I'm clueless when it comes to home decor. That's my pal Sarah Gunn's domain. Luckily, my husband takes care of our home decor. The man has flair. He
loves tolerates becomes irritated when I share that with people.
Though I may be flair challenged, occasionally I stumble upon something fabulous. Like last week when I was sniffing my way around Bath and Body Works. Literally. I sniff each soap before I buy. My husband doesn't like anything too flowery and I can't stand soap that smells of spice - cinnamon, cloves...ick. Cucumber Melon seems to have our mutual conscent. Con-scent. Get it? Apparently sniffing too much soap stimulates the word-play centre of the brain. Scientific fact.
Anyway, their soap is fabulous. What's even better are the silver covers that slip over the plastic soap pump. They come in all sorts of patterns - floral, geometric, seasonal snowflakes, etc.
The soap sleeves (I'm calling them "Soap Cozies") are only $5.00. Combine with a holiday soap or a classic scent, and you've got yourself a practical and inexpensive gift any hostess would love. I mean, everyone washes their hands right? And if they don't, you probably want to avoid THAT Christmas party. Instead, give the soap/soap cozy as a teacher gift, because you know teachers wash their hands...often. Hello, classrooms are a giant germ infested petri dish. Scientific Fact.
Have a very flairy holiday season everyone and remember, friends don't let friends over-sniff soap.
In the weeks leading up to the holidays, I imagine myself making shortbread cookies from scratch, trussing a turkey and gaily wrapping gifts while humming Christmas carols. I snap out of this reverie when the five year old gets strep throat, my mini-van is rear ended in the mall parking lot and I suddenly develop a raging case of holiday stress induced insomnia. I work from home, supply teach and have two little kids who keep me on my toes. Life is nuts and lately I'm too tired to be inspired.
Sobeys challenged me to use items from their Sensations by Compliments line to come up with EASY ways to create a visual impact on the plate this holiday season. I was all over it.
Homemade doesn’t always mean heart made. Store bought items, when plated creatively with a few special touches, can be festive and delicious. If you ask me, a meal always tastes better when the hostess isn’t sobbing in the corner in the midst of a mad tidings melt down.
Here’s what I came up with.
Cheese Please! Offer an assortment of quality cheeses and present in a variety of ways. Embellish with holiday decorations.
Avoid pre-slicing or cubing cheese to prevent drying out. However, you should make a starting slice to get the cheese party started! Pair each cheese with its own knife. Accent with nuts, olives, fruit or roasted tomatoes.
Cheese skewers are easy and tasty! Serve cheese (this is the goat cheese cheddar) with a basil leaf and prosciutto on a plate drizzled with a balsamic glaze. I used a variety of items to secure the stack. Olive forks, wooden BBQ skewers cut to size and cocktail skewers. You could also use rosemary sprigs, toothpicks, swizzle sticks or whatever you have on hand.
Cheddar on a basil leaf topped with roasted red pepper drizzled with balsamic. How easy is that? And the red and green together scream festive.
Continuing with the red and green theme, try 5 year aged cheddar (amazing and literally crumbles in your mouth) on a sliced cherry tomato and basil leaf, topped with cranberry chutney, served on a cracker.
These Sensations by Compliments puff pastries are an essential freezer item to have on hand for entertaining. They taste great on their own...
...or you can jazz them up with a dollop of creamy goat cheese or lemon and dill cream cheese, topped with one grilled shrimp and sprig of fresh dill. It looks fancy, but it’s a snap to throw together. * A few holiday ornaments give your dish more visual interest. Also, parsley is an entertainer’s best friend. It’s inexpensive and makes an ordinary plate festive and fun!
These Sensations by Compliments Phyllo Blossoms are my new favourite appetizer. Yes, they do taste as good as they look. I could eat them right off the baking tray, but if you want to go a *bit* more sophisticated, try serving each on some greenery (basil was used here since I had a bunch) and a pretty plate. Fancy shmancy.
Know what else is red and green? Sensations by Compliments Tomato Pesto Thin Crust Pizza. Bake, slice and serve on a festive plate. SO easy and SO good!
Serve alongside pre-portioned bowls of Caesar Salad. Guests can grab a slice and a bowl of salad in a second!
This Sensations by Compliments Meat Lasagna is a winner. It’s really rich and tasty. My family kept trying to eat it before I was finished photographing it. I cooked it in the microwave, let it stand, set and cool slightly. Then I cut it and portioned it out on a plate. It looked rather lonely on the platter until I added a little parsley and a few cherry tomatoes. Alternatively, instead of serving it in the plastic tray it comes in, you could run the bottom of the tray under hot water and pop out the frozen lasagne (popsicle style), put it in a casserole dish and then bake. When guests ask for your recipe, avoid direct eye contact and change the subject!
This Sensations by Compliments Apple Tarte Tatin is as tasty as it is beautiful. What makes it even yummier is that I don’t actually have to do anything special. You simply bake it in the oven like a regular pie, but flip it over to serve so the pastry and granny apples are covered in caramel. I will absolutely serve this again.
Four perfect flavours: strawberry cheesecake, tiramisu, truffle and triple chocolate mousse. These Sensations by Compliments Petit Dessert Collection treats are ideally supposed to thaw in the fridge overnight, however I “may” have eaten one (ok, two) frozen, straight from the box. This is such an easy dessert. Simply plate and embellish with a few fresh berries for colour. I used a vegetable peeler to grate a little white and dark chocolate on and around the desserts (I keep a few squares of baker’s chocolate in my fridge for just such occasions).
Busted - my daughter’s hand reaching in to swipe a treat while I was taking pictures. Never work with kids or animals. They guilt you into sharing!
Happy (and easy) holiday entertaining everyone!
Sensations by Compliments (available at Sobeys) Shopping List:
Cheddar Goat Cheese
Canadian 5 year aged Cheddar
Goat Cheese Brie
Phyllo Blossom Collection
Mozzarella Pesto Thin Crust Brick Oven Pizza
Petit Dessert Collection
For more sensational ideas please visit www.inspired.ca
On my next shopping trip I texted my friend again. She was at home, nursing a nasty toe injury. She texted a photo of the crackers she was eating and suggested I buy some. She obviously didn't realize her gnarly toe was a bonus feature.
My next text to her said, "I'm not saying we’re fat, but next time we chat, I'm making this!
Yes, that is my toe in the picture. I thought it added a certain je ne c'est quoi to the photo's composition. And yes, I got some weird looks while I was slipped off my shoe and posed all naked toed.
Then I texted. "FYI - you're in no way fat. I bet you only eat these!
And finally, "I need to stop taking my shoes off. The manager is watching me on the closed circuit t.v. but, just one more before he kicks me out..."Toe Jam!"
Ridiculous right? But oh so enjoyable. The next time you go grocery shopping, try finding something funny or unusual to photograph and share. And if you happen to see a person who looks like this....
....ask her where to find the Horlicks.