Monday, May 7, 2018

Tips for creating a great cheese tray

 We are freshly back from a sweet week in San Francisco.  We had a lovely time as a family and even better, it was a reward trip for my husband, for his work achievements last year.  It was a delight to celebrate him and get to bring the kiddos along too! (I shared a bunch of photos on Instagram @lemonademakinmama if you click on my San Francisco stories tab!)  Once we returned late Thursday night, I knew I'd be hitting the grocery store first thing on Friday, as we had nothing in the house to eat.  I was playing catch up all day Friday and by dinner time, I still didn't have a plan.

Not to worry, this simple cheese tray is almost always our answer when there isn't anything in the oven!  With two of us being gluten free, eating at home is normally our go-to but it's got to be quick! What our family likes about this, is that 1) it's super fast to put together.  The longest prep work is slicing things and start to finish, this took me about fifteen minutes while sweet Ava chatted me up on the other side of the island, occasionally stealing a bite or two...  2) We like that it's actually very filling and low carb (unless you're like my kids who add heaps of crackers to their plates. Not pictured. Ha!) 3) It is so pretty that it makes even an ordinary evening feel like a party. 4) We generally have plenty of cheeses on hand, as well as nuts, meats and other nibbles to pull out and throw together.
 I was fairly tired and yet this gave me such a boost, from it's pretty presentation to easy preparation, that I thought I'd share the little tips and tricks I use each time I create one of these (which is very often in our household.)

 My "family tip" for this... cut your meats small, then roll or bunch them to make them stretch.  I tend to purchase a variety pack from Trader Joe's or have a salami on hand.  Slice thinly, quarter cuts, and such.  It really does make a difference in the budget!

When preparing this, I begin with meats and then add cubes of various cheeses.  I used Cotswold, smoked gouda, some Stilton and a truffle brie (all from Trader Joe's.) I normally use about half a wedge of cheese, and store the rest for another time. I then begin to fill in the remaining areas with nuts, veggies, olives or tapenade, and fruits.  I use whatever we have on hand in the pantry or fridge, and so each one we serve is different.  Sometimes I add jams if we're serving brie, or dried fruits rather than fresh.  I pull out small bowls and use those for tiny items like blueberries and the yummy thai spiced cashews (Trader Joe's). (Keeping a variety of small serving bowls on hand is really helpful and though they are all different, they look great when pulled together, because they are the same color.)

I also like to use things in different ways when serving tableside.  In the photo above, you can see that I'm using a favorite candle holder, for wood picks.  It's both pretty and functional.  Of course I always add at least one candle for some twinkle too... (below.)

 I've noticed that if I keep all my cloth napkins washed, pressed if needed and folded, ready to go... we use them a lot more.  Being organized and prepared makes for simple (and stress-less) hosting.  I'm also a big supporter of the white dishes campaign. They work for everyday to fancy occasions, and everything in between.
 I like to slice some radish, endive and leave a few leafy stems for pretty presentation.
 I love this tip.  Quickly peel or wash a label off before opening a jar, if you plan on using the ingredient directly from the jar.  It is much prettier.

I went a bit crazy with the soft evening light and the happy colors of our food and took way too many pics.  We sat down and enjoyed it thoroughly and it was gone all too quickly.  Then it was back to real life, as vacation time came to a close! 

So tell me, have you got any tips to add to this in comments? (Please say yes!  What helps you prepare and serve something quickly when you're tired?) (I'm just cheating and trying to come up with more ideas for the week ahead. Ha!)



  1. That looks so delicious and pretty! One of our favorite Sunday "lunches" as we usually have a bigger than usual breakfast and homecooked meal that evening. So, it's the perfect mini-meal in between. (Mine not so fancy. lol)

  2. What a gorgeous presentation!!! My kids are all older now, but they to this day talk about how those were their favorite dinners! A bunch of munchies, and little bit of everything! I will be stealing your tips! Thanks for sharing!
    Ok, on to super important info for me. I read you saw RICK SPRINGFIELD in San Francisco! My husband and I just saw him in concert on April 28th! I love him. Been a huge fan since I was 8. Tell me everything!!!! LOL!!! -Debbie (