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Cook Beautiful Holiday Decor Guide

Photography by Johnny Miller

Photo by Johnny Miller

The holidays, complete with early nightfall, cocooning inside with loved ones, and hopefully a barrage of sweet treats and anticipation, are nearly here. As you have probably heard if you’ve been around this site for a bit, Cook Beautiful was just released this past fall. And, as it isn’t just a cookbook but a celebration of the way we live our life in accordance with the natural world, it’s bursting with winter decor ideas.

Photo by Johnny Miller

Photo by Johnny Miller
Rather than mourn winter's waning light, embrace the darkness with lush, moody decor and a warm, cozy vibe. -Athena Calderone, Cook Beautiful

Photo by Johnny Miller

So, here we highlight four of Athena’s many tips from the book to help you warm up your home and table for the holidays–while embracing the cozy, dark sentiment of the season. From textural gift wrapping ideas to artful cheese plate secrets to a recipe for entertaining success and even a versatile winter accessory Athena swears by, here is a small smattering of the images and tips found in Cook Beautiful. Of course, for the rest of the refined ideas, both for the holidays and throughout the year, you’ll have to go straight to the source. Now’s the time to put in a good word with Santa!

Photo by Johnny Miller
Photo by Johnny Miller
1. Wrap Star

Gauzy linen, available at most fabric stores, can serve as a beautiful and unexpected alternative to wrapping paper. Simply cut or tear a large square–leaving the edges unfinished–place a gift in the center, and form a loose knot on top, tucking in a few green sprigs for a decorative touch.

Photo by Johnny Miller
Photo by Johnny Miller
2. Say Cheese

When artfully composed, a cheese plate can double as table decor. The most inviting platters feel abundant, so fill in vacant areas with fresh or dried fruit. These cheeses themselves should look natural and gooey. Break up any pristine wedges by hacking off a few messy chunks and let soft cheese sit at room temperature until properly runny.

Photo by Johnny Miller

Photo by Johnny Miller
Photo by Johnny Miller
3. Well Seasoned

During citrus season, I love to flavor sea salt with a blend of zest and herbs. My recipe–which can be found at the bottom of the post–not only livens up roast fish or poultry, it also serves as a mouth-watering memento of the meal for guests to take home.

Photo by Johnny Miller
Photo by Johnny Miller
4. Prize Ribbons

Words to live by: Never pass up a spool of pretty ribbon. If you keep some on hand, you’ll find many lovely ways to use it, from holding together cutlery to binding bouquets–and of course, tying up presents. Velvet varieties add elegant texture and subtle sheen to winter decor.

Photo by Johnny Miller

Citrus-Herb Salt

Athena Calderone, Cook Beautiful


Makes 3 cups (810 g)

  • 2 cups (540 g) flaky sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender, crumbled (optional)

The Prep

Preheat the oven to 225°F (110°C).

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients, including the lavender (if using). Be sure to break up any clumps of zest.

Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the salt feels bone-dry to the touch. Allow it to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

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