5/recent 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!



Read more »
Kirsten Bell
0 Comments
One Bowl Peanut Butter Blondies

One Bowl Peanut Butter Blondies


I love quick and easy desserts, and as someone who always dreads doing the dishes, I especially love one bowl desserts! These peanut butter blondies are so delicious, full of creamy peanut butter and melted chocolate. And just dirtying one bowl? Added bonus!

Used In This Recipe: 





I love this peanut butter blondie recipe for picnics, bbqs, or any occasion where I want a dessert idea for a crowd. They're so quick to throw together, and super easy to transport. I pre-cut them at home, wrap them in plastic wrap, and they're good to go!

You'll notice in the recipe below that I mention Justin's peanut butter. It's my favorite, and the flavor is so good! For a recipe with so much peanut butter, that's important! Use whatever peanut butter you personally love! I recommend creamy for this recipe.




Ingredients: 

1 cup peanut butter (I used Justin's creamy peanut butter)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. (This ceramic baking dish is my favorite!)

In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, combine the butter and peanut butter. Melt in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds or until the butter and peanut butter are just liquefied. Mix the two together with a whisk. Whisk in the vanilla, eggs and yolk, and both sugars until well combined. Add flour, salt and baking powder, and combine using a spatula. Add the chocolate chips.

Press the dough into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting in, if you can stand it!



 


Want more dessert ideas? Check out these other recipes! 


Read more »
Kirsten Bell
1 Comments
Refined Sugar Free Blackberry Muffins

Refined Sugar Free Blackberry Muffins




As you know, I'm all about decadent dessert recipes. My Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake comes to mind...or S'mores Cupcakes! But life is all about balance, so I like to throw an easy and healthy recipe idea onto the blog every once in a while too! Especially when it's a healthy and delicious refined sugar free muffin recipe! (Muffins are my weakness.)


These blackberry muffins are sweetened with honey and coconut crystals, for a totally guilt-free dessert or breakfast recipe! They've become my go-to summer breakfast recipe idea. Easy, quick, healthy, delicious. And by the way, I've linked some of my other favorite healthy brunch recipes at the bottom, if you'd like some more ideas!




Makes about 12-18 muffins

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream or full-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup melted salted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, halved

Topping Ingredients: 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup coconut crystals (If you're not worried about the muffins being completely refined sugar free, you can use brown sugar too!)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into pieces

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a muffin tin with liners. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through cinnamon, and set aside.

Prepare the topping: Combine the flour, brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon and salt in a small mixing bowl. Add the butter, and gently mash the ingredients together with a fork. Finish quickly with your fingers until the mixture resembles course crumbs. You can also do this by pulsing together ingredients in your food processor. Stick in the fridge until ready to use. 

In another large bowl, combine the eggs, honey, buttermilk, sour cream, melted butter and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth and all ingredients have come together. Then gently stir in the dry ingredients. You can also do this in your stand mixer if you'd prefer, with the paddle attachment on low speed. Gently stir in the fresh blackberries.

Fill each liner with about 3/4 full of batter, and then top each with the streusel topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Enjoy!





More Healthy Breakfast/Brunch Recipe Inspiration: 


Read more »
Kirsten Bell
0 Comments
5 Tips For Hosting An Easy and Beautiful Summer Picnic

5 Tips For Hosting An Easy and Beautiful Summer Picnic


Happy official first day of summer! What better way to welcome the new season than with a summer picnic? I love spending as much time outdoors during the summer months as possible, to take advantage of the beautiful weather and scenery! So today I'm sharing with you my five tips for hosting a summer picnic!

Below you'll find links to my favorite Juliska outdoor dinnerware, my fun and easy picnic menu, and tips for a perfect picnic. Enjoy, and happy summer!

In This Post: 



Want To Remember These Tips For Your Next Picnic? Click Below!

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/797840890217870937/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/75787206215593469/


1. Plan an easy and delicious menu!


I love picnics where all the items can be assembled before we leave the house, and are ready to go when we get to the park!

Last year when we visited Bordeaux, we had wonderful picnics with delicious and simple sandwiches. I made these with sliced baguette, salted butter, swiss cheese, turkey and fresh sliced tomato. So easy! I wrapped each sandwich in parchment paper, tied the paper with some twine, and tucked a stem of fresh lavender under the tied twine. Then I served them on this beautiful handled tray.

For our cocktail, I chose to serve my Fresh Strawberry Bellinis. It was so easy to mix ahead of time in the acrylic pitcher, and then everyone could serve themselves in their acrylic champagne flutes!

As you might imagine, dessert is one of my favorite parts of the meal! Since it was a beautiful summer day, I decided to serve Homemade Strawberry Shortcakes! This Sectioned Server was so perfect for it! I put divided the strawberries and shortcakes into the outside compartments, and served the whipped cream in the middle.

The Picnic Menu: 

Fresh Strawberry Bellinis
Homemade Strawberry Shortcakes
French inspired sandwiches: Baguette, salted butter, meat and cheese
Summer Salads



 

2. Invest In The Dishware!


In our house have been focusing on reducing waste and choosing eco-friendly options. That's why I was so excited to see that Julisak has an entire line of beautiful melamine plates and serveware, and acrylic drinkware! Using real dishes elevates the picnic, making it feel so much more special for everyone attending. As they say, nobody lingers over a paper plate! And it's not only nicer for your guests, it's also nicer for the environment and your wallet since you only have to buy it once!

I instantly fell in love with the Al Fresco Collection from Juliska. All the items are perfectly suited for outdoor entertaining, and they're all so beautiful! For this picnic, I used these gorgeous dinner plates, these salad plates, these tumblers, these champagne flutes, this melamine handled tray for the sandwiches, this Sectioned Server for the Homemade Strawberry Shortcakes, and this acrylic pitcher for the Strawberry Bellinis!


3. Have A Clean Up Plan


Since we're using real dishes, we've got to get them home somehow! I like to use a few big cardboard boxes. (We usually have lots from our trips to Costco.) I designate one box as the "dirty" box, and all the dishes go in there so they can be easily brought right to the sink when we get home. Then the linens and clean dishes can go in another box and not get dirty! Super simple, right?



4. Pick A Good Spot


When I was looking for a spot for our picnic, I wanted to find a picnic table so that I didn't have to worry about bringing my own table in. If you're not worried about a table, just bring a nice big blanket and set up a casual spot on the grass! Just remember some cutting boards or other flat surfaces for people to set drinks on. My other requirement was a spot in the shade so that everyone was comfortable. The sun gets hot pretty fast, and with my Northern European skin I'm a bit of a wimp haha! I loved looking out at the pond from the table, it was so pretty and our table was even visited by a little family of ducks!


5. Don't Forget To Plan For The Weather


You might have caught my wind fiasco on Instagram stories this past week! I didn't realize that it was such a windy day when I set out for this picnic, and forget to grab tablecloth weights. Oops! It all worked out just fine, but I wished I had taken a quick look at the forecast. So learn from my mistake! It's also great to know if you need a lightweight jacket or to pack the sunscreen!







Want To Remember These Tips For Your Next Picnic? Click The Image Below To Pin It!


https://www.pinterest.com/pin/75787206215593469/

Read more »
Kirsten Bell
1 Comments
Red, White & Blue Fourth of July Cake

Red, White & Blue Fourth of July Cake


You guys, it is full on summer over in my part of the world! We had a really long drawn out winter, short and sweet spring, and I feel like I woke up one day and it was 90 degrees out! I love summer though, so I'm not complaining. As I write this someone is mowing their lawn, and the smell of fresh grass is coming through my open window. Pure summer, right there.

And you know what else is pure summer? This cake! I've always felt like 4th of July really kicks off the summer season. It's officially July, the weather is almost always hot and sunny, and everyone is full into their summer routines. Well believe it or not, the 4th of July is just three short weeks away, and it will be here before we know it. So today I'm sharing my ultimate 4th of July dessert - Red, White and Blue cake!



This delicious cake is beyond perfect for whatever 4th of July event you're planning, and is guaranteed to be the talk of the party. The very best part is cutting into it and seeing those fun colors pop through! Sure to delight kids and adults alike.

One of my favorite things about this cake is that it's so festive before, and after you cut into it. For the sprinkles, I used Sweet and Treats sprinkle mix Stars and Stripes. Very appropriate! For me, a 4 oz bag was enough to decorate the sides of the cakes as well as decorating the top!

 




Cake Ingredients: 

2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup full-fat vanilla yogurt (greek or regular is fine)
1/2 cup buttermilk
Red and blue gel food coloring

Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients:

2 cups butter, softened (4 sticks)
6-8 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream, if needed to thin out the frosting

Cake Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line the bottoms of three 6" cake pans with parchment paper.

Whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through salt.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the sugar until combined. Add in the eggs, vanilla, yogurt and buttermilk and mix on low until all ingredients are incorporated. Then add the flour mixture, mixing on low until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

For A Red, White and Blue Cake: Distribute the cake batter evenly into three bowls of the same weight - I used three large cereal bowls. Using a kitchen scale, distribute the cake batter evenly between the three bowls. Empty one bowl into a prepared cake pan (this will be your white).

For the other two, add red and blue gel food coloring. I recommend this kit! You will want to use gel, because liquid will change the cake consistency. The colors will strengthen slightly as they bake, but make sure that the red and blue look about the color that you want the cake layers to look.

Spoon the red and blue batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Allow to cool about 10 minutes in the cake pans, and then invert the cakes onto a cooling rack with the "top" of the cake down. This will help flatten the cakes. Once the cakes come to room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before frosting.

Buttercream Directions: 

Whip the butter in you stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add vanilla extract. Increase the speed to high, and mix about 2-3 minutes. Add heavy cream if needed.


If you want to see a video of this cake coming together, be sure to follow me on Instagram (@thiscelebratedlife)! I'll be posting it in the next few days, and you won't want to miss it!





Read more »
Kirsten Bell
2 Comments