Quick Fixes For Hurried Holidays


Spread out a selection of cheeses for quick entertaining.

Spread out a selection of cheeses for quick entertaining.

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October is coming to a close and that means the frantic pace of the holiday season is just on the horizon.

Start making meal plans now to keep that slow cooker cranked up when those in-the-door-out-again days hit. But is you need a quick fix for an impromptu gathering or something to tide hungry mouths over, consider appetizers.

Three gourmet cheese plate pairings

Appetizers are the perfect way to have fun without the stress of creating a multi-course meal. And when the question of what to serve arises and you need an easy-yet-impressive solution, cheese plates are ideal and don’t take a lot of effort.

If a cheese plate sounds too basic, think again. It’s all about balancing tastes, textures and visual appeal with a variety of fun food and beverage pairings. Plus, it’s a great conversation starter to get your guests interacting.

Luckily, if you’re in a rush on the day of your gathering, a cheese plate is easy to put together in minutes – no cooking necessary. Just plan to include three to five cheeses per platter – estimate about 3 to 4 ounces of cheese per person – and arrange your choices on a pretty dish or tray.

There are infinite ways to create a cheese plate. Consider these simple suggestions for a bit of inspiration:

• Play with variety and contrast. Include cheeses in a range of textures, from soft to semi-hard to crumbly or hard, that have a range of flavor profiles. Consider combinations like a soft and creamy brie, a harder aged cheese like Stella Sharp Provolone and a crumbly Salemville blue cheese.

• Start mild and move to strong. Give your guests a tastebud tour of the many different flavors fine cheeses have to offer. Present a trio of options with varied intensity of flavor including an appealingly tangy chevre like Organic Creamery goat cheese, a buttery Gouda and a bold cheese like Black Creek Extra Sharp Cheddar.

• Shake it up with unusual cheeses. Give guests the opportunity to try cheeses they might not have had before. It’s the perfect way for them to sample something that could become a new favorite. Look for cheeses with unique ingredients, like Great Midwest Mango Fire Cheddar, which has habanero pepper and the rich sweetness of mango.

It’s a great idea to set out some other small food items that pair nicely with cheese, like Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, Marcona almonds, grilled vegetables, sliced fruit or even chocolate.

Easy-to-create cheese plates will save time and allow you to enjoy friends and family. For more pairing ideas that will make your party memorable, visit www.dcicheeseco.com/entertaining-pairing.

Cheese is also a good solution for kid-friendly snacks that grown-ups will enjoy.

Cheese is versatile, nutritious and can add zest to snacks and family-friendly dishes. And with a broad array of appetizing flavors such as Gouda, Provolone and Pepper Jack, available from Borden® Cheese, the options are boundless.

Here are a few cheesy snack ideas that you and the kids will enjoy making as much as you enjoy eating.

• Walking tacos - Layer taco meat, tomatoes, lettuce and shredded cheese in individual serving-sized bags of corn chips. Top them off with sour cream, guacamole or salsa, then eat them with a fork, right out of the bag.

• Kebabs - Alternate chunks of ham, grapes, and cheese cut into shapes with a small cookie cutter.

• String cheese dippers - Roll string cheese in breadcrumbs and bake. Serve warm with marinara sauce for dipping.

• Mini quesadillas - Sandwich cheese, shredded chicken and salsa in between two tortillas. Bake until cheese has melted. Slice into triangles with a pizza cutter, and serve with salsa and sour cream.

• Pinwheel wraps — Spread a thin layer of ranch dressing on a flour tortilla. Layer sliced cheese and ham on top. Roll up, and cut into bite-sized pinwheels.

You can also try these Pizza Bagel Snacks and Italian Rosemary Cheese Straws. Both recipes use Borden Cheese, which is made by a cooperative that is 100 percent farmer-owned. This means that for every product purchased, 100 percent of its proceeds go back to hard-working American dairy farmers and their families.

For more information about Borden Cheese or to check out some more cheesy recipes, visit www.FriendsOfElsie.com.

Pizza Bagel Snacks

2 bagels, halved

1/3 cup pasta sauce

1 cup Borden Mozzarella Part-Skim Regular Shredded Cheese Toppings of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Halve two bagels, and top them with the pasta sauce, cheese and toppings of your choice. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and melted.

Suggestions for toppings are thin slices of hot dogs, sliced ham or any lunch meat, pepperoni, browned hamburger, mushrooms, diced green peppers, chopped onions and black olive slices. Be creative with toppings that your family likes.

Italian Rosemary Cheese Straws

1/2 package puff pastry

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt with parsley

1 cup Borden Colby and Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Unfold pastry sheet; cut into half-inch strips. Combine egg, rosemary and seasoning; whisk to blend. Brush evenly over pastry strips.

Sprinkle a half-cup of cheese over the top, and press into dough with rolling pin. Twist strips; place on greased baking sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden. Top with remaining cheese; bake 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Source: Borden Cheese

Looking for a sweet or two to have on hand during this busy time of year?

Fifteen-Minute Holiday Treats

Usually holiday time means cookie time, but with the demands of the holiday season it’s not always possible to spend hours baking. This year, try fast and fun holiday cookie-inspired Chex Party Mix recipes that bring your favorite flavors to life in just 15-minutes in the microwave.

Sugar Cookie Chex Party Mix and Iced Pumpkin Chex Mix are delicious, fun and easy to make.

For a quick and easy hostess gift, line seasonal tins with tissue paper and fill them up with your favorite mix, or try packaging your mix in cellophane bags or festive cupcake cups and then decorate them with festive ribbons and stickers for a fun holiday party treat.

Get more 15-minute Chex Party Mix recipes and entertaining tips at www.chexpartymixchange.com.

Sugar Cookie Chex® Party Mix

Preparation time: 15 minutes; makes: 14, half-cup servings

6 cups Rice Chex® cereal

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 ounce white baking chocolate or 1/4 cup vanilla milk chips

1 to 2 teaspoons colored edible glitter or sugar sprinkles

Measure cereal in large microwaveable bowl. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper or foil.

In 2-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave butter uncovered on High 30 seconds or until melted. Add sugar and corn syrup; microwave uncovered on High 30 seconds until mixture is heated and can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.

Microwave uncovered on High 2 minutes, stirring after1 minute. Sprinkle with powdered sugar; mix well.

Spread on waxed paper or foil. Microwave white chocolate on High 30 seconds or until it can be stirred smooth; drizzle over top; sprinkle with edible glitter or colored candies.

Tip: For an easy way to apply powdered sugar, pour sugar into a large freezer zip-type bag. After removing snack mix from microwave, let stand in bowl 1 to 2 minutes to cool, then pour into bag and shake.

Iced Pumpkin Chex® Mix

Preparation time: 15 Minutes; makes: 14, half-cup servings

2 cups Cinnamon Chex® cereal

2 cups Wheat Chex® cereal

2 cups Honey Nut Chex® cereal

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream Cheese Icing

1, 1-ounce square premium white chocolate

1 ounce cream cheese, softened

In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals and pumpkin seeds.

Line cookie sheet with waxed paper or foil.

In small bowl, mix brown sugar, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice; set aside.

In 2-cup microwaveable measuring cup, microwave butter on High about 30 seconds or until melted. Add pumpkin mixture; microwave about 30 seconds, or until hot. Stir in vanilla.

Pour pumpkin-butter mixture over cereal and seeds, stirring until evenly coated. Microwave uncovered on High 5 minutes or until mixture begins to brown, stirring every minute. Spread on waxed paper to cool.

While mix is cooling, melt white chocolate in microwave on High 30 seconds; stir in softened cream cheese. Drizzle over top of mix; refrigerate 5 minutes or until set. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Tip: For easy drizzling, spoon the glaze into a small food-storage bag. Snip off one bottom corner and squeeze over the cereal mixture.

© 2012 General Mills — Source: Chex

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