozen roll dough. Arrange in the shape of a wreath on a greased shallow baking pan. Place a greased ball of foil in center to help hold the shape. Cover; let rise about 30 minutes. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Brush with a mixture of 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water. Sprinkle with sesame and/or poppy seeds. Bake 10 minutes more or until bread sounds hollow. Remove foil from center of wreath. Insert fresh rosemary sprigs into the wreath and garnish with cranberries.
Cupcake "Gifts" Frost cupcakes baked in paper or foil cupcake liners; sprinkle with toasted or untoasted coconut. Wrap cupcakes with colorful holiday ribbon to resemble tiny packages, positioning the bow on top.
Cookie Place Cards Pipe names on purchased rectangular shortbread cookies using canned frosting. Decorate the cookies by placing tiny candies on a dot of frosting with a pair of tweezers. To make cookies stand upright, use a serrated knife to cut additional shortbread cookies into triangular pieces. Secure the pieces to back of decorated cookies with frosting.