tips

The Art of the Cheese Platter

I am a lover of good cheese (it’s in my bio). So a beautiful cheese platter is a treasure to behold. Don’t let me fool you, I haven’t perfected the art of assembly. In fact, I beat my self up for like an hour for cutting my Mango-Ginger Stilton in to square crumbles rather than leaving it in a wedge for my guests to cut themselves. (It’s a bad habit I have. I still get embarrassed that my voice cracked during an 8th grade choir solo. I KNOW! I need to get over it. I have issues.) However, I’ve included some tips I’ve picked up and some ideas from the experts (or at least a couple of people I admire).

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Here is a guide to make The Ultimate Cheese Plate from What’s Gaby Cooking. Her pictures are always stunning.

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Courtesy of What’s Gaby Cooking

I love that cheese board. I almost put out some dried fruit… and I would have loved to place an assortment of nuts on my trays, but my youngest son has a nut allergy. What’s a girl to do? Well, I’ll tell you what I did, I avoided the risk. I appreciate how much she loaded the tray with variety too. My platters aren’t quite that full, mostly because I turned the whole table into a large assortment. But I did take note and try to vary ingredients on each plate; a fruit or olive or pickle, a cheese or two, a choice of cracker or dried bread or pita chip, etc.

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I think when making a cheese plate, it is important to show case several different cheeses, not just in flavor but in texture and style too. Naturally the amount of food is based on the number of guests. But even if you are only having a few people over, if you are having a “cheese board” you probably want to have a variety. Maybe a spreadable cheese, a hard sliced or cubed cheese and possibly a semi-soft cheese like a brie or a crumbled cheese. Of course, my favorite Smoky Cheese Ball makes an appearance at most of our gatherings (pecans included, it’s the one exception). Jessica Merchant from How Sweet Eats describes How to Make a Killer Cheese Plate with a few cheese ball recipes too.

Courtesy of How Sweet Eats

Courtesy of How Sweet Eats

I’m a fan of labeling the food for guests, especially when there are many to choose from. I suppose if it were a small gathering and we were all sitting together I might remember the names of all of the sausages, cheeses, crackers and what-have-you. But if there are more than two or three of each, I’d probably be hard pressed to rattle off the titles of all of them. They do manufacture some beautiful note cards, little chalkboards, and the like for such an occasion. A little creativity, i.e, legible penmanship, index cards cut into shapes, toothpicks and tape works too!

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Lastly, I love that Honestly Yum used fresh figs in their post, The Perfect Fall Cheese Platter. Doesn’t it just seem right? And look at that rustic plank cheese board! Swoon.

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Courtesy of Honestly Yum

Above all remember it’s all about good times with good friends! (I keep telling myself that too!)

 

Loving Lately 🎓

Loving Lately: Learning

Can I just get a shout out for perpetual learners? Students of life… Most of the time I wear this title proudly. I mean, there’s always room to grow and more to know. Especially since things are constantly changing. Kudos to accountants out there keeping up with the tax laws, and lawyers out there keeping up with legislation. I’m baffled by computer people always stepping up their firewalls and encryption games while the hackers consistently rise to the challenge. I won’t even start to get into all of the science and medical data that constantly proves itself wrong with the latest testing. But sometimes wouldn’t it just be nice to know the answers?

Afterall, I only want to know how to run a blog! Thankfully there are many people willing to share their information. Take for example the husband and wife team from PinchofYum.com. He handles the technical stuff and she does the recipes; together they’ve been pretty successful and kindly enough they tell us how!

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Click here for info on How To Start a Food Blog from Pinch of Yum

Like my dad says “I could fill a library with the stuff I don’t know.” Isn’t that the truth! However, school is in session: for the kids and their momma.  And I’m trying to cram as much knowledge as I can. If you know me at all, you know I have nothing else to do. 😉

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For 10 Tips of Working From Home Like a Pro by MyDomaine click here

I recently read tips from one of my favorite blogger/instagram-ers, What’s Gaby Cooking about how to make an editorial calendar. She likes to schedule with her photographer and stylist, in the studio, 4-6 weeks out.  (Wow.) I’m not going to hide it, that sounds amazing.

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For the info by Gaby click here.

Another of my faves, she’s local… but she doesn’t know it- was recently doing a shoot, I think for her cookbook coming out next year or the video promotions associated with it? Anyway, Rachel Schultz thank you for keeping it real and showing a little behind the scenes.

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For more about the shoot and Rachel Schultz click here

Needless to say, I have a long way to go.

Loving Lately 🗓

Loving Lately: Organization

I’ve always been a somewhat organized person. I’m a little self-diagnosed OCD, or type A… or both, whatever you want to call it. I like to think I was doing pretty good until child number three. After child number four, I lost (ahem) some control. Firstly let me say, “I know there are people with more kids than me.” Secondly let me say, “I don’t know how they do it!” Oh I’m so tired right now. Okay, back to organization.

Organization is key. Even if you are one of those crazy desk, sticky notes everywhere mad geniuses- you have a system. (I am not that person, although on many special days when you walk through my front door you might mislabel me as that person- without the genius.) I appreciate order, a place for everything and all of that. So when all of the toys start piling up and I feel like exploding, I beg my husband to rent a dumpster and park it in the driveway. True story. But then my more practical side takes over; I push up my sleeves and start to declutter. DECLUTTER, I love that word. Let’s simplify. Three piles: keep, donate and throw away. Ahhh. (Perhaps a fourth pile named “garage sale” if you are so inclined.)

Also, I’ve been reading articles on organized/successful people that seemingly have it all together. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Make your bed in the morning. This is something I do already, it adds a sense of tidy even if everything else is in chaos. It’s good for my mental health.
  • Make to do lists. I’ve been getting better about this. I’ve actually been pretty okay (how’s that for a description?) at writing things down, I’m just actually getting better about following up on the lists and scratching them off upon completion. Yes. One article I read suggested keeping a list at the side of your bed. I like that idea since I (and probably most people) think of things I need to do while I winding down- coincidentally enough.
  • Use a calendar. This is right up here with lists, and if you have a planner you probably have them combined. Since I have a house of 6 people with different appointments, check-ups and sport activities, etc. I have to have a calendar, because I am ridiculous I prefer a paper calendar (as opposed to electronic) that I most often leave at home. (…a work in progress)
  • Meal plan. Oh my gosh, I wish I was this awesome. What professionalism! I really wing it way too often. But who knows, maybe one day Sadie’s Nest will feature a whole section on meal planning. It really does make sense on so many levels. And you get to make and scratch off more lists- bonus.

Of course there are tips on sorting, labeling, shelving, folding… One day at a time. I feel really successful when the dishes are done, a load is in the laundry machine and everyone’s teeth are brushed. (And all of the toys are gone. Just kidding. Sorta.)

 

 

Simple Summer Entertaining

It occurs to me that I haven’t contributed to my entertaining section of my blog in a while. And although I haven’t hosted any major gatherings lately, there have been several little ones. So here are some tips for those awesome summer days that turn into impromptu gatherings. I just love this time of year. 

1. Invite (or cordially accept) your friends over. Maybe the people you hung out with on the 4th of July? You probably like them.

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2. Whether you are sending out informal invites (phone calls or texts) or the neighborhood has migrated to your back yard, serve snacks. Everyone wants to eat- usually right away, and in my experience often all day. Keep corn chips and salsa on hand at all times. (If you happen to have avocados, tomatoes, onions and seasonings, a little guacamole is a fun seasonal treat.) Of course most kids (and adults) I know are happy with Doritos too.

3. The same goes with drinks. Sure it’s nice to have a cooler full of chilled pop (or whatever you like). If you have the time to stock up on beverages great! Maybe you have a limited budget? Hey, no worries, it’s just nice to be together… but at least serve water… iced is even better… and if you have time for lemon or limeade, they’re just classic.

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4. Just add water. In the northern midwest we have a short season where it is desirable to be wet while we are outside. I like to take full advantage of it. You don’t have to have a pool or pond or lake… The kids I know are happy with a sprinkler or slip ‘n slide or good old fashioned balloon fight!

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5. Now you are not obligated by any means to feed everyone a meal unless you have said you would, but I can’t imagine another way. If you’re not prepared, it’s always fun to order pizza. I think it’s a good idea to keep hot dogs and buns on hand all summer long. We’ve had parties where everyone brings their own meat (and/or veggie patties) to grill which can be fun too. Of course it’s always a winner when you put burgers and brats over the flame. Can you smell the summer in the air?

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6. The fun is not over until you serve something sweet. It can be cheap and store bought. It can be thoughtfully homemade. My suggestion? Make it something that’s going to melt. Popsicles or ice cream cones… Sticky chins and drips down shirts are what memories are made of this time of year.

 

Best Cookie Bars Ever and Tips for Making Them Great

You are probably familiar with cookie bars, from Magic to 7 layer. I don’t discriminate against cookie bars, I love them all. They are my fall back, go to, SOP (Standard Operating Procedure; my husband is an engineer) for every event all year round. For my very knit close group of friends, who get together regularly, we often bring a dish to impromptu gatherings. I go straight to the cookie bars. They never let me down.

As organic as possible:

1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter

9 Graham crackers, full sheets (I like Annie’s Organic)

14 oz Sweetened condensed milk (1 can or Trader Joe’s organic bottle)

1/2 cup Crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp Vanilla

1/2 cup Coconut

1 cup Chocolate chips

1 cup Chopped hazelnuts

Okay, here’s the drill. Preheat the oven to 325º for a glass pan, 350º for metal. In a ziplock or mortar and pestle type set up, smash the graham crackers until fine crumbs. Place the stick of butter in a 13X9 baking dish and let melt in the oven. Continue to leave in the oven a couple more minutes until browned (not burned). In the mean time, in a sauce pan over medium-low heat, warm condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla just until smooth. Remove from heat. When butter is a little browned and bubbly, (using oven safe gloves or hot pads) remove the dish from the oven and move around, letting melted butter coat the whole bottom of the pan. Add the crumbs to the butter making an even layer. Press down gently using your hands or the bottom of a glass. Pour condensed milk mixture over the graham cracker crust and gently smooth to make it even. Sprinkle the coconut flakes over the milky peanut butter. Scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the coconut. Sprinkle chopped nuts on the top of the chocolate. Carefully pat the toppings down. Bake 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, cut into squares and serve.

Tip #1 Use good ingredients! I love Annie’s Organic Graham Crackers, they are sweet and perfect all by themselves.

Tip #2 Use Salted Butter! For this recipe, a salty bite on the crust is what you need.

Tip #3 Brown your butter! It just adds that je ne sais quoi.

Tip #4 Use crunchy peanut butter! We are building layers of texture and flavor here, it all matters.

Tip #5 A little coconut goes along way. Too much does not make it better in this case!

Tip #6 Use milk chocolate! Everybody likes milk chocolate.

Tip #7 Hazelnuts have a great crunch! (chopped peanuts are the next best thing) And great bars have crunch.

Tip #8 Layer bars are best served at room temperature. It allows all of the flavors to shine.

Tip #9 Share! Because something this good should be had by all.

Loving Lately ❤️

Welcome to my first edition of “Loving Lately!” Don’t you love it when you make a commitment, oh say like posting a weekly something on your blog, and unforeseen circumstances, for example; I don’t know, your 97 year old dear friend is hospitalized for dehydration, take precedence? So it’s time to post somethings you are really excited about and dedicated to sharing, but you haven’t. So you are left updating your post all morning so that every time someone looks at it, it’s different and you are completely inconsistent, which is the total opposite of what you have in mind… Welcome to my nest!

I have so many things to share!

1st Love of Late (actually for a while): Exodus Sandals (pictured above courtesy of Exodus Sandals)

All materials in Exodus Sandals are made in the USA. They are a “barefoot shoe.” It’s an ultralight easy wearing shoe that will comfortably stay on your foot from water to land or hike. It’s also a minimalist shoe in concept, in that there are few pieces, and they are hand crafted. I have a pair of the “XO original” sandals, but they come in a few varieties and colors depending on your preference and terrain. They are awesome! And you can find them at http://exodussandals.com

2nd Love: Mòz Extra Virgin Olive Oil


A few months ago I visited the Marco Island Farmer’s Market with my mother-in-law (who happens to be a regular) for the first time. Since it was still chilly in Michigan, the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables was a warm welcome (let alone the sunshine and warm temperatures). The array of breads, baked goods, cheeses, and artisan crafted foods were fantastic. One of the vendors that caught my eye had a large selection of olive oils and various crafted condiments. After sampling a few, it didn’t take long to fall in love. Mòz is an extra virgin olive oil from Portugal. The vendor aptly described it as if “olive oil and butter had a baby.” He was right. It’s yummilicious.

It’s pricier than my regular organic olive oil that I use for cooking and baking. I recommend using it as a finishing oil, to drizzle on a soup or salad, or for dipping bread; someway that you will be tasting it directly and want to taste deliciousness. http://www.oliveoiloftheworld.com

3rd Love Lately: The Shine Brush


I’d like to introduce to you “The Shine Brush” via “The Wet Brush,” maybe you’ve already met. After bath brush outs are less than enjoyable to either party (loathe). I can honestly say this brush has made it more bearable.  But don’t limit yourself to just wet hair, and the whole family uses it (not just the long haired)! I found mine at Ulta, and they often have coupons on-line and in their mailers. (Another tip, for long hair is starting at the bottom and working your way up… And sulfate free hair conditioners).

Thank you for visiting my first installment of Loving Lately! I have a lot of loves, it’s hard to limit them to a few… many more to come! If you have any suggestions of products and websites to check out, please contact me!