Better Bakery Handcrafted Sandwiches (With a Side of Sunshine)

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Better Bakery. While I have been compensated for my work, all thoughts and opinions expressed below are mine.

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe and Better Bakery Handcrafted Artisan Melts

It’s no secret that I don’t have the most adventurous eaters in my family. I wouldn’t classify them as picky (although each individual member has their quirks), but I certainly don’t have free reign in the kitchen to serve whatever I want. At least, not if I want everyone to eat a square meal with minimal complaining. So, let’s not call them picky. Let’s call them challenging.

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe

Most of the time I’m up for the challenge. I enjoy cooking, and I love trying to expand their boundaries little by little. Family dinner is very important to me. I’ve learned over the years how to do this without freaking anyone out (for the most part) by following a few rules:

1. Mix tried and true classics (like my most-requested tacos) with a new dish in the weekly menu plan. If the new recipe is a bomb, tacos (or whatever other beloved meal) is on deck for another day.

2. Always balance new foods with foods I know everyone likes. If it’s a new main dish, I make sure all the sides are pleasers. If it’s a new side, I pair it with a familiar protein, bread and fruit.

3. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it. If you try it and don’t like it, thanks to Rule #2 you’ll still have plenty to eat.

4. There is no backup meal. I’m not a short order cook, so what you see is what you get. Again, thanks to Rule #2 you won’t starve. And thanks to Rule #1, something you like better will make an appearance another night.

5. If at first you don’t succeed (and it’s not a dry-heaving failure like the Brussels Sprout Incident of 2009), try again. And again. And about twenty more times. One day you’ll serve cucumbers for the twenty-first time and they will like them.

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe

Side dishes probably give me more grief than any other cooking I do. It’s so easy to get into a rut, especially when the people you cook for aren’t very adventurous in the fruit and vegetable department. If I’m not careful, we’ll end up eating the same rotation of green beans-corn-carrots-apple slices every week. Reminding myself of Rule #5 has helped expand our side dish repertoire to include many dishes I never thought we’d all happily eat (though not, sadly, Brussels sprouts).

These Spiced Clementines are just one example. For years I only bought canned mandarin oranges. We’d all eat them half-heartedly, but we weren’t excited about them. They just kind of took up space on the table and filled in for our daily fruit requirement. I love buying clementines during the winter, when they’re in season and so reasonably priced. Tossing a clementine in a lunch box is fine, but for sit-down meals I like to serve my sides with a little more flair.

Spiced Clementines have flair alright – they’re like a side of sunshine. Not only are they easy to make ahead of time, they’re pretty to serve and delicious to eat. Taking a food your kids already like and preparing it in a slightly different way shows them that familiar ingredients can be enjoyable in a variety of ways. Playing with new flavorings and spices, such as cloves and star anise, opens them up to trying new flavors. Eventually that can open picky palates up to entire new foods and flavor profiles.

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe and Better Bakery Handcrafted Artisan Melts

I paired these Spiced Clementines with Better Bakery Handcrafted Melts. These tasty hand-rolled sandwiches go from freezer to the table in twenty-two minutes or less. I love the Chicken & Bacon Club, while the rest of my family reaches for the Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza. With a batch of Spiced Clementines in the fridge and a stash of Better Bakery sandwiches in the freezer, we’re never more than a few minutes away from one of those mythical square meals with no complaining!

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe and Better Bakery Handcrafted Artisan Melts

Spiced Clementines

This dish is a great way to use up those last few sad, slightly shriveled clementines you might normally throw away. Even the driest and saddest of clementines will perk up in the spiced syrup and taste fantastic! Bonus: when the clementines are gone the leftover spiced syrup makes an excellent sweetener stirred into coffee or tea. You can substitute tangerines or mandarin oranges for the clementines. Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves (whole)
1 star anise pod
8 clementines, peeled and sliced

DIRECTIONS

Bring water, sugar and spices to a simmer over medium-high heat. Allow to simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Place clementines in a heat-safe bowl and pour hot spiced syrup over them. Let clementines rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Better Bakery Handcrafted Artisan Melts at Walmart

Made by hand in small batches, Better Bakery sandwiches are a tasty, easy and kid-friendly meal option you can feel good about serving. Look for Better Bakery Handcrafted Melts, including Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza and the Chicken & Bacon Club, in the frozen aisle at Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, HEB and Harris Teeter. While checking out all the offerings online, be sure to print out a coupon to save $1.50!

 Clementines with Spiced Syrup: a bright and cheery winter side dish recipe that uses cinnamon, cloves and star anise to spice up the clementine. Makes a delicious kid-friendly fruit side dish for lunch, dinner or snack time.

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When It Comes To Just Dance 2016 We Have No Control

As of today, there are 22 days until Christmas. In my home, that means that the creation of the holiday wish list is in full frenzy. It starts just before Thanksgiving and grows exponentially as the season progresses (Eli’s list can grow by 5 items a day if he’s watching something with commercials), culminating in a few last minute requests as we set the table for Christmas Eve dinner.

Tween Christmas List

The kids know that more items on a wish list don’t translate into more presents under the tree, but I don’t stop them from dreaming. They always wake up full of joy and wonder, even if 90% of the wish list never materializes. I remember spending hours with the telephone book-sized JC Penney catalog, carefully writing out each and every thing I might want, complete with price and item number to make it as easy as possible for my parents and Santa. I don’t recall a single gift that came from those impossibly long lists, but I have plenty of warm and fuzzy memories of dreaming of what might be. So I don’t worry that Eli’s list is a mile long or that Elena had the audacity to ask for braces one year. Kids aren’t greedy – they’re just holiday dreamers.

Still, over the years Mike and I have struggled to find balance in fulfilling their holiday wishes. In the frenzy of holiday spirit and Black Friday/Cyber Monday “deals” that seem to last for weeks as opposed to days, it’s easy to get swept up in buying. Some years we’ve purchased a set number of gifts, other years we’ve gone with the template of “something you want, something you need, something you wear and something you read.” Santa brings each child one special gift and fills the stockings. Even with our mindfulness towards excess and overspending, Christmas in the Six home still brings with it a significant price tag and an influx of things that lose their specialness long before the winter snow has melted.

For that reason, we’re trying something drastically different this year. Instead of buying gifts for Elena and Eli, we’re presenting them with a very special family gift on Christmas morning. I can’t give details on the off chance that one of my offspring decides this would be a fine time to catch up on Mom’s blog, but we’re very excited about it. We sat them down over lunch last week to share this with them, as we didn’t want to spring such a drastic change in the way we do Christmas as they’re coming down the stairs Christmas morning. We started off the conversation quite seriously, with Mike beginning: “We’re doing something different for Christmas this year.” Before we could say anything more, Eli chimed in. “We’re going to church?”

After several minutes of laughing followed by serious questioning regarding the religious upbringing of our kids, we moved on to the details. Santa will still visit, you’ll still have something to unwrap, and we think you’re really going to love what we have planned. They were satisfied, we’re excited, and yes – we’ll go to church on Christmas Eve … like we always do, Eli. Even with this knowledge, it hasn’t stopped the excitement of creating their holiday wish lists. Their lists are drastically different both in length and in interests (Eli’s is all over the place, Elena’s is 99% music and art), but there is one item that made it on both lists as soon as they knew it was an option: Just Dance 2016.

Just Dance 2016 Xbox One Smartphone Controller App

We’ve been huge fans of the Just Dance series of video games since I won a copy in a dance-off. (Yes, you read that right.) We’ve been known to plan entire parties around an excuse to dance with our friends, young and old. Of all the video games we own, Just Dance is the only one that our entire family enjoys playing together. Last year we switched gaming platforms, moving from the Wii to the Xbox. We were beyond bummed when we realized that without the Kinect Sensor we couldn’t play the game we loved. When I learned that Just Dance 2016 comes with a sweet new feature which allows players on new-gen consoles (like our Xbox One) to use a smartphone to play in lieu of the Kinect Sensor, I knew we had to have it.

Thanks to the Clever Girls, we had the chance to move Just Dance 2016 from our holiday wish list to our basement gaming station. The kids were so excited to open up this early Christmas gift and get their groove on. And just like every previous version of Just Dance we’ve ever owned, Just Dance 2016 is an instant hit with the whole family.

Just Dance 2016 Xbox One Smartphone Controller App

Setting up the Just Dance Controller App through iTunes is super easy and fast. We have several generations of iPhones and iPod Touches, and it works equally well on all of them. All you need is iOS 6.0 or greater along with a Wii U, Playstation 4 or Xbox One console. The app is also available on the Windows Store and Google Play.

Just Dance 2016 Xbox One Smartphone Controller App

Just Dance 2016 Xbox One Smartphone Controller App

And just how good is the track selection in the newest version of Just Dance? Well, there’s “No Control” from One Direction on it. I’m sorry – did we need any other tracks? I will master Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” before the new year begins. Elena and I might’ve squealed when we saw “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease in the tracklist. Just Dance 2016 continues the tradition of offering some of today’s hottest and well-known pop tunes with tracks that will appeal to all generations of players.

If you’re looking for a fun family gift that will get everyone moving, dancing and laughing no matter their age or skill level, you can’t go wrong with Just Dance 2016. The fun will last long after the last pine needle is vacuumed up, and it might even offset a few of the Christmas cookies consumed over the holidays. Check out Just Dance 2016, with information on compatible gaming consoles and a complete tracklist, here.

Just Dance 2016 Xbox One Smartphone Controller App

I can’t wait to fill you in on our big Christmas surprise! Until then, you can check out my tips for a simpler Christmas. Looking for more holiday inspiration? Visit my Pinterest Christmas Board. Happy Holidays!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Build the Perfect Cheese and Charcuterie Board

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WelcomeToIndiana #CollectiveBias

Tips for setting up the perfect cheese and charcuterie board. Use this recipe to build a cheese platter that’s simple to make, looks stunning, and tastes out of this world! #Collective Bias #WelcomeToIndiana #ad

It seemed like such a fantastic idea at the time. I was hosting my first grown-up housewarming party, and it only seemed fitting that I serve sophisticated and beautiful cheese and charcuterie board, as all adults do. It was perfectly executed in my head. Standing at the cheese counter, surrounded by an array of cheese, I found myself overwhelmed and confused. Unlike picking up a pre-prepared tray or cooking a tried-and-true dish, there is no recipe for the perfect cheese and charcuterie board. Or is there?

A cheese and charcuterie board always sounds wonderful, but when it comes to creating one on your own it can be intimidating. What kind of cheese should I buy? How much should I buy? What pairs well together? Through trial and error, I’ve discovered a no-fail recipe for a cheese and charcuterie board. It’s easier to put together than you think and it fulfills the party trifecta: simple to make, looks stunning, and tastes out of this world.

Tips for setting up the perfect cheese and charcuterie board. Use this recipe to build a cheese platter that’s simple to make, looks stunning, and tastes out of this world!

In the past, following my recipe created a delicious board. Unfortunately it also created a hassle: finding all the ingredients to compose a cheese and charcuterie board meant driving to several different stores. But not anymore! A few weeks ago I attended the grand opening of a new kind of store in central Indiana. Market District, located at 11505 N. Illinois Street in Carmel, is more than a grocery store. It’s a food-lover’s destination shopping experience. There’s nothing else like it in Indiana. In the 120,000-square-foot store shoppers will find a fine-dining restaurant, a café, a full-service bakery, an extensive meat, seafood and produce department, and a grocery store with the traditional products and aisles.

Market District Cheese Shop Carmel Indiana

Market District Cheese Shop Carmel Indiana

What drew me in and blew me away, however, was the Cheese Shop. Containing more than 400 artisan, local and imported cheeses, over 100 varieties of deli meats and a tasty assortment of imported olives and antipasti, I’d finally found my one-stop shop for the perfect cheese and charcuterie board (and every other party need as well)! Even better, the Market District Cheese Shop is so very helpful when it comes to the intimidating task of selecting cheeses. Not only are they friendly and knowledgeable, but they are happy to let you sample cheeses and encourage you to try before you buy.

Tips for setting up the perfect cheese and charcuterie board. Use this recipe to build a cheese platter that’s simple to make, looks stunning, and tastes out of this world!

Here’s what you’ll need to build your very own cheese and charcuterie board:

Servingware

  • Platter or cutting board: I use a thick wooden cutting board. The goal here is to build your cheese and charcuterie board on something that provides a pretty backdrop as well as a sturdy surface to cut harder cheeses. Hefty platters (not your finest china) work well, as do marble, wood or slate boards.
  • Small bowls and jars: For holding toothpicks and accompaniments
  • Toothpicks
  • Appropriately sized serving spoons and knives: If you don’t own a special set of cheese knives, don’t panic! You can make do (as I’ve done) with small forks, spreaders and knives.

Tips for setting up the perfect cheese and charcuterie board. Use this recipe to build a cheese platter that’s simple to make, looks stunning, and tastes out of this world!

Hard and Soft Cheeses (3 to 5 varieties)

I’m not sure where I first heard it, but when choosing cheeses I like to follow the formula “something old, something new, something goat, something blue.”

  • Old: When selecting an old cheese (which tastes way better than it sounds!), think along the lines of something firm and possibly crumbly, with lots of flavor. Examples of such cheeses are cheddar, manchego or gouda.
  • New: A new cheese is usually softer and hasn’t aged long. Some common new cheeses are mozzarella, burrata, and ricotta.
  • Goat: Goat cheese is made from goat’s milk. Most people think of chèvre (soft goat cheese), but there are many other types as well.
  • Blue: Blue cheese can range from mild to very strong. The blue comes from the cheese being inoculated with mold and allowed to age.

There are no real rules, though. If you hate goat cheese of any kind, skip it! The goal is to have a beautiful board that reflects your tastes. When estimating how much cheese to purchase, assume 4 oz of cheese per person.

Tips for setting up the perfect cheese and charcuterie board. Use this recipe to build a cheese platter that’s simple to make, looks stunning, and tastes out of this world!

Charcuterie (1 or 2 selections)

This is completely personal preference. I love all the cured meats! Common choices include salami, prosciutto, chorizo, paté or terrine.

Tips for setting up the perfect cheese and charcuterie board. Use this recipe to build a cheese platter that’s simple to make, looks stunning, and tastes out of this world!

Accompaniments (Choose bread and/or crackers, plus any others that strike your fancy)

  • Bread and/or crackers
  • Fruit (dried and/or fresh)
  • Nuts
  • Olives, pickles or other antipasti
  • Fruit spread or jam

Putting It All Together

Think of your board as a clean canvas and arrange your selections like art. I like to place the cheese around the board and then fill in with the charcuterie and accompaniments. Trust me – there’s no right way to arrange your board! Cheese and charcuterie should be serves at room temperature. If you’re worried about the cheese drying out, you can lightly cover it with a damp cloth until serving.

Tips for setting up the perfect cheese and charcuterie board. Use this recipe to build a cheese platter that’s simple to make, looks stunning, and tastes out of this world!

As for details on this specific board I assembled, I opted for a local theme. I was so pleased by the availability of many unique and delicious local cheeses and charcuterie at Market District that I knew I wanted to build a board around those items. I used:

  • Steckler Grassfed Bright Meadow Organic Chedder Cheese
  • Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese Barren County Bleu
  • Capriole Goat Cheese Wabash Cannonball
  • Jacobs & Brichford Farmstead Cheese Everton
  • Tulip Tree Creamery Trillium
  • Smoking Goose Gin and Juice Salame
  • Mixed olives from Market District Antipasti Bar
  • Dried figs and black pepper cashews from Market District Bulk Foods
  • Fig jam
  • Apples
  • Market District Petite Toast

A cheese and charcuterie board is a fantastic addition to your own party or to bring as a dish to share. Serve the perfect cheese and charcuterie board that’s tailored to your own tastes and budget at your next gathering and watch everyone’s eyes light up and mouths water! Just follow this simple formula and fill in with one-stop shopping at Market District’s Cheese Shop. Need more inspiration? Check out the Market District website for more information on their products, articles and recipes.

In the meantime, I’d love to know: what’s one thing you’ll fight people for on a cheese and charcuterie board?

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