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!

Autumn Sangria

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The temperatures have finally dropped and it finally feels like fall! I love fall! Until the first snow lands, of course.  Not that I need an excuse to make a pitcher of sangria, but this Autumn Sangria is the perfect thing to sip on during these colorful and brisk fall months.  Also, isn’t the word autumn fabulous? And you can describe autumn things by using an even better word, autumnal!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe came about, not from necessity, but from an idea to make our favorite sangria taste seasonal.  My sister, Ally, and I love to visit Rockwell Republic in downtown Grand Rapids not only for their fantastic sushi and happy hour deals, but also for their mixed sangria.  I’m not sure exactly what their recipe is, but this tastes similar, with a fall twist.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Autumn Sangria

1 cup Crown Royal Apple

1 cup pomegranate juice

1 cup red wine (use dry or sweet depending on your taste)

1 cup crisp, dry white wine (this helps the apple flavor pop)

1 cinnamon stick

1 each honey-crisp apple, nectarine, plum, pear

1/2 cup apple juice

1 bottle prosecco or champagne

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Photography by Allyson Regan

In a large pitcher, combine the crown, juices, and wines.  Heat the cinnamon stick over heat until fragrant and add in.  Feel free to cut the fruit however you like to munch on it, but I sliced them super thin on a mandolin which helped the fruit to absorb the flavors faster.  Add the fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Fill with several ice cubes and top with a bottle of bubbly!  Serve with your favorite friends around a cozy bonfire.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheers!

September 2018 Recap

September felt like it flew by!  The weather was so unpredictable that it truly didn’t feel like summer was over until last week.  At least not in Michigan!  So let’s take a minute to look back on the awesome things we featured on the blog.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This guacamole was one of my favorite ways to use my grill unconventionally.  And it was so good! It’s such an interesting combination and when we posted it, you could find both corn and poblanos at the farmers markets.  When Ally and I shoot, we like to have others around to help us eat the delicious food, but we were content to take a guac-break this time and devour this whole bowl!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Next up is my Kale and Avocado Caesar Salad, which is so simple and so yummy!  I think I ate this for a week straight before we finally posted it on the blog.  Ally loves this salad because it’s filling and easy to prep for work lunches.  You can also be so creative with this recipe, so it’s great to add it in to your meal rotation.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I couldn’t wait to post this Eggs Benedict Recipe because its just a classic breakfast staple that I think any foodie/home cook should try!  Plus, it’s a huge crowd pleaser and it has that wow factor.  Don’t forget, always make more hollandaise than you think!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Chipotle and Butternut Squash Risotto was the perfect segue into fall cooking and baking.  Risotto is one of my favorite dishes/meals to make and this version is definitely going to be repeated many times this fall. Can’t squash my fall spirit!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

One of the most unique posts we did this month was a wine subscription review of Bright Cellars.  This was so cool because I love this service and it was fun to share with you all!  It was a little different than the regular posts that I do, but I want to start doing some more fun posts like this!  If you have any products or services that you love that you think I should check out or review, let me know in the comments!

I know that we posted a lot of delicious recipes in September, but look for a couple more unique posts in October!

My New Wine Obsession

You guys.  I’m definitely a wine-o, and sometimes going to the same store to get wine just gets old.  I also have this weird thing where I love the subscription box idea.  I’ve done other wine boxes, a snack box, workout clothing box, grocery box, and even a coffee box and I just love the simplicity of a monthly delivery of my favorite things!  I always want to be as transparent as possible on my little corner of the internet, so I want to be clear that I’m not being compensated by anyone to write this blog post.  I just really like this product and want to share the products I love!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

So let’s talk about how it works!  Click on this link, Bright Cellars, which will direct you to the companies website.  From there, you take a flavor profile quiz which is super easy and takes less than 5 minutes.  Your personal wine concierge then creates your box which contains 4 wines.  If you’ve tried other wine boxes like this one, please comment below and let me know if I should try them!  One of the reasons I love this box is that the customer service is really great and quick with their responses.  My wine concierge emails me minutes after I review my wines and uses that information to create a better box for me the following month.  Pictured above is the first box I received, and I loved 2 out of the four wines!  The other two wines were still good, and while it was really fun to try these new wines, I learned that I wouldn’t want to buy them again.

One of the wines in particular stood out to me and I will definitely be ordering another bottle.  It is the 2017 Zweigelt from Herz & Heim Vineyards.  This grape varietal is from Austria, and this particular vintage has notes of warm baking spices, dark berry flavors, and medium bodied.  I enjoyed this wine with a really great grilled steak and late summer vegetables, which paired really nicely.  It’s currently sold out, but I hope it comes back soon!

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So if you’d like to give this a try, click the link here, and you’ll receive two free bottles on your first box! This is a $30 credit, which is like getting 4 bottles of wine for $30.  The only thing that is a bit of a hassle with this box, is that you need to have someone with a valid ID over 21 to sign for the box upon delivery.  If I know that I won’t be home to receive the box, I usually just call FedEx after it has shipped and ask them to hold it at my nearest Walgreens which I can then pick up at anytime!

Once I open up the bottles from my second box I just received, I’ll post again about my favorites!  Feel free to leave a comment about your experiences with wine boxes like this or any other great subscription box.

Cheers!

Mimosas: Otherwise It Would Just Be Juice

It’s only Tuesday, but I can’t be the only one dreaming about the weekend.  Brunch is a good idea year-round, but summer is almost begging us to invite our friends over, make some delicious food, and pop some bottles.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you know how to make a good mimosa.  Or you know how to drink good mimosas.  But I have some tips and tricks for making a great mimosa bar, and a fantastic mimosa.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, most importantly, you will need decent bubbly.  Choose from prosecco, Champagne, sparkling wine, or anything with actual bubbles and alcohol.  My go-to is prosecco, especially since I tend to drink dryer wines.  If you have buckets of cash lying around, empty them out and buy yourself some fancy Champagne from Champagne!  My favorite brand of prosecco is Freixenet, however I also like the Belletti Brand shown below and both options are very affordable.  Keep in mind that the juices will add sweetness and you don’t want the finished beverage to be too sweet.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Next, you’ll need fruit/mix-ins and juices.  My go-to choices include fresh berries, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, and the classic orange juice.  Fresh fruit is always a good choice, as is citrus segments.  Think raspberries, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, strawberries, cranberries, currants, grapefruit, orange, blood orange.  Now, you can go crazy with juices.  I usually have orange juice, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, mango juice, pineapple juice and anything else you can think of juicing.  The best part about parties with mimosa bars, is that everyone gets to make the exact drink they want, and they can also try new combinations!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Ratios are also very important when discussing mimosas.  I generally stick to a 1:3 juice to bubbly ratio.  My guests have never complained.  Also, the order in which you add the items to the glass is important.  You want to add the juice first, then when you add the bubbly, it will mix together nicely.  If you add the fruit before the bubbly, it will cause an absurd amount of excess bubbles to form, so its better to garnish afterwards.  You don’t want to run out of anything, so 3 juice options should be enough, and buy enough bubbly knowing that you will get about 6 mimosas per bottle.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

So dust off your champagne flutes, call your friends, and stock your fridge!  Also, I’m now available for left-handed modeling gigs.

Cheers!

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Photography by Allyson Regan (who loves mimosas BTW)

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

SWEET: granular, powdered, brown, slow like honey or molasses.  The mouth-coating sugars in milk.  Once, when we were wild, sugar intoxticated us, the first narcotic we craved and languished in.  We’ve tamed it, refined it, but the juice from a peach still runs like a flash flood.                                                                  -Excerpt from Sweetbitter, pg. 8

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I bought this book because a reader that I follow on Instagram listed it as one of her top reads for the year last year.  I added it to my reading stack because I kept reading other reviews about how enticing and phenomenal it was.  And when I started seeing trailers for a show based off the book, I decided to skip a couple of other books in my pile and begin this one.

This is the story of Tess, a young girl who ran away from her mundane life to start over in New York City.  She finds herself in an interview at a well-known NYC restaurant and gets the job.  She learns quickly how much she needs to learn to be successful.  She finds herself deep in the trenches of how tolling and exhausting the industry can be.  But she also finds herself forming a palate, and learning about wine and food.  And heartbreak.

TASTE, Chef said, is all about balance.  The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter.  Now your tongue is coded.  A certain connoisseurship of taste, a mark of how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet.                                                                                                                                 -Excerpt from Sweetbitter, pg. 17

This book is the unabashed, painfully truthful life of a young person finding themselves in the hospitality industry.  The only other book that I’ve ever read that accurately portrays what happens behind service is Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.  While I work in this industry, my own personal experience has been very different than Tess’.  But the restaurant life in New York is also a lot different from Grand Rapids.  The content and language can be a bit raunchy at times, but so can life behind the bar.  It just goes to show you that when you go out for a meal, often, it’s never ever just dinner.

The prose and descriptions so accurate I could taste the peaches and fresh figs intrigued me in the beginning.  But the story line keep me immersed in the novel.  I read this book in huge gulps, chugging, binging, finding myself finishing it within 4 days.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that’s ever worked in the industry, to anyone thats struggling to find purpose in their life, and to anyone that loves oysters on the half shell with champagne.

Some tomatoes tasted like water, and some like summer lightning.                                                                                                                                              -Excerpt from Sweetbitter, pg. 40