“But Susan,” you say, “Why would I be worried about making Christmas dinner more 'festive'? It's a family tradition my kids are sick on Christmas, my in-laws are staying with us for a week, I have to work Christmas Eve, and I've promised maid week off, ha ha. What I'm worried about is getting it to table at all."
Oh, for many reasons, I reply. Because of memories, because it's soothing and fun, if you work it right (read on), because it looks so nice and is so appreciated it can make up for other things you could let slip. There are many reasons.
So hang on, here we go. All these tips are sort of like "sleight of hand." They're things you can do while you have to be in kitchen anyway type of things. They're relaxing even. Trust me!
And "oohs" and "aahs" will be oh-so-energizing. They’re affordable, too. This Christmas-tree shaped butter ( http://www.webstrategies.cc/breakfast.jpg ) cost a couple of bucks at grocery and who’s going to notice what’s sitting next to it?
Here are some ways to dress up traditional Christmas table.
Make your usual pie crust, 2-crust version. OK, who am I kidding. Buy frozen ones. Thaw them and dump them out of their original tins, combine several (they’re too skimpy I think), roll them out, begin all over again.
Line pie tin, put in filling, then roll out second crust and cut shapes using cookie cutters, or cut out shapes free-form with a sharp knife. 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.
If you don’t have cookie cutters, cut out 3 rounds for holly berries using a bottle cap, and cut out some spiky holly leaves with a knife.
If you have time and inclination, when pie is baked and cooled, then use frosting to decorate your crust. Of course this is frosting from a can or tube you bought. On another planet, in another lifetime, you'll make frosting. Buy plastic tips and plastic pastry bag so you can just throw them away.
Repeat after me -- if it's pretty, it, like well-chosen dress, can hide a multitude of sins. Get some candies 'n' stuff, like licorice for Santa's belt. I'd come home from working Christmas Eve church service, you know a bit weary, and my sons would come in kitchen to watch and "help out." It was cozy. Memories.
Any kind of liquor goes well with any kind of fruit pie, so splash a little um in pumpkin pie, or a little cognac in cherry.
Or do usual-only-very-different. Make a frozen pumpkin chiffon pie. The virtue of that is -- you guessed it --it can be done so far ahead of time. Then at serving time, crumble candy canes and sprinkle them on top. Don't know who helps you at your house, but I had sons, and they loved to put canes in waxed paper and then whack it with rolling pin. Festive Family Fun at Dunn household. Me 'n' boys.
I hope by now you're beginning to see that we are playing and enjoying ourselves as much as anything.
Candy canes go so well with chocolate. You can make a chocolate dessert, like that instant pudding concoction with dream whip that kids like so much. Email me if you don't have that recipe. Then sprinkle candy canes atop.
Mash canned yams and place in Pyrex. Then whip up meringue nice and stiff, with lots of sugar. Beating things is therapeutic as well, and kids are fascinated by process. ("Is it ready yet?")
Circle bowl with meringue, and then make dollops on top with peaks. Then you can (1) sprinkle it with colored sprinkles, or (2) in center put 3 maraschino cherries and some pineapple leaves, like holly. Or put marshmallows around rim and decoration in middle. In your next reincarnation you will make Martha's homemade marshmallows and put them on top.