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

Air popped popcorn

Popcorn is my favorite snack food.  Over the years, I have had many types of poppers.  This one is new to my home, and it has been an easy transition into use.  Cuisinart offers this new popper which allows for no use of oil.

The air popped popcorn is super fluffy and light.  There is almost no clean up to this popper, as the chamber wipes clean after use.  The plastic chute is the only part that needs a quick wash in the sink.  The unit uses 1500 watts of power, so it is a fast process.

The best part of this machine is that it works in under 3 minutes.  10 cups of perfect popcorn in less than one commercial break is nothing short of amazing. This is a super fun tool to use.  So glad that I added it to my home this winter.

If you need a gift idea for that next party, this is one that everyone should love.

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.

 

Chicken and Tomatoes

Another great way to prepare chicken is with tomatoes.  Over the years, I have found many chicken recipes that include tomatoes from soups and stews to slow cooker dishes.  This recipe is similar to a Chicken Parmesan but is baked in the oven. I found it online at the Taste of Home website.  We enjoyed this meal for dinner, and it can be adapted to prepare for a large group or for a “just for two” meal.

Here is how I prepared the dish.  Gather these ingredients:  1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup egg beaters, 4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs (or chicken breasts), 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon margarine, 1 can diced tomatoes, dried basil, salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Dip the chicken in the flour, then the egg.  Place in a greased baking dish.  Mix the cheese, bread crumbs, and melted margarine.  Sprinkle over the chicken.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover, and bake for 10-15 more minutes or until almost done.  Drain and then toss the tomatoes with basil, salt and pepper.  Spoon over the chicken and bake another 10 minutes or until hot.

The tomatoes could also be heated on the stovetop and simply served with the chicken or added already heated to the dish and returned to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time, or just combined for serving.

I prefer the taste of chicken breasts over thighs, but both work equally well in this dish. This is a great tasting dish that can become a family favorite.

 

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!

 

NFL referee cookies

Well, football games are on television almost every day of the week now, so I love to serve my husband some fun treats during the season.  I found this recipe on the Wilton candy website, and thought they were so cute and irresistible.  The technique requires both patience and practice, but the outcome is super delicious.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGather these ingredients to make 18 cookies.  4 ounces of black chocolate candy melting wafers, 8 ounces of white chocolate candy melting wafers, 9 black candy wafers cut in half for the referee caps, and 18 white vanilla wafer cookies

Melt the candy in two separate double boilers.  When melted, remove from the stove top and dip the wafer cookies or paint the chocolate on the lower two-thirds of each cookie.  Allow the cookies to dry on waxed paper on a tray in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

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Next dip the top of each cookie into the black chocolate mixtures. Attach the cap piece of chocolate on each cookie. Chill again in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Pipe the eyes, the mouth and the stripes on each cookie and chill again for 15 minutes.

Store separated with waxed paper in the refrigerator in a sealed container.  Perfect for football snacks.

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