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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Lunch Indulgence: Grilled Pear & Brie Sandwich

There are a few indulgences that even a pregnant woman can’t resist.  Chocolate and Brie are my downfall.  Seriously, how can one resist the sweet deliciousness of French Brie?  I love it on toast, with crackers, in omelet, sandwiches… and the list goes on.

The other day, I was left to my own devices to prepare lunch when a business lunch meeting was cancelled (I usually pre-make my lunches ahead of time and have them ready).  It was a Friday and the fridge was empty of our lunch items and leftovers were scarce.  Good thing there was Brie!! The outcome as a sweet delicious grilled sandwich that will soon be placed in one of our MOMables menus (my kids loved this sandwich too).

Ingredients:

  • 2 Slices of bread
  • Sliced Brie
  • 1 pear, sliced thin
  • Butter/spray for grilling

Directions:

  1. Slice pear and Brie.
  2. Place sliced pear and brie on bread and close.
  3. Spread or spray butter on bread.
  4. Grill

Enjoy!

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Avocado and Shrimp Salad

I never get tired of eating avocados.  Their creamy texture helps this salad blend together without the saturated fats from cheese or dairy-based dressings.  They are rich in vitamins, protein and omega 3s… what is there not to like?  If you buy an avocado before it’s ready to eat, put it in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process.  Never throw them in the fridge unless you want to “pause” its ripening.

It’s fall, and apples are in full display at every supermarket and farmers market.  To add a little extra crunch, toss one in!

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tarragon stems; 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1/2 lemon, quartered
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted, quartered, and thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups water, tarragon stems, lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and peppercorns to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat, add shrimp and poach until opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate (discard everything else) and refrigerate to cool.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, chives, tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add shrimp, apple, and cucumber, and toss to coat.
  4. Divide salad between four bowls. Add avocado to the mixing bowl and toss with remaining dressing. Top each salad with a quarter of the avocado. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

**Photo Credit

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A “Lighter” Blue Cheese Dressing

The facts: I love blue cheese dressing.  I don’t like preservatives or weird ingredients in my food.  I just realized how easy it is to make a lighter version of this heavenly dressing with the help of Greek yogurt! It was easy, delicious, and quick to make!

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • dash black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 c. Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 c. crumbled blue cheese

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix dry spices then add the Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Add the milk then let it sit for a few minutes, to dissolve the spices.
  3. Add the vinegar to the milk mixture. It will start to curdle; this is normal.
  4. Add the mayonnaise and Greek yogurt and whisk together well. When blended, fold-in the Blue cheese crumbles.

The longer you let this refrigerate, the better the flavor will be. A must have for hot wings and salads!

You’ll never buy bottled dressing again once you taste this!

Makes 3 cups.


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Fresh Lunch: Tuna Melt

If you think tuna melts are a calorie loaded sandwich… think again.  This re-vamped version is lighter on the mayo, has less bread but tastes a whole lot better!  Even when your fridge may be empty and you think you have nothing to make for lunch… a pantry staple to the rescue!  Bring out that high quality tuna and let’s freshen it up!  The sharp cheddar allows you to use considerably less cheese and the tomato slices give it the freshness it needs.

Open Tuna Melt

Serves 4. Prep 10min Total time about 15.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces canned chunk light tuna, drained (see Note)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler in your oven (or use small toaster oven).
  2. Combine tuna, shallot, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, salt, hot sauce and pepper in a medium bowl. Spread 1/4 cup of the tuna mixture on each slice of toast; top with tomato slices and 2 tablespoons cheese. Place sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Did you know… Chunk light tuna, which comes from the smaller skipjack or yellowfin, has less mercury than canned white albacore tuna. The FDA/EPA advises that women who are or might become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children consume no more than 6 ounces of albacore a week; up to 12 ounces of canned light tuna is considered safe. -So yes, I’m only having one of these a week right now :)

 

Photo Credit: Eating Well

 

 

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A No-Fuss Way to Get Kids Out the Door in the Morning

Have you heard?? There is a new way to plan your lunches!  MOMables™ is a website created by a MOM dedicated to helping parents make their kids’ school lunch fresh!  Here is a brief interview with Laura Fuentes, Chief MOM at MOMables™ and one of our contributors here at AMKB.

AMKB: What is MOMables™?

MOMables™:  MOMables™ is a lunch menu subscription plan designed to help parents make fresh, wholesome, school lunches.  Our picky-eater, kid-tested recipes are made quickly — in ten minutes or less — with simple and fresh ingredients.  We streamline the lunch making process with a weekly menu and a shopping list.  We also provide you with a picture of the food so you know what the lunchbox will look like. Whether you have a small soccer team or one child, MOMables™ brings you fresh ideas so you can feel good about your child’s nutrition.

AMKB: What kind of ingredients are in a typical lunch?

MOMables™:  We believe feeding your kids wholesome food doesn’t have to be complicated.  All of our lunches have simple ingredients typically found inside your pantry and your current shopping list.  We plan the main sandwich, wrap, dish… and always picture it with a fruit and a vegetable to remind parents what a balanced lunch should look like.  You won’t find a packaged items in any of our lunches, only fresh food.

AMKB: What about a child with food allergies? Or, if my child doesn’t like one ingredient?

MOMables™:  Our lunch menus are not designed with specific dietary restrictions in mind.  However, nearly all ingredients are exchangeable for dairy free, wheat free, and vegan substitutes, for example.  Just like food allergies,  if your child doesn’t like one ingredient you can easily substitute it for another.

AMKB: I have kids of different ages.  How does your meal plan take this into consideration?

MOMables™:  Our lunch menus are a guide to portion sizes.  A parent preparing a lunch for a 4 year old child will make the food quantity slightly smaller than an 8 year old, for example.

AMKB: Can parents eat these lunches?

MOMables™:  Of course! Why not pack lunch for the entire family to save time and money!  My husband super-sizes his portions compared to my 5 year old and I love my sandwiches dressed with lots of lettuce and tomato (unlike my kids).  So naturally, there are some differences… but all the ingredients remain the same.  This saves me a lot of time.  We also pack most of the lunches on Sunday nights, so all I have to do is pull them from the refrigerator in the morning!

AMKB: How much does the subscription cost and how does it work?

MOMables™:  Our subscription pricing is $6 or less per month.  You receive a weekly email on Thursdays with some fresh tips from our kitchen as well as reminding you to log in to the website to retrieve your weekly menu and shopping list.  You print it, shop, and make fresh lunches!  It’s that easy.  You can sign up here. Or go to our main page and sign up for our FREE weekly news for more fresh food ideas.

Thank you Laura, we’re so excited to try MOMables™ and can’t wait to hear what others think! – Allison

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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