Fancy in 5 Steps! ūü•ā Charcuterie Board

The inspiration for this came from a 3 and 6-year-old. We were to host a small, casual gathering and we sought to satisfy everyone without killing ourselves. Aha! A charcuterie board is like fancy buffet but far simpler to build. We used two cutting boards that Mr. Chef made, but you don’t need custom end-grain cutting boards to accomplish this festival of food. The cutting board could come from IKEA, or use serving tray. Have a bit of fun with your imagination and what you already have in your cabinets. Presto!

In hosting, as in life, we prefer balance and elegant simplicity, and fun with perhaps a *sprinkle* of fancy. It’s okay to throw something together and even bring in a bit of whimsy.

So, to keep things classic and chill, the idea of having a variety and simple foods- a smorgasbord- stood out. Call it that, a Hungarian cold plate or “Hideg√°l‚ÄĚ, or, because it sounds so nice to say, charcuterie board (the way we like to remember to pronounce it: “shar(k)-coo-ter-ee”; say it fast enough and the “k” glides you right through the word). Other reasons we love this:

Unstuffy – at its heart, a charcuterie board is very finger-friendly and is even great for kids

Healthy – we went mostly for organic produce & gluten-free items but also had quality meat products for omnivorous types.

Visually appealing – because we all ‘eat’ with our eyes first, we really wanted to provide a cheery, colorful palette of foods from which to choose.

The Steps

  1. Think about your guests – do they have dietary restrictions or allergies? Food preferences? Will children be present?
  2. Plan your board(s) – think of food groups (healthier versions of fat, protein, carbohydates) and accessories (dips that go well with chips, carrots, and celery for example). This helps provide a balanced and light meal. Bonus: make a ‘rainbow’. Get creative and perhaps offer a fruit and vegetable option for each color – such as orange bell peppers and orange slices.
  3. Go shopping and prep the produce. Here are some items you might want for your custom board(s): vegetables (bell pepper, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes), fruits (orange and apple slices, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, grapes – dried fruit is also an option!), cheeses, deli meats (salami, turkey, ham or chicken), crackers and/or bread, dips (hummus, Ranch, herb-infused olive oil), olives, pickles, seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), chips, and chocolate.
  4. Decorate your boards! Use little bowls for dips, dishes or plates, cutting boards, and utensils to design a beautiful, curated offering to your guests.
  5. Relax, eat and enjoy!

Recipe: Spiced Vanilla Chia Pudding

chia obw above

Oh boy – this is a filling, satisfying treat without tons of calories. What’s more, it’s made with a variety of items that may be found in your pantry or fridge. Get your sweet tooth filled without tons of sugar and experience the health benefits of fiber, omega-3s, blood sugar stabilization, and CHOCOLATE.

Ingredients
2 cups homemade almond milk
6 tablespoons chia seeds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 heaping tablespoons whole cacao beans or 1/4 cup cacao powder for a smoother finish
1/4 cup fruit (i.e. raspberry, strawberry, and kiwi work well)

Instructions
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate overnight, or until set. Garnish with cinnamon, fruit, cacao beans, and a drizzle of honey if desired.

chia obw

Fight Free Radicals with a Rainbow Punch!

Antioxidants are phytochemicals, vitamins and other nutrients which protect our cells from free radical damage. Studies show antioxidants help prevent the oxidative damage that is associated with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. So where are these superheroes found? Check out your local garden patch – most fruits, vegetables, and culinary & medicinal herbs can contain high levels of antioxidants.

A study in recent years found that botanical diversity plays a role in determining the bioactivity of antioxidant phytochemicals. Also, and this is exciting, smaller quantities of many different phytochemicals may have greater health effects than larger amounts of fewer phytochemicals. This is why we inspire people to ‘eat a rainbow’ (and we’re not talking about Skittles candy). Here’s how to form a rainbow of protection against free radical damage:

Red, Purple, and Blue

  • Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, apples, cherries, pomegranates, red grapes, beets, red cabbage, black rice
  • Contains anthocyanin, betacyanin, and proanthocyanidins
  • Functions: protect cells from aging, reduce cholesterol and may reduce breast cancer risk

Yellow-Orange

  • Carrots, squashes, lemons, apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, papaya, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, passion fruit, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and yellow & orange peppers
  • Contains beta-carotene and alpha carotene; often also cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin
  • Functions: protects against some cancers, supports immune system, healthy skin, and good vision

Green Fruits and Vegetables

  • Spinach, kale, avocado, broccoli, swisschard, brussel sprouts, as well as dandelion, mustard, and collard greens
  • Contains lutein, beta carotene, and chlorophyll
  • Functions: builds resistance to certain cancers, protects eyes from oxidative damage that could lead to diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts

Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Pudding

photo (1)

It can take awhile to wrap one’s head around the idea that chocolate and avocado could taste good together. To be honest, we even had doubts. One bite changed everything.

This is a fantastic treat for quite a few reasons:

  1. Full of healthy fats
  2. Low sugar
  3. Dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan
  4. Kid-friendly (as in, they won’t know anything green was used in the production of this dessert)

Make this recipe because it’s healthy, or make it because it’s amazingly delicious – you’ll win either way!

Ingredients:

2 avocados, ripe and pitted
1/2 cup of unsweetened chocolate powder
1/2 cup of coconut milk (or other non-dairy alternative)
5 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon

Instructions:

Cut avocado and remove the pit before scooping flesh into a blender. Add the cocoa powder, coconut milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve chilled, about 20 minutes.

Top with fresh raspberries, shredded coconut, and/or cashews.