Making Traditional Christmas Dishes Festive

By: Susan Dunn, The Eq Coach

Here are some ways to dress up the “traditional” favorites at your Christmas dinner.

PIE CRUST

1. Make your usual pie crust, 2-crust version. Line the pie tin, put in the filling, and now it’s time to play. Roll out the second crust and start cutting shapes – using cooky cutters or free form with a knife. At Thanksgiving, for instance, up at my son’s house I was stuck without the “necessary’ equipment so I improvised, just carving out a leaf using one nearby as a model. First one doesn’t work? Pie dough is very forgiving. Roll it up and start again. Your “second chances” are infinite. You could also use something from a child’s coloring book for a pattern.

One idea – cut out 3 rounds for holly berries (use bottle cap or such if you don’t have small round cutter). Then use knife to cut out spiky holly leaves. Or use a Santa Claus cooky cutter. Place these on top of the pie filling and bake away.

If you have the time and the inclination, when the pie is baked and cooled, then use frosting to decorate your crust decoration. To save time, use those little tubes from the grocery; no one cares how it tastes. Licorice for Santa’s belt, etc.

2. Using whatever you have for the top crust – shapes, lattice or solid, apply egg yolk and then sprinkle with colored sugar.

3. Do the usual only very different, i.e., make a pumpkin chiffon pie. At serving time, crumble candy canes and sprinkle on top.

CANDY CANES

Candy canes go so well with chocolate. You can make a chocolate dessert, like that instant pudding concoction, and
then sprinkle crushed candy canes atop.

SWEET POTATOES

Make your usual sweet potato recipe and put it in the Pyrex?. Then whip up meringue nice and stiff, with lots of
sugar. Circle the bowl with the meringue, and then make dollops on top with peaks. Then you can (1) sprinkle it with colored sprinkles, or (2) in the center put 3 maraschino cherries and some pineapple leaves, like holly. Or put marshmallows around the rim and decoration in the middle. You can shape the pineapple leaves with scissors.

BOULE DE NIEGE

Very simple, cheap, elegant looking. Buy ice cream – for Christmas it could be peppermint, coconut or pistachio. Let the ice cream soften just enough to work with, and then scoop it into a round Pyrex? that you’ve greased lightly with Pam?. Put it in the freezer until well frozen again. Then take it out, soak the dish briefly in larger bowl of warm water til you see the ice cream melting on the edges, turn it over on a pretty serving platter, and out it comes in a dome. Tear strips of waxed paper and place them all around the plate, under the ice cream. Now whip cream til stiff, put in pastry bag, use a tip such as Wilton 2D and pipe, pipe, pipe, little shaped blobs, each one next to the other till the mound is completely covered. Gently remove the waxed paper, wipe the serving platter with a wet rag, and place the ball back in the freezer till frozen. Once it’s frozen, cover it – I put a stainless steel bowl over it – and let it stay there til ready to serve.

At serving time you can add some decorations piping colored whipped cream, or using cherries and leaves again, but my favorite is to leave it elegantly white. “Boule de niege” is
French for snowball!

MASHED POTATOES

Mash them and put them in a serving bowl. Then sprinkle just enough cayenne and parsley flakes for color.

PARFAITS

Here’s a super easy, cheap, and very eye-appealing dessert.

Version 1: Fill fluted glasses with vanilla ice cream, or peppermint. Drizzle green crème de menthe and chocolate over it. Add maraschino cherry – red or green. If you use red cherry, add green mint leaf.

Version 2: Use vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce, and sprinkle crumbled candy cane over it.

TRIFLE

Trifle is, as I’m sure you know, a cold dessert made with liqueur-soaked sponge cake, layers of fruit, jelly, custard
and whipped cream. It makes a great Christmas dessert because it can be made well ahead of time, it’s got cheap
ingredients, it’s not familiar to a lot of people and they think it looks intricate to make, and … the presentation!

For instance since the ingredients are so cheap, why not buy the Spode Christmas tree soup tureen – “just” $348.95 (instead of $535.00) at amazon.com kitchenware. j.k.

However, put the trifle in a tureen and then put a layer of whipped cream on the top smoothing it completely (use a warm wet flat spatula). What makes it special is people will keep trying to “pick up the lid” which is the whipped cream, and there are fingerprints all over it and lots of laughs and “oohs” and “aahs.”

VEGIES

Put chopped red peppers in among the peas, Brussels sprouts or broccoli; chopped green pepper in with the tomatoes. Cut stars out of cheese and place atop casserole.

Don’t do all of these things; that’s too much. Choose one or two.

Last but not least, dont forget to dress the hostess.

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