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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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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King Arthur Flour Lemon Squares

I had a few lemons hanging around my produce drawer for the last couple of weeks.  For some reason, Eli was quite taken with them.  Like a cat hearing a can of tuna being opened, every time I opened the fridge he came running.  He’d make a beeline for the produce drawer and pull out the lemons.  Only to him, they’re not lemons, they’re “lemonades.” He would then commence lemonade playtime: rolling the lemons, “cooking” the lemons, trying to smash the lemons in the potato ricer.  The lemons were hanging on for dear life, and it was high time I put them out of their misery.

I pulled out my brand-spankin’ new cookbook The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.  It’s a hefty book: 500 pages of cookie recipes along with tips, hints and troubleshooting advice for nearly every cookie imaginable.  I won the cookbook through a contest on one of my favorite food blogs, Serious Eats.  One of their recurring features is a series called “Cook the Book,” where they choose a popular cookbook and cook several recipes from the book.  I love how it gives you a peek into a cookbook along with real experiences of using the cookbook.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever purchased a cookbook and then realized the recipes were impossible to execute or terribly impractical.  You too?  Anyhow, whenever they feature a cookbook, they also giveaway a few copies of the book.  Lucky me, I was the winner-winner-chicken-dinner.

There’s an entire chapter dedicated to Bars & Squares.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of bars and squares.  Sometimes I want to make something cookie-like, but I lack the motivation to go the extra mile and actually, like, roll out the dough or drop it onto a cookie sheet.  Sometimes the option to throw the dough into a bar pan is the only thing that prevents me from just whipping up a batch of dough and eating it raw.  So let’s pause and give thanks for Bars & Squares.

By now I imagine you’d like me to just shut up already and tell you what I made with the pitiful lemons.  Behold the Lemon Squares:

Lemon Bars

Please make these.  They were wonderful, like biting into sunshine in the middle of winter, and came together in less than 45 minutes.  And that’s 45 minutes with a toddler helping me, which means you could probably whip them out all by yourself in no time flat.  My helper is a disaster in the kitchen, but he sure is cute.

Helper

I hate to be a snob about these kind of things, but this is a recipe where you’ll only want to use actual lemons.  The lemons are the star here, so bottled lemon juice just won’t do the trick.  Don’t worry about using the prettiest or freshest lemons – my old, abused lemons were more than fine.  The recipe also calls for lemon zest, for which there is no substitute as far as I’m concerned.  If you don’t have one of these handy Microplane combination zester/graters, please go get one now.  They’re cheap and fabulous and everyone will think you’re the next Iron Chef when you whip one out.  I’ve had mine for five years now, and just the other day I came across Pioneer Woman’s tip to run the Microplane upside down over whatever you’re grating or zesting.  That’s life-changing advice right there.

IMG_0632

Lemon Squares 

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion

Makes 16 squares

These can be served immediately after cooling.  Any leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator.  If you can summon enough willpower, these taste even better the next day.  And probably even better the day after that, but I wouldn’t know.  They were long gone by then.

Crust

1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (1 ounce) confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Topping

4 large eggs

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups (4 ounces) lemon juice

1/4 cup (1 ounce) unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons grated lemon rind (zest)

Confectioners’ sugar

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Lightly grease a 9 x 9-inch, 11 x 7-inch, or similar-sized pan (I used an 8 x 8-inch pan and it worked just fine)
  • To assemble the crust:  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Using a pastry blender, your fingers (or a toddler’s fingers), or a mixer, cut in the butter, mixing to form coarse crumbs.  Press the crumbs into the prepared pan.  Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until it’s light brown.
  • To make the topping:  In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the eggs, granulated sugar, and lemon juice until smooth.  Stir in the flour, salt, and lemon zest.
  • Pour the topping over the hot crust, return the pan to the oven, and continue baking for about 25 minutes, or until the top of the squares appears set.  Remove from oven and cool in the pan.  Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before cutting and serving.

Classic lemon bars made with King Arthur Flour for a tender, buttery crust topped with a tart, lemon-filled curd. The best lemon bar recipe I’ve ever made!

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