Showing posts with label appetizer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label appetizer. Show all posts
The 3 Secrets To Make Beautiful And Delicious Charcuterie Boards

The 3 Secrets To Make Beautiful And Delicious Charcuterie Boards

For this week's post, I joined forces with charcuterie extraordinaire and Pullman, WA local Audrey, from A La Board NW. She specializes in charcuterie and cheese boards for catering local events. I was so excited to sit down with her, learn her top tips for creating charcuterie boards at home, and nibble on some of these delicious goodies.

Charcuterie boards offer many options, satisfy a number of cravings, and also cater to dietary restrictions. Since every guest gets to choose what they eat, charcuterie boards are great for anyone with gluten-free, vegetarian, and low carb diets! They're perfect for casual girls nights or elegant Thanksgiving dinners, and the smallest of celebrations to the greatest of gatherings. While they're packed with complex flavors and look beautiful, they are very simple to assemble - especially when you know these 3 secrets!

As much content as this guide has, it really is as simple as pulling cheeses, meats, crackers, and produce out of your fridge and cupboards, throwing it on a cutting board, and arranging it to please the mind's eye. The best boards are made from curiosity and creativity - plus a little wine to help you get there!

Secret #1: What To Buy

The good news is, cheese and cured meats go with almost everything! But below are some general guidelines for cheese, meats, sides and starches. 

Cheese: When it comes to cheese, some things to consider are what type of animals' milk is used, where the cheese is made, the smell, the texture, and even the color. Some people love goat cheese, while others prefer sharper/drier cows milk cheeses. An overall good rule of thumb is to grab a few wedges of everything - that way everyone has something they like! For example, my favorite cheeses to grab for charcuterie boards are: cheddar, brie and goats cheese. Even though I don't personally love goat cheese, a lot of people do, and I'm happy with the cheddar and brie. 

Meat: Most cured meats are made from pork: salame, prosciuto, coppa, soprassata, Serrano ham, etc. They are all packed with flavor and texture, and are enjoyed by many meat eaters. Things to consider when purchasing are spice level, cost, and how easy they are to prepare. Coppa and prosciutto can be a little more expensive, but are a delicious treat. If you prefer salame and soprassatta, grab a few different types for variety. 

Fruits and Vegetables: When choosing sides such as fruits and vegetables, consider what might pair well with your cheeses, meats and drinks you're serving. Most charcuterie boards will have fruits like grapes, berries, cherrise, apples, pears, figs, peaches, cantaloupe, apricots, plums, etc. These fruits provide a lot of color and flavor, and can be prepared in bite-sized pieces. The best vegetables to accompany charcuterie boards are usually picked - they taste amazing paired with meats and cheese! Picked asparagus, green beans, olives, artichokes and cornichons (baby pickles), are all great options. 

Bread and Crackers: Neutral crackers and slices of baguette are perfect to accompany all the flavor in your meats and cheeses. Triscuits or Carrs Water Crackers are great options, and my personal favorite is toasted baguette! Neutral crackers pair with pretty much everything, and you can add flavor with the spreads below! If you really like flavored crackers, aim for rosemary or garlic! For toasted baguettte (my favorite), slice the baguette in 1/3 inch sections, lightly dust with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, and voila!

Spreads: One of my favorite ways to add extra interest and excitement in charcuterie boards is to serve it with spreads! Spreads that I often use are mustards, jams, and honey. Mustards add spice, zest, mild sweetness, and a light bitterness that kicks your bite up a notch. Jams pair really well with softer cheeses and fatty meats.

Secret #2: How Much To Buy

This can be a tricky one, when you're standing in the grocery store staring at the cheese selection. Do I need 3 or 4 wedges? Is that too little? What if I have a ton leftover?

Well, here's a little trick-of-the-trade formula so you never have to second guess again! First, figure out how many people you're serving. Typically serving sizes for meats, cheeses and starches are around 1 ounce, and the normal serving size for fruits and vegetables is 2-3 ounces.

What does this mean? Let's say you're expecting 10 guests. You will need total:

  • 10 ounces of each cheese
  • 10 ounces of each meat
  • 20-30 ounces of fruit
  • 20-30 ounces of vegetables 
  • 10 ounces of crackers or bread 
Some people will enjoy more, and some will enjoy less, and this formula accounts for that. Pretty easy, right? 

Secret #3: How To Assemble Charcuterie Boards 

You've chosen all your items, you have the perfect amount of each, and now it's time to assemble your board!

You'll notice that the prettiest charcuterie boards focus on variation in textures and colors. For example, bright red cherries alongside a wedge of creamy brie make both foods stand out and instantly look more appetizing.

Start by laying out your starches, taking up about 1/3 of the board. Add your cheeses in separate spots of the board, and place your meats in between. Then fill in any empty spots with fruit, nuts, extra crackers - whatever looks good to you! Nestle small containers of mustards and jams in between. (For these boards, we used shot glasses for the condiments. They're the perfect size, and inexpensive!)

Remember to have fun with your charcuterie boards! Mix up your flavors each time and experiment with what you like best! 

If you're local and are interested in more information on charcuterie board catering options, you can email Audrey here, and be sure to follow her on Instagram to stay up to date on where she's serving next!

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Kirsten Bell
Strawberry Basil Crostini

Strawberry Basil Crostini

One of my favorite meals of all time is just a table full of appetizers. It's such a fun way to get bites of a lot of different flavors, and everyone can decide how little (or how much!) they want to eat! A few weeks ago I shared super delicious Fig, Brie & Prosciutto Rolls, which are perfect for an appetizer party! And today's recipe are these seriously delicious Strawberry Basil Crostini. A perfect mix of sweet from the fruit and savory from the cheese, your guests will never want cocktail hour to end!

Want To Pin This Recipe? Click Below!

I'm so excited to serve these crostini at spring picnics, summer brunches and Mother's Day! Can I tell you a secret though - I'm not usually a fan of goat cheese. Or stronger cheeses in general. But in these, I'm obsessed. I use cream cheese mixed with the goat cheese to soften the flavor, and it's beyond delicious. With the strawberries and basil - total perfection! But honestly I also ate the leftovers it on its own with crackers!


1/2 half cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honeyA fresh baguette
4 oz herb and garlic goat cheese, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
12 strawberries, thinly sliced


Combine the balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is thickened. Allow to cool completely.

Combine the goat cheese and cream cheese in a medium bowl with a spatula. Slice the baguette, and toast in the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes if you'd like the bread to be toasty, but keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Spread each piece of bread with a generous amount of the cheese, and top with the sliced strawberries and basil. Drizzle the balsamic blaze over each piece just before serving.

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Kirsten Bell
Fig, Brie & Prosciutto Rolls

Fig, Brie & Prosciutto Rolls

Sometimes my best ideas happen very randomly. A few weeks ago I was at the store, looking for some snacks for a girl's night. I saw fig jam, my brain started to go wild, and these fig, brie and prosciutto rolls were born!

What I love about these rolls is that they're delicious, obviously, but they're also incredibly quick and easy to throw together! The flavor combination makes them taste really fancy too, so the fact that they take about 5 minutes of hands-on time can be our little secret!

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how many people you're wanting to serve. I recommend about two rolls per person, because trust me - nobody will be happy with just one!

Makes 8 Rolls


1 package classic crescent rolls (I used Pillsbury)
4 tablespoons fig jam
5-6 slices prosciutto, diced
8 pieces of brie, about 1 inch squares, 1/4 inch thick
Honey to drizzle


Preheat the oven to 375, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Separate dough into 8 triangles. Spread about half a tablespoon of fig jam on the larger end of the triangle, top with prosciutto and slice of brie.

Roll each triangle, starting at the larger end of the triangle, rolling to opposite point. Place rolls on the prepared baking sheet and bake 11-13 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm and bubbly, drizzled with honey.

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Kirsten Bell
Homemade Garlic Pretzel Bites

Homemade Garlic Pretzel Bites

Warm pretzel bites, fresh from the oven. Is there really anything better? I always thought that pretzels would be hard to make, and I'm not sure where I got that idea from because they're actually pretty easy! These are so delicious fresh and warm, served with some honey mustard or my favorite beer cheese dip.

Makes about 32 pretzel bites


1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast
2 teaspoons garlic powder
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted (divided)
5 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon water
Sea salt


Whisk together the flour and garlic powder in a mixing bowl, and set aside.

Combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture starts to foam. Add the flour mixture and 1 tablespoon butter to the yeast mixture, and mix on low using the hook attachment until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium, and knead until the dough is smooth and isn't sticking at all to the sides of the bowl - about 5 minutes.

Grease a large bowl with the remaining butter (you may not need to use all of it), and move dough to the greased bowl. Cover with plastic, and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. I like to put mine into the oven, preheat the oven to 170, and then immediately turn the oven off once temperature has been reached.

Once the hour of rising is up, remove the dough from the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Bring the water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a large saucepan.

While the water heats, lightly grease a large work surface. Divide the dough into 8 approximately equal chunks, and divide each of those chunks into 4 smaller (approximately equal) bite-sized pieces. (So you'll end up with about 32 pretzel bites.)

Drop about 5 pretzel bites at a time into the boiling water, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove the bites using a large slotted spoon or spatula, and place onto the prepared baking sheets. Brush the top of each bite with some of the egg yolk mixture and sprinkle generously with sea salt.

Bake the bites until golden brown, about 13-15 minutes.

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Kirsten Bell