Plate like a pro: Tips and tricks for a beautiful holiday spread

Take your cheese board to the next level.

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Want to mix things up this season? Try these easy holiday plating and serving ideas to turn those classic party favorites (and even some store-bought items!) into showstoppers your family and friends will be talking about for months to come.

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Build a vertical cheese board

Save table space by creating an elegant vertical cheese board to serve cheese, crackers and other savory party snacks.

To make it, stack 2 to 3 pedestal-style cake stands on top of each other or get creative by using regular plates separated by ramekins or even tea cups! Use candle adhesive or removable hanging wall strips (such as 3M Command Strips) to secure the plates in place without damaging them.

Arrange a variety of cheeses, sliced salami or other cured meats, olives, crackers, dips, and other snacks around your elevated serve just as you would on a regular cheeseboard!

Create a playful DIY chalkboard bar

We all know DIY drink stations are a lifesaver for busy party hosts, but the truth is they can sometimes feel intimidating for guests who aren’t quite sure how to make their favorite drinks. Take out the guesswork with a playful chalkboard bar that walks guests through the process of mixing their own drinks.

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Start with a large chalkboard (or cover a table with chalkboard paper) and use chalk or colorful washi tape to mark off sections on the board for bottles of spirits, cocktail shakers, fruity garnishes, ice, mixers, salt rims, etc. Identify each section with fun phrases like “Get Boozy," “Chill Out” and “Dress it Up.”

U Brands Magnetic Chalkboard

Serve a salad wreath

Let your salad double as holiday décor for your dinner table or party buffet! To create this easy salad wreath, place a ramekin of dressing in the center of a round platter (like the one below) and arrange your salad around it in the shape of a wreath.

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Just about any green salad works, but I love to start off a dark hearty green like spinach, kale or arugula then add other ingredients on top as “ornaments.” Sliced apples or pears, roasted diced veggies like butternut squash, nuts like pecans, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds, crumbled goat or feta cheese all look wonderful and festive!

Form Round Platter

Dress up the main

A few garnishes are all you need to make your roast or ham look straight out of a magazine! The trick is to lay the garnishes on your platter first, then nestle the main in the center. Choose a platter that’s larger than the roast you’re serving (like the one below) — you should have about 3-4 inches of space on all sides after you place the meat in the center. Next, create a ring around the platter using fresh herbs like rosemary and sage, sliced oranges, cut pomegranates and/or sliced pairs.

Mikasa Italian Countryside Handled Oval Serving Platter

Choose items that reflect the flavors used in the dish, so sliced oranges or handfuls of dried apricots for a ham with a sweet glaze, or wintry herbs for a more savory roast. With all garnishes, remember that anything you place on the plate should be edible — so skip pine cones, bay leaves or any plastic decorations.

Holiday Prime Rib Roast

Serve a dessert charcuterie board

Wow your friends at the end of the night with this Instagram-ready dessert charcuterie board that swaps the cheese and meat for pie and sweets! It’ll look like you spent ages on it but can be made entirely with store-bought treats.

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Start by slicing pies or cakes into individual pieces and arranging around a large marble or wood cheese board. Add a few bowls or ramekins filled with sweet sauces for drizzling and dipping — think caramel sauce, chocolate syrup, berry sauces, whipped cream and honey. Arrange small piles of smaller handheld desserts like cookies, brownies, marshmallows and mini fruit tarts. Finally, fill in any spaces with handfuls of chocolate, candy canes, fresh berries, orange slices or other sweet treats. Serve next to a stack of small plates and let guests help themselves to their favorites!

BILL.F Acacia Wood Pizza Peel Cutting Board

Fox Run 3829 Marble Pastry Board