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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

I love having friends over to my house. I generally like to have brunch or light snacks-full meals sometimes are just too hard to coordinate. I love a nice cheese plate, shown above, with at least one soft cheese (in this case the house Brie from Wasiks Cheese Shop in Wellesley) and at least one hard cheese-but I prefer hard cheese, so I had three: a pawlett, a piave vecchio and a gruyere.

Wasiks carries some really nice crackers-I decided to try something a little different this time-a cinnamon raisin toast/cracker. My go to crackers are called “Vinta crackers” in a red box. They are a sturdy, grainy cracker that I find goes well with most cheeses. If you want to go with a passed hors d’oeurves or pre plated cheese and crackers, I love a wasabi rice cracker with a think slice of feta cheese and a thin slice of avocado-the combination is really excellent!

The raincoast crisp crackers come in a variety of flavors, and taste good with cheese but also great by themselves.

Muffins are great-easy to make, and easy to make ahead of time. I love the Jordan Marsh recipe for blueberry muffins. Here’s a tip-roll the blueberries in flour before you put them into the batter-this way, they won’t all sink to the bottom and become a mushy mess.

Here’s the recipe:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups blueberries
2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 sifted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar (for top)
1 teaspoon vanilla

On low speed of mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift together dry ingredients onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper and gradually add alternately with milk.

Mash 1/2 cup of the berries (skip this step if using frozen blueberries) and stir in by hand.

Cooks Note: If using frozen blueberries, be sure to keep them frozen until the last minute or your batter will turn blueberry blue!

Grease a 12-well muffin pan with butter or shortening and grease the top surface of the pan, too, for easier clean-up. Pile batter high in each muffin cup. Sprinkle sugar over tops.

Bake at 375°F oven for 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes.

I love a nice mimosa at brunch. If you’re going to make them-don’t waste your money on fancy champagne-instead, go with prosecco-it tastes great and your guests will never know the difference. (Besides, you can’t really enjoy the flavor of a fine champagne when it’s mixed in with orange juice)

Another quick and easy idea I love, and frequently use, is a yogurt bar. I have done pre-made parfaits, but (let’s say) not everyone likes blueberries and this way they can customize their own-it’s a good conversation starter. I put out vanilla Greek yogurt and a variety of fresh fruit people can mix in (shown above: blueberries, strawberries and blackberries).

I love a little fresh lemon zest in the yogurt as well-it really brightens up the flavor.

Granola is another great option, it gives the “make your own parfait” a little texture, some nice crunch. Another idea might be honey for sweetness, cherries, raspberries or a variety of nuts.

I love this breakfast tart (see the recipe here) and what’s great about this recipe is that you can put any combination of ingredients in it-pancetta and green onions, veggies if you want a non meat option-it’s simple to make and a good choice for that one hot dish you may serve. Another choice would be the baked French toast, that you can make the night before and put into the oven to bake about an hour before your guests arrive. See the recipe for the French toast here.

My brother LOVES crescent rolls-this is a cute option that can also be made with a variety of ingredients inside.

Buy some store bought crescent rolls and roll any combination of ingredients inside-here we did pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. Pretty basic and you may even think tacky-but they have gone quickly at every party I’ve ever had.

If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, I love these croissants. They are bite sized and super easy to make. Again, you can fill them with anything-but I particularly love the almond paste filling! They taste best when they are still warm. I saw Ann Thorton make these on Dessert First, they are easy to make-the prep time is next to nothing because you use store bought puff pastry!

  • Prep Time: 45 min; Inactive Prep Time: 30 min; Cook Time:15 min; Level: Easy
  • Serves:32 servings

    Ingredients

    • 1 (17.3-ounce) package or 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
    • Flour, for dusting, if needed
    • 4 (1/2-ounce) mini milk chocolate bars, each broken into 4 equal pieces (recommended: Hershey’s)
    • 1 large egg, beaten
    • Sugar, for sprinkling
    • 1/2 (7-ounce) package almond paste, divided into 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pieces, shaped like a log or rolled into a ball
    • Almond slices, for garnish

    Directions

    Special equipment: pizza cutter or kitchen shears, ruler

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Place 1 sheet thawed puff pastry on the work surface like a sheet of paper or portrait (not horizontal or landscape). If the puff pastry is very sticky, very lightly flour the work surface. Using a pizza cutter or kitchen shears, cut the puff pastry in half, widthwise. Using a ruler as a guide, make an indentation at 2-inch intervals (for the base) across the bottom of each puff pastry half. Cut each half into 8 triangles, with the base of each triangle measuring 2 inches. (They will be very long isosceles triangles.) You’ll end up discarding the 2 end pieces to get the most out of your puff pastry piece. This sheet of triangles will be reserved for the chocolate croissants. Repeat the cutting for the second puff pastry sheet that will be used for the almond croissants.

    For the chocolate croissants: Place 1 chocolate piece just above the 2-inch edge of 1 pastry triangle, folding the dough over the chocolate as you tightly roll up the dough, enclosing the chocolate. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and chocolate. Place the pastry rolls on the baking sheet, seam-side down. Cover the croissants with plastic wrap and place the baking sheet in the refrigerator until the dough firms up. (You can make these croissants 1 day ahead up to this point.)

    Just before baking, remove the croissants from the refrigerator, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle lightly with sugar.

    For the almond croissants: Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond paste, shaped like a small log, just above the 2-inch edge of 1 pastry triangle, folding the dough over the almond paste as you tightly roll up the dough, enclosing the almond paste. Repeat with remaining puff pastry triangles and almond paste. Place the pastry rolls on a baking sheet, seam-side down. Cover the croissants with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until the dough firms up. (You can make these croissants 1 day ahead up to this point.)

    Just before baking, remove the croissants from the refrigerator, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle lightly with sugar and sliced almonds.

    Bake until the pastries are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Cook’s Note: These croissants are so easy and so good you’ll want to stuff them with practically everything. They are perfect as is-chocolate croissants and almond croissants, but if you’re feeling a little adventurous combine the chocolate and almond paste (scale back just a touch on the almond paste) in one croissant for a decadent treat. But don’t stop there, you can stuff these mouthwatering minis with savory fillings too. Ham and cheese croissants are crazy good!

     

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