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The Entertainer

Appetizers in 30 Minutes or Less: 8 Delicious Options

If you regularly host or attend parties throughout the year, having a repertoire of easy and delicious appetizers is a must. Whether you’re looking for something fresh and crisp or warm and cheesy, these eight options will have you covered for any occasion. Make sure you always have these ingredients on hand so that you can whip up a plate at a moment’s notice!

Cranberry Feta Pinwheels

Everyone loves a pinwheel—they’re easy to eat, packed with flavour, and seem to disappear the minute they’re placed on the table! These cranberry feta pinwheels are especially festive during the holidays, but their bright and bold flavour is welcome any time of year. Make sure to choose large enough tortillas or wraps to hold all of the filling for easy slicing. You can make these ahead and refrigerate for 24 hours before slicing.

Pistachio Twists

A deliciously simple appetizer that will impress everyone who takes a bite, these pistachio twists are a great addition to any food table—they can be used alongside dips or eaten alone. Frozen puff pastry forms the bulk of these twists, so make sure to always have some on hand. Spreading the crushed pistachios on both sides of the pastry sheet will ensure even coverage of the toppings. You can experiment with adding other flavours, too, like cranberries or seeds.

Fried Chicken and Pulled Pork Cornbread Poppers

For a twist on traditional jalapeño poppers, these mini muffins combine the spice and brine of jalapeño with the sweet and smooth cornbread flavour. Frozen popcorn chicken and premade pulled pork make your prep work much simpler, plus you can keep the ingredients for these poppers on hand regularly to make whenever company arrives.

Cucumber Canapes

A simple and elegant appetizer, cucumber canapes are a staple at fancy brunches and tea parties. However, guests love these small bites on all occasions because they’re a great palate cleanser between nibbles of other, richer foods. Make your prep even faster by purchasing premade herbed cheese spread rather than making your own. You can easily chill these if you make them ahead of time.

Photo: ALEAIMAGE via gettyimages.com

Baked Cheesy Onion Dip

Onion dip is a party favourite, so impress your guests by taking it up a notch and turning the classic cold dip into a bubbling warm, cheesy appetizer. Caramelizing the onions before baking with the cheeses is a key step to building the flavour, so make sure you set up your workstation to multitask while the onions are sizzling away. Serve right out of the oven for the best experience.

Toasted Ravioli

This ravioli will become your go-to hot appetizer for gatherings all year long. Without using any special equipment, you can fry frozen ravioli and make it taste as if you’ve spent hours in the kitchen—but really, you’ll only need about 15 minutes! Using frozen ravioli cuts down on prep time and doesn’t alter the flavour at all. Serve with a marinara dipping sauce and freshly grated cheese on top.

Italian Beef Sliders

This easy appetizer bakes as a single dish but can be broken up into individual sandwiches —the perfect solution for big crowds. You can prep the sandwiches a day in advance if necessary and cook right before the party, just wait to add the melted butter and seasoning mix until you’re ready to bake. You can easily replace the meat or cheese with other varieties as your guests prefer.

Tomato Bruschetta with Garlic and Basil

If you’re looking for an appetizer that seems fancy but has minimal prep, this bruschetta checks all the boxes. A fresh appetizer that is perfect for any occasion from brunch to cocktail hour, this tomato bruschetta recipe is simple to serve at home or transport to a gathering offsite. The key to this recipe is sautéing the garlic before mixing with the other ingredients; you’ll bring out a much richer flavour than raw garlic alone. Also, make sure to generously coat your baguette with olive oil before toasting in the oven—that will ensure the crispiest possible bite! Serve with the tomato mix spooned on top or as a dip next to the baguette pieces.

No matter the occasion, everyone will love these appetizers—and you’ll love how easy they are to make!

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The Entertainer

5 Ways to Create and Capture Holiday Memories

The hustle and bustle of this time of year can often mean we spend more time stressing about the festive season than actually enjoying it. Here are some tips for being present, having fun and documenting those special memories.

1. Find local activities.
After many events got cancelled last year, municipalities and businesses are stepping up to offer socially distanced outdoor experiences this season. From mulled wine tastings for the grownups to magical drive-thru light shows for the kids, there’s something for everyone. Check your local paper for listings.

2. Photograph the season.
We tend to reserve all our photo-taking for Christmas Day, but the holiday spirit shines throughout late November and most of December. Whether it’s picking out the perfect evergreen at the tree farm, decorating your home or wrapping presents, be sure to capture all those treasured moments.

3. Transform your to-do list.
There are plenty of tasks you must do, so why not take the ones you’re dreading most and turn them into something fun? For instance, if you have no idea what to buy grandma, try having a friendly competition in the family — whoever has the best suggestion wins a small treat or is relieved from an evening of dish duty. Or, hate baking dessert? Use it as an excuse to sample local bakeries to find a tasty, ready-made pie or cake.

4. Go on a nature walk.
Take a breather from your obligations and re-energize by connecting with nature. Visit your neighbourhood park after a fresh snowfall for a dose of calm. This is also a perfect time to pick up some pinecones and greenery for your décor and take a few pictures that portray the beauty of winter.

5. Embrace candid moments.
Stiff, posed portraits are so outdated. Instead of failing to get everyone together for the perfect group photo, casually snap a few pictures throughout a party to capture what the event was really like. This is especially a good idea for kids, who can rarely sit still when they’re excited.

Whether you’re shooting people or nature, you’ll capture better detail take better photos with the right camera, like a top-rated one from Sony. The brand has a range of high-quality mirrorless cameras, from enthusiast to pro. Look for retailers that price match as they can beat the advertised price from another retailer by 10 percent of the difference.

www.newscanada.com

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A Spiced and Creamy Holiday Twist for a Classic Cookie

Snickerdoodles are a true classic, with the distinctive crackled top and sweet cinnamon-sugar coating. While this soft and chewy favourite can be enjoyed all year long, why not give it a holiday twist by adding another timeless tradition — the flavour of eggnog?

Spiced Eggnog Snickerdoodles
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes: 20 cookies

Ingredients:

Cookies:
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 large egg, room temperature
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp cream of tartar
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1/4 tsp salt

Topping:
• 2 tbsp granulated sugar
• 1 tbsp PC eggnog spice seasoning blend

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed until creamy and light in colour, 2 to 3 minutes; alternatively, beat in a bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Beat in egg and vanilla, scraping down side of the bowl as needed. Set aside.

3. Whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add to butter mixture; beat on low speed just until combined.

4. Stir together sugar and eggnog spice in a small bowl. Scoop cookie dough and roll into balls. Roll balls in sugar mixture to coat.

Nutritional information per cookie: calories 100; fat 5 g; sodium 65 mg; carbohydrates 13 g; dietary fibre 0 g; sugars 8 g; protein 1 g.

www.newscanada.com

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The Entertainer

How to Host a Christmas Party Like an Event-Planning Pro

From family get-togethers to office parties to themed Christmas parties, the holidays are about spending time with the ones you love most. Should you become the host or hostess of said party, you may need a few pointers to get you through it. 

Here are eight tips for hosting the perfect Christmas party. 

Party Planning Tips  

  • Choose a theme. Streamline your party planning by choosing a Christmas party theme. Deciding on a theme will not only help guide your menu, activities (such as games, crafts, a photo booth, etc.), and decorations, but it’ll show your guests just how much thought and effort you put into planning the event. Potential traditional holiday party themes include Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, Christmas Character Party, or a Gatsby Christmas. If you’re throwing an online Christmas party, you may want to choose something that’s more interactive, like online holiday bingo or virtual Christmas trivia. 
  • Set a date. There are only four Saturdays in the holiday season, which makes choosing the perfect date for your Christmas party a bit tough. If there are kids on the guest list, you may need to pick a time that’s early enough that they’ll be tucked in by bedtime. Before you decide on a date, take your guests, their priorities, and your vision for the party (such as casual cocktails, office party, family-friendly affair, etc.) into account. 
  • Decide on a location. Throwing a house party is convenient and affordable. However, if you plan on inviting a large number of guests, you may want to consider renting an event space. If you’re on a tight budget and hosting the party at home isn’t an option, look for a free location (such as a local park, community center, or library). To help you decide on a location, think about the number of guests, the food you’ll serve, whether or not there will be alcohol at the party, and the overall atmosphere you’d like to create. If you’re hosting a virtual Christmas party, you’ll need to decide on a “virtual venue.” A few options include Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Group FaceTime.

Photo: svetikd via gettyimages.com

  • Plan the menu and set a budget. After you’ve nailed down the theme, date, and location, you’ll need to plan a menu. If money is tight, consider making the party a potluck or opt for snacks and appetizers instead of a full-on meal. If you’re going the remote route, you could ask everyone to have a packet of cocoa on hand, or you could send out goodie bags ahead of time.  
  • Send an evite. Once you’ve figured out the who, what, when, and where, send out email invites. This way, you’ll be able to bypass the stress of purchasing and mailing customized invitations. Just be sure to give your guests plenty of notice! 

Tips for Hosting an Unforgettable Christmas Party  

  • Create a Christmas party playlist. A party just isn’t a party without music. If you’re having a hard time choosing songs for your playlist, online streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have hundreds of pre-made holiday playlists available. Just pick one, and you’re finished! 
  • Set the mood. For many, the holidays kindle memories of friends and family, favourite dishes, and welcoming smells. Bring these memories to life by filling your home (or the venue) with cozy, seasonal scents. You can do this by making a stovetop of slow-cooker potpourri, decorating with perfumed pine cones or sweet-smelling garland, or lighting a holiday-inspired candle.   
  • Hang some mistletoe. Another affordable way to make your home or venue feel more Christmassy is to hang a sprig or two of mistletoe. You could hang a spring by the front door, above the staircase, or over the dining table. 

Whether you choose to host a virtual Christmas party or an in-person, themed party, these tips are sure to make it an event to remember.

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The Entertainer

Swap the Figgy Pudding with These Heavenly Holiday Appetizers

‘Tis the season! As the weather gets colder, gift shopping begins, and Mariah Carey takes over the radio, you know that it’s finally the holiday season. 

Whether you’re hosting a party or want to impress your loved ones with a tasty appetizer they’re sure to love, this is the perfect master list of delicious fan favourites. From sweet to savoury to 19+, these recipes are perfect for sharing with your holiday guests. 

Cranberry Brie Bites

This classy, upscale holiday appetizer will leave your guests begging for more. The recipe is easy to make and beginner-friendly with a quick 35 minute completion time and a yield of 24. This recipe tends to be a fan favourite, with reviewers on Delish loving the cross between the sour-sweet flavour of the cranberry mixed with the savoury brie. Overall, this recipe boasts a 4.7-star rating with over 420 reviews—it’s guaranteed to satisfy your holiday hankerings!

Pull-Apart Christmas Tree

Anything shaped like a Christmas tree is likely to bring up the holiday spirit! If you’re a fan of classic cheesy bread, this has the perfect celebration twist. The flavours of garlic, mozzarella, and dough make it a hit for all audiences with very little effort. Mix it with a side of marinara and serve! One serving yields 8, but you can easily double it. Its preparation time is 20 minutes, followed by a 20-minute cooking period. Plus, this easy-to-eat appetizer is perfect for serving at larger family celebrations!

Cheddar Holly Crackers

If you’re looking to impress your guests with an aesthetic and delicious appetizer, these cheddar holly crackers are perfect for your get-together. The crackers are perfect passing-by snacks, and they are sure to be popular with the younger members of your holiday celebration. The recipe takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete and yields 4 dozen cheddar crackers. Plus, you can make them into any shape you desire, from snowmen to presents and trees.

Photo: courtneyk via gettyimages.com

Hot Toddy with Charred Oranges

Say, what’s in this drink? Even if it’s cold outside for your holiday celebration, warm your guests up with a smoky, festive mix between roasted citrus and bourbon. You’ll feel sophisticated and classy presenting and drinking this delicious concoction by the fire. Truly, this drink will be the talk of the evening. 

Pimiento Cheese Deviled Eggs

This recipe provides the perfect twist on a classically festive holiday dish. The cheese adds a rich, silky quality to the deviled eggs and a punch of savoury flavour. These are easy to serve and share with as many guests as you’d like. Plus, they are relatively cheap to buy and easy to make. The recipe yields 12 eggs and takes a total of 40 minutes to complete. Add some roasted red pepper seasoning to top off the eggs and to give them a festive flavour and decorative colour pop. 

Healthy Christmas Hummus Wreath

When it comes to appetizers, dips and sauces are always a go-to staple for the evening—so why not make it festive and healthy? This gorgeous (and delicious) recipe from Two Healthy Kitchens has simple, easy-to-use ingredients that will make this recipe a staple for holiday hosting. The recipe produces one serving platter and is ready for guests in less than 30 minutes. Not only is it quick, easy, gluten-free, and vegetarian, it also sports a 4.6-star rating among the community of holiday hostesses. Add some nutrition (and decoration!) to spread your celebration into a success!

Whether you’re looking for fun, festive, unique, or stand-out, you’re sure to wow your loved ones with any one of these tasty appetizer recipes. Enjoy!

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Creative Stocking Stuffers That Won’t Break the Bank

The stocking hung by the fireplace stuffed to the brim with goodies is an iconic symbol of Christmas. They sit there just waiting to be dumped out all over the floor. And, be honest: Who wants a pair of white socks or a bag of candy coal? 

These stocking stuffers are sure to bring out a “ho ho ho!” from young and old alike! From tech to coffee to fun and games for kids of all ages, these little packages snuggled deep in a knitted stocking may end up being the most-loved gifts of them all. Plus, they are all around $10, so they won’t break your holiday bank. These trinkets prove that good things still do come in small packages!

Tech Talk

A cell phone stand keeps texts and videos in clear view and them hands-free. Most options are compatible with any smartphone. Plus, the stand keeps cables organized on their desk, kitchen counter, or bedroom nightstand. 

Are they tired of messy fingerprints on their tech gear? A screen cleaning pad is a reusable faux suede cloth sized for home or office use and is perfect for all their touch screen devices. 

Ensure they never misplace their AirPods or headphones again with a carrying case that protects their investment in regular or wireless earphones. Many come in all different shapes, colours, and sizes—so check your local retailer for options and get creative!

Time to Relax

Do they need some relaxation after the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations? A reusable pouch filled with skincare products like facemask and lotions is great for your on-the-go loved one.

Who wouldn’t love luxury soaps? They make for a beautifully packaged gift and come in all sorts of fragrances—lavender, carrot, cucumber, fig, peach, cherry blossom, tangerine, you name it! These are sure to pretty up everyone’s guest bathrooms!

Even little girls and boys need a chance to relax! Crayola Bath Dropz are fragrance-free, non-toxic water-colouring tablets that will magically change your tub to blue, yellow, or red. 

Why should kids have all the bath time fun? Create rich bubbles and vibrant colours while treating your skin with beneficial ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, and essential oils. Bath bombs are the perfect stocking stuffer for someone who is already a fan or as an introduction for newbies. They often come in fun shapes like cupcakes, hearts, and donuts, too!

Photo: Edwin Tan via gettyimages.com

For the Coffee Lovers

A package of coffee paired with a trio of mini syrups makes a great stocking stuffer for every coffee lover in your life or your favourite at-home barista! 

For Kids of All Ages

Have a budding astronomer in your midst? A mini star projector beams the constellations of the astrological zodiac onto the walls of your home. Fun and educational, a mini star projector is the perfect way to bring the planetarium home!

Does your family love games? Codenames Board Game is a spy game for multiple players ages 10 and up. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents, and teammates know the agents only by their code names given on the cards. Add this unique game to your holiday fun!

Or, keep them laughing all day long with a holiday joke book for boys and girls. 

For Anyone and Everyone

Save the planet with easy-clean reusable straws. Most are dishwasher safe, and some even come with a linen carrying case! They’re perfect for a greener lifestyle. 

You can also consider getting them a personalized key chain. Many retailers offer options with common names, or surf the web for a way to make a truly customized gift in their favourite colour or style. It’s just the thing to let them know how special they are!

Are they ready to travel? Get them prepared with a universal power wall charger with a power plug adapter. Look for an option that will work in many countries.

Ready, set? Shop! Time to shop to fill those stockings with fun and affordable gifts for everyone.

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10 DIY Décor Ideas for Your Holiday Home

So much of the joy from the holiday season comes from entertaining. When hosting, filling your home with exciting and colourful decorations is a must. 

Rather than buying everything pre-made, consider rounding out your décor collection with some DIY items that highlight your style and use items you may already have at home! Your guests will be impressed, and your home will have a unique and memorable look. Here are a few ideas to inspire your homemade decoration dreams.

Festive Garlands

One of the easiest ways to brighten up your home for the holiday season is to use garlands in every room. With so many different styles to choose from, your garland selection can highlight your personal style and give your guests something interesting to admire. 

This paint chip garland idea is an easy and inexpensive way to incorporate bright colours into your decorations. Cut the paint chips into whatever shapes you’d like before you string them together! For a different aesthetic, highlighting citrus fruits as part of your décor is a great way to incorporate cozy holiday smells into your decorating. This dried fruit garland is a wonderful weekend project and uses ingredients you likely already have in the pantry. If you’d like to use greenery too, try this style that’s simple and elegant.

Photo: Amax Photo via gettyimages.com

Snowflakes and Snowmen

If you’d like a winter theme full of wonder and whimsy, opt for decorations that include lots of snowflakes, snowmen, and white/blue/silver combinations. These fun snowmen are a great decoration for anywhere the kids are likely to congregate. Since they use clear glass balls and Mason jars as the base, you can easily make several from dollar store items. Cluster a few together and vary their scarves for a fun snowperson family! As a more neutral decoration, painted snowflake jars are perfect for adorning shelves, countertops, and coffee tables. Pair these jars with winter décors, such as cozy pillows and throws, to make your home a winter wonderland.

Elegant and Bold Centerpieces

If you want to get your guests’ attention, then focus on a memorable centrepiece for your holiday table. Pull out all the stops with these gold glittered vases made from Mason jars. You can use gold as suggested or opt for silver or champagne to match a different décor scheme. Filling the jars is half the fun, too—evergreen and flower stems are beautiful, while candy canes and lollipops signal a fun-filled party! If you’d like to put water in the jars and then top with floating cranberries, leave the top half of the jars unpainted (or frost with a light dusting of glitter). For a fun alternative, make a snowman hat centrepiece that uses an upcycled coffee can as the base. You can decorate the hat with faux or real flowers to match the rest of your décor.

Candles and Lights

One of the most prominent decorations during the holiday season is lighting—from candles to string lights, a warm glow adds depth and comfort to a room. These wooden tree sconces not only provide an interesting background for the candles, but they’re big enough that you don’t have to worry about placing multiples together for an impact. You could even decorate the wooden trees with paint or glitter for a bolder look. For another rustic option, try these stencilled burlap candle holders. Choose silhouettes that match your style, including snowflakes, for something you can leave out all winter! If small candle holders aren’t filling up your space, decorate an inexpensive lantern using various stems and bows, then place an LED candle inside.

Any of these DIY decorations will add a meaningful touch to your home that friends and family alike will remember for years to come.

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Virtual Game Night: Don’t Let Distance Stop Your Fun

Social distancing means that we’re physically apart, but with sophisticated technology at our fingertips, we don’t have to forego quality time together. Dust off your hosting skills by putting together a virtual game night for any group, from large crowds and young families to a memorable girls’ night! With these tips, you’ll easily spread the fun from your living room across the miles.

Virtual Party Setup

For any kind of gathering, the setup is important – and a virtual game night is no different! Set the stage by sending a virtual invitation from sites like Punchbowl. There’s space on the invitation to communicate the technology needs to all the guests so that they’re ready ahead of time with any accounts or app downloads. For most games, it’s easiest if each household/group has at least two devices: one to log onto Zoom or video chat so that everyone can hear and see the fun, and another to interact with the game. And just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean you should skimp on the theme and party treats – send out a suggested menu with your invitation so that everyone can enjoy the same snacks, and put up a festive background, so your Zoom square looks fun!

Big Group of Friends/Families

If you have a big crowd to host, then the Party Pack from JackBox Games is one of the best options. You’ll get 5-7 games for an entire night of fun with your large group of friends or other families (teens+; many parts of games have some risqué and/or violent mentions). For help playing these games virtually (rather than all in one room together), check out the ideas here. The benefit to JackBox Games is that only one person needs to own the game – everyone else just logs into the right spot via their web browser! With a large group, things can get hectic, so it helps to send out a tentative schedule of events along with the party invitation. That way, everyone knows when their favourite game is coming up, and no one asks for the hundredth time whose turn is next!

Couples Game Night

Do you miss going out with other couple friends? Easily transition your game nights to a virtual version with these favourites. If you’re the crowd that used to complete every new Escape Room, then try Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (info for playing remotely here). A fast-paced strategy and communication game, you’re sure to end up shrieking in frustrating fun! The only catch here is that both households need to own a copy of the game for the best experience. If you want something more laid-back, Most Likely To will leave everyone laughing as you predict who among you is the most likely to do a variety of zany things – the online version is free!

Photo: FG Trade via gettyimages.com

Families with Younger Kids

Groups with younger kids can make game nights easiest by playing familiar games, just virtually! The UNO! Apps offer team play as well as larger groups. You can start a Fun Room to have the whole (distanced) family together for the game. Since the app offers customizations for rules and gameplay, you can make sure that even the youngest kids get in on the action; just remember that it’s easiest to play these app games when you have multiple devices available. For a virtual game night that doesn’t require as much device use, try a distanced version of long-time favourites like Bingo or Hedbanz/Heads Up. Just set up your Zoom call and take turns as you would in person! To tailor a game like Bingo or Hedbanz to your party’s theme (or even just what your kids enjoy!), take a look at these fun Bingo card ideas and tips for making your own forehead game to print at home.

Girls’ Night

For the ultimate girls’ game night, the Houseparty app is an all-in-one solution. As a socializing app with embedded gameplay, Houseparty means that you don’t have to log onto two different devices to get the most from a virtual game night. Once two members start a chat, a room opens up, and others can join in – then choose your favourite game and make sure to screenshot the hilarity! Add some fun by deciding on a signature cocktail ahead of time; send your girls the recipe, and everyone can sip along together!

No matter what crowd you’re gathering for your next virtual game night, your hosting skills will shine through with these great options!

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Impress Your Loved One (Or Yourself!) With The Ultimate Cheese Board

The best gatherings (or Friday nights at home with the family) always include delicious food. If you’re looking to take your menu up a notch, consider offering cheese boards (or charcuterie boards) to your loved ones. With a few simple steps, you’ll impress even the pickiest food critics with these visually stunning and equally tasty creations.

Choosing a Board

Your cheese board can say a lot about your personality. From slate to wood, round to square, there are so many options available for a quality board. When not in use, cheese boards can be part of your kitchen décor, so think about a finish that coordinates with your current style. Choosing something with edges is also a great way to keep the food contained on the board (and a great option if kids are on the guestlist). Boards that come with cutouts for small bowls are nice but not as versatile, so think about your future cheese board plans when purchasing. This expandable option is a great choice for a large board that doesn’t permanently take up a lot of space. Whatever you choose, make sure to follow any instructions about cleaning and oiling the board pre/post-feast.

Cheese Choice

Did you know there are categories of cheese? Firm, soft, and semi-soft cheeses all bring something different to the party, and you should put at least one of each type on your cheese board (try for at least 4 cheeses total). Start by adding your favourites and branch out from there. When compiling options, think about bold versus mild flavours; Cheddar and Feta are strong, so adding a milder Swiss cheese will help balance your platter. Don’t be afraid to include flavoured cheeses as well – if you need something spicy on the platter, try a jalapeño Havarti! The final consideration? Shape! Cut some cheese into triangles, some into squares, and put the soft cheeses in small dishes or mould into round domes. Aim for 1-2 ounces of cheese per person. Need help with options? Here’s a great roundup of varieties that are fairly easy to find.

Meats/Proteins

Aside from the cheese, meats are the next most important part of a cheese board. Traditionally speaking, cured Italian meats are the best option (think salami, prosciutto, etc.). Aiming again for 1-2 ounces per person, choose meats that are your favourite and go from there. Looking for a vegetarian option? Try roasted chickpeas or nuts along with a spreadable bean dip.

Photo: JMichl via gettyimages.com

Accompaniments

Even though the accompaniments aren’t the star of a cheese board, choosing the right ones can make your platter pop! Breads and crackers are a must – choose options that pair well with the cheeses you’ve selected (so round crackers for round cheese and crispy bread for spreading warm Brie). Beyond these items, try to add fresh and sweet elements to balance out the salt and tanginess of your meats and cheeses. Fruits and vegetables are easy choices here, and you can use whatever is in season (or already in your fridge!). Think of these as palate cleansers – biting into a crisp cucumber slice leaves you ready for the next round of cheese! Dried fruits and honey or jam are also great options for some crunch and sweetness.

Add Colour and Surprises!

The best cheese boards have a bold visual impact. Make sure to consider colour when you’re adding final touches and accompaniments. Some sprigs of parsley or rosemary will add a nice fragrance and pop of green, while a berry compote can infuse some bright colours. If you have a lot of cute cheese knives to show off, adding a bowl of olive tapenade or homemade hummus is a great surprise.

Arranging it All

You’ve assembled the delicious components – now what? When it comes to placing everything on your board, don’t overthink it. Whether you end up with something neatly organized or more whimsically arranged, your board will showcase all of your hard work. Start by placing something in the center of the board (your baked Brie, a bowl of roasted nuts, etc.), then add similarly-sized elements to each corner. Once you have these anchors, start filling in the gaps! It’s best if you have some separation between cheeses so you can easily see all the offerings. If you like the abundant look, don’t be afraid to pile things up a bit. Finally, take a step back and look at your creation – where can you add the pops of colour? And don’t forget to snap a picture!

Once you start experimenting with cheese boards, you’ll want to prepare all of your meals this way! So make your grocery list and jump right in!

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Add These Spooktacular Sides to Elevate Your Halloween

Fall brings yearnings for warm and cozy gatherings with friends and family. If hosting a Halloween party is on your agenda this year, you are in luck! From alarming appetizers and devilish dips to spooktacular salads, we have gathered some of the most delicious and fun recipes for creepy fun.

Appetizers

Set the mood for your party right from the start with Halloween-themed appetizers. We’ve found some adorable and delicious bite-sized snacks that are sure to be crowd-pleasers. 

These charming Cheese Ball Pumpkins feature pretzel sticks and parsley leaves as the stem and leaf for pumpkin-shaped mini cheese balls. The pairing of cheddar cold pack cheese and crackers are the perfect combination to get the party started.

Jalapeno Mummies are sure to be the hit of the party. Stuff jalapenos with a pepper jack cheese, cream cheese, garlic, and onion powder mixture. Then wrap with refrigerated crescent dough and bake. Add candy eyes peeking out between the layers of flaky croissant for a tasty and spooky-looking snack.

Your guests will love these Adorable Halloween Deviled Eggs! Start with the most delicious deviled egg recipe and mix in a bit of creativity with red bell pepper wings and horns for these devilishly delightful appetizers!

Dips

The Jack-O-Lantern Cheesy Beef Taco Dip is made with browned beef, cream cheese, mayonnaise, shredded cheddar, and spices. The combination of the cheddar and paprika makes a delightful pumpkin-coloured dip. Then add a jalapeno as the stem, tortilla chips as the eyes and nose, and black olives for the mouth to create your Jack-o-Lantern look. 

Halloween 7 Layer Taco Dip is a spooky take on this party favourite! Start with a base of sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning. Then add layers of ground beef or refried beans, salsa, and green chillies. End with guacamole as the top layer and draw spider webs using sour cream and a ziplock bag with a hole in the corner. 

For a sweeter dip, this Witches Brew Cream Cheese Dip is made with pistachio pudding, milk, whipped cream, cream cheese, and green food colouring mixed together in a stand mixer. Top with gummy eyeballs and worms and serve in a fun dish like a cauldron. 

Photo: svetikd via gettyimages.com

Salads

Looking for something a bit healthier to put out at your party? This Halloween Pasta Salad is chock full of colourful vegetables like broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and carrots. Toss it with cooked whole wheat pasta, Italian dressing, and parmesan cheese. Then top with cutely cut jack-o-lantern cucumber slices. 

This Halloween Fruit Salad uses mini Halloween cookie cutters to create pumpkins, ghosts, cats, and bats out of melons and pineapple. Use satsumas or clementines with a piece of cucumber to create little pumpkins. Kiwi, grapes, and blackberries add additional colours to this Pinterest-worthy salad. 

The Freaky Halloween Salad is a fun blend of healthy vegetables with a Halloween twist. Make a nest of spiralled carrot noodles and add brain-like cauliflower florets, romanesco, and edamame. Whip up some homemade buttermilk green goddess dressing served in a syringe, and you have created a unique, nutritious, and spooky dish. 

Desserts

You can make this easy-to-make recipe for Halloween Muddy Buddies on the fly for a Halloween party or an after-school treat to celebrate the season. Simply melt peanut butter, milk chocolate chips, and butter in the microwave. Stir in Chex cereal, coat with powdered sugar, and add some spooky candied eyeballs. 

Frankenstein Rice Krispie Treats are another simple to make but fun Halloween-themed dessert. Make Rice Krispie treats using the directions on the box and add a bit of green food colouring. Dip the tops into melted chocolate or black candy melts for the hair, attach marshmallows for the bolts on the side of Frankenstein’s head, and candy for his eyes. 

We’ve kept the spookiest for last with these Witch Finger Cookies! Make sugar cookies rolled into finger-sized pieces with almond slices for the nails and dipped into raspberry jam for the bloody ends. 

Who’s ready to host a Halloween party now that you are armed with these delicious and spooky recipes?