New Tricks for Your Old Stuff

ShopSmart’s Easy Home & Food-Styling Tips That Only Look Expensive

“Professional food stylists have their secrets to creating those glistening roasts and perfect pie wedges we see in TV ads and magazines. This month ShopSmart reveals their secrets just in time for the holidays,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “The biggest surprise is that many of the tools you’ll need to create gorgeous dishes and table settings are already in your closets and cupboards.”

You don’t need to hire a food stylist or spend a lot of money to turn an ordinary holiday meal into an eye-catching feast. A new guide in the December 2010 issue ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, reveals refreshingly simple ways to spice up your holiday entertaining—and they won’t hurt your wallet. In this article we feature quick and easy tips for dressing up holiday meals, ten kitchen tools to transform your spreads from ordinary to photo-ready, and the best shops for scoring holiday-worthy decorations, garnishes, gadgets, and more. Below is a sampling of some of ShopSmart’s advice.

Prop Like A Pro

Showstopping meals begin before you even turn on the oven

• BUILD YOUR TABLESCAPE: To set a more interesting and dramatic buffet, display foods at different heights using footed serving pieces—a cake stand for dinner rolls or a trifle bowl for salad. Don’t own any? Arrange platters on overturned bowls. For cocktail parties, fill different-sized glasses with assorted nibbles, like a martini glass with mixed nuts next to a breadstick-filled champagne flute.

• IMPROVISE TABLE LINENS: Stroll into a fabric store and pick up any remnants that look interesting. Don’t overlook the potential of curtain panels and bed coverlets you might find in a sale bin at a linen store; they can serve as a tablecloth too, as can a pretty shawl, throw, or scarf from your own closet. For festive extras like bows, ribbons, and garlands, use what you have or head to the nearest craft store.

• DECORATE NATURALLY: Use evergreen branches, pinecones, acorns, or autumn leaves to spiff up your tabletop. Spray-paint branches and pinecones white or silver, then rub with sandpaper for an antiquated effect. Fresh pomegranates or cranberries also look festive in a glass bowl. No pretty platters? Cover them with a bed of raw kale or Swiss chard, and place food on top.

Make Your Food Look Great

Think colors, textures, shapes, and flavors

• BEAUTIFY THE ROAST: Brush a roast with a mix of olive oil, pepper, and chopped herbs about 5 minutes before it has finished cooking to add flavor and an appealing sheen. For turkeys, brush the skin with butter as it roasts for a nice, burnished crust. Slide rosemary or sage sprigs under the skin of the turkey breast before roasting. As the turkey cooks, the herbs’ silhouette shows through the skin.

• MAKE STUNNING GARNISHES: Pears, kumquats, and lady apples are available at this time of year; use them as is to dress up ham, cheese boards, and individual plates. Cut fruit in half, brush lightly with cooking oil, and sprinkle with sugar. Also, you can sear lemon or orange slices on a grill pan until lightly charred—heated citrus is more aromatic and makes a pretty garnish for whole fish or poultry.

• DRESS UP DESSERTS: Place pie in the freezer until it chills, or about 10 minutes. Then cut clean wedges using a sharp knife, and bring to room temperature before serving. For a glossy pie crust, remove the pie from the oven 10 minutes early, brush the top with cream, sprinkle on coarse sugar, and finish baking. Make better whipped cream dollops by smoothing the top of the cream with a spatula, then dragging a teaspoon across the top as if making a trench before dropping the rounded spoonful onto your dessert.

Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon Consumer Reports’ celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. The magazine features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. ShopSmart is ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. And is available by subscription at .