A Beautiful Charcuterie Board on a Budget

californ-ia-charcuterie-board

Whether I’m hosting a party for 20 or a party for 2 (hello date night!) wine and appetizers are a key element to any successful get together. There is a reason friends and family gather round the kitchen, and it isn’t just for our warming personalities 😉

Lately, I have become obsessed with charcuterie boards. It covers my need to have food on the table but also creates a stunning centerpiece that can be created on a dime and in a moment’s notice.

First, you will need a cutting board as the foundation for your charcuterie platter. I found a 18×24″ pine cutting board at HomeGoods for less than $25–a steal for a board of that size!

Next, you need the pièce de résistance–the food. Traditionally, charcuterie boards consist of meats, cheeses, breads and fruits. Some of my personal favorites, again trying to stay on a dime:

MEAT
Dry Salami
Prosciutto
Sopressata
Capicola

CHEESE
Brie
Swiss
Chèvre (goat cheese)
Burrata/Fresh Mozzarella
Pepper Jack
Manchego

FRUIT
Seedless Grapes (a combination of both white and red grapes will make for a more colorful board)
Pears
Orange Slices
Stuffed Olives (I use either garlic or blue cheese)
Preserves

CARBS
Crackers
Sliced Baguette

Tip: Trader Joe’s has some of the cheapest above items around. You can put together a full board for under $20. Make sure to keep some handy in the fridge for impromptu gatherings!
Charcuterie Boards for inspiration:

 

greek-inspired-antipasto-platter-1-2

Greek inspired antipasto platter by Half Baked Harvest

 

Winter cheese board with blood orange marmalade by Feasting at Home

Winter cheese board with blood orange marmalade by Feasting at Home

 

the-healthy-hour-how-to-make-epic-vegan-platter-recipes-04-1785-2

Vegan cheese platter by The Healthy Hour

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Morning Routine – Drinking Warm Water with Lemon

Lemon Water

As I’m sure we’re all too aware, it’s wedding season, and whether you’re the bride-to-be, the maid-of-honor or a guest trying to look dynamite in that cute little floral number you purchased last month, we’re all thinking and trying to accomplish the same thing—Must. Fit. In. One-Size-Too-Small. Dress. ARG!

I truly try my hardest not to crash diet. I eat fairly healthy on a regular basis but I’m in no way a tyrant when it comes to my eating habits. Did somebody say donut?

I believe in true foods without preservatives, sticking to the outside aisles of the grocery store and cooking at home as often as I can.

One new addition I’ve added to my morning routine and daily intake is a cup of warm water with lemon. I’ve heard rumblings of it being good for you but when I watched Victoria Hodgkins of She’s a Competitor sip her lemony concoction before her morning routine (she’s got a great routine!) I knew there was something to be said there.

I started looking into it and it wasn’t long before I too was replacing my morning cup of Joe with this simplistic home remedy. Warm water with sliced lemon is recognized for all types of health benefits.

Warm water with lemon…

Detoxifies your body
Jump-starts your immune system
Helps digestion
Works wonders for your skin
Freshens your breath
Promotes Healing
Boosts Energy
Aids in weight loss (ding, ding, ding!)

If you’re wondering why warm water opposed to ice water. It’s simple. Warm water is easier to break down than cold water.

I’m not much for hopping on the bandwagon for health tips or remedies but I will say that I really do like this one and have stuck with it. If you’re wanting to try a subtle change to your daily routine to jump-start your healthy habits, this is a very easy one to start with—and a good one!

Let me know how it goes and if you too feel it working!

 

 

Easter Breakfast Bunny Butts

easter_bunny_buttsIf you want a really simple and adorable Easter breakfast recipe, may I recommend bunny butts. No matter what the age, I promise you’ll get a smile or two. And how easy?! We’re talking your basic pancake, some fruits and viola! Bunny butts!

What you’ll need for bunny butts:

6 pancakes (2 circles for head and bum, 4 for ears and feet)
Banana slices, or strawberries, for heel prints
blueberries for toes
Whipped cream for fluffy tail

One recommendation for the perfect bunny butt, make sure to create your whipped bunny tail last, right before serving. The hot pancakes will melt your cute little tail off so make sure your plate is ready to be served!

Hoppy Easter from my table to yours!

 

The Simple Girl’s Pho

Simple to make pho

The first time I was told we were going out for pho (pronounced fuh) I cringed. The idea of going out on the town and actually paying someone for soup is not exactly my idea of a date night. Flash-forward two hours into the date later… I’m officially obsessed with pho.

It’s wonderful, and wonderful for you. It’s warm, flavorful, tangy and I love the whole idea of adding whatever-the-heck you want to it. Want some bean sprouts? Sure! Need some jalapeños? Toss em in. Totally hooked on pho.

Naturally, what Amanda likes, Amanda likes to re-create. I perused my local Vietnamese market and purchased everything I needed to start my own at-home pho. Well… I purchased everything with a picture on it that looked like something I would need for pho.

One word of note before we begin. This is easy girl’s pho. I quickly learned, after I had purchased my ingredients (minus the oxtail bone) that the pho broth alone can take days to create. This recipe will not take you days, it will take you a crock-pot and a few hours—you can read a good book and tip a few wine glasses back while the slow cooker does the work for you!

Ingredients

Broth
5-6 Beef Bones (I seriously used sirloin bones from the night before—the more meat hunks hanging off them the better
1 Large Onion (chopped)
1 Hunk Fresh Ginger (peeled and chopped)
4 Cups Beef Broth
2 Cups Water
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 Stick of Cinnamon
1 tsp Pepper
3 Star of Anise (the little star looking things that come in popery…but don’t use popery)

Toppings
Raw Beef – shaved very thin
1-2 lb Rice Noodles/Rice Sticks

Optional (but recommended!) Toppings
Bean Sprouts
Jalapenos
Basil
Cilantro
Mint Leaves
Limes

Instructions

Combine broth, water, fish sauce, bones and all spices into your crockpot.

On a non-stick baking sheet, oven-broil your diced onions and ginger for about 5 minutes. You’ll want the onions and ginger to be slightly charred but not crispy burnt. Transfer onions and ginger to your crockpot.

Cook on low crock-pot setting for 4-6 hours. Longer if you have the time!

When your broth is ready, you will want to strain it of all solid bits before it comes time to serve. You can use or strainer or a slotted spoon to discard the pieces. If a strainer is used, just make sure to transfer your broth back to the crock-pot when complete—you want to keep your broth hot!

Cook your rice noodles until al dente. Drain and divide among your serving bowls.

To prepare your pho bowls, place your thin slices of beef and cooked noodles into your individual bowls. Ladle the hot broth over top over your beef slices and noodles. The hot broth should cook your meat within moments, turning the meat an grayish opaque color. If some pieces stay slightly pink, do not be alarmed, those are just medium rare-medium pieces but completely safe to consume.

Serve your pho bowls to your guests and let them have fun with all of the toppings you’ve arranged for them on the table.

Makes 4 servings

Enjoy!

Note: When slicing your beef thin, if you have trouble doing so, try flash freezing it for a few moments before you cut it. This will help keep it stiff and easier to cut into thin strips!

Country Style Rhubarb Crumble Crisp – Like Mother Used to Make

Rhubarb Crisp

Like a fresh picked olive or tri-tip cut in Iowa, finding rhubarb in a grocery store in California calls for a celebratory happy dance.

When I told my fellow Californians how excited I was to have found and purchased rhubarb, they starred at the red and green finds blankly. GASP—they have no idea what rhubarb is!

Well, I’ll tell you what rhubarb is. Rhubarb is this amazing sour meets sweet fruit (at least, I think it’s a fruit…I’m totally calling it a fruit) that, when combined with a little sugar and a melt-in-your-mouth crumb topping, becomes one of the absolute best Midwest desserts that will ever meet your taste buds. So if you’re looking to try something new, or if you’re like me and looking for a little piece of back home, it’s time to pick up some rhubarb.

Country Style Rhubarb Crumble Crisp

Ingredients

Filling
5 Cups sliced rhubarb (about 8 stalks)
½ Cup sugar
3 Tbsp. Corn Starch
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg

Crumb Topping
½ Cup Butter, melted
1 Cup Oatmeal/Old Fashioned Oats
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Flour

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together sliced rhubarb, sugar and corn starch. Toss to coat. Pour mixture into a 9×11 greased pan. Set aside.

To make your crumb topping, melt your butter in a bowl and add the rest of your ingredients. Mix ingredients evenly until you have a crumble consistency. Top your rhubarb evenly with your crumb topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice-cream and enjoy!

Good Ol’ Fashioned Pot Roast

Pot Roast

I’m a career girl. I work A LOT. But that doesn’t stop me from cooking up a storm… most days anyway. Yes, I have my off days (mac and cheese, anyone?) but when I can anticipate an extra-long day at the office, those 12 hour-ers that have you crawling home, I try to plan my meals in advance. For those days, I break out what I call my handy-dandy “Freezer Packs.”

A freezer pack is simply fresh veggies, typically potatoes, onions, carrots and celery that I cut up, toss in a zip-lock and throw in the freezer. These little packs are life savers. Ready and willing my little freezer packs sit until they’re needed to save the day. The only other items you need are a crock-pot and a protein of your choosing.

Enter the pot roast—best friend of the freezer pack. I always like to have one of these bad boys in the freezer as well, just waiting for me to pull out when a long day at the office is in the forecast. Together, my freezer pack and slab of pork will make the perfect pair, and the best part, it takes me no time at all!

Make Ahead Freezer Pack

IngredientsIMG_2968
4 Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes (I used whole red potatoes which works equally well)
4 Celery stalks
1 Onion, sliced
4 Carrots, chopped into pieces

Directions
Clean and chop into pieces, all of your vegetables. Place veggies in a zip-lock bag. Close bag and date bag with marker. Place bag in freezer and utilize when needed. Note—you can add (or leave out) any vegetables of your choosing.

Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

Ingredients
2-3lb pork chuck roast
1 Cup beef broth (any broth works, really)
1 Packet onion soup mix
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Freezer pack of vegetables (or you can always use fresh veggies)

Spray crock-pot with cooking spray and turn setting to low. Place pot roast into slow-cooker. Sprinkle half of onion soup mix over pot roast. Top the roast with your vegetables. Pour beef broth over top of vegetables and sprinkle with the remainder of your onion soup mix. Cover and let cook on low setting for 8 hours…or whenever you make it home from the office (wink!) Serves nicely with soda bread or similar. Enjoy!

Coconut Curry with Chickpeas and Swiss Chard

Curry Dish

Do you ever feel that sometimes you fall into a kitchen rut? You’ll look back on last week’s menu and realize that every dish you made was some form of a spaghetti—telling yourself that bowties and Romano taste nothing like rigatoni and parmesan. If you use macaroni instead of linguine, viola, goulash. If you throw cheese a top your pasta leftovers and toss it into the oven for ten minutes, presto, you have a bake.

Yep. I had hit kitchen-lack-luster rock-bottom. I needed to get out of my pasta-solves-everything trench.

I consider myself a well-rounded cook, but I believe every girl has at least one genre they’re scared of. Maybe scared is a poor word, more like, intimidated by. Mine is Asian and Middle Eastern Cuisine. I LOVE the stuff, but truth be told, it’s where I lack the most experience. So to get myself out of my ragu rut, I decided to pull a kitchen 180. Something with spice. Something with sweet. Something with curry.

Coconut Curry with Chickpeas and Swiss Chard
Adapted from The Crepes of Wrath

Ingredients
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion (or half a large yellow onion) chopped
3 Tbsp. green curry paste
2 Tbsp. chili paste (more if you like heat!)
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground ginger
2 cups water
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced

Instructions

Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add in your chopped onion and cook until the onions are softened and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add in the chili paste, curry paste, ginger, salt, ginger, coconut milk, and one cup of the water. Stir to combine and bring to a gentle boil. Add in your chickpeas and the additional cup of water. Reduce your pan to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

After your dish is done simmering for 20 minutes, add in the trimmed and sliced Swiss chard. (If you’ve never trimmed swiss chard, please see my tips below.) Simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Serves 4-6. Great with pita bread!

Note: This recipe works great with all types of meat (beef, chicken, pork, seafood) if you wish to add a protein element as well. I used up leftover chicken thighs and added it to my dish to make it a bit more hearty!

Prep Tips!
Trimming your swiss chard: Since the stalks and the thick/white rib portions of the chard are generally too tough to eat, you’ll want to remove those sections from your dish. Here is a quick, down and dirty demonstration on how to properly trim your swiss chard.