2 Easy Recipes for the Perfect Holiday Gathering

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How to Create the Perfect Cheese Board

With parties, gift exchanges and a dozen potlucks this holiday season, it's easy to run out of ideas and cash for all the different events. And with everyone competing to be the next Martha Stewart hostess with the mostess, the holidays tend to get a little out of hand. But do not worry I am here to rescue you and your holiday with 2 simple recipes that will please any Martha wannabe and even a critical mother in law ;) 

So where to start... Well with an awesome cheese board it's a guaranteed crowd pleaser and a well put together cheese board that will make you a professional hostess. Plus you can switch out the ingredients depending on the time of year. Get it local and seasonal to keep it green. =) 

Depending on the number of guests you are expecting I would pick anywhere from 2-4 hard and soft cheeses. Having a variety of hard and soft cheeses gives each palette an equal opportunity for something they will love.  This cheese board is made for 4-6 people, a small gathering. It's much easier to scale up your cheese board for more guests than down.  For my hard cheese which I made the star of the cheese board is the King Of Cheese Parmigiano Reggiano. This gorgeous wedge was aged 24 months and is all natural, it is made with just three ingredients and made in Italy. I absolutely love using this cheese because Parmigiano Reggiano is naturally lactose-free, which is great for those with dietary needs. It's also a really versatile cheese, pairing nicely with just about everything, from fruits, veggies, baked goods and not to mention wine. 

My favorite thing to add to a cheese board is a warm salad like I mentioned before I wanted the 24 months aged Parmigiano Reggiano to be the star of the board. To showcase the flavors of the cheese I grated it over my roasted Brussels sprout, bacon, and cran-raisin salad. Absolute Perfection! The Brussel sprout salad adds the saltiness to the board that you are looking for, to balance the sweetness of the fruits. As a counterpart to the hard cheese, I chose a lovely soft cheese like a Goat or Havarti. I also make sure that the ingredients I place on the rest of the board support both kinds of cheese equally. Pick from sweeter fruits like grapes, apples, and pears. Depending on the season choose cherries, figs, or dates. 

From there it's the cracker who needs to get a lot of attention, whether you go with one or variety I try to create a depth of favors. A plain butter cracker isn't the crowd-pleaser it used to be, try something with a multi-grain or a hint of sweet or salty but do not choose a cracker or bread who's ingredients overpower the cheese. If you are going to use a bread instead or in partnership with a cracker make sure the beard is toasted and sliced thin and quartered to provide an easier eating experience. When a group is standing and talking find ways to make it as easy to eat in a polite way as possible. I love to finish the cheese board off with a warm nut, I chose a roasted cinnamon almond for the bit of sweet crunch.  

The final piece to the cheese board is the board itself. Forget the cheese plate or serving platter, I love to use brown paper. You can buy a roll of brown paper or reuse the brown paper bags you receive at the grocery stores. Now that more and more cities are eliminating plastic bags are opting in for reusable bags and brown bags, your cheese board just went green. Plus it's a few fewer dishes to clean later. Score big for you!! 

I cut the brown bag up the side and trim off the bottom portion and handles. You can lay the bag or bags out flat or fold over, a one piece or multiple pieces depending on how you design your table. Take a permanent marker or a chalk pen, I use a circular shape like a small cup to create the perfect place to showcase the name of the items. Add guest names or a holiday message and if you are really crafty, holiday-specific designs. Show your creativity and have a little fun, layout small plates, linen napkins and some glasses of wine and you are all set. 

How to Create the Perfect Fall Sangria 

To go with this amazing cheese board I paired it with this fantastic fall sangria. It's so easy to make and such a crowd pleaser, plus it looks as beautiful as it tastes. Start by heating the apple cider, apples and cinnamon sticks until it starts to boil. Once it's reached a boil turn off the pan and remove it from the heat. Let the mixture cool then move it to a pitcher do not strain. Add the red wine of your choosing to the pitcher and give it a quick stir. You can serve either warm or over ice, depending on the guest request. I love to make the sangria 12 - 24 hours ahead so all the wonderful flavors soak in. Garnish with an apple slice and cinnamon stick. Cheers! 

Using these two recipes I know your gathering will be a complete hit! Eat your heart out Martha wannabes. Just kidding