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

Stuffed Portobellos

One of my favorite hot appetizer “go-to’s” is always stuffed mushrooms.  I have posted a few ideas on this blog in years past of those recipes.  This recipe, however, is a dinner entrée recipe that is wonderful for a Meatless Monday menu plan. Made with larger mushrooms, this recipe is terrific served with a side salad for a complete meal.

Here is how I made this delicious dinner.  Select larger Portobello mushrooms, one per guest. Wash well and remove the stem.  Clean out the black scales and wash again.  Place on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.  I poured about 1/2 cup of White Zinfindel wine in the pan for added flavor and moisture to the dish while cooking.

In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon margarine and saute 2 stalks chopped celery, 1/3 chopped red onion, and 2 ounces of crumbled bacon.  I used crumbled bacon in a bag.  Season with salt and pepper while cooking.

When the vegetables are soft, remove them from the stove top. In a bowl, mix in 1/2 cup Panko crumbs and 1 cup shredded Fontina cheese. Add the sauteed ingredients to the bowl.  Add enough light mayonnaise, about 1/2 cup, just to pull together the mixture.

Stuff the mushrooms and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  This recipe can also be placed in a casserole dish and baked to serve with crackers as an appetizer.

Additional cheese can always be put on top of this casserole or the mushrooms prior to baking for an extra cheesy taste.  This recipe will fill four large mushrooms.

Book review: Celebrate Everything!

As a brand new grandmother, I am so excited to be able to share some special events with our new grandson in the coming years. This book, written by Darcy Miller is brimming with ideas for every occasion. As a celebrity party planner, she shares many ideas on how to personalize every event and bring every party to life.

Many types of parties are showcased in her book, including everything from an ice cream party to an anniversary party.  Ideas for food and drink, fun and games and even cakes and sweets are delightfully photographed, illustrated, and described.  Recipes, descriptions of meals, suggestions for gifts and even menus are included in the chapters.

Personally I love her sweet table display ideas along with her conversation starters. Just about every idea in the book is fresh and new.  The whole book is cheerful as well as classic.

Memories can be made by reading and exploring the ideas within.  I can’t wait for a chance to plan an occasion with Darcy’s ideas.  She shares her blueprint for success with style and class.

 

Thanksgiving turkey tray

For an afternoon holiday appetizer tray, I found this cute idea on Pinterest. If you haven’t found Pinterest yet, I highly recommend the website as a great way to find ideas for just about anything.  I have tried many great recipes on the site, and have saved more than 11,000 pins so far into various boards. Find me on Pinterest under my name.

Here is my version of an appetizer tray that I served on Thanksgiving day.  It was well received by my family. It was a cute way to serve a very basic appetizer while everyone was waiting for the main event. The relish tray is arranged in the shape of a turkey.

Earlier in the day, I cut and prepared the vegetables and then just before serving, arranged them on the tray.  It was easy and fun.  And also encouraged raw vegetable eating instead of other more caloric snacks!

 

Summer appetizers

Summer is a great time to invite family and friends for outdoor entertaining.  Even if enjoying the outdoors, it is still possible to offer a selection of appetizers indoors on a buffet.  Whether it is a small group of friends or just another couple, it is easy to have a few appetizers set up for casual entertaining.

Here are a few ideas for what to serve when guests stop by:  roasted red peppers and wheat crackers, the classic vegetable tray with an herb dip, a selection of olives with almonds, ham-Swiss-and dill pickle skewers, a cheesy bacon spread with crackers, homemade party mix of bugles, small pretzels, goldfish, rye wafers, and rice chex, or strawberries, blueberries and Monterrey jack cheese. Recipes for any of these appetizers have already been posted on this blog and can be found with the search option. Others are basic and need no recipe.

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Maybe, try an herbed feta with crackers and Camembert with jam tartlets.

So nice to have guests serving themselves during the summer months.

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Provide a selection of beverages or pour a glass of wine and enjoy!

Appetizer shells

For years I have used Athens Mini Fillo Shells for many different types of appetizers, both sweet and savory.  Recently, I realized that I could save some money by making my own shells from the company’s phyllo dough which is packaged in sheets. By using this product, I was able to make a very large quantity of the shells all at once and freeze them for a variety of celebrations.

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The steps are very easy and the process works perfectly.  One package of dough makes over one hundred shells.  And, what is even better, a variety of shell sizes can be made from one package.  To make the shells, purchase Athens Fillo Dough in sheets.  Next, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat muffin tins with cooking spray. Using about five sheets at a time, keeping the rest of the sheets covered while working, layer the sheets using cooking spray between the layers.  I just use a light spray between every couple.  There is no such thing as a mistake during this process.  Either cut in squares or circles and place into the muffin tins.  Push the layers of dough firmly into the spaces so there will be room for toppings and fillings later when making the appetizers.  Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes based on your oven’s heating.  Watch until the edges are golden brown.  Cool after baking.  Store in plastic containers in the freezer with layers separated by waxed paper.  These shells will last for several months frozen.

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When ready to bake the appetizers, just pull from the freezer and place on cookie sheet. Fill with desired toppings and bake to cook the filling, usually 10-15 minutes.

So easy, time-saving, and cost effective.  Instead of purchasing the Athens pre-made shells, this technique allows me to have shells ready made at any time of year.

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Cheese fondue

For easy entertaining, I have served a variety of cheese fondue recipes over the years.  Some have been made with classic cheddar cheeses, and others are made with a different flavor profile.

This past Christmas, I served a new recipe that I enjoyed along with my guests.  One of the best features of serving a fondue is that by offering a variety of dippers, everyone can create their own meal.  Guests seem to voice a favorite choice by the end of the evening.

Here is my new recipe for cheese fondue:  Begin with one cup of white wine.  Bring up to a boil in a sauce pan, and then add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Add one wedge of Fontina and one wedge of Fontinella cheese which have been shredded or cubed to melt evenly.  Then add, one square of white cheddar to incorporate fully.

When the cheese is melted, combine in a measuring cup 1/2 cup of Angry Orchard cider with 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Then, slowly pour into the fondue while stirring.  Season with grated nutmeg.

Serve in a fondue pot and keep warm.  Offer a variety of dippers for guests. I served celery sticks, carrot sticks, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, green and black olives, pickles, crusty bread, bread sticks, turkey sausage sticks and roasted white chicken.

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