How to Create the Perfect Cheese Platter

If there is one thing that I always have at every gathering it’s a delicious, rich, cheese platter.  I am not talking about the mixed cheese cubes you buy at the grocery, heavens no! For a couple of bucks more I like to wow my guests with a variety of cheeses that are gone before we get to the appetizers.

What types of cheese do I serve?  Here is the low down on the types, costs and the reasons I think you should serve a cheese platter too.

Goat Cheese: This is a simple cheese that has a rich and tangy taste with a smooth crumbly texture.  It pairs well with crackers and preserves.  My favorite way to pair goat cheese is with raspberry preserves.  You’ll find it wrapped in a 4-8oz log and it is very affordable.  Look for a pristine white color when buying your goat cheese.

Cheddar Cheese: You won’t find soft mild cheddar meant for sandwiches on my platter.  Cheddar is everyone’s favorite cheese, so why not move on up to something fancier?  A nice aged cheddar will bring plenty of flavor to your platter.  I also like an English-style cheddar but if you don’t find it you can get the Vermont aged.  Cheddar goes great with apple slices.

Blue Cheese: Embrace the funk.  The “moldy” blues might scare some people but if it wasn’t good they wouldn’t make an entire dressing to celebrate it!  Oh how I love blue cheese.  My grandmother used to cook it with so many things!  I love blue cheese paired with cherry tomatoes.  If you want something milder and sweeter try Gorgonzola cheese.

Sheep Cheese: Haven’t heard of it? You are really missing out!  Being that I am from Spain I grew up with Manchego cheese on every sandwich, salad, cheese platter… Manchego everywhere!  Look for “curado” or “aged” for a stronger sharper cheese.  Aged Manchego is firm and salty while the young milder Manchego is softer and sweeter (great for grilled cheese sandwiches).

Triple Creme Cheese: Say hello to my favorite cheese! Brie! This cheese is ultra rich and its triple cream cousins will melt in your mouth they are so delicious!   Triple cream usually means around 75% butterfat but the Brie comes in at a leaner 45%.  Do yourself a favor and don’t get reduced fat versions; they are rubbery and not as decadent.

How to put together a good platter?  Grab a variety of each cheese and find something to pair it with.  Not every cheese should be eaten with crackers so it’s ok to serve alongside fruit (grapes), bread, or nuts.

Enjoy!

 

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Crock-pot White Bean Pumpkin Soup

It’s fall and nothing says it more so that some key ingredients that bring comfort into a meal.  The past few weeks I’ve been testing a lot of recipes with pumpkin as an ingredient… but most were desserts.  One night, I had 1 cup of pumpkin puree left over from a muffin recipe I had baked the day before.  On a whim, I decided to mix it into the white bean soup I was making.  The result, a delicious and comforting bowl of fall goodness.  This was so popular among my family that I packaged it the next day for lunch!

Ingredients: -makes 4-6 servings-

  • 1 Medium onion, chopped small
  • 1 TB Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 15oz can white beans, drained and rinsed.
  • ¾ Cup diced carrots (4 medium carrots)
  • 4-6 Cups Vegetable stock (ok to sub. for chicken stock)
  • 1 tps oregano
  • ½ tps black pepper

Directions:

  1. Chop onions and garlic.
  2. Turn on crock-pot to a medium/low setting.
  3. Add all ingredients into crock-pot.  Stir to combine.
  4. Cook on medium/low 4hrs.
  5. You can leave it “chunky” as pictured, or puree to a smooth texture.

Enjoy!

Photo Courtesy of MOMables lunch menus.

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Roasted Fall Vegetables

During my last visit to the farmer’s market I loaded my tote bag with in-season vegetables.  While I’ve never been a huge fan of fall vegetables, I recently discovered that it’s not the vegetable variety I wasn’t fond of; it was the way it was being cooked! I got nearly 10 pounds of squash and zucchini for $9.  What was I going to do with all that, besides making some zucchini bread, of course.

I decided that I would simply roast my vegetables with minimal ingredients.  The outcome… what can I say? Delicious.

Ingredients:

  • Variety of fall zucchini and squash
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Rosemary

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Wash and cut your vegetables.  The smaller you cut them the quicker they will cook, so try to cut them evenly.
  3. In a roasting dish add vegetables, salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary (to taste).
  4. Mix well to evenly coat vegetables with seasoning
  5. Cook about 20-25 or until done.

Serve & Enjoy!

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Goat Cheese & Kalamata Olive Panini

When I was pregnant with my daughter 6 years ago, my husband and I took a week long trip to Rome.  This was food heaven for a pregnant woman!  The word “panino” in Italian means roll or biscuit.  However, they too grill the sandwiches and call them panini.  Originally, panini were filled with tomato, basil and mozzarella,  a mouth watering combination on its own.  That Christmas, my mother-in-law gifted me a panini press to have at home and my love for anything grilled only intensified.  Don’t believe it? Check out this recipe!

 

Goat Cheese & Kalamata Olive Panini

Serves 4. Prep time: 7 minutes Total time: 12 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 14 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 12-oz whole-grain Italian loaf bread, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 1/2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 large tomato (6 oz), sliced into 8 rounds
  • Olive oil cooking spray

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine olives, onion, garlic, basil, pepper flakes and vinegar. Place bread halves on a cutting board, cut-side-up, and spoon olive mixture onto bottom half of bread. Top with spinach, cheese and tomato. Top with other half of bread and press down lightly to adhere. Using a serrated knife, cut bread into 4 equal pieces.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat skillet with cooking spray, then add sandwiches. Add weight to sandwiches by covering them with a sheet of aluminum foil, then topping them with a dinner plate and a few bread plates. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until lightly golden on bottom. Remove plates and foil and flip sandwiches over. Again, place foil and plates on top of sandwiches and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 2 more minutes or until browned on bottom. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 2 minutes. (NOTE: This will allow sandwiches to continue heating throughout without drying out and over-browning.) Enjoy!

Nutrients per sandwich: Calories: 301, Total Fat: 6 g, Sat. Fat: 0.5 g, Carbs: 50 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugars: 13 g, Protein: 9 g, Sodium: 537 mg, Cholesterol: 6.5 mg

**Original recipe from Clean Eating Magazine

 

 

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30 Minute Meal: Pecan Crusted Chicken

I’ve recently developed an adoration for Greek yogurt.  A friend of mine said to me the other day: did you know you can cook with it too?  Really? in actual food and not “baking”?  Bring on the challenge.  I found this recipe in an old Betty Crocker booklet my neighbor passed on to me.  I modified it to my liking and…voila!  A delicious dinner in under 30 minutes.

Prep: 15min  Total time: 30min  Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 3  to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb)
  • 3/4  cup Italian style panko crispy bread crumbs
  • 1/2  cup chopped pecans
  • 2TB brown sugar (optional)
  • 2  tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1  container (6 oz) Greek plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or butter

Directions:

  1. Between pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper, place each chicken breast smooth side down; gently pound with flat side of meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/2 inch thick.
  2. In shallow dish, mix bread crumbs, brown sugar, pecans and parsley.
  3. In another shallow dish, place yogurt. Dip chicken into yogurt, then coat with crumb mixture.
  4. In 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Cook chicken in oil 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink in center and coating is golden brown.

Serve & Enjoy!

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Chicken Tenders the Entire Family Will Love!

It’s back to school time and my kids are ready for quick-to-eat dinners that won’t let them fall asleep on the table.  They are still young (3 &5) and dinnertime is their least favorite time; they are tired, they are whiny and they just want to get to bed!  This recipe is one of their favorite things to eat.  Is it the parmesan cheese?  The hint of garlic?  I’ll never know.  But it’s a winner every time!

Ingredients

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or, 1 cup milk + 1tsp vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 quart oil for frying

Directions 

Just a little oil in the pan - no need to submerge

  1. In the morning, place chicken strips into a large, resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, mix the egg, buttermilk and garlic powder. Pour mixture into bag with chicken. Seal, and refrigerate at least 4 hours (I leave them in there all day).
  2. In another large, resealable plastic bag, mix together the flour, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and baking powder. Remove chicken from refrigerator, and drain, discarding buttermilk mixture. Place chicken in flour mixture bag. Seal, and shake to coat.
  3. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Carefully place coated chicken in hot oil. Fry until golden brown and juices run clear. Drain on paper towels.

PS: yes, you know I rarely fry, but baked chicken strips are just not the same for my family.  Serve with a side of vegetables.

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Kid’s Favorite: Easy Pizza Rolls

Simple 30 Minute Lunch Box Recipe

 

I posted these this week in the MOMable’s Facebook page.  They are a HUGE hit in my house and I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting creative filling these with the toppings your family loves.  If you are in a hurry, I even give you the store-bought dough option.  This is a great recipe for lunch your kids will love in their lunchbox.  Try serving it with some nuts or fruit to  fill them up with great nutrition and energy.  You can make these ahead of time for dinner, and save leftovers for lunch!

Prep time: 7min   Cook time: 20-30  Yields: 12 rolls

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 TB butter, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup of milk (or non dairy substitute)
  • plain flour
  • 1/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2/3 cup of ham chopped
  • 1 can of pineapple pieces, drained
  • Alternatives: cut veggies, pepperoni, olives, or any other favorite pizza topping

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 210 degrees and line a baking tray with non-stick paper.
  2. Sift flour into a large bowl, add salt. Cut butter into the flour with a knife.
  3. Begin to add milk slowly, mix/knead.
  4. Mix/knead until the dough starts to stick to itself, put on a floured surface.
  5. Kneed the dough until smooth, then use a floured rolling pin to roll into a rectangle.
  6. Spread the pizza sauce onto the dough, sprinkle cheese, ham, and pineapple.
  7. On the long side start rolling up the dough into a log.
  8. Brush the edges with some milk to help it stick.
  9. Cut the log into 12 pieces equally.
  10. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. Remove from oven to cool. Will keep for 2 days when stored in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Under 5min option: purchase store bought pizza dough. Roll out. Follow steps 5-8 then bake according to manufacturer.

 

 

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Perfect for Summer: Light Taco Salad

You know it’s summertime when you get back from the pool with the kids around 5 o’clock and the thought of making dinner is… exhausting.  Don’t call pizza delivery or pick up Chinese take out! This light taco salad recipe makes a delicious and nutritious quick weeknight dinner (or lunch!).  This is the time of the year we rely on friends and family for extra help in the kitchen, right?  I saw this recipe over at The Nourishing Home, tweaked it, and made it my own.

You’ll be done making this dish in 15min or less and will have an easy family meal everyone will love.  I mean, who doesn’t like making their own salad? Or, lay out flour tortillas and make individual wraps.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey (or substitute with grass-fed ground beef)
  • 1 TB  Mexican/Taco seasoning 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (only if seasoning above is salt free)
  • 1 cup salsa or pico de gallo
  • 2 tbsp cultured sour cream
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, cut into pieces/shredded almost (about 8 cups)
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans (15oz can drained)
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • whole wheat tortilla chips

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of olive, oil, the ground turkey, Mexican/taco seasoning and salt. Cook, breaking the meat up, until no longer pink, about 5 to 6 minutes. Pour off any excess liquid. Stir in 1/2 cup of the salsa, 1 cup of corn and cook until heated through, about one minute.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and remaining 1/2 cup of salsa to create the taco salad dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place the lettuce, turkey mixture, beans, avocado, cheese and olives into separate bowls. Serve buffet-style so your family can make their own salad. Top with the taco salad dressing.
  4. Serve with whole wheat tortilla chips.  These also make great wraps!

(Photo credit: Real Simple. Recipe adapted from www.realsimple.com)

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Turkey Mini Sandwiches: Quick & Easy Dinner!

I’ve been testing recipes with my kids for weeks.  As you can imagine, some of them are a bigger hit than others.  We haven’t eaten the same thing twice in a while; mostly due to me working on developing next year’s lunch menus for MOMables.  I have every kid’s lunch book and toddler friendly cookbook available; and yet, I sometimes find the best recipes from other bloggers or on the internet.

This next one is a winner.  I’ve made it twice in two weeks (with different ingredients) and rarely we have left overs.  Although they are called “mini sandwiches,” I like to think of them as Kid-licious triangles.  I usually make them for dinner.  You can also make a big batch, freeze the leftovers and thaw and microwave when ready to use!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Bisquick Mix
  • 1/2 Cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2 TB yellow mustard
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 6oz package thinly sliced smoked turkey, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4oz bag)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix, cranberries, milk, mustard and egg until blended. Pour half of batter into baking dish
  2. Top with half of the turkey and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese to within 1/4 inch of edges of baking dish. Top with remaining turkey. Pour remaining batter over turkey.
  3. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and set. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Cut into 9 squares; cut each square in half diagonally. Enjoy!

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Some Inspiration, Some Girl Time, Some Networking AND a Discount

 

There’s something about the experience of being in a room full of women.  Nothing against men, but you have to admit there is a different energy. Women need one another for the support and laughter that gets us by and adds joy to our daily lives.

 

Women’s Club SWANS is having an event on May 19th where you have an opportunity to not only  connect with other women, but also be inspired.  Attendees will have the opportunity to chat with other women over dinner and also gain some insights from speaker, Patricia Raskin.

 

Patricia Raskin will be presenting on the topic “Staying Positive in Challenging Times”.  As president of Raskin Resources Productions, Inc, Patricia is an award-winning media producer, veteran radio broadcaster, speaker, media coach and author who focuses on the positive side of life. So she has a lot of experience staying positive and helping others do the same.

 

In her 25 years in radio she has interviewed many inspiring people including : Mariel Hemingway,  Jane Seymour, Joan Lunden, Debbie Ford, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Thomas Moore,  Dr Mehmet Oz and Dr John Gray (just to name a few).  She has a lot of insight to pull from not only her own experiences but also the experiences of others.

 

Women’s Club SWANS has hosted  these dinner events for the last 4 years to help women connect and be inspired. Women from in and around RI can benefit from this social and business club.    While networking is often only associated with business, women often network about other things than business as well.  What makes this club unique is that it is open to women of a variety of ages and backgrounds to “network” about whatever interests them or even to just to enjoy socializing. So women do not have to own a business to attend or be a member. However, those women who have businesses have opportunities to promote them.

 

On May 19th, women will meet at the Water Street Café 36 Water Street, Fall River, MA  from 6pm to 9pm to enjoy dinner, Patricia Raskin’s inspiring presentation, and have opportunities to connect with other women in the area.  Admission is $20.00 members/$30 non-members (additional fee may apply).  Pre-registration is required. Here’s more info about the club and the event.

 

As the director of Women’s Club SWANS I wanted to offer Amomknowsbest.com readers a special discount of $5.00 off a non-member admission. Just use discount code “momknows” or use this link to register. Discount is good until 5/15

 

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