Dinner doesn't have to be complicated to taste good, and it doesn't have to be difficult to prepare to look good. Sometimes the only difference between a dish prepared at home and one in a restaurant is the look. (And that wonderful little fact that you didn't have to prepare it....but that's beside the point!) Take spaghetti for instance. Have you ever ordered spaghetti at a restaurant? It always looks so good. There's just something about the way its set in front of you with that little sprig of parsley or basil on the side, and the sauce perfectly centered on that mountainous heap of pasta. It simply inspires your taste buds. This is not unattainable by any stretch of the mind. Here are a couple of examples on how you can plate your pasta. (We had asparagus as a side, and had fun with it too!)
As a side note, Chris and I had a competition for plating our meals this night. Vote for the one you like best in the comments!
Pasta or not, your dinner can look nice. In general, take time to put your meals on your plate. If you want that extra touch, take a paper towel and wipe around the edge of the plate to pick up any drips when you are done, and it will look extra special. Put thought into how you serve your meal, not just what you serve, and you will enjoy the end product that much more.
On to dessert. Whether you're making dessert for your family, company, or yourself, it doesn't have to be complicated to be nice. I decided to take box pudding and see what I could do with it.
Prepare pudding according to package directions.
When you've got the pudding ready, and ideally cooled a bit, carefully spoon some into the bottom of whichever serving glass you've chosen. (I used our zinfandel glasses, which turned out to be a bit large for the project, but still worked rather well. Any clear glass will work for this, though generally a narrower, straighter-walled glass works best.)
I sprinkled nutmeg on top of this layer. Be sure to place your fingers to the edge of the inside of the glass so that the spice is seen from the outside of the glass when placed. When you've sprinkled your spices, very slowly add more pudding on top of the first layer. If the pudding breaks through the spice layer, it needs to cool more first.
I put cinnamon atop the next layer. Again, be sure to get the spice as close to the edge of the glass as possible so as to be seen through the side as a clearly defined layer. Place the rest of your pudding on top of this layer, being careful not to get the edges of the glass. When you've finished, sprinkle a very light mixture of the spices used on top of the pudding in the center. Wipe around the inside edges of the glass with a paper towel if you got the sides messy. If you want, top with whipped cream.
(Unfortunately, I didn't reserve very much pudding for the final layer, but you get the idea.)
You can get creative with almost every step. Try different puddings, spices, glasses, toppings, whatever you like. Perhaps chocolate pudding with powdered sugar layers? Butterscotch with pumpkin pie spice? Coconut cream pudding with coconut shavings layers? Whatever you wish. Have fun, and make dinner pretty again!