Quick ideas from simple to grand for decorating your holiday table.
Potato Cutouts: Thinly slice a white potato. Cut several potato slices into shapes using small holiday cookie or hors d'oeuvre cutters. In a small skillet or saucepan cook slices in a small amount of oil until golden brown and crisp. Use the potato cutouts as a garnish for vegetable side dishes or cream soups.
Orange Cups: Remove a very thin slice from the top and bottom of a large navel orange so it will sit flat; slice the orange in half. Use a paring or grapefruit knife and melon baller to remove the flesh from the orange. Orange cups can be used to serve cranberry sauce or chutney. Or, freeze cups and fill with sorbet or other frozen desserts.
Herb-Topped Rolls: To decorate brown-and-serve dinner rolls, brush the unbaked rolls with a mixture of 1 egg white beaten with a tablespoon of water. While the mixture is still moist, place a small sprig of fresh Italian parsley or other small herb leaves on the rolls. Brush again with the egg-white mixture before baking.
Festive Appetizer: Spoon guacamole and salsa into several margarita glasses, serving one glassful at a time and keeping the rest refrigerated for replenishing the appetizer table. To prepare, rub the rims of glasses with a lime slice, then dip them into coarse salt. Spoon in guacamole. Fill small bowls (such as votive candleholders) with salsa and press them into the guacamole. (Insert them off-center to allow more room for dipping.) Set on a flat, napkin-lined basket and surround with tortilla chips. Garnish the rim of the glass with a thin lime slice.
Punch Bowl Garnish: To chill punch, freeze a shallow layer of fruit juice in a ring mold. Arrange fruit, such as very thin lime half-slices and fresh cranberries, atop 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 punch.
Stenciled Cookies: Before baking, place sugar cookie dough cutouts on a cookie sheet. Place a very small cookie cutter or stencil on the cookie. Sprinkle inside the stencil with one color of sugar. Add a stencil with a different shape on top, slightly overlapping designs. Sprinkle with a second sugar color.
Cheese Ball: Spruce up 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. Make sure you roll the ball along a straight edge so there's a definite division where the two ingredients meet.
Quick Champagne Cocktail: Add a dash of fruit liqueur to a champagne flute, then carefully pour in champagne. Garnish with a long strip of orange peel (made with a zester) that's been curled tightly around a bamboo skewer. For an alcohol-free version, substitute carbonated water for the champagne and fruit-flavored syrup for the liqueur.