Whether hosting an intimate dinner party or catering to the masses, a party platter should exude a feeling of bountiful goodness, quality and understated elegance.
If seeking to make an impression, this is no time for the salted crackers or frozen mini pizzas to make an appearance. Lavish servings of Lavosh and home-made dips counterpointed by exotic fruits in a range of colours, should be the order of the day.
Think of the platter as a tasting plate overflowing with rare and delicious goodies that guests may never before have experienced. If the first bite is with the eye then the party platter should be a masterpiece, foretelling the sumptuousness of the main meal to follow.
Tip 1 — Presentation
Dedicated or scrupulously cleaned wooden chopping boards are the ideal medium for displaying your platter to its best advantage. There is a rustic, earthy and organic feel to them which cannot be replicated in plastic or other materials.
The word ‘dedicated’ means it is used strictly for the purpose of serving rather than to prepare food.
While wooden chopping boards have been proven safer than plastic ones due to the fact that they tend to have less deep furrows for bacteria to thrive, research has also found salmonella and other bacteria doesn’t survive on wood like it does on plastic.
It is still imperative that you clean your wooden chopping boards meticulously before every use. Whilst cleaning, inspect the surface for deep grooves, mould or staining, which all indicate it is time for a new board.
Tip 2 — Centrepieces
Set a central focus point on your platter and branch out from there. Hollow out a round cottage loaf, cabbage, capsicum or similar and fill with homemade dip. Many foodstuffs with a hard exterior can be used in this way to excellent effect.
Stunning ramekins filled with homemade sauces and dips, surrounded by sushi, prawns, smoked salmon parcels and lobster, will elicit gasps of delight. Consider emptying a lobster shell, mixing the contents into a seafood dip or Mornay, returning the mixture to the shell and serve ringed by lashings of warm bread or pita.
The ever popular dessert platter is perfect for lakes of melted chocolate in lavish, heated serving tureens or fountains; surrounded by strawberries, marshmallows and skewers for dipping.
Tip 3 — Crackers and dippers
Vegetables and Middle Eastern breads make nutritious, colourful and tasty dippers including Lavosh crackers, Turkish breads, carrot sticks, red capsicum and celery. Use foods which will remain crunchy for the length of the function.
Warm falafel balls on toothpicks can also double as scoops for exotic dips.
Tip 4 — Texturing
Something cold, something hot, something crunchy, something smooth – give diners variety whilst exciting both the eye and the taste buds.
If serving large groups, roll meats into easy to pick up parcels. Utilise unusual and interesting receptacles full of bite-sized portions such as porcelain spoons which can be easily picked up by guests.
Fold, roll, layer or fan meats out in an arc and garnish with radish roses, coriander or other fresh herbs, kale or cheeses. Hot finger foods can be interspersed with unusual yet tasty dipping sauces and leafy greens.
Tip 5 — A touch of the exotic
Take a stroll around a large fruit shop to select colourful, exotic or tropical fruits. Get creative with the presentation. Cut fruit into intricate shapes, florets and roses. Avoid pitted fruit which may present a choking hazard. Some suggestions to get you started are:
Tip 6 — Choosing cheeses
Serve cheeses on a separate platter, identifying them with rustic cheese labels. These can be purchased, printed at home or better still fashioned DIY style from corks or small chalk boards. The more creative the better!
When using this idea it is best to have a wide variety of cheeses in small quantities of each. Go for a mixture of crumbly, smooth, mild, pungent and tasty.
Some suggestions may be:
Try to get a mixed variety of tastes, textures and colours. For instance, Brie and Camembert have a similar consistency and presentation, so you may choose to avoid having both. Display cheeses with a selection of dried and fresh fruit and nuts to set them off to best advantage. Don’t forget the cheese knife!
Tip 7 — Get creative with colour
The party platter should not merely be about taste, it needs to be visually captivating. Consider the occasion and build a palette of colours based on that. Examples of this are Australia Day or St Patrick’s Day. A national flag can be created using a variety of complementary foods.
Begin with these ‘colourful’ tips:
- Whites – Australian feta, cauliflower florets, tzatziki dip or brie
- Blues – Blueberries interspersed with tropical blue flower leaves
- Reds – Stuffed cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, red capsicum, strawberries
- Yellows – pineapple, cheddar cheese, lemon
- Oranges – carrot sticks, mandarins, American cheese
- Greens – olives, kiwi fruit, beans, broccoli florets
Try to incorporate typically national foods to create the effect and continue the theme. An example of this could be a Mexican flag fashioned from white corn chips, salsa and jalapenos.
Tip 8 — Theming
Catering to large groups using multiple platters, affords the opportunity to build a theme into each serving tray.
Mix spices, garnishes and dipping sauces, in with the following:
- Seafood – oysters, caviar, prawns, lobster, warm fish balls, seafood croquettes and hot seafood rolls. Use rock salt or crushed ice as a bed.
- Meat – salumi including prosciutto, bresaola, mortadella, salami
- Vegetarian – olives, dolmades, cherry tomatoes, fetta, falafel balls
Alternately, platters can be themed by cuisine – Mexican, Italian, Thai and Chinese are some popular suggestions. Source or make little national flags to decorate each platter.
Other ways to personalise platters is to create artwork using specific foods. For instance the Netherlands – fashion feta stuffed tomatoes into tulips with spring onion stems and voila, you have spectacular national emblem!
Include a selection of tasting and dipping sauces tailored to complement the flavours.
Tip 9 — Simple savouries
The combination of olive oil with a dash of balsamic vinegar is always a favourite. Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh herbs like sage or parsley plus a side of fine grain sea salt.
Offer a range of heavy breads for dipping and surround with traditional European fare like olives, feta and prosciutto.
Tip 10 — Filling in the gaps
A party platter should be about displaying abundance and variety. Garnishes and edible greens such as lettuce leaves, mint and parsley are all colourful and luxuriant bases from which to present or set off a platter to best advantage. Replace food often to avoid the appearance of the platter having been ‘picked over’.
When seeking to make a lasting impression, putting energy and thought into planning and fashioning superb food platters can be time well spent. The colours and contents can form a delicious and eye-catching prelude to the main meal or be a parade of main courses in themselves.
Sumptuously presented food arrangements can encourage socialisation and stimulate the gastronomic juices. So get your artistic talents flowing to create magnificent platters which will make your next function a resounding success.
Panini Bar: Kids in the Kitchen
If you’re just joining us for the Kids in the Kitchen Series, be sure to check out last week’s challenge where we shared some tasty breakfast treats. This week, we’re working on lunch! If your kids are tiring of the same old lunch sandwiches, let’s change things up a bit and get them involved with their lunch choice. A panini bar is a great way to host an afternoon of family fun! (In truth, the panini bar makes regular appearances on our dinner menu as well – it’s a great option for the working mom who wants to serve a hot meal but doesn’t have a lot of time. I’ve also been known to sneak a hot panini for breakfast!)
The best part about a panini bar is that you can always switch it up. We lay out everything in the fridge in a huge spread and then the choices begin! Emily usually takes the orders and then I help her prep. She cooks them in our panini maker (Best invention ever! This is an affiliate link for the one I have – don’t feel led to click – it’s just there if you want it because I really think this product is awesome!) and then serves them up like a waitress in our own little family restaurant. Some things you’ll need:
- Assortment of bread – We’ve used white, wheat, tortillas, homemade, rolls, bagels, pitas…whatever happens to be on hand.
- Assortment of meats – Ham, turkey, roast beef, pepperoni, roasted chicken (See The Bird Word Series!)…whatever you like!
- Assortment of cheese – We always have cheddar and provolone on hand, but often take it up a notch with pepper jack or fresh mozzarella (my fav!).
- Assortment of toppings – Tomatoes, basil, roasted red peppers, hot peppers, avocado and bacon have all made appearances on our panini menu.
- Assortment of condiments – Mayo, mustard, hot sauce, ranch dressing…lots of tasty options here.
The opportunities are truly endless. Everyone loves getting to have something a little different and choosing their own toppings per their tastes, but you don’t feel like you’re prepping separate meals for everyone. It’s quick to set up, quick to prep and quick to clean up. And the best part is that a panini bar requires some input from every member of the family, so it’s a great activity to get everyone chatting and interacting in a combined effort to create some tasty together.
We’ve made BLTs, club sandwiches, mozzarella caprese yummies (YES!!!!), grilled cheese…seriously, I can’t think of a food that doesn’t taste better after it’s been pressed in the panini maker. It’s like my own little homemade Panera! Emily feels super independent and in control getting to prep and cook, and I love getting a bit of a break from being in charge of mealtime.
Do you have an awesome sandwich that you think would be killer in the panini maker? Please share! I’m always looking for new ingredients to include in our panini bar. And be sure to link up any awesome panini recipes below and check out what the other gals made this week!
Quick and Easy Recipes for Working Moms
If there is one thing I am always on the hunt for, it’s quick and easy recipes. With growing toddler twin boys eating me out of house and home, I’m constantly fighting the grumpy munchies when we get home from work. Dinner needed to be on the table…like five minutes ago. Finding the right quick and easy recipes has been a bit of a challenge. There’s no shortage of recipes on Pinterest, but I find myself quickly overwhelmed and click happy, leaving me with hundreds of options spread across 15 different boards. Some recipes are easy prep and then some just look darn tasty and would take some real elbow grease and time for me to pull off.
So! I decided to create a never-ending quick and easy recipes link up on Chaos & Kiddos! For all those working moms out there who frequent our site for recipes that are manageable for the tight-on-time working parent, we’ve now got this extra bonus post for you! We’ll be collecting quick and easy recipes from bloggers all over the planet!
There’s just one rule – All recipes posted MUST BE 45 MINUTES TOPS from preparation to table. This includes cooking time!
The link up sorts the most recently added recipes to the top of the list, so come back time and time again for new recipes to freshen things up a bit. Bloggers! This is your chance to get creative when sharing recipes that would be an ideal fit for a tired working mom coming home to starving kiddos. It does not have to be dinner specific either! Quick snacks, breakfast, lunch…anything that can be whipped up in a jiffy to quell hungry voices with just a little bit of time and effort.
If you try a recipe and find that it is extra, extra fabulous, please come back to leave some blog love via the comments to encourage other working moms to take special note of a home run quick and easy recipe that you discovered on this link up. And visit the original poster to say thanks for helping save time and energy (and sanity!) in my home!
Oatmeal On-The-Go Bars by Weelicious: Kids in the Kitchen
The name really says it all on this one. As working moms, I’m sure most of us would admit that “on-the-go” is pretty much the only mode we operate in. When it comes to cooking, it needs to be quick and easy. As I work harder to focus on healthy ingredients, I’m often drawn back to my Weelicious Cookbook, where simple healthy recipes abound and cooking is always a family affair. This week, for the Kids in the Kitchen Series, we had to come up with a breakfast food to cook with our children. I immediately thought of the Oatmeal On-The-Go Bars by Weelicious because they’re super healthy, very easy and have lots of ingredients that the boys enjoy dumping in their bowls. And for the working mom, they are a major win, because they’re perfect for me to grab for breakfast as I’m heading out the door in the morning.
I admit, this post was supposed to publish first thing Monday morning. As often happens, life got in the way, and I’m, let’s see, only about 12 hours late. I almost didn’t get it done tonight either! I had one moment of “Oh, I’ll just do it tomorrow,” and thankfully, I convinced myself otherwise. Cooking tonight with the kids (all 3 of them!) will be a memory I hold dear for years to come. The boys were so excited, and their “sissy” was happy to hang out with her family for some tasty fun. They ended up chanting “You can do it! You can do it!” when Emily was measuring ingredients and even hugged each other in happiness, which is a rare occasion for my crazy competitive boys. It was a special night. I’m so glad I followed through. Doing these series with my blogger friends really challenges me to purposefully plan fun activities with my children, which as a busy mom, is something I feel I often overlook when the going gets tough, even though it should be my number 1 priority.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
- 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- Pinch of Salt
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 1/2 cups Milk
- 1/2 cup Applesauce
- 1 Egg
- 3 tbsp Honey
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 3/4 cup Dried Fruit (I used raisins and dried cranberries)
- 1/4 cup Nuts or Seeds (I used Pepitas and Sunflower Seeds)
-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
-Combine oats, flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.
-Combine milk, applesauce, egg, honey and vanilla in a large bowl.
-Mix the dry and wet ingredients together.
-Add the dried fruit and nuts.
-Pour into a greased baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.
These bars will last 5 days in the fridge and can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Be sure to check out what recipes my gal pals tackled for this week’s challenge and link up your own tasty breakfast posts!