Cheese Board

For a busy holiday party, I find it easier to serve an appetizer or cheese board while everyone is waiting for the dinner hour.  When guests arrive, it is very easy to have many types of cheese, nuts, dried fruit, condiments, crusty and multi-seeded bread ready to go. Guests can serve themselves while they enjoy conversation with others and the family.

I usually set up the table earlier in the day or the day before, depending on the guests’ arrival time.  I have the serving dishes ready to go and mark them with post-it notes so it is an easy task to assemble at the last-minute.

This technique has worked for me over the years and keeps me from not having to hunt for a certain platter or dish just as the party is starting.

This past Easter I served a cheese board with four cheeses, complimented with many choices for both sweet and savory snacking.

Here are some photos which included the following choices:

white cheddar cheese with blue seedless grapes, fig jam, and hard salami

mini mozzarella balls with grape tomatoes and fresh basil

black and green olives with small dill pickles

aged cheddar with blueberry honey and candied tangerine slices

Bremner wafers with candied ginger nuts

Gouda cheese with natural almonds and dried cherries

Dill Havarti cheese with crusty bread and multi-grain seeded bread

Carr’s crackers, raspberries and bar cheddar cheese

Chocolate eggs and jelly belly beans

marmalade carrots

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Spring vegetables bring a delicious excitement to any dinner plate.  I am encouraged by their fresh taste to begin planting my summer vegetable garden.  Colorful carrots are some of my favorites.  This recipe highlights their beauty with a spectacular glaze.

This recipe is super easy to make and compliments grilled chicken.  I often serve the carrots with fluffy rice, as the glaze is very tasty mixed together.

To prepare the carrots:  Select 4-5 medium-sized colorful carrots.  Peel and cut into bite-sized slices. Boil on the stove top for 12-14 minutes until tender.  Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, add these ingredients:

2/3 cup orange marmalade, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons margarine, and 1 teaspoon maple extract.  Cook until thickened for about 6-8 minutes and then add 1/3 cup sliced almonds.

Drain the carrots and add the glaze. Mix well and serve.

 

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almond cinnamon rolls

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yum. yum. yum.  this recipe is a KEEPER.  i will compare these rolls to anything you have ever tasted from a French bakery.  in fact, i would say this might be one of the best cinnamon roll recipes i have ever baked.  with that, i will tell you that these rolls are super delicious.  i will not say they are low in calories or carbohydrates, but this is a recipe for a special holiday celebration.  i found the recipe in the current Country Living magazine, March 2014.  They list the nutritional facts as:  protein 6 grams, fat 23 grams (wow), carbohydrate 36 grams (wow), fiber 2 grams, calories 369 for one.  this recipe makes 12 rolls.

i did use reduced fat crescent rolls and margarine instead of butter, so that may help those numbers a bit, and i would recommend doing that, because the taste is over the top. no one would ever realize that reduced fat products were used in this recipe.

the key to the recipe is the almond paste product.

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only one half of this can is used for the recipe.

to make these rolls:   preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  in a medium bowl, stir 1 cup of chopped almonds with 4 ounces of almond paste, along with 6 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.  mix very well together to blend.

Image   next, on a piece of waxed paper or parchment, unroll one package of crescent roll dough and spread 1/2 stick of softened room temperature margarine on the dough.  make certain that all of the perforations are smoothed together.

next, using half of the almond mixture, spread over the margarine.  on the long side of the dough, roll into a roll and slice into 6 even pieces.

repeat with the remaining crescent dough package.  then, spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray, and place one bun in each muffin tin.  bake until golden brown about 15 minutes.

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remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes.  in a small bowl, make the icing for the rolls.  using 1 cup of powdered sugar, mix one tablespoon at a time of whole milk or half and half until a nice icing comes together.  this may take a couple of tablespoons of milk to allow the sugar to flow from the spoon.  drizzle with icing and serve warm.   these rolls can be reheated with the microwave for 20 seconds at a time.  delicious!

dark chocolate bark with nuts, cranberries and sea salt

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dark chocolate has been in the news lately as one of the preferred types of chocolate to eat.  this bark is great for a party, and will become one of your favorite snacks.  it is super easy to make and quite tasty.  i do store this bark in a plastic container in the refrigerator, just to make certain that the air temperature does not make it soft or cause it to melt.

i used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips for the base, and a mix of chopped nuts, dried cranberries, and sea salt.

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the chocolate is melted in a double boiler on the stove top, and spread over parchment or waxed paper that has been treated with spray oil on a sheet pan.  i used a stainless spatula to spread the melted chocolate.

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next, the chopped nuts are added with the dried cranberries to the top.  at the end, i topped with some sea salt.  the sheet pan is placed in the refrigerator to chill. after 1 to 2 hours, the bark can be broken and then stored in a plastic container separated in layers with waxed paper in the refrigerator.

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this chocolate bark is delicious served with ice cream as a garnish, atop a cake for decoration, or as an addition to any cookie plate.

almond crunch biscotti

Imageslices of almonds bring this biscotti recipe to a delicious level.  for years, i have used this biscotti recipe taken from a small book titled, biscotti. the cookbook is written by lou pappas, and was published in 1992.  the recipes in this small book range from traditional to those containing chocolate and nuts.  pappas even includes a section on healthy biscotti, which are mostly fruited nut bars.

the word biscotti can be divided into two, with bis meaning more than one, and cotto meaning cooking in italian.  typically these cookies are dry and crisp. these cookies will keep several weeks at room temperature.  they can also be frozen, tightly wrapped.

biscotti are traditional italian cookies that are baked twice, giving them an added crunch.  this particular recipe makes a cookie that is not hard at all.  it is not like what you would find in the local coffee shop, where the cookie must be dunked for awhile in a cup of coffee to even soften a bit.  these biscotti are delightful and just have the perfect amount of crunch to be called biscotti.

to make the cookies:

first make the dough in a mixing bowl.  cream 1/2 cup butter with 3/4 cup sugar until very light and fluffy.  i usually use room temperature unsalted butter. beat in 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  in a separate mixing bowl, combine 2 cups all purpose flour, with 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  then, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until blended.

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stir in 3/4 cup of sliced almonds.  separate the dough in half and arrange on a sheet pan which has been lightly sprayed with canola oil.  form the dough into two long logs about 1/2 inch high and 1 1/2 inches wide and at least 14 inches long or the length of your pan.

bake the logs in a preheated 325 degree oven for 25 minutes.  allow the logs to cool a bit to touch, as the next step requires slicing the logs into biscotti cookies.  with a serrated knife slice diagonally at a 45 degree angle about 3/8 inches thick.  lay the slices flat back on the sheet pan and bake the cookies for a total of ten minutes.  i usually bake for 5 minutes and turn the cookies over and bake the other side evenly.  

allow the cookies to cool on a rack and then store in a covered container. they are excellent when crushed and served over ice cream or served with warm beverages.

 

maple almond granola

i love granola. it has been my routine to eat either oatmeal, cheerios, or homemade granola every morning for many years now. the benefit of having oats in the diet has been documented by many medical practionners.

my recipe for granola comes from the book, the ski house cookbook, by tina anderson. it makes about five cups that i eat over a two week time period. serving size is 1/2 cup for breakfast.

preheat the oven to 325 degrees. in a large bowl mix together, 3 1/2 cups of old fashioned rolled oats, 3/4 cups nuts (i use almonds), 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp salt.

in a saucepan on the stove top, melt 3 tbsp unsalted butter, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1 tbsp. brown sugar. when this mixture is melted in a couple of minutes, pour over the bowl of ingredients. mix well to coat the oats and other ingredients.

prepare a sheet pan with cooking spray, and place the mixture from the bowl onto the pan.

spread evenly. bake for 20 minutes until brown. allow to cool, and then mix in any dried fruit. i use raisins or dried cranberries most often.

store in an air tight container. i love this granola and the crunch is often what i need to start my day. any variety of nuts or fruit could be added: pecans, walnuts, dried apricots, dried cherries are other choices i have tried over the years. any combination seems to be just as tasty as the last.