Easy Holiday Cheese Board

HickoryFarmsEasyCheeseBoard1

So I was annoyingly stressed out these past two weeks thinking about all the holiday events coming up and all the things going on at work to get prepared for the holiday season that I didn't even want to do Friendsgiving. GASP! Friendsgiving is one of my favorite traditions of the past couple years. First headache was gone when my sweet friend Lexy said she would host. Second headache was gone when I decided to bring the easiest cheese board thanks to Hickory Farms

HickoryFarmsEasyCheeseBoard2

Quick story time. Me and Hickory Farms go way back. Every year growing up, one of my dad's co-workers would gift his fellow employees with a Hickory Farms gift box. My sister's and I would anxiously await the evening when my dad would come home with the coveted Hickory Farms gift box. We would rip open the box, fight over who got to eat the little strawberry hard candies and then start sampling every meat, cheese and spicy mustard, completely ruining our dinner. 

HickoryFarmsEasyCheeseBoard3

I'm often asked what my favorite food is, and struggle to muster up an answer. I could never answer that question with just one thing, but recently I've really been trying to nail down at least my top five favorite foods. So far chili has been put on my list, and after making this epic holiday meat and cheese board for Friendsgiving, it became apparent that cheese boards are also in my top five favorite foods. 

Not only do I love eating meat and cheese boards, I also love making them. But, I will admit going to the store and wandering the cheese aisle can be super daunting. With a million options, textures, colors, names etc. it's overwhelming deciding what cheese and meats to pair. With Hickory Farms Signature Party Planning Gift Box  the stress is gone. Cue the "easy" part of this holiday cheese board.

HickoryFarmsEasyCheeseBoard4

Hickory Farms perfectly curates their boxes to make for a perfect holiday cheese board. The Signature Party Planning box consists of four cheeses, three meats and assorted mixed nuts. Exactly what I would purchase if going at it by myself at the store. These amounts will serve about 12 people. Or 10 hungry 20-something girls at Friendsgiving...oops!

My cheese board assembly tips:
-Cut each cheese a different way. Cubes, triangles, slices, crumbles...
-Bring in different textures such as mixed nuts, fruit, crackers, olives or pickles
-Be colorful. Use cheese and meats of different color to keep it visually pleasing.
-Get your greens in. Some kind of fresh herb to contrast all the orange and cream. I used bay leaves because they were on hand. 
-Include some kind of mustard, jam or spread

HickoryFarmsEasyCheeseBoard5

Take a slight bit of the holiday stress off buy purchasing a Hickory Farms gift box for your next holiday gathering. Wow your friends and fam with this easy (and epic) cheese board when you show up for Thanksgiving. P.S. If you are last minute and don't have time to order something, and you are local to the OKC area, I know for a fact there is a Hickory Farms kiosk set up right now in Penn Square Mall. It is stocked with tons of meats, cheeses, mustards and pre-selected gift boxes. Cough Thanksgiving is in less than a week cough cough.

Happy holidays from my easy cheese board to yours!

Annie

Thank you to Hickory Farms for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

Bacon Wrapped Dates

I couldn't let this perfect party appetizer pass without sharing the recipe! I made these bacon wrapped dates with almonds and goat cheese for my good friends wedding shower a couple of weeks ago. I ate about half the platter, but they were still a hit! The creamy cheese or salty almond stuffed in a sweet date then wrapped in bacon, it's just the most sinful little bite. Great for parties of all kinds; dinner party, wedding shower, birthday or football watch party!

The recipe comes from my new favorite book Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. The book is chalk full of cozy family recipes. I plan on cooking through the book and sharing more of Shauna's insight on daily life and daily bites, so stay tuned!

Bacon Wrapped Dates adapted from Bread & Wine

Ingredients:
8 oz package of dates, pitted if you can find them
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup almonds, roasted and salted (optional)
16 oz pkg. bacon

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a roasting sheet (with sides is best) with foil and set aside. 

If your dates are not already pitted, you will need to pit them. Make a slice lengthwise along the date. Open it up like a little book and remove the pit. Stuff half the dates with almonds and half with a little shmear of goat cheese. Shauna informs you to steer clear of any nut, she says it reminds her too much of the pit, which it does. But I love the crunch! Maybe next time I'll do a little combo of the cheese and almond stuffed inside!

Cut your bacon in half or thirds depending on how long your strips are. Wrap a piece of bacon around the filled date and place it seam side down on your foil lined baking sheet. 

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until brown. Drain on a paper towel and serve at room temp!

I urge you to go pick up a copy of Bread & Wine. It's the perfect read as fall is arriving! But in the meantime, you can just make batches of bacon wrapped dates to tide you over!

Annie

Snacks and Apps

After having a little get together at my house last week, I realized I like to entertain even more than I thought. I've watched my mom entertain with grace over the years, but never thought my control freak side would be able to manage it. 

When a friend asked me to host a jewelry trunk show at my house, I immediately thought of it as an opportunity to get good friends together and serve good food, so I quickly said yes! 

I did as Ina has always taught me, and made half of the appetizers and bought the others. She always says your guests won't have any fun if you are running around trying to take things out of the oven and can't enjoy the party. So, for my snacks and apps, I made pumpkin dip served with apples and graham crackers and dried fruit mascarpone crostini. I also bought little cherry tomatoes and olives for people to snack on.  

I've been eating this dip around the holidays since I was little. I updated it a bit, but it tasted just like the original. It's super simple and a huge crowd pleaser. 

Pumpkin Dip
*adapted from my mom's recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cool whip (I used lite)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 granny smith apples, sliced
graham crackers, quartered

Directions:
Fold together all the ingredients for your dip in a medium size bowl using a spatula. And that's it! Serve with sliced apples and quartered graham crackers. 

*Mom's recipe called for sour cream, but I love the healthy swap of Greek yogurt instead!

crostini.jpg

Next up, my dried fruit and mascarpone crostini! These were equally a hit. I got several "Annie! What is this spread?" My fiends were very intrigued with mascarpone and loved it even more when I let them know it was basically italian cream cheese. 

Dried Fruit and Mascarpone Crostini
yields about 32 crostini

Ingredients:
1, 8 oz container of mascarpone (if you can't find it in your grocery store, just plain cream cheese will work too!)
2 thin baguettes
any kind of dried fruit (I used cranberries and figs)
honey

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice your baguettes at a diagonal into 1/2 in slices. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 4 minutes on each side or until crisp without being too brown. Spread a nice layer of cheese on each baguette. Sprinkle with dried cranberries or half of a dried fig. Drizzle with a small amount of honey!

Also as Ina would say, "How easy was that?" Now enjoy these foolproof  appetizers, perfect for holiday parties coming up!...Okay my Barefoot Contessa references are over. 

Happy entertaining! 

Annie

Rodeo, Ranch and Recipes

Yesterday I shared a few bites about my weekend, but it was such a good couple of days away I have to share more! This past weekend I let my inner cowgirl come out. I went to the rodeo, a country concert and a ranch. Just call me the Pioneer Woman! A bunch of my good friends and I spent the weekend down south in Fort Worth. The city is so fun and I fall in love every time I visit. Luckily one of my best friends is from "The Fort," so I have excuses to take trips there.

The rodeo was Friday night. The fact that we had our hair done and make-up on was enough to make us stand out amongst most of the crowd. There were trick riders, barrel races, bull riding etc. 

After the rodeo we went to Billy Bob's Texas. The country bar calls itself "the world's largest honkey tonk." My friend's mom was so excited to show us one of her favorite singers. Sadly, it was his last concert because he is retiring from the music life. Josh Weathers put on quite a last show. I danced all night to songs I didn't know as well as some of his amazing covers like " I Will Always Love You."

After a "big night in the city" we headed 90 miles outside Fort Worth to my friend's ranch house. We did nothing but eat (A LOT), play games and sit by the fire. Apparently the rule is there is "no diet at the ranch," so we behaved the rules.

This brings me to the recipe portion of this post. My friend's mom and I love talking recipes and cooking when we are together. She shared an awesome orzo chicken salad and this layered hummus dip with me this summer. Today I'm sharing a recipe for Avocado Verde Dip and Onion Soufflé. The avocado dip could probably qualify as healthy, as for the onion soufflé, not so much. It's so dang good though you just can't think about it.

First up the avocado verde dip.

Avocado Verde Dip

Ingredients:
2 avocados
16 oz store bought verde salsa (we used this brand)
a bunch of cilantro
juice from 1 lime
1 garlic clove

Directions:
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping on tacos or enchiladas. 

Onion Soufflé

Ingredients:
3 packages cream cheese
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
2 cups parmesan cheese
1 bag frozen onions, thawed and squeezed dry

Directions:
Combine all ingredients then transfer to a pie dish. Bake at 400 degrees until the top begins to brown. This can be made ahead and put in the fridge until it's time to bake.  Serve with Triscuits! 

All of this was followed by our enchilada dinner. Mini chocolate chip cookies, ginger snaps, coconut bon bons and chocolate toffee were passed around for dessert. Like I said, there is no diet at the ranch.

After our dip frenzy some barre exercises were a must. It was hilarious doing push-pulls around the 2 ft. x 2 ft. countertop.

Here's to wishing it was still the weekend!

Annie