Amy’s Classic Cheese Ball

Amy’s Classic Cheese BallPortion Control
The biggest struggle for me on Thanksgiving (and I am sure I have mentioned this before) is managing my appetite leading up to the big event. Because we eat our Thanksgiving around two or three o’clock, my usual meal schedule is knocked completely out of whack.

I’ve tried over the years to have a substantial breakfast and coast into the big meal. But, I find it makes me hangry around one o’clock. Not a good situation for spending time with family. Also, eating that much food before the early morning trek to my mother-in-law’s- house is rough. I have tried to just eat a bunch of little things throughout the morning but I end up not hungry enough to get the whole turkey/gravy/cranberry experience.

I think the sweet spot is to have a normal breakfast at a normal time and then have a reasonable snack somewhere around the noontime hour. This is all well and good considering I am not the one making all the food for the feast. It’s hard enough to make sure everyone’s favorite is on the table—let alone to make certain there are also snacks. So, having something that is easy to prepare and doesn’t require extra ingredients is key. The best thing I’ve found is a cheese ball.

Cheese balls are great! You can make them with ingredients you already have in your fridge. And, you can customize them five weeks from Sunday. So, here is our recipe for Amy’s Classic Cheese Ball. I emphasize that this is my basic recipe because I like to add cayenne to it. Not everyone is into spice. So, you can leave it out if you prefer.

Most of the ingredients should be in your fridge already or they would be easy to grab on the way to pick up your turkey—along with some precut veggies and a box of your favorite crackers. You can make this the night before and pull it out when the I’m starving whining begins.

Amy’s Classic Cheese Ball Recipe
Serves 12 (sometimes more depending on appetite) Read more…

Brie and Fig Fondue

Brie and Fig FondueTake a Dip
The 70s were a funky time, man. We had bell bottoms and disco. There was a lot of plaid and polyester–tragically sometimes at the same time. (Yikes!) We had 8-track tapes of Abba and the Bee Gees. And let’s not dare forget the abundance of macramé. Be honest, you all had a macramé owl on your wall at some point. As a child of the 70s, I survived all of these. One thing I didn’t experience? Fondue…

It seems strange, really. As a food family, you would think, given its popularity, that fondue would have been a regular occurrence. You would, however, be very wrong. And, apparently this is something that has been missing in my life. That would be the only logical explanation I could come up with that would explain why I quite randomly used a gift card I received for the holidays to purchase two, yes, two, fondue pots, very much out of the blue.

To be fair, I did not order two of the same fondue pots. Why make this wackier than it needs to be? I instead ordered an electric one and the more traditional fondue pot that you keep hot with tea light candles. Why the two versions you ask? Because, and I had no clue this was the case, fondue is not just a pot of melted cheese. One can also Fondue with hot oil or broth. (Mind blown.) For the oil or broth version it is best to have an electric fondue pot so it is easier to control the temperature. Makes perfect sense.

The arrival of said fondue pots—and, of course, the requisite library of fondue cookbooks—was way more exciting than it should have been. (This is what happens when you’ve been locked up with your family for entirely too long and have reached the end of Netflix.) We had to try it out immediately. We opted for a hot broth fondue as well as a cheese fondue. I went with broth because we’re all a little twitchy right now. And, I found the idea of hot oil to be potentially problematic. You will be happy to note that no people were harmed in the making of this fondue. In fact, I was pleased to note that doing fondue this way is essentially like having Asian Hot Pot. (I know, but this was a revelation for me.) The recipe I chose was good but I would like to find another one that has a bit more oompf. When I do, I will make sure to pass it along.

For the cheese, I went with a brie fondue that was so, so good. The original recipe called for fig preserves to be mixed into the melted brie. I thought this would make it too sweet. So, I left it out and served the preserves on the side as a dipping sauce. I think it was better that way, but feel free to try both versions. The cheese “dippers” were a traditional variety of cut bread, veggies and fruits. But, we all agreed the absolute best combo was dipping a crunchy red grape into the cheese. Divine!

Since stormaggedon is upon us and it looks like rain is in the forecast for the next week, now would be a great time to enjoy some hot, melty cheese when the temperatures are chilly outside. Can you dig it?

Brie and Fig Fondue Recipe
Yields 2 to 4 servings
Recipe adapted from The Essential Fondue Cookbook Read more…

The Cheese Plate

The Cheese PlateThankful
Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to celebrating the blessings in our lives. It is not about tangible gifts but rather the gifts that cannot be seen. Thanksgiving is about spending quality time with friends and family to appreciate all that is good and to reconnect while seated at a table for a feast to remind ourselves what is the most precious.

The circumstances surrounding this year’s celebration have not changed the basic premise of the holiday. We will still celebrate and give thanks for all that we have but this year we celebrate friends, family, and the other blessings in our lives by not getting together. We are showing how much we care about the families we were born into and the families we choose by staying safe at home so that next year we can all come together to gather around the same table in good health.

This reality is not what we would choose, nor what we would prefer, but it is the right thing to do. So whether you’re a party of four, or two, or one for turkey this year, take heart that your are not alone. We are all in this together and together we will all get through it. So raise a glass to toast those whom you are missing at your table and to the hope that at this time next year, we will all be together around the table again.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from your family at Piedmont Grocery.

The Cheese Plate
A cheese plate is an easy appetizer to throw together and with some simple rules of thumb, you can create one that is delicious and varied. Cheese plates can be artful, with lots of room for improvisation. Read more…

Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot
What do you eat when it feels like you’re living on the face of the sun? I have lived in California my whole life and yes, in August and even into September, we typically will get days that are in the 100s. The lightning show we had over the weekend is definitely not typical nor is the humidity that went with it. I don’t know how people who live in hot and humid locations do it. Personally, I don’t handle it well.

My sister and her husband lived in Atlanta for a few years and I remember visiting them and felling like I was going to pass out—and it wasn’t even the height of the summer! You walk out the door freshly showered and you’re immediately sticky. I’ll take the dry heat, thank you. Even without the humidity just the thought of making something for dinner in the hot weather makes me sweat.

I am not a salad person per se. I like salads but they are not my go-to first choice for an actual meal. I usually have them with a meal so that I don’t go looking for a snack an hour later. The exception to that is when it’s hot outside. For the past week I have been enjoying a number of heartier salads including a couple of chef’s salads as well as various tomato salads. My tomatoes are loving the weather even if I am not. So, we have been trying to eat them as fast as we can.

Salads work for me in the heat for two reasons. First, not having to turn on a hot stove, oven or even the grill is an obvious benefit. Second, I tend to not eat as much in the heat so what would normally leave me hungry in an hour, actually fills me up just fine.

This recipe for Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad is perfect for summer weather because it combines some of the best produce of the season with cheese. How could you possibly go wrong? The original recipe calls for peaches but I prefer nectarines. (Mainly because I’m not a fan of the fuzziness of the peach skin.) I have made this according to the original recipe many times, but I have also made it with the addition of fresh mango and/or cucumber to the mix. It’s tasty and cooling at the same time…

Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad Recipe
Yields 4 Servings
Adapted from Bon Appetit Read more…