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

Cherry Pistachio Shortbread cookies

Every Christmas I like to try at least one new cookie recipe, and this year I found a recipe in Yankee Magazine which was especially delicious.  My cookie tray looked quite festive with the red and green colors that this cookie contains. I did chill the dough overnight and baked them the next day.

Here are the ingredients to make the cookies:  2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, separated, 2 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts, chopped red candied cherries, 1/3 cup white sanding sugar.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and salt.  Beat in the egg yolk and mix.  Add flour and pistachios. Blend until combined. Remove dough from the mixer, and hand mix in the cherries.  Divide the dough into 2 1/2 logs about 12 inches long.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight on a sheet pan.

  

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using parchment paper or silpat mats, cover the baking sheets.  Brush the egg white over the logs after unwrapping and place on waxed paper.  Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the logs and slice the cookies. Place on the baking sheets and bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Cool and serve.  These cookies can be frozen and kept to serve at a later time.

Michigan cherry pork chops

Fruit and pork marry very well.  In fact, most people serve apples every time they serve pork chops.  I think it has been written somewhere in every cookbook, that fruit should be served with pork roast, pork chops, or pork loin.

I tried a cherry glaze made from frozen cherries and feel like it has that Michigan vibe.  With cherry festival coming up next month in Northern Michigan, I just had to give a salute to the Michigan cherry and try out the Deen Brother’s glaze.

Basically, I browned four bone in pork chops in a non stick electric skillet in a dash of olive oil. I stirred in some chopped onion, and two cloves of chopped and minced garlic.  I added a 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and cooked that through.

Then, I added one bag or about 3 cups of chopped, formerly frozen, black cherries to the pan.   I also added about 1/2 cup of chicken stock.

Allowing the chops and the glaze to cook further, about 10 minutes until it was thickened, I added 2 tablespoons of margarine to give the mixture a glossy sheen.

And, the dish is complete. The taste was on point, not too sweet at all, as the vinegar balances the natural sweet cherry taste.  And the glaze allows the chops to remain tender and moist.  This is one recipe that I will make again.

chilled cherry soup

We are in the middle of summer and today is projected to be another hot summer day.  As I am considering what to prepare for the week ahead, I had to reflect back to one of the best tasting chilled soups I have ever ordered in a restaurant.

Last month, we were in Charlevoix Michigan and visited Stafford’s Weathervane Restaurant. Besides being a classic landmark, as the restaurant began as a grist mill, the view of the Pine River Channel is simply lovely.  The channel allows for many different types of vessels to pass through from Lake Charlevoix to Lake Michigan.  This waterway is always busy, and so much fun to dine either inside or out and watch the boat traffic.

Seated on the deck outside for our lunch, I ordered the chilled cherry soup.  The soup was a blend of sour and sweet cherries, yogurt, rum and brandy.  Perhaps it was the rum and brandy that gave the soup its’ amazing flavor. I am smiling now.

So, I have been searching my cookbooks and recipes online for one recipe that will match what I tasted that day.  So far, I have found many recipes which include directions for cooking the cherries on the stovetop, and adding a variety of ingredients.  Some include lemon juice, lime juice, buttermilk, sour cream, cream, yogurt, and even white wine.  So, I think I am going to have to experiment on my own and find that perfect blend.

All I know is cherry season is here in Michigan, and this should be a fun experiment.  Let me know if you have a great recipe for cherry soup.  By the way, the baked Brie was also excellent if you happen to visit the Weathervane.

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shopping at the Cherry Republic

From time to time I feature some of my favorite foodie or garden shopping spots.  This month, I have to feature the Cherry Republic.  Since Northern Michigan is the cherry capitol of the United States, cherries are quite popular here. This store is a “Michigan thing” and first opened in Glen Arbor in 1989. That location remains the flagship store, although recently this year, a second flagship store was expanded in Traverse City.  The Traverse City store has grown in size and now includes a cafe, a bakery, and an ice creamery.  The store also has a wine section with sampling available. Cherry soda is available for those who prefer a non alcoholic version.

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Cherry Republic has two other locations, one in Charlevoix and one in Ann Arbor. We have visited each of these shops.  I would love to say that I have sampled all the cherry products, but with 170 different varieties, that has not yet happened.  They offer jams, nuts mixes, chocolates, granola, dried cherries, cherry coffee beans, hot chocolate, cherry pretzels, cherry peanut butter, ice cream toppings, sour cherries, cakes, cookies, salsa, cherry summer sausage, and even cherry vinaigrette. (and so much more)

I love to use their products and often serve them to guests in my home. Their mail order catalog suggests recipes using their products. I heard that our sunny but cool Spring weather should yield a large bumper cherry crop this summer up North. Wonderful.

For more information about this stop, follow this link:

https://www.cherryrepublic.com/locations/ 

A trip up North would not be complete without a stop at one of their locations.

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