Charcuterie Board

It is impossible for me to indulge in a charcuterie board without reminiscing of wine country vacations with picnic lunches overlooking vineyards. If social distancing has you feeling bored at home and day dreaming about traveling, try creating a vacation-like experience at home with a decorative meat and cheese board and your favorite bottle of vino. 

Last month we spent a wonderful weekend with friends and enjoyed this beautiful and delicious board. This work of art was created by @Noel_Zoeller, also known as the Charcuterie Board Master. Noel shared his framework for achieving variety and balance, so follow his rule of threes and see where your creativity takes you.

Charcuterie Board Framework

  • 3 cheeses
  • 3 meats
  • 3 nuts
  • 3 vegetables
  • 3 fruits
  • 3 crackers or breads

Noel also recommends placing your cheeses on the board first and then building around them, placing complimentary items together. He says fresh herbs are perfect for decoration and elevating your board to the next level.

Cheers to experimenting with charcuterie boards and making the most of your time at home while keeping your family and community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twice-Baked Shrimp Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

These twice-baked potatoes are the perfect balance of sweet and savory. I created this recipe, using leftover baked sweet potatoes, for a fast weeknight dinner for one (just double to serve two). It’s also a great meal for work week entertaining. Simply triple or quadruple the recipe and bake the potatoes the night before. The evening your guests arrive you will only need about 10 minutes to prepare your meal before baking. You can leave the stress at work and welcome your company with a cocktail as your dinner bakes. I like to pair this dish with a simple green salad, topped with fruit and nuts.

Ingredients:
12 frozen medium peeled and cooked shrimp, defrosted
½ cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, baked
2 tablespoons feta cheese crumbles
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and chop the shrimp. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for about one minute, or until fragrant. Add shrimp and spinach and cook for another minute to allow flavors to meld.
  3. Slice baked sweet potatoes in half and carefully scoop out the inside of the potato with a large spoon, leaving a small rim of potato lining the skin to keep it intact.
  4. In a medium bowl, mash the sweet potato. Add shrimp and spinach mixture, feta cheese, salt and pepper. Stir to combine ingredients.
  5. With a large spoon, evenly fill the empty potato skins with the sweet potato, shrimp and spinach mixture. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and sprinkle with smoked paprika. Bake for 20 minutes.

Note: Leftovers make a great breakfast topped with a fried egg.

Servings: 1

Italian Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Cold winter nights call for warm bowls of soup and this one is packed with vegetables and lentils and a dash of crispy, salty pancetta. Cooked with a Parmesan rind, this soup captures the sharp and nutty flavors of the cheese in every bite. If you are planning the perfect cozy night at home, enjoy a bowl of this delicious soup with your family and end the night with a mug of hot cocoa and good book by the fire. Cheers to nutritious comfort food and warm evenings at home this winter.

Ingredients:
4 ounces pancetta
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
32 ounces low sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 cup lentils (any color)
1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Parmesan rind (cut from a wedge of cheese)
5 ounces baby spinach or 1 bunch spinach, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, cook pancetta until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove pancetta and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Drain all but about 2 teaspoons of pancetta drippings from the pot.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add onion, carrots and celery to the stock pot. Sauté until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth to the mixture and sauté until tender and browned, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add lentils, tomatoes with their juices, the remaining vegetable broth, rosemary, bay leaf, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese rind to the stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
  5. Add spinach and pancetta to the soup and cook for another minute or two, stirring until spinach is wilted. Serve in bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Servings: 4

SAVORY SWEET POTATO MUFFINS WITH SAUSAGE

Not your traditional muffin, this savory version is packed with mashed sweet potatoes, hearty oats and maple breakfast sausage. Enjoy these warm muffins with a cup of coffee or hot tea to fuel up on a chilly winter morning. Getting an early start to your day? Pair a muffin with a boiled egg for a packable, on-the-go breakfast. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freeze for up to three months and reheat when ready to serve.

Ingredients:
1¼ cups whole wheat flour
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1½ cups mashed sweet potatoes
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ pound maple breakfast sausage, cooked and drained

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, oats, baking powder, mustard, salt and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, milk and maple syrup. Gradually add dry ingredients to the bowl of sweet potato mixture, stirring to combine. Fold in sausage.
  4. Fill muffin cups and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Servings: 12

SORGHUM ROASTED ACORN SQUASH

Roasted acorn squash, drizzled with sorghum enhances the flavor of this sweet vegetable. Top it off with a quick sorghum yogurt that turns tangy plain yogurt into a candy-like cream. This versatile dish goes well as a side, desert, snack or breakfast.

While sorghum is widely available in the southern United States, other readers may not have access. Honey or molasses are good substitutes, but sorghum has a luscious sweetness that is crave worthy. When enjoying this dish, go ahead and eat the skin of the squash. Roasting the squash will leave you with a tender green exterior that is edible and nutritious.

Roasted Acorn Squash Ingredients:
2 small acorn squash, quartered and seeded
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sorghum

Sorghum Yogurt Ingredients:
1 (17.6 ounce) container plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons sorghum

Toppings:
Toasted Pecans
Cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash wedges, skin side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. Cut butter into 8 small pieces and place one in the center of each squash wedge. Drizzle equally with sorghum. Roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine yogurt and sorghum in a medium bowl and stir until well combined. Chill until ready to serve.
  4. Remove squash from oven and serve with a dollop of sorghum yogurt, toasted pecans and a dash of cinnamon.

Servings: 8

Sweet Piquante Pepper Cheese Spread

This spread is a unique take on pimento and cheese made with piquante peppers, which give it a sweet heat kick. These cherry tomato shaped peppers are often labeled under the brand name Peppadew® and are commonly found in the olive bar section of grocery stores. A friend introduced me to the combination of cheese and sweet piquante peppers a few years ago, and I have been in love with this pairing since my first bite. Whole sweet piquante peppers make a lovely addition to cheese boards and compliment a wide variety of cheeses.

If you’re watching the big game this weekend, this is a great appetizer to serve along with your favorite beer.

Ingredients:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ cup mild whole sweet piquante peppers, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise with olive oil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Celery sticks or crackers for serving

Directions:

  1. Place the yogurt in a food processor. Add cheese, peppers, mayonnaise and garlic powder, and pulse until the cheese spread is well combined.
  2. Chill for at least an hour or overnight. Serve with celery sticks or crackers.

Beet Bites with Goat Cheese and Pecans

Beets, with their ruby-red-jewel tone, make a colorful plate presentation during the grey winter season. You can cut back on the recipe time by roasting the beets the night before and assembling right before you are ready to enjoy. Leftovers are delicious served for lunch over leafy greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

Ingredients:
1 bunch beets, trimmed and scrubbed
1 cup water
4 to 5 ounces goat cheese
½ cup pecan halves, toasted
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
2 tablespoons honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 60 minutes. Remove from oven and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Unwrap and remove the skin from the beets with a small knife. You may want to wear gloves for this step as the beets will stain your hands pink. If not, the beet juice will wash off with soap and water. Slice the beets and arrange on a serving platter.
  3. Heat 1 cup of water in the microwave or run hot tap water. With a clean knife, thinly slice goat cheese. Dip knife in water as needed between slicing to create smooth cuts. Place cheese on beet slices and top with pecans.
  4. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and honey. Serve immediately.

Salmon with Swiss Chard Cauliflower Rice

Rainbow Swiss chard is such a beautiful vegetable that adds a delightful splash of color to your plate. I love this slightly sweet and mildly bitter leafy green, which tastes similar to beet greens and spinach. I have combined this with my favorite grilled fish for a meal that takes less than 30 minutes to make. Pair this with your favorite white wine for a romantic dinner.

Cauliflower rice is a brilliant idea for gluten-free rice, and I love how it is now available in the freezer section of most grocery stores. It’s also really easy to make with farm-fresh cauliflower, and I have included directions in the note below.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch rainbow Swiss chard, ribs removed and chopped, leaves roughly chopped
1 pound cauliflower rice
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary, divided
½ teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound salmon filet

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Sauté Swiss chard stems until tender, for three to four minutes.
  2. Add Swiss chard leaves, cauliflower rice, ½ tablespoon rosemary, and ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook until leaves are wilted and cauliflower is tender. Stir in grated parmesan cheese and cook for another minute, until melted.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat and brush the grill grate lightly with oil. Season salmon with remaining rosemary, salt and pepper. Grill one side of salmon for 4 to 5 minutes, flip and cook the other side for an additional 4 to 5 minutes, until fish is cooked through. Serve on a large platter over Swiss chard cauliflower rice.

Note: To make your own cauliflower rice all you need is a head of cauliflower and a food processor. Simply wash and remove stems, cut into small florets and pulse until finely chopped and cauliflower resembles rice.

Servings: 4

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce wraps are a creative way to enjoy fresh lettuces and they are also fun to make, eat and serve. I love dishes that you can dive in and assemble at the table as you share a meal with family or friends. This one is super fast and easy to make and a light meal to enjoy with a hot cup of asian tea.

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground chicken
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium bell pepper (any color), chopped
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 head green leaf lettuce, leaves separated

Optional Ingredients:
Handful of fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Peanuts, chopped
Brown rice, prepared

Directions:

  1. Add canola and sesame oils in a wok or large skillet and heat to medium-high temperature. Add garlic and cook for about a minute or until fragrant. Add chicken and break up with a spatula until it starts to brown.
  2. Add carrots and bell pepper to wok or skillet and cook stirring frequently until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. In a small mason jar, combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, siracha and ginger. Shake until evenly combined and pour sauce over chicken and vegetables. Stir to evenly coat and cook for another minute or two.
  4. Place chicken and vegetables on a serving platter along with lettuce leaves and sprinkle with peanuts and basil if using. Assemble wraps at the table and serve with brown rice if desired.

Servings: 4

15-Minute Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp

Pesto makes a great sauce for this quick vegetable “pasta” dish, topped with sautéed fragrant garlic, lean shrimp, nutritious spinach and nutty Parmesan cheese. I love big batches of homemade pesto when I have an abundance of basil in my container garden or CSA share. I freeze 1 tablespoon portions in mini-muffin tins to set and store in freezer safe containers to enjoy year round. Simply toss frozen pesto with warm spaghetti squash strands or pasta and stir as it melts and evenly coats.

Ingredients:
1 medium spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 ounces or 2 cups tightly packed baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons pesto
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions:

  1. Place a damp paper towel on the bottom of a microwavable dish and place squash cut side up. Microwave on high for 12 minutes, until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Saute garlic until soft and fragrant, about a minute. Add shrimp and sauté for another minute, just until it they start turning pink. Add spinach, stirring to combine and continuing to cook for a couple of minutes until wilted.
  3. Remove from microwave and when cool enough to touch, use a fork to remove the spaghetti squash strands into the dish. Add pesto and toss to evenly coat. Plate pesto spaghetti squash and top with shrimp and spinach. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Servings: 2

CABBAGE BOWL WITH THAI PEANUT SAUCE

Tender cabbage coated in mildly spiced peanut sauce replaces noodles in this delicious Thai bowl. Carrots and bean sprouts add color and crunch to this veggie packed dish paired with your favorite protein. It is really quick to make and you can even turn this into a 10-minute meal if you grill your protein and make your sauce in advance. Leftovers are delicious the next day if you are lucky enough to have leftovers.

Ingredients:
½ cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon red curry paste
¼ cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
½ lime, juiced
3 to 4 dashes of Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 large or 3 medium carrots
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium head of cabbage, cored and finely shredded
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 ounces bean sprouts
Grilled chicken, shrimp or tofu
Optional: chopped peanuts

Directions:

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine coconut milk, curry paste, peanut butter, soy sauce, juice from lime and Sriracha hot chili sauce. Process until smooth and creamy.
  2. Trim and peel carrots. Cut carrots into noodles using a spiralizer and set aside.
  3. In a wok or large skillet, heat sesame and canola oil over medium-high heat. Add cabbage and cook stirring frequently for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.
  4. Pour ⅓ cup sauce over cabbage and cook for an additional minute. Serve cabbage in bowls topped with carrots, green onions, bean sprouts and grilled chicken, shrimp or tofu. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and drizzle a little extra peanut sauce if desired.

Servings: 4

Cucumber and Tuna Salad Bites

Enjoy my Cucumber and Tuna Salad Bites as a refreshing appetizer, picnic dinner or light afternoon lunch. If you keep your pantry and fridge stocked with tuna, olive tapenade and yogurt, you can whip up a quick batch of these whenever you have fresh cucumbers in your CSA or growing in your garden. I have enjoyed many delicious cucumbers from Sustainable Harvest Farm in our weekly produce share this summer and this has been one of my favorite ways to enjoy them.

Ingredients:
1 (4 ounce) can solid white, no salt-added, Albacore tuna in water
2 tablespoons plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive tapenade
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large cucumbers, sliced

Directions:

  1. Drain tuna and flake with a fork in a medium bowl.
  2. Add yogurt, mayonnaise, olive tapenade and salt. Stir to evenly combine.
  3. Use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to add dollops of tuna salad on each slice of cucumber.