How to Make a Cheese Board

Confession: I brought a sad cheese plate to last year’s Friendsgiving, and it went ignored in the corner. It was an embarrassing moment for a cookbook author,…

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cheese board recipe

Confession: I brought a sad cheese plate to last year’s Friendsgiving, and it went ignored in the corner. It was an embarrassing moment for a cookbook author, and I’ve been determined to improve my cheese board game ever since.

I walked into the party to find a gorgeous and elaborate cheese board nearly spanning the full length of the dinner table. My friend Jordan has a degree in sculpture, and she can sure put together a beautiful cheese board.

I took the opportunity to study her design. I can’t say that my efforts are quite to her level yet, but I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to share with you today.

cheese and crackers

Building a beautiful cheese board feels like a fun art project. We’ll mix different flavors, colors, shapes and textures to build an enticing appetizer board. Give yourself some time to put it together, and you’ll enjoy the process all the more. The trick is to fill every little space on the board with nuts and fruit so it looks completely abundant.

A cheese board is the perfect excuse to break out your special serving items. If you don’t have a dedicated cheese board in your cabinets, though, don’t fret. For your base, you can use a nice wooden cutting board, a large serving platter, or even a tray or baking sheet covered with parchment paper. If you don’t have a set of cheese knives, offer butter knives, cocktail forks, cocktail picks or toothpicks.

Basically, anything goes, and no occasion is too minor for a cheese board. You just might have everything you need at home already. How about a cheese board with your French 75 this evening?

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Easy Tapenade

Olive lovers, tapenade is for you! Tapenade is an olive spread or dip hailing from the Provence region in France. It’s bold, zippy, briny and salty, though…

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easy tapenade recipe

Olive lovers, tapenade is for you! Tapenade is an olive spread or dip hailing from the Provence region in France. It’s bold, zippy, briny and salty, though we’ll be sure to keep the salt level in check.

Served with crostini or crackers, tapenade is a wonderful appetizer with drinks. It offers some welcome contrast when served with creamy dips, like hummus or spinach artichoke dip. You can also spread it onto sandwiches, dollop it onto salads, and more. Tapenade will keep for a week or two in the fridge, so you’ll find many uses for it.

tapenade ingredients

Tapenade is named after the Provençal word for capers, tapenas. Over the years, olives have become the predominant ingredient, and I used capers as a subtle accent. Similar olive spreads have been served in the Mediterranean for ages, which is why tapenade is a natural pairing with your favorite Mediterranean flavors.

Traditional tapenade also includes anchovies, but being vegetarian, I omitted them. This dip is loaded with complex flavor regardless, and it’s suitable for vegans and those with shellfish allergies as well.

To make this easy tapenade, you’ll need just a few basic ingredients and a food processor. It comes together in about 10 minutes with mostly pantry ingredients! You’ll need Castelvetrano and Kalamata olives, fresh parsley, capers, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Let’s make some already.

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Marinated Olives

Marinated olives are a stunning appetizer or side! Flavored with garlic and lemon, they’re a great finger food for cheese boards or parties. Here’s a favorite party trick of ours that makes a tasty and versatile appetizer in just 5 minutes of hands on time. It’s Marinated Olives! This dish will make an olive lover out of anyone. Using the right olives here results in smooth, rich flavor: not briny or overly salty. The garlic, lemon and herbs make a symphony of flavor! Every time we make these and set them out on the table, people go crazy for them! They’re also great for an appetizer dinner at home: bread, cheese, marinated olives and wine. Here are a few tricks to making the tastiest homemade marinated olives you’ll find (in our humble opinion). The secret: use olives packed in water! Here’s our secret to these marinated olives. Use ripe olives packed in water. They have a rich and buttery flavor, nothing like a martini olive. These olives aren’t packed in brine, they’re simply packed in salt water. It makes for a clean, straightforward flavor: not too tangy, briny or salty. Exactly what kind of olives are we talking about? Use […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Marinated olives are a stunning appetizer or side! Flavored with garlic and lemon, they’re a great finger food for cheese boards or parties.

Marinated olives

Here’s a favorite party trick of ours that makes a tasty and versatile appetizer in just 5 minutes of hands on time. It’s Marinated Olives! This dish will make an olive lover out of anyone. Using the right olives here results in smooth, rich flavor: not briny or overly salty. The garlic, lemon and herbs make a symphony of flavor! Every time we make these and set them out on the table, people go crazy for them! They’re also great for an appetizer dinner at home: bread, cheese, marinated olives and wine. Here are a few tricks to making the tastiest homemade marinated olives you’ll find (in our humble opinion).

The secret: use olives packed in water!

Here’s our secret to these marinated olives. Use ripe olives packed in water. They have a rich and buttery flavor, nothing like a martini olive. These olives aren’t packed in brine, they’re simply packed in salt water. It makes for a clean, straightforward flavor: not too tangy, briny or salty. Exactly what kind of olives are we talking about?

  • Use medium to large ripe olives that are pitted. Here’s a list of olives to buy for marinated olives: we like the Lindsay brand that you see listed. Look on the package to see if it says “packed in water” or if the ingredients specify.
  • Use a mix of green and black. This makes a great color contrast.
  • Avoid stuffed or flavored olives. You don’t want any competing flavors here.
Marinated olives

Flavors for marinading

You can use lots of different flavors for making marinaded olives. Here’s what we used, and some other options you can swap instead:

  • Lemon: Use the lemon rind and lemon juice. Variation: Use orange instead.
  • Garlic: Slice the garlic to infuse big flavors (no need to mince!). Do not omit.
  • Olive oil: Olive oil infuses the flavor perfectly.
  • Fresh herbs: Rosemary and tarragon are our favorites. Variation: Use thyme or oregano.
How to make marinated olives

How to make marinated olives: basic steps

Want to make marinated olives? The hands on part is fast: it takes just about 5 minutes. The longest lead time item is the marinading. Make sure you set aside 2 to 4 hours for the marinading process. Here’s what to know:

  • Place all the ingredients in a large jar or container. We like using a large mason jar. Cover the top and shake to get everything coated.
  • Leave at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours. The wait time locks in the flavors.

Refrigerate for several weeks

Once your marinaded olives are ready, you can save them for a few weeks. Leave them in the jar and refrigerate. But here’s a tip: the olive oil will solidify when it is chilled. So make sure to bring the olives to room temperature before serving.

Marinated olives

Ways to serve marinaded olives

Now for the fun part: ways to serve them! These marinaded olives are very versatile. They’re an easy side dish for a Mediterranean-style meal (like Italian or Spanish), or perfect for an appetizer spread. Here’s how we like to serve them:

More olive recipes

There are so many types of olives and ways to incorporate them into recipes! Here are some of our favorite olive recipes:

  • Kalamata Olive Spread Want to up your sandwich game? This Kalamata olive spread (also called tapenade), is used in Italian cuisine to add big flavor to crostini and sandwiches.
  • Pasta Puttanesca This classic Italian pasta puttanesca recipe features garlic, capers and olives in the sauce to give it a tangy burst of flavor.

This marinaded olives recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Marinated olives

Classic Marinated Olives


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes hands on, 2 hours hands off
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 24 minute
  • Yield: 6 to 8
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Marinated olives are a stunning appetizer or side! Flavored with garlic and lemon, they’re a great finger food for cheese boards or parties.


Ingredients

  • 2 6-ounce dry weight cans pitted ripe olives packed in water (green, medium black, or large black, not flavored or stuffed)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 rosemary or tarragon sprigs, plus additional for serving if desired

Instructions

  1. Drain the olives. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Cut 4 strips from the lemon peel, then squeeze out 1 tablespoon of the juice.
  2. In a 1 quart jar or covered container, combine all ingredients and shake gently to combine.
  3. Marinate for 2 to 4 hours at room temperature, shaking occasionally. Serve immediately, garnishing with additional rosemary sprigs if desired. Stores refrigerated for several weeks; allow to come to room temperature prior to serving.
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Marinated
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired

Keywords: Marinated olives

More vegan appetizers

These marinaded olives are a fantastic plant based appetizer. Here are a few more vegan appetizer recipes we love:

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Ultimate Veggie Pizza

As a vegetarian for over a decade, I’ve eaten quite a few veggie pizzas. Truly fantastic veggie pizzas are few and far between. So, I combined all…

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best veggie pizza recipe

As a vegetarian for over a decade, I’ve eaten quite a few veggie pizzas. Truly fantastic veggie pizzas are few and far between. So, I combined all of the elements I’ve enjoyed over the years to create my own “ultimate” veggie pizza pie. This is the best homemade veggie pizza I’ve ever had, and I hope you’ll say the same!

This vegetarian pizza recipe will delight vegetarians and carnivores alike. It’s fresh and full of flavor, featuring cherry tomatoes, artichoke, bell pepper, olives, red onion and some hidden (and optional) baby spinach. You’ll find a base of rich tomato sauce and golden, bubbling mozzarella underneath, of course.

veggie pizza ingredients

The trick with loaded veggie pizzas, as many pizza shops seem to forget, is that they require a few extra minutes in the oven to develop full flavor and structure. Don’t stop baking until the cheese is deeply golden in spots. Otherwise, you might end up with floppy pizza that doesn’t live up to its true potential.

Start with my easy whole wheat pizza dough, and this recipe is ready in about 45 minutes, start to finish. This veggie pizza is quicker and healthier than delivery!

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Caponata

Let’s make homemade caponata! This classic Sicilian appetizer or side dish is perfect for late summer meals. This recipe combines roasted (not fried) eggplant with sautéed bell…

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caponata with roasted eggplant

Let’s make homemade caponata! This classic Sicilian appetizer or side dish is perfect for late summer meals. This recipe combines roasted (not fried) eggplant with sautéed bell pepper, celery, tomatoes, olives and capers. Red wine vinegar and honey make it irresistibly tangy and sweet. If you generally enjoy these bold flavors, you’re going to love caponata.

Since international travel is largely off the table, I’ve been traveling vicariously through my food. This caponata is the perfect example. I’ve yet to make my way to Sicily to sample authentic caponata, but learning to make this dish has deepened my desire to explore the island. Mark my words, I’ll get there someday.

caponata ingredients

Caponata recipes vary from region to region and household to household. This recipe is where I landed. I took some cooking cues from my ratatouille recipe, which also features roasted eggplant stirred into a simmering tomato sauce. Caponata’s flavors are even deeper and more complex largely due to the intense agrodolce factor, or the interplay between sweet (honey and raisins) and sour (vinegar and capers).

I can’t claim this recipe is entirely authentic, but I hope it offers you a little taste of Sicily.

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Fun Lunch Ideas for Kids

Healthy and fun lunch ideas that are perfect for school or home. Even the pickiest of young eaters will love these nutritious and delicious lunches! This post is sponsored by Kroger. Whether children are in school or learning at home, the lunchtime dil…

Healthy and fun lunch ideas that are perfect for school or home. Even the pickiest of young eaters will love these nutritious and delicious lunches! This post is sponsored by Kroger. Whether children are in school or learning at home, the lunchtime dilemma is the same. What should we make our kids for lunch and…

The post Fun Lunch Ideas for Kids appeared first on Two Peas & Their Pod.

The Hummus Lunch Box

Are y’all ready for the next installment in the no-cook lunch box series? The Hummus Lunch Box is a classic, one that I’m sure many of you have made before, but it definitely deserves its own mention in the series because it is flexible and always a pleaser. I’ve got a few different ways you […]

The post The Hummus Lunch Box appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Are y’all ready for the next installment in the no-cook lunch box series? The Hummus Lunch Box is a classic, one that I’m sure many of you have made before, but it definitely deserves its own mention in the series because it is flexible and always a pleaser. I’ve got a few different ways you can eat or serve this lunch box listed below, so even if you’ve made this before, make sure to go check out the alternate ideas!

Hummus Lunch Box packed in divided glass containers

What’s in the Hummus Lunch Box:

Hummus (of course), kalamata olives, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and pita bread. I love this lunch box because of its simplicity, it requires so little prep, and I just like “snacky” finger foods. The only prep work I had to do was slicing the cucumber and draining the jar of olives! For the sake of convenience, and because ALDI has very inexpensive hummus, I used store bought hummus this time. But if you want to make your own hummus or want to experiment with different hummus flavors, try my homemade hummus recipe (four flavors).

Serving Options

As I mentioned in intro, there are a few different ways you can eat this lunch box. The obvious way is to eat it in a “snacky” fashion, eating a little of this, a little of that, etc. But here are a couple other options:

  • Make it into a pita sandwich. Instead of cutting the pita bread into triangles like in my photos, leave your pita cut in half, then when you sit down for lunch smear the hummus inside, add some cucumber slices, olives, and tomatoes, and eat it like a sandwich!
  • Make it into a salad. Pack a separate bowl of mixed greens, then when you sit down to lunch, add the vegetables and hummus on top and eat it as a giant sandwich! You might also want to some dressing on the side (I suggest a vinaigrette, like Greek dressing, Italian, or Caesar dressing).

Alternate Ingredient Ideas

Just like all the no-cook lunch boxes in this series, this hummus lunch box is very flexible. If you don’t like some of the ingredients I included in mine, here are a few other ideas:

  • Pita chips or pretzel crackers in place of the pita bread
  • Feta cheese cubes
  • Marinated white beans
  • Celery or carrot sticks
  • Bell peppers
  • Sliced grilled chicken

How Long Does the Lunch Box Keep?

This lunch box holds up very well to refrigeration, so it will probably keep about 5 days in the refrigerator, depending on the freshness of your ingredients when the boxes are made and the conditions inside your refrigerator.

What Containers Do You Use?

I got these divided glass meal prep containers on Amazon. You can find a link to the product in the bottom of the recipe card below. (P.S. these containers came three to a set and this recipe makes FOUR lunch boxes, so I ate the fourth portion on a plate the day that I packed them. 😄)

Three glass containers filled with hummus lunch box ingredients

 
Three glass containers filled with hummus lunch box ingredients

The Hummus Lunch Box

This Hummus Lunch Box is a cold lunch classic. With almost zero prep work, this is the fastest, easiest no-cook lunch around.
Total Cost $8.04 recipe / $2.01 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Calories 362.55kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber $1.29
  • 2 pita breads $0.66
  • 1 cup hummus $1.95
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes $1.99
  • 1 6oz. jar kalamata olives $2.15

Instructions

  • Slice the cucumber and cut the pita bread into triangles.
  • Divide the hummus, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and pita triangles between four containers. Refrigerate up to 5 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1box | Calories: 362.55kcal | Carbohydrates: 36.28g | Protein: 8.58g | Fat: 22.95g | Sodium: 1155.63mg | Fiber: 9.1g

More No-Cook Lunch Ideas:

Overhead view of one hummus lunch box.

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Antipasto Salad

This colorful antipasto salad is hearty and full of zingy flavor, with lots of crunchy veggies, olives, artichokes, cheese, and Italian herbs. Here’s a salad that’s full of big Italian flavors: antipasto salad! This combo between a pasta salad and Italian antipasti is loaded with zingy flavor: briny olives, tangy artichokes, and roasted peppers, contrasted with crunchy veggies and chewy pasta. Load it with fresh basil and there’s so much going on, you might not be able to stop eating it! Alex and I served it with a trio of salads for a happy hour dinner, and it was ideal. It’s filling enough to stand in for a main dish, too. The best part: it’s highly customizable to the ingredients you love. Let’s get cooking! What is antipasto (or antipasti)? Antipasto is the first course of an Italian meal: like a starter or appetizer. Antipasto is the singular, and antipasti is the plural for more than one dish. For example: “We had a few delightful antipasti to start the meal.” Some typical antipasti you might enjoy in Italy: cured meats like prosciutto, olives, fancy cheeses, marinated vegetables, pepperoncini, and mushrooms. Ingredients in antipasto salad So then…what’s antipasto salad? Turns out […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This colorful antipasto salad is hearty and full of zingy flavor, with lots of crunchy veggies, olives, artichokes, cheese, and Italian herbs.

Antipasto salad

Here’s a salad that’s full of big Italian flavors: antipasto salad! This combo between a pasta salad and Italian antipasti is loaded with zingy flavor: briny olives, tangy artichokes, and roasted peppers, contrasted with crunchy veggies and chewy pasta. Load it with fresh basil and there’s so much going on, you might not be able to stop eating it! Alex and I served it with a trio of salads for a happy hour dinner, and it was ideal. It’s filling enough to stand in for a main dish, too. The best part: it’s highly customizable to the ingredients you love. Let’s get cooking!

What is antipasto (or antipasti)?

Antipasto is the first course of an Italian meal: like a starter or appetizer. Antipasto is the singular, and antipasti is the plural for more than one dish. For example: “We had a few delightful antipasti to start the meal.” Some typical antipasti you might enjoy in Italy: cured meats like prosciutto, olives, fancy cheeses, marinated vegetables, pepperoncini, and mushrooms.

Antipasto salad

Ingredients in antipasto salad

So then…what’s antipasto salad? Turns out it’s an American invention that simply mashes up lots of traditional antipasti ingredients together in one place. There’s not a strict definition of this salad: some people mix a bunch of antipasti together, others serve them as part of a green salad or pasta salad. For our spin, we decided to use pasta: so you could call it a sort of antipasto pasta salad!

This salad is highly customizable to whatever ingredients you love or have on hand. Ingredients commonly used in antipasto salad are:

  • Olives of any color
  • Artichoke hearts, marinaded if you can find them
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Pepperoncini
  • Cheese: mozzarella or provalone, marinaded fresh mozzarella if you can find it
  • Pasta
  • Cured meats like salami, prosciutto,
  • Veggies: tomatoes, red onion, romaine or chopped spinach, mushrooms
  • Herbs: Fresh basil, oregano, Italian seasonings
  • Pasta Traditional or gluten-free (legume pasta can work here)
Anti pasto salad

How to cook pasta to al dente

To get this antipasto salad just right, you’ve got to cook your pasta to al dente. What’s al dente? In Italian it means “to the bite” and means pasta that is still firm on the inside when cooked. The ideal al dente texture is a tender exterior balanced by a firm bite with a fleck of white at its core. Here are our tips on how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.
  • While cooking, check pasta continually for doneness.
  • As soon as the pasta has a tender exterior but a fleck of white at its core, drain it! Even a few seconds can be the difference between al dente and limp noodles.

Dressing for antipasto salad

The dressing for this antipasto salad is a play on our Dijon Mustard Dressing! It’s got a touch more sweet to balance the tangy. We’ve also added Italian seasoning to the mix to amp those Italian flavors. You may even want to start using it for green salads! It’s quick and easy to whip up. Here’s all you’ll need for the dressing:

  • White wine vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Maple syrup or sugar
  • Olive oil
Antipasto salad

A note on customizing the salt

For the kosher salt in this recipe, we’ve specified a range that you can customize (1/2 to 1 teaspoon). Why? Some of the ingredients here have varying salt quantities: like marinaded vs plain mozzarella or artichoke hearts, different types of olives, and so forth. Also if you decide to add meat to this recipe, you’d need less salt. Just add enough salt until the flavor pops!

More great salads to pair

There’s nothing better than a few salads to make a salad dinner in the summer, or to accessorize a happy hour meat and cheese platter! This is how we served this antipasto salad, and it was perfect for an evening with white wine spritzers and family. Here are some of the salads we’d recommend pairing:

This antipasto salad is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free or legume pasta. For vegan, try a similar salad: Italian Vegan Pasta Salad.

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Antipasto salad

*Best* Antipasto Salad


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This colorful antipasto salad is hearty and full of zingy flavor, with lots of crunchy veggies, olives, artichokes, cheese, and Italian herbs.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound spiral pasta
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 medium red onion
  • 2 cups chopped romaine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 jarred roasted red pepper
  • 1 cup pitted olives (we used green and black)
  • 1 cup artichoke quarters (from a can: marinaded if you can find them)
  • 1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini
  • 8 ounces mozzarella (fresh or cubed, or marinaded if you can find it)*
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or maple syrup
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Instructions

  1. Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside).
  2. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Finely dice the red onion. Chop the romaine and fresh basil. Thinly slice the roasted red pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, add the cooked pasta with the chopped veggies, olives, artichoke quarters (drained) and pepperoncini (drained). Add the mozzarella, cutting it into cubes or pieces.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and sugar or maple syrup. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.
  5. Add the dressing to the bowl with the pasta and veggies, then add the salt and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine. Taste and add additional salt as desired.

Notes

*You can also add cured meats like salami or prosciutto.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Boiled
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Antipasto salad

More Italian inspired recipes

Love Italian inspired recipes? Us too. Here are some more favorites:

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Italian Tortellini Salad

Italian Tortellini Salad made with cheese tortellini, tomatoes, salami, olives, basil, zesty homemade Italian dressing and more! This hearty pasta salad can be served as a main dish or side dish. Our Greek Tortellini Salad has been a reader favorite fo…

Italian Tortellini Salad made with cheese tortellini, tomatoes, salami, olives, basil, zesty homemade Italian dressing and more! This hearty pasta salad can be served as a main dish or side dish. Our Greek Tortellini Salad has been a reader favorite for years! I am so glad you guys love it. Let me introduce you to…

The post Italian Tortellini Salad appeared first on Two Peas & Their Pod.