Holiday Entertaining is Back with Sweet, Savory and Oh So Cheesy Ideas
Real California Milk helps impress guests with the California Cheese Centerpiece and Cookie Exchange Board
(Family Features) This holiday season, entertaining is back on the table and that means endless opportunities to showcase Instagram-worthy ideas. For those looking to impress friends and family, Real California Milk has two unique culinary ideas to take holiday traditions to the next level: The Cheese Centerpiece and Cookie Exchange Board. From fresh food as bountiful décor to camera-ready cookie presentations, incorporating California dairy into your entertaining is a winning holiday strategy.
California Cheese Centerpiece
The mission? Create a holiday centerpiece but make it delicious. Real California Milk partner Jessica Lawrenz, Founder of Monger, Mold and Milk, took the challenge with the California Cheese Centerpiece, the ultimate in edible entertaining with a beautiful display of Real California Cheeses, salami, fruits and vegetables arranged with fragrant herbal garnishes in a display sure to impress family and friends. As a bonus, it creates less waste than a stand-alone floral bouquet (and you’ll have less to clean up!).
Find additional cheese displays and holiday recipes at realcaliforniamilk.com.
Variety of firm to medium (semi-firm) Real California Cheeses (find them here: https://www.realcaliforniamilk.com/cheese-makers)
Shown in arrangement:
- Real California Dry Jack cheese wedges
- Real California Wine-soaked Cheddar wedges
- Real California Triple Cream cheese wedges
- Salumi or salami, made into roses
Fresh fruits and vegetables:
- Mini clementines or kumquats
- Grapes or currants (both shown)
- Fresh figs
- Cucamelons or mini cucumbers
- Cherry tomatoes (tiger stripe tomatoes shown but any small tomato works)
- Bay leaf stems
- Olive leaf stems
- Rosemary branches
- Lavender stems
- Sage bunches
- Chive or garlic flowers or any edible flower with a stem
Tools and Materials:
- Circular tray or plate
- Craft or flora foam (half sphere shape that is at least 1-inch smaller in diameter than your tray)
- Double-sided tape
- Plastic wrap
- Toothpicks, U-shape bamboo toothpicks (optional)
- Cookie cutter shapes (optional)
- Cover foam in plastic wrap to protect food from making contact with the foam.
- Use double-sided tape to secure the foam to the tray.
- Now you can start assembling the centerpiece. Start from the bottom and work your way up to the top of the sphere.
- Use the bulk of your leafy garnishment (bay leaf stems, olive leaf stems, sage bunches) on the bottom layer to create a base and coverage by poking the stems into the foam. If needed you can trim the bottom of the stem in a diagonal direction to create a more pokey end OR use a toothpick to pierce a hole in the place where you want to insert stems.
- For best visual appeal, fruits like grapes and currants should be arranged to kind of flow over the edge of the tray near the bottom as well. PRO TIP: Use “U” shaped bamboo toothpicks to secure the stems of the hanging fruits into the foam.
- From here use toothpicks to secure cheese wedges, salumi roses, fruits and vegetables into the foam. Cut shorter, triangular pieces of cheese (as opposed to longer triangular pieces used for a long/rectangular centerpiece). Use any tall wedges near the bottom where they will be easy to grab but not sticking out too far if placed near the top. You can use cookie cutter shapes as well for the cheeses, if desired.
- Finally, take any of the smaller garnish pieces you have (lavender, chive flowers, rosemary ends, loose leaves) to fill in the spaces between all the items.
Holiday Cookie Exchange Board
If a cookie exchange is on the docket for this year’s holiday or you’re simply looking to upgrade your dessert table, take some tips from this stunning cookie exchange presentation. Mix and match Real California Milk cookie recipes to create a mouthwatering arrangement and decorate with mini candy canes, holiday lollipops, various holiday décor and lights. Add napkins, cookie bags for take-away, and recipe cards for sharing, and let your guests go to town.
- Hot cocoa or coffee
- Milk shooters
- Coconut Walnut Cake Bars
- Chocolate Mint Cookies
- Stroopwafel Cookies
- Mini Gingerbread Cupcakes
Dipped in melted dark chocolate and rolled in crushed peppermint candies or Holiday sprinkles
Leave out ice cream, exchange holiday sprinkles for rainbow sprinkles, and dip in melted white chocolate with color for extra festivity
California is the nation’s leading milk producer and is responsible for producing more butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk than any other state. The state is the second-largest producer of cheese and yogurt. California milk and dairy foods can be identified by the Real California Milk seal, which certifies they are made exclusively with milk from the state’s dairy farm families.
About Real California Milk/California Milk Advisory Board
The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), an instrumentality of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is funded by the state’s dairy farm families who lead the nation in sustainable dairy farming practices. With a vision to nourish the world with the wholesome goodness of Real California Milk, the CMAB’s programs focus on increasing demand for California’s sustainable dairy products in the state, across the U.S. and around the world through advertising, public relations, research, and retail and foodservice promotional programs. For more information and to connect with the CMAB, visit RealCaliforniaMilk.com, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Source: Real California Milk
Sides for Holiday Entertaining
(Family Features) The holiday season means it’s time for gathering family and friends for food and celebration. To make the process easier, incorporate recipes that can feed a crowd without lots of exotic, hard-to-find ingredients or long, laborious prep and cook times.
These recipes for Hearty Roasted Winter Vegetables featuring Aunt Nellie’s Whole Pickled Beets and Caprese Bean and Salami Salad with READ 3 Bean Salad, for example, are ideal side dishes for holiday gatherings with enough to go ’round for everyone at the table. Plus, if you’re heading to a holiday potluck, they’re perfect for bringing along to share with the whole crew and versatile enough to be paired with a variety of main courses. Plus, the Caprese Bean and Salami Salad can also stand in as an appetizer.
Find more holiday recipes at auntnellies.com and READsalads.com.
Hearty Roasted Winter Vegetables
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45-55 minutes
- 1 jar (16 ounces) Aunt Nellie’s Whole Pickled Beets, drained
- 1 small red onion, cut into 12 wedges
- 2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stems trimmed
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional, to taste (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper, plus additional, to taste (optional)
- 2 cups Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and scored with cross-cut
- Heat oven to 400° F. Place beets, onion, mushrooms and squash on rimmed 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-by-1-inch baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil. Add garlic, rosemary, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Roast 15 minutes.
- Add Brussels sprouts, stir and continue to roast until vegetables are tender and browned, about 30-35 minutes, stirring once. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste, if desired.
Caprese Bean and Salami Salad
Recipe courtesy of “The Reluctant Entertainer”
Prep time: 25 minutes
- 5 cans (15 ounces each) READ 3 Bean Salad (3 cans drained, 2 cans undrained)
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 pound small marinated mozzarella balls, drained
- 3/4 cup (1 ounce) fresh basil, chopped
- 8 ounces dried salami, sliced
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 whole-wheat baguettes (13 ounces each), sliced
- In large bowl, stir together bean salad, tomatoes and mozzarella balls.
- Before serving, add basil and salami. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Stir to combine.
- Serve on large platter surrounded by baguette slices.
Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining Tips
(Family Features) The holiday season is meant for spending quality time with friends and family, not stressing out over hosting. With some simple tips, you can cut down on hectic preparations while creating a memorable holiday full of food and fun guests can savor.
Consider these suggestions from the entertaining experts at Real California Milk:
Heading into your seasonal soiree with a plan in place can help avoid snafus. Make a shopping list of ingredients and decorations. Then put together a schedule a few days prior to the event to cover last-minute preparations.
Elevate Holiday Classics
Elevating classic appetizers is a simple way to savor the season. A trend on the rise, the Grazing Table starts with the table as the canvas, adds elements of the traditional cheese board then takes it to the next level with an arrangement of appetizers or brunch dishes and seasonal decor. Another way to lift your holiday spread is using high-quality, authentic ingredients like Real California Milk cheeses, made with milk from California dairy farm families, which are key ingredients in this Sweet Citrus and Spice Cheese Board.
Prepare Dishes and Decorations in Advance
Preparing for guests can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of hosting. Decorating at least a day ahead and setting the table the night before, for example, can help minimize stress. Welcome guests with holiday cheer and trendy decor like a virtual yule log made of melting cheese, complete with holiday music.
For more holiday inspiration and recipes like antipasto skewers and yogurt-pesto dip, queso fundido and cheese logs and bundts, visit realcaliforniamilk.com/recipes.
- Toma cheese, sliced
- natural almonds
- Real California aged cheddar, sliced
- Real California burrata cheese
- olive oil
- blue cheese
- Real California braided marinated string cheese
- dry salami, sliced
- premade antipasto skewers
- yogurt pesto dipping sauce
- Real California aged Gouda
- brie cheese
- Real California cheese log
- Real California cheese bundts
- dry jack cheese
- sweet red piquante peppers
- green California olives
- premade Real California queso fundido
- tortilla chips
- dark chocolate sea salt caramels
- dried citrus, such as oranges and lemons
- artisan bread, sliced
- On large board, plate or tray, arrange sliced toma cheese, almonds, prosciutto, salami and aged cheddar. In center, place burrata cheese and top with olive oil and herbs.
- On separate small plate, place blue cheese; crumble.
- On medium board, arrange braided string cheese and dry salami slices.
- On serving platter, arrange antipasto skewers around bowl of yogurt pesto dipping sauce.
- On separate small cheese board, place Gouda, brie cheese and cheese log.
- On slate, arrange cheese bundts. On separate plate, place dry jack cheese.
- In separate bowls, place piquante peppers and green olives.
- Arrange boards, plates, bowls and skillet of queso fundido on table, as desired.
- Fill blank spaces on table with breadsticks, tortilla chips, dark chocolate sea salt caramels, dried oranges, dried lemons and bread slices. Add floral arrangements and holiday decor for finishing touches. Complete table with cheese knives and spreaders.
Sweet Citrus and Spice Cheese Board
- Real California brie cheese
- black olives
- green olives
- dried oranges, sliced
- Real California pepper jack cheese sliced
- Real California burrata cheese
- honey, for garnish
- fresh herbs, for garnish
- To assemble cheese board: On large board, plate or tray, arrange brie cheese, olives, dried orange slices, sliced pepper jack cheese and almonds.
- On smaller board, arrange raspberries and blackberries around burrata cheese placed in center of board. Garnish cheese with honey and fresh herbs. Place smaller board into empty space on larger board.
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
(Family Features) Of the many challenges parents face daily, encouraging healthy eating habits for their children can be one of the most vexing. While the consumption of nutritious foods like vegetables is good for kids while they’re young, it can also serve an important role in encouraging lifelong healthy habits.
One strategy for achieving that goal is to pair familiar foods with vegetables and prepare them in interesting ways. This tactic – pairing foods kids already enjoy with the foods you want them to start eating willingly – is called “associative conditioning,” and can help encourage children to try the new food, according to research conducted by Elizabeth Capaldi-Phillips and Devina Wadhera and published in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.”
For example, prepared beef products like hot dogs, deli roast beef, salami and summer sausage provide sources of nutrients like protein, zinc and vitamin B12. In addition to the direct benefits, these meats can also be used in recipes like Green Bean Twists and Salami-Babs to help encourage the consumption of vegetables.
Easy-to-make recipes such as Jerky Trail Mix, Fried Bologna Cups and Beefy Lettuce Cups also provide simple snacking solutions for kids that include the nutritional benefits of both beef and veggies.
6 Strategies to Encourage Nutritious Snacking
With an abundance of prepared-in-advance snacks available that likely come along with unnecessary salts and sugars, it can be difficult to encourage kids to eat snacks with healthier ingredients.
Quick recipes that include beef and veggies may not be the first snack idea that comes to mind for kids (or parents), but it’s not impossible to instill better decision-making in the kitchen. Skip the chips and improve your children’s snack habits with these simple ideas for influencing healthier decisions:
- Enhance the visual appeal of foods by piercing them with decorative toothpicks.
- Offer a variety of colorful foods on a plate.
- Create color contrasts with foods on a plate or in a bowl.
- Arrange foods in an orderly way using a bento box or divided plate that helps keep them separate.
- Involve kids in preparing their meals.
- Pair nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables, with well-liked or familiar foods.
Find more family-friendly recipes and tips to encourage nutritious eating habits from the North American Meat Institute, a contractor of The Beef Checkoff, at meatpoultrynutrition.org.
Fried Bologna Cups
Recipe courtesy of The Beef Checkoff
Yield: 8 bologna cups
- Vegetable oil spray
- 8 slices beef bologna
Potato-Vegetable Filling (enough for one bologna cup):
- 1/4 cup mixed vegetables
- 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
- tablespoon grated cheddar cheese
Apple Salad Filling (enough for one bologna cup):
- 3 tablespoons chopped apple
- 2 teaspoons minced celery
- 1 teaspoon golden raisins
- 2 teaspoons light mayonnaise
- teaspoon plain, low-fat yogurt
- Spray large, nonstick skillet with vegetable oil spray. Set skillet over medium heat and lay bologna slices in pan, as many as will fit in one layer. Let bologna fry until it cups. Transfer cups to serving plate and fry remaining bologna in same fashion.
- To make Potato-Vegetable Filling: In small, microwave-safe bowl, stir together vegetables and potatoes; microwave until hot.
- To make Apple Salad Filling: In small bowl, stir apple, celery, raisins, mayonnaise and yogurt.
- Spoon desired filling into each cup. For cups with Potato-Vegetable Filling, top with grated cheese.
Jerky Trail Mix
Recipe courtesy of The Beef Checkoff
Yield: 4 cups
- 1 1/2 cups kettle corn with no added sugars
- 1 cup mini unsalted pretzels
- 1/2 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
- 1/2 cup beef jerky, broken or chopped into 1/4-inch bits
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- In large bowl, stir kettle corn, pretzels, peanuts, beef jerky and raisins together. Seal in sandwich bags or serve in bowl.
Recipe courtesy of The Beef Checkoff
Yield: 8 kebabs
- 6 ounces beef salami or summer sausage, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- 8 bamboo skewers (8 inches long)
- 4 ounces cheese (cheddar or swiss), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 16 small broccoli florets
- 4 baby carrots, cut in half crosswise
- Thread pieces of meat onto skewers, alternating with cheese, broccoli and carrots. Arrange on plate and serve.
Note: To prevent choking, children should be seated while eating, especially when a recipe involves toothpicks; encouraged to take their time and thoroughly chew their food; and should be carefully supervised. When serving young children, cut any circular-shaped foods like grapes, carrots or hot dogs into thin, coin-shaped slices or long, thin strips.
Green Bean Twists
Recipe courtesy of The Beef Checkoff
Yield: 16 twists
- 8 ultra-thin slices roast beef, about 2 ounces, cut in half lengthwise
- 16 green beans, trimmed, blanched and chilled
- Wrap one slice roast beef around each bean, creating spiral, arrange on plate and serve.
Beefy Lettuce Cups
Recipe courtesy of The Beef Checkoff
Yield: 8 lettuce cups
- 8 ounces corned beef, chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
- 2 tablespoons unsalted, dry-roasted cashew pieces
- 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
- 8 butter lettuce leaves
- In medium bowl, stir together corned beef, carrots, water chestnuts, cashew pieces and teriyaki sauce. Spoon onto lettuce leaves and serve.
Source: North American Meat Institute
Wrap It Up
Easy Meals That Go Anywhere
(Family Features) Once again, you’re in a rush to pick up one child from soccer practice and take the other one to dance class — you have to feed them something, but there’s no time to eat at home. What do you do? Forget fast food. Everything you need for something quick, delicious and portable could be in your kitchen already.
In just minutes, you can wrap up an easy meal for your dashboard dining experience using tortillas. They’re versatile, with recipes that go beyond traditional Mexican fare. They’re so handy, in fact, that they’re outsold in the U.S. only by fresh breads, and they outsell bagels two to one. Most tortillas are made from either corn or flour, but they come in a variety of flavors and sizes, as well as fat free, heart healthy, low carb, whole wheat and multi-grain versions. And moms will appreciate that corn tortillas are naturally low fat and a good source of fiber.
Wrapping up favorite ingredients inside a tortilla is a simple way to make breakfast, lunch or dinner a moveable feast the whole family can enjoy anywhere.
To help busy moms, Mission Foods, the makers of Mission Tortillas, has tips and recipes for healthy, easy-to-travel meals.
On-the-Go Meal Ideas
- Breakfast — Breakfast burritos with eggs, ham, cheese & salsa start the day off right.
- Lunch — Turkey, Red Delicious apple and cottage cheese wraps make lunch at the office a real treat.
- Dinner — Kids love quesadillas. Dress up the basic chicken quesadilla with avocado and mushrooms.
For more easy-to-make, easy-to-take recipes, visit www.missionmenus.com.
Low Carb Stromboli Wraps
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Prep Time: 12 minutes
- 4 Mission Carb Balance 8-inch Soft Taco Size Flour Tortillas
- 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 4 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces salami, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces ham thinly, sliced
- 1/2 cup (4-ounce jar) roasted red bell peppers, rinsed and cut into strips
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Marinara or pizza sauce, heated
- Heat oven to 400°F.
- Lightly spread one side of each tortilla with softened butter; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Arrange one fourth each of provolone, salami, ham and roasted peppers over center of tortillas, leaving border around edges. Sprinkle with one fourth of the mozzarella.
- Fold up “wrap fashion.” Place seam side down on nonstick baking sheet. Brush with remaining butter; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.
- Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Slice each stromboli in half on the diagonal. Serve with marinara or pizza sauce, if desired.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
- 4 Mission Sundried Tomato Basil Wraps
- 3/4 cup prepared marinara sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup thinly sliced pepperoni rounds (approximately 72 slices)
- Evenly spread 3 tablespoons marinara on each wrap.
- Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella evenly over marinara sauce on each wrap.
- Layer 1/4 cup (about 18 slices) pepperoni over shredded cheese on each wrap.
- Fold each wrap in half, forming a half moon.
- Heat 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and lightly spray with non-stick spray.
- Place two pizzadillas in skillet and cook for 3 minutes on each side until crisp and golden brown. Remove and reserve hot. Repeat for other pizzadillas.
- Cut each pizzadilla into quarters and serve one full sliced portion to each person.
Cheeseburger Soft Tacos
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
- 4 Mission 6-inch Fajita Flour Tortillas
- 1 pound lean ground sirloin
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese or 4 ounces sliced
- 1 red tomato, cut into 1/4-inch slices (4 total slices)
- 2 small green leaf lettuce leaves
- 1 large red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch slices, then pulled into rings
- 12 dill pickle slices
- Separate ground beef into 4 equal parts (4 ounces each); form each part into 4 thin half moon shape patties. Try to shape each patty to fill half of a tortilla.
- Heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet (or use a square, deep walled non-stick electric skillet) over medium high heat.
- Season each hamburger patty with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes a side or to desired temperature.
- Near the end of desired cooking time, evenly sprinkle each patty with 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and allow the cheese to melt. Remove cheeseburgers and reserve hot.
- Warm tortillas in microwave for 10 seconds.
- For 1 serving: place a hot cheeseburger on one half of a warmed tortilla and top with 1 tomato slice, 1 lettuce leaf, onion rings and 3 pickle slices. Fold the tortilla in half and serve.
Source: Mission Foods