You can dress up your dishes to fit almost any occasion with these simple finishing touches.
Butter Curls: Dip a butter curler into hot water; pull lightly over a stick of firm butter to make curls about 1/8 inch thick. Repeat the hot water dip after making each butter curl. Chill until serving time.
Carrot Curls: Using a vegetable peeler, cut thin lengthwise strips of carrot. Roll each carrot strip up and secure with a wooden pick. Place in ice water for several hours to curl. Just before garnishing, remove wooden picks.
Cherry Tomato Roses: Score an X on the blossom end of each cherry tomato.Using a sharp knife, carefully peel back the skin partway down the side of the tomato to make four petals.
Chocolate Curls: Allow a bar of milk chocolate, sweet baking chocolate, or semisweet chocolate to come to room temperature. Carefully draw a vegetable peeler across the bar of chocolate to make long, thin strips. They will curl as you cut them. For narrow curls use the narrow side of the chocolate bar and for wide curls use the broad surface.
Chocolate Leaves: Wash and dry nontoxic leaves, such as mint, rose, lemon, or strawberry. With a clean, small paintbrush, brush melted semisweet chocolate on the undersides of the leaves, building up layers of chocolate to make sturdy leaves. Wipe off any chocolate that runs onto the front of the leaves. Place leaves, chocolate side up, on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until hardened. Peel real leaf away from chocolate leaf; avoid touching the chocolate as much as possible to keep it from melting.
Colorful Cutouts: Using tiny hors d'oeuvre cutters, cut slices of jellied cranberry sauce or red or green sweet peppers into tiny shapes.
Fluted Cucumbers or Zucchini: Draw the tines of a fork lengthwise down a cucumber or zucchini; repeat all around vegetable. Cut crosswise into slices.
Green Onion Brushes: Slice off the roots and most of the top portions from green onions. Make slashes at both ends to produce a fringe. Place the green onions in ice water, and the ends will curl back to resemble brushes.
Kumquat Flowers: Make several lengthwise cuts from the top of each kumquat almost to the stem end. Gently pull back the sections of peel, taking care not to tear it.
Lemon Twists: Cut 1/8-inch-thick slices from a lemon. Cut halfway across each slice, stopping at the center, and twist the ends of the slice in opposite directions.
Pastry Cutouts: Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes from dough scraps. Brush the back sides of the shapes with water and arrange them on the top crust of a pie. Cut slits in the top crust as part of the design.
Strawberry Fans: Use fresh strawberries with the green tops still attached. Slice each berry from the tip almost all the way to the stem end; carefully fan out the berry slices.
Sugar/Cocoa Designs: For a festive look, create a powdered sugar or cocoa powder design on top of an unfrosted cake or bar cookies. Simply cut a pattern from a sheet of stiff paper. Place the paper on the cake and sift the powdered sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder on top. Carefully remove the paper after sifting.
Sugared Fruit: Using a clean brush, apply a mixture of water and meringue powder all over cranberries or miniature bunches of grapes. Immediately sprinkle with granulated sugar to give a frosted look to the fruit.