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

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!

 

Baby–it will be cold outside

One of the newest trends in entertaining has been the beverage bar.  It has evolved from the classic tea service, to a coffee bar, and now encompasses hot chocolate or other warm drinks for the winter season.

Even though our Michigan winter temperatures have not been as cold as past years, I decided to get my beverage bar together for the holidays.  I chose a portion of my kitchen counter and devoted it to some toppings, flavors, and just fun coffee and tea selections.  Under the counter are drawers devoted to flavors of tea, coffee, tea pots, serving ware for beverages, and other accessories.  Of course, whipped cream, milk, honey, and chocolate syrups are also available one step away.

One of the best parts of assembling a beverage bar is putting together a list of recipes for guests to try different types of drinks.  Some require marshmallows, syrups, heated or frothed milk.  A selection of different types of ceramic mugs or glassware should also be available nearby.

If you do not have room for a whole beverage area every day, be sure to set one up for your holiday entertaining parties, and watch how much fun everyone has making their selections.

stars and stripes

July 4th is just around the corner.  Here is a cute way to celebrate with a fruit platter for your guests.  Take the time to find a small star cookie cutter and make some watermelon stars for the platter.  It is fun and easy to do and even the children or grandchildren can help with the preparation.

The cookie cutter works so easily on the sliced watermelon and the leftovers can be served to the family the next day.  The watermelon is just the perfect texture and the small pieces are easy for the children to handle. Here I simply filled a small platter with the watermelon stars and alongside served some fresh blackberries.

So much fun and such a cute presentation for the summer holiday barbecues. Red and blue for the patriotic celebration.

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Easy Holiday Petit Fours

Years ago I found this recipe for easy petit fours.  This is a “go-to” recipe that can be made for just about any holiday.  It uses the standard frozen pound cake, which is thawed overnight in the refrigerator.  Then, after cubed, the pound cake squares are glazed with a typical confectioners’ sugar mixture.  During the hardening process, the petit fours can be decorated for any holiday occasion.

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For St. Patrick’s day, I chose to use sparkling sugar to give a bit of Irish green to their appearance.  I could easily have made a frosting to pipe polka dots or stripes on the tops of each square.  The ideas are endless for decorating petit fours.

To make this simple glaze, which is gradually drizzled over the cake, mix these ingredients with a hand mixer together:

2 pounds of confectioners’ sugar, with 2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water, and 2 teaspoons of any flavored extract.  Suggestions would be almond, lemon, coconut, or orange.  Then, begin the drizzling process.  I generally use an iced teaspoon for best control.  Then, I gradually drizzle over the pound cake squares which have been placed on a wire rack over a pan.  The squares will need several coats, so this process may take 20 minutes to complete.  The left over icing can be gathered and re-used during the drizzling process if necessary.  This recipe will make more than needed for about 34 squares.

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This is a very easy petit four recipe which can be used for many celebrations.

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gingerbread house for Halloween

I purchased a kit for a Halloween gingerbread house from Williams Sonoma and assembled it a couple of days ago.  It was a very easy kit to assemble and was so much fun to decorate.  I used a variety of decorations, some of which I purchased for the kit, some that came with the kit, and others that I had found at other stores.

Here are some photos taken during the assembly and of the house after completion.

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twice baked potato casserole

The chill is in the air.  Potato season is back.  Some of the best comfort foods feature potatoes, and this recipe should be classified as an all-time comfort food recipe.  It comes from Gooseberry Patch, which is a collection of recipes from home cooks around the country featured into categorized recipe books.

Twice baked potatoes are often served as individual portions, but this recipe suggests removing the potatoes, adding the usual ingredients, and then simply baking into a casserole for serving. The recipe was very easy.  I did not use bacon, which is a typical stuffed potato ingredient, but it can easily be added to the recipe.  In fact, I am sure it would make the recipe even more tasty.  I would use pre-cooked bacon crumbles found in the salad dressing aisle at the market.

To make this recipe:

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Choose 4-5 Idaho baking potatoes, wash and poke with a fork.  Bake for 60-90 minutes at 400 degrees, based on their size until done.  Slice the potatoes in half, remove the pulp into a bowl and mix with the following ingredients:  salt, pepper, 1/4 cup margarine, 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup sour cream, and 6 chopped green onions. Add other ingredients to personalize for your family–green or black olives, white cheddar cheese, bacon, chives, other herbs from the garden, and even browned mushrooms.

Using a hand-held mixer, cream into mashed potatoes.  Prepare a ceramic baking dish with Pam cooking spray.  Spoon the mixture into the dish.  Top with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and extra green onions or chives.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes until brown on top.    This recipe will serve 6-8 along with a dinner entrée.

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