Easy Holiday Cheese Board

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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

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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

Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer

image via The Everygirl

Summer came in full force weather wise about two weeks ago. We are already seeing triple digits almost everyday. I love the heat, but this early makes me a little unnerving for what the rest of the summer will look like. Yesterday marked the first official day of Summer, so before putting my Summer TDL out there I wanted to take a look back and see what I crossed off my Spring installment. Pat on the back Annie, you did pretty good!

1. Host a spring dinner party...
I'm so mad I didn't do this. Really striving to make it happen soon. Using these tips to maybe make it a bit easier!

2. Attend the Oklahoma City Arts Festival-CHECK! I actually went twice!

3. Take some kind of cooking, pastry or coffee and latte making class-almost CHECK!
I can't give away too many details for certain reasons, but this is getting accomplished very soon.

4. Go to a crawfish boil/convince a friend to have one-CHECK!

5. Eat outside as much as possible-CHECK, CHECK, CHECK! I would even more now if it wasn't 100+ outside.

6. Cheer on the OKC Thunder at a playoff game...
This unfortunately did not get accomplished:( My thunder held strong for a while, but not long enough for me to make it to a game.

7. Make this Coconut Carrot Cake Cheesecake-CHECK! We can't forget the double cheesecake mistake of Easter2k16.

8. Perfect how to poach an egg...
Still working on this task! I hear the key is using the freshest egg you can. Hoping to hit up a farmer's market soon to get some farm fresh eggs!

9. Host a Cinco De Mayo party-CHECK!

Okay so 6 out of 9 seems pretty good to me. Now to craft up my Summer TDL. Any suggestions?

Annie

Countdown to the Oscars

It's finally Oscar time! I love a good award show, but you can't deny the glamour and prestige that the Oscars hold. I barely saw any of the movies up for awards, but I still can't miss it. I've made plans to catch a showing of The Big Short tomorrow night so hopefully I'll be a little more educated. 

brown sugar sriracha sesame popcorn // rocky road milkshake // oscar ballot

I fully plan to be staked out on my couch for most of Sunday. You have to start early to see all the red carpet action (the real reason we watch the Oscars). Fancy popcorn, milkshakes and most likely a glass of wine will all be attendance! Make sure and print out your Oscar ballot too! It's the Super Bowl of award shows.

Annie

Happy Friendsgiving!

To be honest, I can't believe I haven't had a Friendsgiving before now. Friendsgiving has become pretty trendy in the past few years, but we all know I'm not afraid to jump on a trend bandwagon. Friendsgiving pretty much combines all of my favorite things. Friends, food and Thanksgiving. 

Our first Friendsgiving was a success. It was potluck style so everyone contributed something making it very easy on myself. All paper everything made clean up so easy. I had a little too much fun planning for this night, I'm already brainstorming next years...

My contribution was this Pumpkin Galette. This is a recipe I pulled from the archives of my Pinterest. I've had it pinned for so long waiting for an opportunity to make it!

Not that I thought the food wouldn't be good, but I was extremely impressed with what everyone made. I love how most people brought old family recipes to share . There was Kathleen's ham, Bailey's sweet potatoes, Alex's stuffing, Madeline's green beans, Katie's cheesy au gratin potatoes, Sarah's butternut squash salad, Sarah Beth's brussels sprouts, Katie's corn casserole, Coralee's caesar salad, Sister Schubert's rolls (the best) brought by Kenzie!

Lindsay's date cookies, my pumpkin galette, Kathleen's apple cider cheesecake, Maddie's cherry pie, Lauren's pumpkin cookies, Alexis's chocolate candies, Elaine's pecan pie, pumpkin pie from Lauren, and Katie's caramel marshmallow popcorn! Not pictured was all the cheese to start the night courtesy of Stacia, Betsy, Trinian and Taylor.

Morning of I was nervous there wouldn't be enough wine. There was wine for an army, and then some!

10 Friendsgiving tips:

  1. Make it pot-luck. Create a menu of what is needed and have everyone sign up to bring something. A well rounded menu of apps, meat, veggies, sides, rolls and dessert.
  2. Use paper everything for easy clean-up. I ordered these kraft colored eco plates and wooden disposable silverware from Amazon and then bought napkins from Target.
  3. DIY your decorations. Keep it minimal because the food will do most of the decorating. I kept everything neutral and stuck with a kraft and gold color scheme, and little pops of fall flowers. I made a banner from glitter scrapbook paper and little signs for the dessert, drink and food table. I rolled out kraft wrapping paper over a white table cloth for the food table and used chalk to decorate. Throw it away at the end and clean up is a snap.
  4. Have wine, lots of wine. The perfect thing for people to contribute if they aren't comfortable cooking a dish.
  5. Have oven space, for those dishes that need re-heating. 
  6. Make sure to have hot plates or dish towels to set the hot dishes on.
  7. Have serving spoons and knives for the food and dessert.
  8. Make a playlist. My Dinner Party playlist is my go-to for events like this. 
  9. Purchase to-go boxes so everyone gets to take home leftovers. I ordered these boxes, and everyone loved it.
  10. Once it's party time, don't stress just have fun. All the work is done!

I'm so thankful for these friends, Friendsgiving, and a new tradition!

Annie