cheese

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Yesterday evening Jonathan and I hosted a little wine and cheese tasting garden party for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (the one where you are supposed to eat dairy- basically, my favorite holiday ever!). A friend brought plums from her tree and it was fun to see the early fruits of the garden, including blackberries that will arrive in a month or two.

I am no wine connoisseur, but I did some research online to find wine/cheese combinations that went well together, and then came up with simple, no-cook appetizer ideas using each cheese to pair with 5 different wines (ranging from bubbly to after-dinner port). I learned that when pairing cheese and wine, it’s best to match similarities in flavor (like a light fruity wine with a light cheese/fruit appetizer) or go for complete contrast, (like a sweet robust port paired with a pungent blue cheese like gorgonzola). It’s fun to take your time and pay attention to how the flavors dance in your mouth! I think they are best enjoyed in this order:

  1. Prosecco: spread camembert (a brie-like) cheese on a toasted piece of baguette, top with a peach slice, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
  2. Pinot Grigio: spread fresh whole milk ricotta cheese on a toasted piece of baguette and top with lemon zest and honey. See more details on that recipe in this post.
  3. Pinot Noir: stack a cube of watermelon, a cube of feta and a leaf of mint on a toothpick.
  4. Cabernet Sauvignon: top a slice of sharp white cheddar with a slice of crisp green apple, then sprinkle with honey and black pepper.
  5. Port: put a smear of creamy gorgonzola on a leaf of purple endive and top with a red grape or 2.

Happy summer entertaining!

xx Erin

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A couple weeks ago we threw our 2nd annual Grilled Cheese Party. It was so good last year that we just had to do it again! We were celebrating my friend Nicole’s and my birthday. In the house, we had a table made up with all the fixin’s: several different types of breads and cheeses (all labeled with washi tape), plus lots of spreads and toppings. We had garlic aioli, mayo, fig jam, several mustards, caramelized onions, and arugula, to name a few. Each person made up their sandwich then brought it outside to Jonathan, who was manning the grill, with our biggest skillet and a tub of butter. This way, we could all be outside together and no one was stuck in the kitchen! Coming hot off the grill they are absolutely delicious…I think food cooked outside always tastes better :) Plus, when entertaining outdoors in the winter (even in California) it helps to have a hot grill to stand around to keep warm.

For dessert we had a brownie cake and a pear pie, topped with the cutest bees wax birthday candles from Mohawk Valley Trading Company. I also decorated the deck outside with some of their other candles that they gifted me- I just love them. I have been trying to keep things more “all-natural” around the house, so I like that these candles don’t give off any toxic fumes when burned. Plus, they have a lovely subtle scent of honey.

As the sun went down, we put a big screen outside on the deck, bundled up with blankets and watched a movie around the fire pit. 

Make a wish!

xx, Erin

Butternut Quesadillas

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Corn tortilla quesadillas filled with mashed roasted butternut squash, Manchego cheese and fresh thyme! I recently made a big batch of these for a party and they were great. They’d be perfect for a Superbowl party because you can make them ahead and keep them warm in the oven- just slice before serving. 

For more photos and recipe details click over to my post today on Better Homes & Gardens’ blog, Delish Dish.

Thanksgiving Appetizers in Santa Barbara

I’m always looking for easy, tasty holiday party hors d'oeuvres, and these Pesto Puffs were a hit last weekend at my family’s Thanksgiving celebration in Santa Barbara. 

Every year we head to my aunt and uncle’s beach house for a weekend of cooking, eating, and surfing. My job is always to prepare appetizers for everyone to sample as we cook all afternoon. These puffs were easy to make ahead and they work warm or at room temperature. The cheese has a tendency to ooze out a bit when they are baked, so use a baking sheet with a rim. A couple of my cousins were on cocktail duty: there was a big pitcher of spicy Bloody Marys in the morning, and at cocktail hour my cousin walked around with a tray of Manhattans and adorable Apple Cider cocktails garnished with cinnamon sticks. Before dinner, all the ladies take an annual walk to collect flowers, bark, leaves and vines to decorate the table, and then we eat at sunset. When I was in college, I lived just a couple blocks away…ever since then, I’ve decided it’s my favorite place on earth- can’t wait to go back!

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View from the deck at my aunt & uncle's house

View from the deck at my aunt & uncle's house

I have no idea how to cook a turkey (just pretending here!!) I stick to the veggies. Bottom right: my cousin Vanessa passes out Apple Cider cocktails.

I have no idea how to cook a turkey (just pretending here!!) I stick to the veggies. Bottom right: my cousin Vanessa passes out Apple Cider cocktails.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Other holiday party appetizer ideas:

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

Cucumber Caprese Bites

Radishes with Butter

Roasted Broccoli with Feta & Chickpeas

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Roasted Broccoli with Feta & Chickpeas! A super easy side that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner (or lunch!), or for entertaining because it can be made ahead and is great at room temperature. Click on over to see my full post and the detailed recipe on the Better Homes & Gardens blog.