Easy Make-Ahead Brunch. Everyone knows brunch is a great way to celebrate anything…but especially around a holiday. Make these recipes as you have time and pop them in the fridge where they will be ready to go when YOU areRead More
Lazia in Kansas City. A lovely Simi Wine featured in KC Restaurant Weeks Menu. This visit inspired my own special Menu!Read More
Lauren Lane PopUp dinner event hosted by Midwest Dairy. Make-ahead entertaining menu along with easy ideas and inspiration to host your own gatherings. Menu laden with cheese, butter and cream..yes please;)Read More
Here is your guide to a perfectly imperfect, unpretentious and EASY Wine and Cheese Party.
You know I love to host epic yet breezy dinner parties, but sometimes it’s just great to throw a casual, fun, mingling kind of party, and a wine and cheese fits this perfectly.
So WHY host a Wine and Cheese Party?
Well first of all, you get to explore more wines…because yes….wine is good! I would drink it with breakfast if it was socially acceptable! (Bye-bye coffee…hello wine!).
It’s kind of adventurous and you get to explore and nom on cheese and all the delicious accompaniments
There is no cooking so it’s EASY, and can be prepped totally in advance.
It’s super simple to make it look gorgeous, and you can add your own beautiful sassy style or even change it up with the seasons.
Your friends will leave with their tummies filled and their spirits happier than when they came to your lovely soiree.
And here I’ll show you how EASY it really is.
There are a ton of so-called “right and wrong” ways to host a wine and cheese party…so they say, but to tell you the truth, it doesn’t have to be so complicated. And I’m here to tell you, no prior wine and cheese buying experience necessary.
So let’s do this!
The CHEESE please:
Choose 3-5 cheeses (pick from each of these categories and you will have a lovely range of flavors and textures)
Fresh: Mild slightly Tangy (Serve soft cheeses whole)
Mozzarella, Burrata, Chevre, Fresh Ricotta
Soft Cheese: Creamy, Buttery, Mild (Serve soft cheeses whole)
Brie, Camembert, Crescenza, Goat cheese
Pungent Cheese: AKA Stinky in a good way cheese (Serve stinky cheeses whole)
Blue, Taleggio, Gorongzola, Roquefort and Stilton
Hard and Semi Hard Cheese: Nutty, Firm (Serve hard cheeses whole but cut a few slices to get them started)
Pecorino, Manchego, Grana-Padano, Cheddar, Gouda….and, Parmesan Reggiano. (Parm is the king of cheeses and Cervasi imports a yummy traditional Parmesan. You can find it at these stores.
For each type of cheese, buy one to 1 1/2 ounces per person depending on how many accompaniments you will have. But hey…leftovers aren’t a bad thing, hellooo, an incredible mac and cheese the next day…yay:)
Bring all cheeses to room temperature about a half hour before serving to enhance their flavor. Don’t forget this part friend…it really helps to bring out all the delicious flavors.
Find a local cheese store in your area (or on line)…they are super cool places to explore and the folks that work there will always steer you in the right direction while considering your budget. Just mention you would like a range of mild, medium and stinky cheeses. Thats all folk’s, easy peasy.
Choose 1-2 from each category. (take a peek at my cheese-paring guide for a few combinations that I’m obsessed with) [click here]
Fruit: grapes, figs, dried apricots or dates, apples, melons, and pears.
Meats: Genoa salami, Slices of prosciutto, soppressata, rolled Slices of hard salami, capicola, Slices of Capocollo
Nuts: Hazelnuts, Marcona (my fav) or Cashews.
A good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a cute bowl. (Locally owned and imported Cervasi of course)
Spreads: Varietal honey, Jams, Chutney, Mustard, Fruit Compotes
Bread: Artisan cracker crisps, crusty bread such as baguette, rustic multigrain, and artisan rye bread or Cervasi pre-made bruschetta.. You don’t even have to heat the oven.
(sorry, I need to insert a weird sorry here. Ok, I hate rye bread, I mean, it’s like the only food I reeeeeally don’t like. Well, I was visiting my sister and was telling her all this, and she started laughing and saying she is the EXACT same way. We both like most everything except rye bread..how WEIRD huh? We must have had a tragic rye experience in our childhood.
Don’t go crazy serving all of these accompaniment options on your grazing board. Pick one or two from each category and leave it at that. Grazing boards look better when they have larger groupings of foods as opposed to a little of this and a little of that.
Don’t let this scare you. I am by no means a wine expert...not even close, but the good news is we don't have to be!
Choose from a variety of wines like these: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and of course a bottle or 3 of Prosecco! Because we all need a few bubbles in our life.
Some people will say that you should drink specific wines with specific cheeses, but you know what? The more wine tastings I attend, the more I hear it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. I say drink what you like, try a few new ones and make up your own mind.
Talk to the guy/gal at your local wine store. They LOVE to help. They know the best wines under $15 per bottle too! I have had a TON of great lower-priced wines, and I’ve had some not-so-good wines at $80…so there. You don’t need to spend a lot.
Oh, and when your friends say what can I bring, say “well yes, “WINE, please!” It gives them something to contribute, they have wine they are sure to like, and it will get others to explore different wines at the same time.
I read somewhere that if you are having 12 people you should have four bottles of wine….BAHAHAHAHA. That would be a very short party with my friends! I suggest everyone (or maybe every couple) should bring a bottle…and we should all be a-ok!
On that note, be sure to have a pitcher of water and glasses out. And UBER is also a very good thing.
Choose a serving platter. It could be a basic everyday platter, an antique family platter, a marble slab, slate, or in my case; it’s always a rustic wood board. CLICK here for boards I make. Just choose what makes your heart sing!
Arrange the platter. Try to add height by piling grapes or stacking bread. Larger clusters of ingredients are more visually appealing.
Have little knives out for each of the cheeses, so you keep them separated. You know, those cute small short stubby knives. But I don’ have any of those, so I just use my Laguiole butter knives, and I haven’t been shot yet.
Sometimes I sprinkle my board with some fresh herbs or even some whole seasonal fruit for a pop of color…or I add olives in cute little mason jars or wood bowls, so look around your kitchen, find thing you love and add them to your spread. It really can be that easy.
So there it is, simple huh? But trust me when I tell you this will be the most carefree party to host, and everyone will be relaxed and have a great time. When friends start trying all the different cheese and accompaniments, the conversations go something like this….“OMG, did you try that cheese with THAT wine?? oh and the honey, soooo gooood, OR, “taste that wine and that jam on that cheese…to die for”. It’s kinda fun.
This is great for anytime of year, but I especially love to have these grazing boards out around the holidays when I want to have friends over but don’t feel like going to any trouble. A party I can pick up on the way home is perfect sometimes.
So now go be awesome and Have.Yo.Self.A.Party! And if you do, snap a pic of your creation and let me seeeeees:)
(This post is in partnership with Cervasi, but all opinions and wine sipping, typos and cheese noshing are totally my own)
What was once just a gallon of milk now has a most fascinating back story.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting several dairy farms in Minnesota at the invitation of Midwest Dairy Association. The passion, I witnessed, by these farmers for their cattle and land was just incredible. I was really surprised how seeing these farmers in action, so aligns with how I approach my own work today. We both work to ensure we are putting the best products on our tables for our customers…and the work they do every single day is truly incredible.
The visit began with a trip to Zweber Farms, a farmer owner of the cooperative, Organic Valley. The farm has been in the family since 1906., and they participate as a family to keep this business thriving. They work with assembly line like precision to ensure the cows are healthy, well fed, and happy. There are well defined routines that occur for the herd and the family to ensure quality milk production.
On an organic farm cows are required to graze in pastures at least 120 days a year which can sometimes be difficult in the north where short summer seasons can limit the field grass growth. The Zweber’s made the choice to go organic in the mid 2000’s as a means of differentiation in a crowded market of local dairy farmers. The strategy appears to have paid off.
The second farm I visited illustrated a true labor of love. This farmer genuinely has a love for his animals and it showed in his enthusiasm for their care and feeding.
Wolf Creek Dairy Farm is located outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. This traditional dairy farm grows all its own alfalfa, hay, and corn feed. They are a member of the Land O’Lakes Cooperative and are primary producers of milk that eventually becomes cheese….mmmmm cheese:)
But dairy farms are more than just about the cows. These farms pass from generation to generation and each generation works to improve the processes and environment handed down.
They carefully rotate the crops every year, in all fields, to ensure the nutrients in the land are not depleted and that the land will continue to provide for their herds and families. Another surprising practice is their stringent rules for manure (a natural bi-product of owning large animals..duh:). They have strict requirements for the removal, storage, and recycling of their manure. Who knew you could recycle poo?
These farms were amazingly clean and surprisingly not smelly. All work areas are constantly sanitized to ensure the milk meets rigorous testing required by the government agencies regulating dairy production for commercial consumption. Every single tank of milk that leaves a farm is tested before it is processed and sold. Milk (both organic and traditional) must be antibiotic and pesticide free before it is allowed to be sold and put into commercial distribution and /or further production.
I was very curious about the differences between organic and non-organic milk. I was surprised to learn that the end product is virtually identical.
So, my big question before these visits was “does organic milk taste better and is it healthier?”
What I learned is milk taste is most subtly affected by location of the farm, breed of the cow, variations in cows’ feed, and even the time of year. Is organic healthier? Research can find no difference between organic and regular milk in quality, safety or nutrition. Both contain nine essential nutrients.
I’ve also always been very wary about “sell by” dates and expiration dates on all foods. So much so, in fact, I routinely throw products away that are beyond their dates. But I learned (and will now save money) that you do want to purchase products by their sell by date, to ensure maximum time available for consumption at home. However, the expiration dates are more of an indicator of optimal taste but not necessarily tied to safety. (good.to.know:)
My trip was such a joy. It reminded me of the passion my father had with his farm in Virginia and I learned so much about dairy farming and production.
I found such beauty in the land, cattle, farming process and the passion farmers have for their products, herds, and legacy. And remember, if you desire to support local, buy milk, either organic or traditional. Dairy isn’t shipped long distances and will always be a nutritious, safe product of a committed local farmer. So whether you go organic or traditional you still get to support your local farm! A sincere thank you to Midwest Dairy for the opportunity to tour, learn and connect with these awesome farmers.
Click here to get right to the free download:)
My husband frequently grumbles about dinner out when I want to go to my favorite Italian restaurant. Insert eye roll. He says “why would I want to pay $20.00 for a plate of spaghetti when you make it so much better at home?” Awe, super sweet, and maybe he has a point! There are a few tips and tricks about paring and cooking pasta that simply take pasta to the next level.
Over this past year, I’ve had the joy of collaborating with Cervasi, Kansas City Italian food importers. This has exposed me to a vast range of pasta types and pushed me to explore the sauces that highlight these beautiful varieties of pasta.
So, I thought to myself, this is a thing worth exploring! Pasta is at its heart a thing of simplicity. It is basically flour and water. These, my friends, are not complex ingredients. Pasta makers have a rich history in understanding what makes a great pasta and how each shape pairs to its perfect complement (or sauce). Cervasi creates pasta with 100% durum wheat semolina flour which is a very traditional flour for pasta. It adds a heartiness and texture that will help a variety of sauces cling to the noodles. It’s also frequently used in dried pasta because it’s an essential ingredient in ensuring the pasta retains its shape as it is cooked. No one wants a flat rigatoni…am I right?
Soooooo, let’s get to it! Let’s explore the different pasta shapes and the most recommended sauce pairings to ensure the perfect bite…..the perfect balance of noodle to sauce.
Click below and download a free copy of my Pasta Pairing Guide!
Which pasta pairs well with every type of sauce.
Cooking tips to ensure your pasta will turn out perfect every time.
Serving tips so you can enjoy your bowl, I mean “plate” of pasta, just like the Italians.
I even threw in the Italian Pronunciation so you can sound super cool and Italian like:)
This post was graciously sponsored by KC local importer of Italian foods, Cervasi. Shop local, eat pasta:)
PS Cervasi also has several great recipes here! Just click on a pasta type, and it will take you several perfect recipes. Sweet huh?
2018 Cervasi Inspired Fall PopUp Dinner
This weekend truly encapsulated the essence of my blog……
My table united friends, acquaintances and strangers together to share a beautiful 5 course dinner. Our farm table, set outside in the cool temps of a Kansas fall, serenaded by Italian music with crickets playing percussion created a space for our diners to come together and enjoy a home cooked meal. Our guests dined together, making friends of strangers and bringing joy and fullness to all.
Our experience moved between spaces in our home. Our grazing began with my riff on a classic Negroni cocktail, seasoned with rosemary from my herb garden (ok, maybe not so classic!). The cured meats were the perfect accompaniment to the fresh figs, clover honey, nutty cheeses and herbed almonds. All this allowed our guests a comfortable moment of introduction.
The second course was Roman Artichokes, with the artichokes also graciously provided by Cervasi. This dish was inspired by an amazing dish my sister and I had in Rome. These very tasty artichokes had a perfectly browned and crispy outer crust created by baking breaded artichokes at a high temperature on a sheet pan coated with olive oil. They were finished off with lemon zest and sea salt and served with a lemon aioli.
The third course was a bit of a challenge between what I really wanted to do and what I realistically could pull off. The third course was entitled, Orzo “Risotto”. I wanted to serve a traditional risotto, but opted out because it was to be a 3rd course of a dinner party. Traditional risotto is made with Arborio rice and takes up to 35-45 minutes and would put me at my stove, carefully stirring in each cup of warm broth. And I didn’t want to use the standard restaurant trick by par-boiling the rice and finishing it later. Although I LOVE risotto done right, I’m not a fan of the thick, sticky par-cooked versions served at restaurants. I really wanted something that had the creamy, cheesy rich flavor risotto is so known for, but needed something more conducive to the live dance of cooking for a dinner party.
I decided to use the same technique but use Cervasi orzo (rice shaped) pasta instead. I was able to cook it in broth and wine just like traditional Risotto but in half the time to achieve the super al dente pasta I was wanting. I then finished it with a generous amount of freshly grated Cervasi parm and fresh thyme. This was so delicious and tender and exactly what I was looking to create. I topped this dish with toasted pine nuts; it was simple and comforting.
The fourth course consisted of grilled herbed shrimp skewers served with a simple squeeze of lemon. I grilled these with fresh herbs, again from my garden (can you tell I’m getting nervous about the cool fall temps taking my beautiful herbs garden away :) and a drizzle of Cervasi fruity extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
The fifth, but not final course, ‘cause you seriously have to go big or go home – well, I am at home – but people pay to join me at my table and letting them down is simply not an option. Cast Iron Skillet meatballs and marinara. I've long felt that if I could make the best meatball eva, I would be set for life. There's nothing fancy about it, but that's the point. A meatball is about as unassuming as food can get, but when done well, it packs more flavor and more soul per square inch than anything that humble has a right to do. Marinara made with deep red wine and simmered for hours, created a thick tangy smooth sauce that was a perfect contrast from the other courses.
Finally desert, which, as one might imagine, should be relatively light to lay on top of everything else our guests had enjoyed to this point. Affogato & Almond biscotti. This lovely mixture of hot espresso and a scoop of ice cream accompanied by homemade almond olive oil biscotti enjoyed by our outdoor fireplace, rounded out a lengthy dining experience that left guests with new friends, great memories, full bellies and content souls.
A big Thank You to Shawna Johnston & Elizabeth Pascoe for all the help in making this event what it was! I also want to thank Brock Hildebrandt for the beautiful photos that captured the essence of this evening….
I’m full of gratitude for everyone that supports me and encourages me to do what I love to do, may it come back to you 10 fold.….xx, Lauren
Click the button below to learn more about Cervasi, a local Italian speciality food importer bringing Italian deliciousness straight to KC and my very happy belly.
PS Many of the recipes will be posted riiiiiiiight here, very soon!
Click the “Sign Up” bar (up at the top in red) for free download!
Wanna know the one party my friends ask for over and over again??? Well…just scroll on down!
It’s the grilled pizza party…they just LOVE this night. I have so many funny stories and memories surrounding this annual event, but the one that sticks out is the very first pizza party I hosted. Our friends still talk about that night when it started pouring down rain, literally out of nowhere, and everyone ran inside but I was NOT going to leave my grill until my margherita pizza was done. #shocker:) Well, as I was rushing my finished pizza into the house, the pizza peel caught the doorframe and pizza went FLYING across the room. I remember someone shouting, “It’s ok Lauren…we’ll still eat it!” I’m like…ummm, no.(sigh) But everyone was laughing hysterically, and my beautiful dog River saw his chance to swoop in and take part in the gathering as well.
We laughed SO hard, created amazing memories, and enjoyed the food and each other’s company. This party is just so fun and simple, and I’m going to show you how to do it in 10 easy steps! I hope you try it…minus the pizza on the floor disaster:) HA!
I know grilling pizza may seem tricky at first but it’s really easy. And it’s a great party because it’s super easy to prep ahead, EVERYONE loves pizza, and there are endless topping combinations! (Hey…I’ll even give you a ton of ideas for delicious combos:)
HOW TO GRILL PIZZA IN 10 EASY STEPS!
1. Prepare a basic pizza dough.
Tip: Buy the dough from the grocery store or your favorite pizza restaurant to make it even easier.
2. The most important tip for grilled pizzas? Cook, slice, and grate whatever toppings you like ahead of time, and have them at the ready because the cooking goes fast. (See this link below for toppings ideas.)
3 .Take the dough and flatten with your fingertips into a circle. It doesn’t need to be a perfect circle—you want it to look rustic. Stretch the dough to your desired size and thickness and set it on a pan lined with parchment paper and dusted with cornmeal.
Tip: Don’t do what I did my first time: I stacked the crusts on top of each other with a bit of flour in between and when it came time to grill I just had one super-thick hunk of dough. I know, rookie mistake, but I don’t want that to happen to you. (I ran down to the pizza joint, grabbed more dough and we were back in business.)
4. Instead, don’t stack them, just set them on a tray along with the olive oil, brush, tongs, flat cookie sheet and pizza cutter.
5. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Tip: A gas grill is a little easier to manage the temperature, but a charcoal grill gives even more flavor. Your choice, both are amazing!
6. Brush one side of dough with Cervasi olive oil to prevent sticking
7. Place oiled side down on the grill and brush the top with oil. Close the grill and cook for 2-5 minutes or until grill marks appear. Turn the dough over with tongs and grill the other side.
Tip: If the dough sticks to the grill grate, it’s not ready to turn over. Shut the grill, grab a glass of wine and let it go for a minute or two. It should turn over easily with tongs and have beautiful grill marks.
8. Slide the crust onto a flat cookie sheet or pizza peel and arrange your toppings, starting with sauce, then garlic and then mozzarella.
9. Place the pizza back on the grill over indirect heat and cover until the cheese is melted and delicious!
10, Remove the pizza from the grill with a pizza peel or flat cookie sheet, place it on the cutting board and garnish.
Tip: After the pizza is done, top it with the fresh basil (otherwise the basil will turn brown) and a drizzle of olive oil for that last bit of yumminess.
I host a shrimp boil every year...and it's always one of my favorite parties to host. It's super easy to prep ahead and that gives me all the time in the world to play with my friends:)Read More
Cook Once, Eat all Week-Meal Guide. Full of all your favorite foods from pasta, to Chinese, to comfort food. Awesome right?Read More