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
Show Your Heart Some Love
(Family Features) While heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, many of the risk factors associated with the condition can be controlled with dietary and lifestyle changes. By centering your meals around better-for-you ingredients and recipes, you can show your heart some extra love.
Consider walnuts, which are a heart-healthy food certified by the American Heart Association. More than 25 years of research shows walnuts may play a key role in heart health. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved one of the first qualified health claims for a whole food, finding that eating 1 1/2 ounces of walnuts per day as part of a low-saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet while not increasing caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Additionally, walnuts are the only nut significantly high in omega-3s, with 2 1/2 grams of alpha-linolenic acid per ounce. Walnuts can add this essential nutrient to dishes like these American Heart Association Heart-Check Mark certified recipes for Greek Cucumber Walnut Bites and Banana Bread Overnight Oats.
Find more information and heart-healthy recipes at walnuts.org/heart-health.
Greek Cucumber Walnut Bites
Recipe courtesy of Beth Stark, RDN, LDN on behalf of the California Walnut Board
Prep time: 25 minutes
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 English cucumber, ends trimmed (about 14 ounces)
- 1/2 cup roasted red pepper hummus
- 1/2 cup reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese
- 5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- On small baking sheet, arrange walnuts evenly. Bake 8 minutes, checking frequently, until toasted.
- Slice cucumber crosswise into 3/4-inch thick slices. Using small spoon, gently scoop out and discard center of each cucumber slice, leaving bottom and sides intact.
- In small bowl, stir 6 tablespoons chopped walnuts and hummus. Spoon walnut-hummus mixture into each cucumber slice and top with reserved chopped walnuts, feta cheese and quartered tomatoes.
Banana Bread Overnight Oats
Recipe courtesy of Crowded Kitchen on behalf of the California Walnut Board
Prep time: 15 minutes
- 3 ripe bananas, sliced
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup chopped California walnuts, divided
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 3 cups skim milk
- In large container with lid, add sliced bananas. Use potato masher or fork to mash bananas until smooth.
- Add oats, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, half the chopped walnuts, maple syrup and milk. Combine thoroughly and refrigerate overnight.
- To serve, divide among four canning jars or glass containers with lids. Top each with remaining walnuts before serving.
Source: California Walnut Board
Fuss-Free Holiday Recipe Inspiration
(Family Features) Hosting holiday dinners can be stressful, even for the most seasoned home cooks. Between gift giving, cookie baking, home decorating and more, there’s often little time left to think through a festive feast for a hungry crowd of family and friends.
While the main entree and dessert are usually the first courses to be accounted for when planning, seasonal appetizers and sides can set your spread apart. Perfect for intimate gatherings or larger parties, a simple app like Cranberry Walnut and Brie Bites, filled with ingredients like Willow Tree Classic Chicken Salad and creamy Brie cheese, can leave guests anxiously awaiting the rest of the meal.
Round out your menu with must-have sides like potatoes. For example, a traditional French dish like Dauphinoise Potatoes are easy to make and feature a homemade butter and garlic sauce, thinly sliced potatoes and rich Gruyere cheese.
Once the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, however, one of the last things many hosts want to do is cook another big meal. With an option like Willow Tree Chicken Pies, you can skip the hassle and get a meal on the table quickly.
For more easy hosting ideas and recipes, visit willowtreefarm.com.
Cranberry Walnut and Brie Bites
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
- 2 packages (17 ounces each) puff pastry
- 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup sugar, plus additional, to taste
- 1 orange or lemon, zest only, cut into strips
- 2 tablespoons water
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 container (7 1/2 ounces) Willow Tree Classic Chicken Salad
- 4 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 48 pieces
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- Heat oven to 375° F.
- Thaw puff pastry sheets according to package instructions. Once thawed, unfold into thirds.
- Cut each third into 12 equal squares to make 48 squares.
- Grease two mini muffin tins; press each puff pastry square into muffin cup.
- Bake 8-10 minutes; remove from oven and press center of each cup in with end of wooden spoon.
- While puff pastry is baking, prepare cranberry sauce. Add bag of cranberries into saucepan. In pan over low heat, combine sugar, one strip orange or lemon zest and water; cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium and cook until cranberries burst, about 12 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add sugar, salt and pepper, to taste; let cool slightly and reserve.
- Fill center of each puff pastry cup with chicken salad, 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce and one piece Brie cheese.
- Bake 5-7 minutes, until Brie is melted.
- Top with chopped walnuts and minced sage. Serve warm.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30-45 minutes
- 8 ounces potatoes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 ounce Gruyere cheese, for garnish
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Peel and finely slice potatoes.
- Add butter to saucepan and melt. Finely mince garlic and add to saucepan; saute gently until garlic is pale golden color.
- Add cream to saucepan and bring to rapid simmer but do not boil.
- In oven-safe dish, arrange slices of potato in even layers.
- Pour warm cream over potatoes slowly, allowing to seep between layers without overflowing dish.
- Top generously with sliced Gruyere cheese and place in oven, 30-45 minutes per portion. When done, potatoes should be golden-brown on top, bubbling at edges and a knife should slide easily into center.
Note: Recipe can be multiplied for additional servings.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Dauphinoise Potatoes)
Source: Willow Tree
Savor the Season with Comfort Foods
(Family Features) Few things go together quite like the holidays and comforting seasonal recipes.
When time is short during the season’s hustle and bustle but you’re craving a savory meal, reach for an ingredient like READ German Potato Salad, which can be the shortcut you need to get Potato, Turkey and Veggie Casserole on the table quickly.
Dessert is a must during the holidays, and this Cranberry-Beet Bundt Cake with Orange-Walnut Glaze draws its unique flavor from Aunt Nellie’s Beets and a sweet blend of spices and seasonings.
Find more seasonal recipes at READSalads.com and AuntNellies.com.
Cranberry-Beet Bundt Cake with Orange-Walnut Glaze
Prep time: 50 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
- 1 jar (16 ounces) Aunt Nellie’s Sliced Pickled Beets, drained
- 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1 1/4 cups dried sweetened cranberries
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 orange, zest only, finely grated
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 orange, zest only, finely grated
- 1/4 cup orange juice, plus additional (optional)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
- Heat oven to 350° F. Butter and lightly flour fluted 10-inch Bundt pan.
- In food processor, puree beets and 1 cup sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl once.
- In small bowl, cover cranberries with hot water.
- In medium mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- In large mixing bowl using electric mixer on medium-high, beat remaining sugar, eggs, butter and oil2-3 minutes until light and smooth. Blend in beet puree. Add orange zest and vanilla; mix until blended. Add half of flour mixture; beat on low until smooth. Add buttermilk; beat on low until smooth then add remaining flour mixture, beating until blended. Drain cranberries; fold into batter.
- Turn batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake on center rack 45-50 minutes. When done, cake will pull away from sides of pan and toothpick, inserted into center will come out clean.
- Cool 15 minutes then invert cake onto rack.
- To make Orange-Walnut Glaze: In large mixing bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Add orange juice; whisk until smooth. Whisk in butter. Add additional juice, if necessary.
- Spoon glaze over cake while still warm. Sprinkle with walnuts.
Potato, Turkey and Veggie Casserole
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, olive oil
- 3/4 pound extra-lean ground turkey breast
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
- 1 can (15 ounces) READ German Potato Salad
- 1/2 cup light sour cream
- 2 cups frozen, thawed or canned mixed vegetables, drained
- nonstick cooking spray
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- Heat oven to 350° F. In large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add turkey, thyme, garlic powder, pepper and salt, if desired. Cook 5-7 minutes, until cooked through, stirring occasionally and breaking turkey into large crumbles.
- Stir in potato salad and sour cream. Add vegetables; stir to combine. Spray 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon in casserole mixture.
- Toss together bread crumbs and remaining oil. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake 30 minutes, or until bubbly and heated through.
Substitution: Leftover chopped turkey (about 1 1/2 cups) can be cooked 2-3 minutes in skillet in place of ground turkey.
Source: Seneca Foods
Holiday Entertaining Excellence
(Family Features) From savory appetizers to delicious holiday gifts, cheese is a must-have holiday ingredient.
These recipes from Chef George Duran, host of TLC's "Ultimate Cake Off" and Food Network's "Ham on the Street," make it easy to elevate your cheeseboard, serve up delightfully delicate puffed pastries or make glass canning jar gifts to give away to guests. Each dish features Jarlsberg Cheese, which was created in 1956 and remains based on the original Norwegian recipe, offering a slightly nutty, mild and delicious taste that helps every dish live up to festive occasions.
Best known for its classic wedge, Jarlsberg is also available sliced and in snacks and crisps for simple appetizers, savory sides and even take-home treats your guests will love.
Find more ideas to elevate this holiday season at jarlsberg.com.
- 4 tomatoes
- 2 ounces balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 4 ounces, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or equivalent dried)
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 ounces pine (pignoli) nuts
- 8 ounces shredded Jarlsberg Cheese
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Cut tomatoes in half. In bowl, whisk together vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper; gently mix in tomatoes. Transfer to ovenproof dish. Place tomatoes cut-side up and bake 15 minutes.
- In pan, toast pine nuts with remaining olive oil until golden then set aside.
- When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove skins and return to baking dish. Sprinkle tomatoes with shredded cheese. Return to oven and broil about 5 minutes, or until cheese turns golden and bubbly. Top with toasted pine nuts.
Cranberry and Walnut Phyllo Triangles
- 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 10 sheets fresh or frozen phyllo dough
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 2 1/2 cups Jarlsberg Chunk Cheese, cut into 25 cubes
- 2 cups chopped walnuts
- Heat oven to 375° F.
- In saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, raisins, honey, orange peel and orange juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature.
- Carefully lay one phyllo sheet on cutting board and brush with melted butter. Place another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with melted butter. Cover remaining sheets with damp towel to prevent drying out. Position brushed pastry horizontally and cut into five strips.
- Place 1/2 teaspoon cranberry filling, one cube of cheese and 1/2 teaspoon chopped nuts in lower corner of each strip. Fold dough over filling to form triangle. Fold triangle up then over, forming another triangle. Continue folding to end of strip. Brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon chopped nuts. Repeat with remaining strips of dough and remaining sheets of phyllo.
- Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack before serving.
Note: If using frozen phyllo dough, thaw in refrigerator overnight.
French-Style Marinated Cheese
- 6 ounces Jarlsberg Original, Lite or Hickory Smoked Cheese
- 2 ounces black or green olives
- 1 small leek, bulb only (or small shallot)
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or tarragon (or equivalent dried)
- 1 teaspoon green or black peppercorns
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or equivalent dried)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 glass canning jar
- Cube cheese and thinly slice olives and leek. Finely chop oregano and peppercorns, and finely mince thyme and garlic.
- To make marinade: Whisk vinegar with oil, oregano, peppercorns, thyme and garlic. Layer cheese, olives and leeks inside jar. Cover with marinade and seal tightly.
- Place jar in refrigerator to marinate 1 day. For best results, use within 3 days.
Holiday Deviled Eggs
- 6 eggs
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup shredded Jarlsberg Cheese
- Shredded Jarlsberg Cheese
- Cooked crab meat
- Boil large pot of water. Carefully add eggs and boil on high 2 minutes then simmer 13 minutes.
- While eggs cook, chop parsley and scallions, if desired.
- Once eggs are cooked, transfer to bowl of ice water; cool 8-10 minutes. Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Separate egg yolks into another bowl. Reserve egg white halves.
- Combine egg yolks with salt, pepper, vinegar and mustard. Add shredded cheese and mayonnaise; mix until smooth.
- Spoon about 1 tablespoon of yolk mixture into each egg white half.
- Add toppings, as desired. For classic deviled eggs, sprinkle paprika and chopped parsley over eggs. For a savory alternative, cook four strips of bacon and chop. Top eggs with chopped bacon and shredded cheese. For a unique variation, try topping eggs with cooked crab meat and chopped scallions.
Source: Jarlsberg Cheese