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.

Banana Chip Savory Snack Mix (Whole 30)

IMG_1159.JPG

Whole 30 snacks are hard. I had this conversation with my sister last week and a friend who is also doing whole 30 right now. Meals are easy, but sometimes you just get a big craving for a handful of crackers or pretzels or some kind of carby snack. This whole 30 approved savory snack mix is so satisfy for someone on whole 30 and for the average joe. Just be careful, it's highly addictive. 

IMG_1155.JPG

My good friend Chelsea, who actually got married this past weekend, first introduced me to Bubba's Fine Foods Snack Mix. She is a trainer, so I'm always so interested in what she is eating or snacking on. One day at the gym she was eating out of a Bubba's Snack Mix bag. When I read the ingredients I was shocked at how simple and healthy they were. Just banana chips, cashews, pecans, with spices like turmeric, paprika, apple cider vinegar etc. I was sold, but also sold on recreating the mix on my own. Because let's be honest, the bag you buy at the store is $7 for a bag of air...

IMG_1158.JPG

Savory Snack Mix (Whole 30) 
yields 4 cups

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup raw pecans
1 1/2 cup raw cashews
2 cup banana chips (unsweetened)* 
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. Garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Onion powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. liquid aminos**
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil 

Directions:

Preheat over to 325 degrees. In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Toss and mix until nuts and banana chips are all evenly coated. 

Bake 15-20 minutes, toss halfway through. Let sit to to dry out a bit and cool before eating. Store in a Ziplock or air tight container. 

*Most banana chips you find at the store are sweetened (you don't want that for this recipe). I ordered a bag of unsweetened from nuts.com. If you can't find unsweetened, plantain chips would be a good replacement. 

**Liquid aminos are a whole 30 approved version of soy sauce or tamari. You can use either in place of the aminos, but I suggest picking up a bottle! Keep some in your pantry and you'll never need soy sauce again!

IMG_1156.JPG

You can buy Bubba's Fine Foods online or locally at Uptown Grocery. But, I urge you to try my recipe! It's identical (and you get more!!). Perfect snack for traveling, the 3PM slump, watch parties or game nights!

Annie 

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

Crock-Pot Carnitas

This is it you guys, this is it. Officially my go to recipe for cooking for friends, party food, pot-lucks etc. Crock-pot carnitas are a zip to make, but totally bring on the wow. Not to mention they make a truck load, so it's a perfect way to feed the masses.

My mind and my stomach have been on a taco kick recently. One of my co-workers was recently sharing with me how she loves to make carnitas. She was going on about how easy, fresh and healthy they were. Okay, sold. Give me the recipe. So thank you Mel, this one is for you!

My pork butt was a little over 7 lbs. which is huge, but that was the smallest I could find! It barely fit in my crock pot. I think it made enough carnitas for the whole neighborhood. But really. Some for me, some for my roommates, some for sis and husband, and some for the freezer to pull out on a rainy day. Search your market and you can probably find a smaller butt. I was limited and hungry so just went with it. A pork shoulder is interchangeable for this recipe. You can typically find small pork shoulders in the grocery store!

That being said the measurements for this recipe are a little loosey goosey because your pork butt size may vary. Just go with it and trust your self, I promise you can't mess this up. 

Crock Pot Carnitas

Ingredients:
4-5 lb. pork butt roast or shoulder  (bone-in or boneless, either works)
cumin
chili powder
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Accompaniments: 
white corn tortillas
cilantro, chopped
avocado slices
lime wedges
chopped red onion, pickled onions, pico de gallo etc.

Directions:
Rinse and pat dry the pork butt. Put just about a 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of your crock pot. Season both sides of the pork with all of the seasonings. I did about one teaspoon per side (roughly 2 tsps. of each seasoning). Place in the crock-pot. Turn on low and let cook for 6-8 hours or until tender. My pork butt was a bone-in. The best part was getting to reach in and just slide the bone right out of the tender meat.

Using two forks shred the carnitas. Add more seasoning if needed. Warm tortillas on a griddle. Serve carnitas with some pico, cilantro, fresh avocado and a squeeze of lime! 

Perfect served as is, but I also can't wait to use the meat in taco salads or on nachos. Melanie said she uses her leftovers in quesadillas and as enchilada filling! I'm also thinking it wouldn't be half bad mixed with a little BBQ sauce for a take on pulled pork. 

I'm not sure what it is about this recipe, but when I was snapchatting while I was cooking, you guys were going crazy. Which I love. And these  carnitas deserve that kind of love because they are that good. So here you go my friends, crock-pot carnitas for your stomachs to enjoy! 

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