In a Twinkling: Garnishes
Add accents that appeal to the eyes (and to the mouth).
Snowflake Puff Pastry: Cut thawed, frozen puff pastry sheets with a snowflake or star cookie cutter. Bake in a 400 degree F oven about 10 minutes or until golden. Lightly dip tops of pastries into melted white chocolate and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Edible Place Cards: Using canned frosting, pipe names on purchased rectangular shortbread cookies. Use tweezers to place tiny decorative candies on a dot of frosting in the corners. To make cookies stand upright, use a serrated knife to cut additional cookies into triangular pieces; secure pieces to back of cookie with frosting.
Cupcake "Packages": Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Wrap the cupcakes with colorful holiday ribbon to resemble tiny packages. Position a bow on top.
Decorated Dessert Plates: 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 slightly, then pour into a small self-sealing plastic bag. Cut off a tiny corner from the bag. Pipe names or holiday words such as "Joy" or "Noel" along the rim of the plate.
Fruited Ice Jewels: Place fresh mint leaves, thin orange quarter-slices, and pomegranate seeds in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Place pan in freezer. Pour a thin layer of distilled water into pan just to cover ingredients. Freeze. To serve, break into pieces appropriate for the glass size. Use to chill sparkling water, ginger ale, or a favorite punch.
Seafood Appetizers: Line sherry glasses with some shredded lettuce. Add a layer of small cooked shrimp or crab pieces. Drizzle cocktail sauce over the seafood. Arrange the filled glasses in a container filled with crushed ice. Garnish with tiny lemon wedges.
Herbed Bread Wreath: Thaw 14 portions of purchased frozen roll dough. Arrange in a wreath shape on a greased shallow baking pan, placing a greased ball of foil in center to help hold shape. Cover; let rise about 30 minutes. Bake in a 350 degree F oven 10 minutes. Brush wreath with a mixture of 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water. Sprinkle with sesame and/or poppy seed. Bake 10 minutes more or until bread sounds hollow. Remove foil. Insert fresh rosemary sprigs and garnish with cranberries.
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.