Fall Cheese Board

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheese boards are one of my favorite things to break out when I’m entertaining.  Especially if your guests are arriving around dinner time and you still have some finishing touches to put on the meal.  Plus, they are super easy to put together and chances are that you already have most of this stuff in your kitchen!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The tricky thing is trying to figure out just how much ‘stuff’ you need for your board.  This depends on how many people, how long they will be snacking, and if you have plates for them to load up or if they are just picking off the board itself.  For the cheese board I created for this post, it would easily serve 4 people for an hour or so.  But it could also easily serve my sister and I, on a girls night, when we are splitting a bottle of wine and not planning on eating a real meal.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

As a general rule, I like to stick to the rule of threes; three cheeses, three meats, three cracker-type things, and three extras.  You don’t have to to this by any means, but I think it helps to provide a good mix of options while not crowding the board.  For the cheeses, stick to crowd favorites and maybe have one wild card that people might have never had before.  For this board, I used sharp cheddar, fresh mozzarella marinated in pesto, and pecorino.  If you do choose a soft cheese, like goat cheese, you might want to add a preserve or jam to your board to complement it.  Semi-soft cheese do well when they are marinated, and hard cheeses I normally leave alone.  If you’re trying to locate good cheese in the GR area, try Martha’s Vineyard, they have a great selection of artisanal cheese (and meats! and wines!) and you can get just the amount that you need.  As far as for selecting the meats, I like to do one spicy (like a sharp pepperoni or spicy salami), one classic (I’m a sucker for prosciutto and I don’t think I’ve ever made a cheese board without it!), and one crowd favorite (for me this is usually a mild salami).  The crackers are where you can stay pretty basic or get really creative!  I found these breadsticks just at Meijer, and I think they add a nice height to the board that you normally don’t see.  I also used pita crackers, and regular ritz crackers.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The extras are the fun part!  I love using dried fruits and nuts, but I also put fresh champagne grapes on here.  I normally don’t see these at the market, but I’m glad I picked them up!  They taste sweeter than regular grapes, and they are so tiny and adorable!  You can add all sorts of extras to you cheese board, like fresh berries, preserves, figs, olives, fresh fruit, dips, spread, and so much more! If you’re looking for a great cheese board and more inspiration, head over here to check out an amazing one!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

All that’s left now is to enjoy!  Also, if you’re looking for an easy way to stock up on wine before your get-together, check out Bright Cellars!  They’re doing a great deal right now where if you follow this link, you’ll get a $50 credit on your first order!

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Chipotle & Butternut Squash Risotto

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Photography by Allyson Regan

It seems as though fall can’t quite make up it’s mind quite yet here in Michigan.  We had a delightfully chilly week last week, and this week is like the muggiest heat all summer!  But nevertheless, butternut squash persists, and has hit the grocery stores.  This is one of my all time favorite new recipes!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

If you know me well, you know that second only to pasta, risotto is one of my very favorite meals to make.  I fall in love with the process every single time.  The attention to detail, taking the time to toast the rice, the constant stirring, the careful eye watching for the perfect moment to serve, it’s glorious!  When I was about to turn 21, I was the most excited to be able to finally buy wine to make a proper risotto.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Chipotle & Butternut Squash Risotto

1 large butternut squash

1 small can of chipotle peppers, in adobo

olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

3 cups of stock, I prefer chicken

2 tbsp butter

1 small yellow onion, small diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 cup good white wine

Goat cheese, optional

salt and pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Peel and cut the squash into a small dice.  Puree the chipotle peppers with the sauce in the can until smooth.  Toss the squash with 2 tbsp (less if you don’t like a lot of spice) and a drizzle of olive oil.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until soft.  Once cooled, puree 2/3 of the squash.

To start the risotto, begin by melting the butter in a heavy bottomed pot.  Slowly caramelize the onion and garlic, over medium low heat.  Raise the heat to medium, and add the rice, tossing it to cover well with the butter.  Cook until the rice begins to take on color and smell toasted.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, taking care to scrap the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  This kicks off the stirring marathon.  Stir evenly, and once the wine has been absorbed, add in 1/3 cup of warmed stock.  Continue to repeat stirring and adding the stock.  The ratio of 1 cup of arborio rice to 3 cups of stock is tried and true in my kitchen, however, if you end up stirring unevenly or cooking on too high of a temperature, you may need more stock.  When you are about to add the last bit of stock, add in the squash puree from earlier.  Once the stock has been absorbed, add in the goat cheese.  If you are holding this warm for a bit, add in another 2 tbsp of butter which will help the risotto to keep from globbing together.  Yes, in addition to making risotto, we are also making up words.  Finally, taste and season to your liking.  Top each bowl with the roasted squash and more cheese.  Enjoy!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Just a note, you probably won’t use that whole can of chipotle peppers, but save them in your fridge.  I love to add this puree to my chili to deepen the flavor, or you can toss mushrooms with this puree, oil, and brown sugar and roast to create a very umami-esque taste.

 

Kale & Avocado Caesar Salad

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Fall always seems like a chaotic time, even if you don’t have little ones heading to school.  With football always on, pumpkins and apples to pick, winterizing to prepare for, it can sometimes be difficult to eat well.  This salad is one of my go to meals, especially after eating football food for a weekend.  It’s super simple and very easy to make your own.  And it looks almost too pretty to eat!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

To start, you’ll need kale (I usually buy the pre-cut bagged stuff), tomatoes, crusty bread, avocados, a good hard cheese (I love pecorino or parmesan in this), and your favorite caesar dressing.  I’m a huge fan of Marzetti’s Simply Dressed Caesar dressing.  It has great flavor and it has no preservatives! And it has anchovies which makes it a true caesar.  Make sure to wash the kale really well, lots of dirt likes to hide in the crevices.  Cut your bread into bite-size pieces and toast until crunchy.  Halve or quarter the tomatoes, depending on the size.  Toss the kale with a good amount of dressing.  I like to do this first so that the kale has time to soften a bit.  Add in the tomatoes, croutons, avocado chunks, and shredded cheese.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This is a great dish because it’s full of fiber and great nutrition while still making you feel full.  If you need to make this into more of a meal, its great with chicken, steak, or even bacon bits on top!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Enjoy!

Burrata: The Better Mozzarella

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Let’s talk cheese.  If you like mozzarella and good food in general, you’ll love burrata.  Trust me. It’s creamy and fresh, texturally unique compared to other cheese, and so versatile.  If you want to learn more about the process behind making fresh cheese, check it out here!  Or you can read about it here.

Burrata is traditionally from the Apulia region in Italy and is made with water buffalo’s milk or cow’s milk.  It is a thin shell of mozzarella holding in a creamy mixture called stracciatella, which is basically cream and strings of mozzarella curd.  I first had burrata when I was in Italy and we visited a mozzarella factory.  The burrata in Italy tastes different, mostly because the cream they use is the naturally separated cream from the milk, and in the U.S., cream that is mechanically separated is normally used.  The flavor difference also comes from the type of milk used.  The burrata that you can get most commonly in America is made from cow’s milk.

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Here in the midwest, it can be difficult to track down this cheese.  My go-to place is called Martha’s Vineyard.  They usually have burrata in stock and if they don’t, they are pretty good about letting you know when they will have it next.  If you aren’t in Grand Rapids, you should be able to find it at any local specialty wine or cheese shop.

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The brand that I used for this cheese plate (let’s be real….. I ate this for lunch) is called Liuzzi Cheese,  The flavor is really great and it lends itself well to a lot of different dishes and flavors.  It is made in Conneticut, but it is owned by two Italian borthers.  My favorite thing to do is pair it with really great heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, balsamic reduction, good extra virgin olive oil, and toasted crostinis.  Oh and lots and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.

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I’ve also melted this on sourdough bread with pesto or chipotle aioli and thick cut tomatoes in a grilled cheese.  Or you can melt it on top of a seared chicken breast or top a risotto.  Either way, give it a try and I’m sure you’ll love it!

Want to read more about burrata? Check out these links below.

Bon Appetit

Fine Dining Lovers

Culture Cheese Magazine

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Enjoy!