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

Martha’s ginger scented pecans

Holiday seasoned nuts are very popular.  I have tried a couple of recipes over the years, and decided to try one from Martha’s Hors d’oeuvres Handbook.  These were very flavorful toasted nuts that were a favorite of my family.

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The toasting brings out a nice texture of the pecan, and the ginger flavor was not strong or overpowering.  I made a smaller amount from her recipe and the ingredients were perfect to taste and texture.

Here is how I adapted Martha’s recipe:

Gather the following ingredients.  3 cups or 2 bags of pecan halves, 1/2 cup sugar, 1  1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 2 tablespoons agave or honey, and 2 teaspoon canola oil.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Bake the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast about 12 minutes.  Combine sugar, salt and ginger in a small bowl.  Next, combine the honey, 2 tablespoons water, and the oil in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.

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Add the pecans when they are done roasting, and cook until all of the liquid is gone.  Then, toss with the sugar ingredients.

Spread on parchment paper to cool.  Store in a covered jar or container for about one week.        SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

nut crusted chicken

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i found another recipe in coastal living magazine that worked out very well, coming together for dinner in thirty minutes.  a chicken breast is covered in heart healthy nuts and baked for 20 minutes.  then, out of the oven, sliced and served with your favorite vegetables.

i used chopped pecans, but pistachios would also be a great flavor combination.

to make the recipe:  preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  mix the following ingredients in a small bowl– 1 tablespoon orange juice, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.  coat each side of a chicken breast with these ingredients, then dip in chopped nuts.  i used about 1/2 cup of nuts.

place chicken on baking sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes. slice and serve with dill carrots (featured on this blog)  or your favorite vegetable.

molasses walnut tarts for thanksgiving

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traditionally for thanksgiving, most serve pie.  i thought i would try individual nut tarts this year for something different.  these tarts have a distinct molasses taste, and seemed to be just the right size for a sweet dessert after a large thanksgiving meal.  i found this recipe in my magazine collection of recipes that i have saved over the years.  the original recipe made 12 tarts, and i reduced the ingredients to make four 3 1/2 inch tarts for dinner.

to make the nut tarts:

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  on a lightly floured surface, unroll 2 refrigerated pie crusts.  using a 4 inch round cookie cutter, cut 4 large circles of crust.  line four tart pans with removable bottoms with the crusts.  prick the bottoms with a fork.  place the shells on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.  remove from the oven.

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while the tarts are baking, prepare the filling.  in a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup light brown sugar, with 1/4 cup molasses, and 1/4 cup dark corn syrup.  next, whisk in 1/8 cup melted butter and 1 1/2 eggs.  i used one egg and 1/2 egg of egg beaters.   next, whisk in 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  stir in one cup chopped walnuts.  divide the filling into the pre baked shells.  bake for 20 to 22 minutes until the center of the tarts are set.  serve with vanilla ice cream.  i also used small leaf cutters to cut decorative leaves for the top of the tarts. i baked those separately and just added them to the tarts at the end of baking.

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pecan shortbread bars

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here is a recipe for a wonderful pecan bar that has a shortbread texture. it comes from the art of breakfast cookbook. it is perfect for afternoon tea or coffee, but can also be served as a nice dessert with vanilla ice cream.  we enjoyed these for Easter dinner dessert.

this recipe will make one 13 by 9 by 2 inch ceramic baking dish.  these pecan shortbread bars are crumbly and delicious.

to make the bars:  preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  cream together 2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter with 1/3 cup granulated sugar.  gradually stir in 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and finally 2 cups of finely chopped pecans.  i used my Cuisinart mini prep machine.

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press the mixture into the ceramic baking dish.  i treated the pan with Pam spray butter.  bake the dish for 30 minutes until lightly browned.  remove from the oven and cool for 3 to 5 minutes, and then cut the bars into squares.  let them fully cool in the pan before trying to remove.  at this point, they are too crumbly to remove.

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once cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar on top. i decorated the bars with whole pecan halves while the bars were still hot.

enjoy these pecan bars for a great snack, a brunch, or even a holiday dessert served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

 

sugared pecans

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up front, i need to admit that these seasoned pecans are addictive.  they can be served with ice cream, fruit, with a cheese tray, or just for snacking. this recipe comes from scratch herbs and spices. these are excellent and one of my favorite recipes of all time.

in a large non-stick skillet, melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat.  add 3 cups of pecan halves, and don’t walk away.  stir until they toast up about four minutes maximum.

i removed them from the heat, and mixed in a small bowl the following ingredients:  1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and sea salt to taste.  return the nuts to the heat, and sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts, and continue to stir.  do not walk away.  stir for about one minute more.  do not allow the sugar to melt, but just adhere to the nuts.

remove from the heat and place on a baking sheet.  spread out immediately, or the nuts will clump together.  they must cool before eating or storing in a glass jar.

delicious !

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salted peanut bars

here is a three ingredient recipe that is perfect every time.  taken from Martha’s everyday food chefs, it is one of the easiest and best tasting caramel recipes i have ever made.  there is no need for a candy thermometer and an afternoon of mess. 

simply unwrap one bag of Kraft caramels, which is 14 ounces.  place in a sauce pot.  add one cup of mini marshmallows and one tablespoon of water.  the water is very important. then, melt for about 8 minutes.

while this is happening, chop 2 1/4 cups of unsalted peanuts.  place 1 1/4 cups of peanuts in an 8 by 8 square baking pan, that has been lined with parchment paper. allow the parchment paper to overlap the edges for easy removal from the pan.  when the caramel mixture is melted, pour over the peanuts in the pan.  then, top with the last cup of chopped peanuts.

allow to come together for at least 2 hours before cutting.  i usually place in the refrigerator to cool and harden even more.  if using the refrigerator, make certain you allow for time for the caramel to soften again before cutting into bars.  these are better than the store-bought “payday” bars.

these can be stored, but must be individually wrapped or the caramel with adhere to the other bars.