Tips for a Perfect Cheese Plate

As an appetizer at the beginning of a party or as dessert to wind things down, a cheese plate is a beautiful and creative way to feed your guests. Putting together a great cheese plate is both an art and a science, but it’s not hard to pull off once you learn a few tricks. Here’s everything you need to know to do it right:

  • Serving Sizes: Plan on roughly 1-2 ounces of cheese per guest.
  • Variety: Select cheeses that are a variety of different textures (aged, firm, soft, semi-soft, blue) and made from different milks (cow, sheep, goat).
  • How Many: No need to go overboard. Three to five cheeses are plenty for a great platter. Too many options can get overwhelming.
  • Serving Temperature: Room temperature provides the best flavor and texture of each cheese. If you make your platter ahead of time, allow 45 minutes to an hour before serving.
  • Use Labels: Mark each cheese with its name and a simple one or two word description.
  • Knives: Have one knife per cheese.
  • Ask an Expert: If you’re not a cheese connoisseur yourself, no problem! Ask the advice of your local deli manager when putting together your cheese platter. He or she will likely have a lot of great recommendations. Let them know your budget and then allow them to offer advice.
  • Always Have Honey: A drizzle of honey balances and tames the flavor of sharp cheeses that some guests might not enjoy on their own.
  • Use Plain Bread and Crackers: Avoid herb-infused or flavored breads and crackers, which can fight flavors and take away from the experience.
  • Don’t Crowd the Platter: Leave a 1-2 inch gap between items on the platter to avoid getting fingers and knuckles where they don’t belong (and possibly cut!).
  • Fruit and Nuts Are a Must: Break things up with fresh fruit like grapes, figs, apricots and dates as well as small handfuls of your favorite nuts.
  • Sweet and Savory Sides: Jams, chutneys, olives, and thinly sliced salty meats like prosciutto are also great additions to your platter.
  • Platter vs. Individual Plates: If guests are walking around, opt for a large platter from which everyone can serve themselves. If it’s a formal sit-down meal, use an individual plate for each guest.

Do you have a favorite cheese or platter tip? Share your ideas!

Image via Williams Sonoma

10 Genius Camping Tips

Summer is officially here and the great outdoors is calling. Before you pack up your gear and head for the hills, check out these great tips that will make your camping trip a breeze (and make you look like a genius)!

1. No need to lug around an entire bag of charcoal. Fill an empty paper egg carton with Match Light charcoal for a simple and effective fire starter for the grill.

2. No coffee pot? No problem. Make individual coffee bags out of coffee filters and dental floss. Allow them to steep in boiling water for several minutes, just like tea.

3. Refill empty Tic Tac containers with your favorite spices. It takes up less space and you can store them with your camping equipment year round.

4. Add bundles of sage to your campfire to keep mosquitoes away.

5. For perfect s’mores, use a small block of wood on the outer rim of campfire to rest your cracker and chocolate while you roast the marshmallow.The wood will transfer heat to get the chocolate nice and melted.

6. Campfire Banana Boats are a delicious ooey-gooey alternative to s’mores. Or a good side dish for s’mores. Either way.

7. Freeze drinking water in jugs and use them instead of ice in your cooler. Not only does it save space, it saves your ham sandwiches from getting soggy.

8. Avoid soggy, slippery bars of soap by creating one-time-use strips of soap with a vegetable peeler. HINT: rub dry soap on a mosquito bite to relieve itching.

9. Place a few of unscented dryer sheets on the table (or under a tablecloth) to keep bees away from the food.

10. A first aid kit that fits in your pocket is a must-have for hiking. Use an old prescription bottle and fill it with bandaids, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment and some Benadryl.

Do you have a favorite camping tip? Share you ideas with us!

Recipe: Deep Fried Oreos

Mrs. Fields Secrets Deep Fried Oreos
One of summertime’s greatest pleasures is the local fair. Whether it’s a county fair in the midwest or a street fair in midtown Manhattan, people are drawn to fairs and especially those delicious traditional fair foods. Today we’re kicking off a fun new series featuring your favorite fare from the fair, beginning with a dangerously delicious indulgence: Deep Fried Oreos. Hot and sweet, crunchy and soft, Deep Fried Oreos are downright crave-able. With today’s recipe, there’s no need to wait for the fair, but beware: whip up a batch and you may get a spontaneous crowd (and maybe a blue ribbon)!

Deep Fried Oreos

2 quarts canola or vegetable oil
1 package Oreo cookies
1 1/2 cup pancake mix
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
powdered sugar for garnish

Directions
Heat oil in a deep fryer or dutch oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a tray with paper towels for drainage. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the milk, egg, and two teaspoons of oil together. Slowly add the pancake mix until no lumps appear. Once oil reaches temperature, coat 4-5 Oreos at a time in the batter, then drop into the hot oil. (Cook in small batches to prevent overcrowding and burning.) Cook for 20-30 seconds per side, or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve warm with sprinkled powdered sugar.

Colorful Ice Cubes

Mrs. Fields Secrets Flavored Ice Cubes

We’ve got a simple way to add a fun range of flavor and color to your summer beverages. Freezing concentrated cubes of punch or juice will not only cool your summer drinks, but infuse them with bright color and flavor. You can match the colors to your party theme or holiday fare (think red, white and blue), combine them in a beautiful pitcher or in individual glasses. As the cubes melt, the drink gets more flavor and color with each sip!

Rainbow Ice Cubes

3 packets Koolaid, different flavors/colors
1 cup sugar
6 cups water
3 ice cube trays

Directions
Mix contents of one Koolaid packet with 1/3 cup sugar and 2 cups water. Stir thoroughly to ensure that sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into one ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Repeat with remaining Koolaid packets and ice trays. Once frozen, place cubes in a punch bowl, pitcher, or individual glasses with water, wine or clear soda for a beautiful pop of color and flavor.

HINT: Dark, concentrated juices like grape or pomegranate work best for juices. Consider freezing berries inside ice cubes for even more color and texture!

Pancakes On Sticks & Other Fun Breakfast Ideas

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but did you know that it can be the most fun? We’ve gathered some incredible ideas to serve at your next summertime sleepover, brunch with friends, or even Father’s Day breakfast. Follow the links for full instructions or use them to inspire your own creativity.

Like a lollipop but better, these pancakes on a stick are too cute and super easy for serving.

Cheesy baked eggs inside potato skins is such a fun new way to serve individual eggs. Serve with your favorite hot sauce or ketchup.

Intermixing donut holes and fresh berries or fruit on a skewer ensures a balanced and beautiful breakfast. Plus, it’s so pretty!

Create lacy, lovely pancakes by using a simple squeeze bottle for your batter. Stack them up for a funnel-cake-like taste of sweet crunch.

Thin slices of fresh apple dipped in pancake batter create these delicious Apple Pancake Rings.

Betcha didn’t know you can make bacon cute. It’s actually quite easy with these bacon hearts. (Plus, you get a good mix of soft and crispy edges in each strip!)

And, of course, a little food coloring goes a long way. Create bright, colorful waffles in any color scheme. (We’re loving this red, white and blue!)

Do you have a favorite fun breakfast idea?

25 Great Ideas for a Date Night In

Having a great date night with your significant other doesn’t have to mean a night out on the town. Here are 25 great ideas to have a great time right at home by adding a little creativity to make things special.

  1. Grab the laptop and plan out a fantasy vacation. Money is no object, so explore where you would stay, what you would eat, tours you would take, what you would wear, and souvenirs you would bring home. It’s almost as fun as the real thing, and much more affordable!
  2. Give each other a “Chopped” challenge by putting a handful of random ingredients in a shopping bag and exchange them. One of you creates dinner with your ingredients and the other creates a dessert.
  3. Recreate your first date, but at home. Cook the same meal you first ate together, find that old movie to watch together, or set up a bowling lane in your hallway. Whatever it was, rekindle those first flames with a creative repeat.
  4. Read to each other from a favorite book or a sexy novel.
  5. No need to embarrass yourself in front of a class. Learn to dance together by finding instructional videos online and then trying them out together.
  6. You like Chinese food, but he prefers pizza. So why not do a little of both? Order your favorite take out from different places and enjoy your own food festival.
  7. Get in your pajamas and make breakfast for dinner and eat by candlelight. Try one of our favorite breakfast menus for inspiration.
  8. Learn some birding basics and go birdwatching in your backyard. You’ll discover a whole new world right outside your door.
  9. Build a fire in the fireplace and spread out a soft blanket with some pillows. Add a cheese plate and a bottle of wine and you’re set for hours of romantic relaxation.
  10. Have your own karaoke night alone or with friends. Borrow a karaoke machine or sing into a hairbrush, but whatever you do, belt out a love song for your date.
  11. Get out your favorite board game, but add some “naughty” twists to the rules. (Wink, wink.)
  12. Do you know your significant other’s lifelong dreams and wishes? Write out your bucket lists together and then post them somewhere in the house as a reminder.
  13. Pack a picnic and head to the backyard for a private, romantic, eat-with-your-hands meal. Bring a blanket big enough to sprawl on, some good music, and a book of poetry to read.
  14. Prepare a deluxe bubble bath to take together. Splurge on some fancy soaps and loofahs, light some candles, and bring a plate of chilled berries and drinks.
  15. Give the opera a try without the expensive ticket and uncomfortable seats. Watch famous opera arias online, or rent a popular opera and watch it together. (Subtitles help, so look for one that has them.)
  16. Give each other massages. All you need is a bottle of massage oil, a new age music playlist on Pandora, and some simple tips and tricks to get started.
  17. Buy an exotic food at the grocery store and learn how to cook it together. Ask your grocer for tips and ideas, and even recommendations. You may discover a favorite new food!
  18. Learn the night sky and do some stargazing together after dark. Get a map and look for the naked eye constellations, or use a telescope to explore more hard-to-find clusters.
  19. Take a long, lingering walk around your area. Hold hands, walk slow, take time to stop and smell the roses.
  20. Have a wine tasting together. Choose 3-5 bottles of a specific type of wine, ranging in price and have a tasting together.
  21. Do your best Barbara Walters and interview each other. Use these questions for inspiration or jot down your own probing questions to learn even more about each other.
  22. Have a pretend power outage. Turn off the power to the house and shut down all those handheld devices. Enjoy the quiet and the candlelight and get creative to entertain yourselves.
  23. Use your best sound system and create a concert of your favorite songs, or look up your favorite artists in concert and enjoy the best seats in the house.
  24. Get a new perspective and climb up on the roof together. (But be safe!) Enjoy the view, the quiet, and a chance to reconnect.
  25. Have a cookie bake off where each of you choose a favorite cookie recipe and put your baking skills to the test. (Search our Recipe Index for some Mrs. Fields favorites!)

{Image via Getty Images.}

Last-Minute Delicious St. Patty’s Day Ideas

It’s not too late to celebrate the luck of the Irish with some delicious St. Patty’s-themed food. Here are ten great ideas that will likely get you kissed!

Create delicious four-leaf clovers using a craft punch and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle them on pasta or even a platter of appetizers.

Grasshopper cocktails are a fun adult dessert drink at your party.

Mint green rice krispy treats are a crowd pleaser for all ages and sizes.

A loaf of Pistachio Quick Bread is delicious and fun.

A batch of rich Guinness Brownies will go perfect with your St. Patrick’s Day toast.

This Cheesy Pesto Bread is a show-stopper, and completely easy to nosh on while a crowd gathers.

Wow your family and friends with these impressive but easy to make St. Patrick’s Day Cream Puffs.

Pretty and delicious, these Key Lime Swirl Cheesecake Bars will keep well, but they won’t last long.

And finally, a tall carafe of Rainbow Sangria will bring the sunshine to any get together.

Great Oscar Party Ideas

Mrs. Fields Secrets Oscar Party
The hottest party in Hollywood is happening Sunday, but your house can be just as glamorous and fun with these clever Oscar party ideas. Invite some friends, don some fake eyelashes and get your acceptance speech ready because you’re about to to win best party host!

1. A range of flavored popcorns are perfect party fare. Have savory and sweet varieties.
2. These Tuxedo Cake Pops look so dapper. They might win best dressed.
3. You can recreate the Hollywood sign in a number of creative ways, but cupcakes would be dreamy.
4. Add a wedge of star fruit to give your bubbly drink the star treatment.
5. Make your napkins look like nominee envelopes for the ultimate touch.
6. Add your own labels to drinks so that everyone can enjoy an “Oscar Buzz.”

And don’t forget to download your free Oscar Dress Rating Card to keep track of your favorite (and least favorite) fashion looks.

Valentine’s Catalog Preview + Early Bird Discount

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Believe it or not, Valentine’s Day is only a couple of weeks away. If one of your new year’s resolutions was to be more organized, why not take a moment to browse our amazing Valentine gift ideas and get your gift ordered today? With Mrs. Fields, you select the delivery date, so you can order early, have it delivered exactly when you want it, and forget about it. Plus, we’ve got an early bird discount to sweeten the deal! (See below) But first, here are some of my favorite picks from our current Valentine’s Day catalog:

Sweet Heart Box

The variety in our Sweet Heart Box is unbelievable! Bite-sized cookies and brownies along with frosted cookies and our delicious new raspberry bark. This is a gift for those who like to mix it up a little!

Little Bits of Love Box

Our Little Bits of Love Box is a perfect offering for new love, true love, or even a secret admirer. It’s just the right size and full of our favorite flavors!

Love Monkey

Sweethearts tend to share pet names, but now you can share our Love Monkey with your own Love Monkey. He shows up with an armful of our favorite cookies!

Valentine’s Combo Tins

Few things make someone’s heart swell like the sight of a Mrs. Fields tin. We’ve got Valentine’s Combo Tins in a variety of sizes and contents, so that you can give your special valentine exactly what she wants!

Valentine’s Heart Big Cookie Cake

Our Big Cookie Cakes are a favorite for special occasions, but our heart-shaped Valentine Big Cookie Cake is a perfect for this special occasion. Plus, you can have your own personal message written on the cake, up to 20 characters.

“Owl” Always Love You Box

With moving wings, our “Owl” Always Love You Box is a fun and thoughtful gift, for a valentine or even for your kids. The box can become a special decoration for years to come.

You can shop all of our valentine gifts online and request your own catalog too. As mentioned, blog readers enjoy a 15% discount off their entire order by using code 14AEL at checkout. (Offer good until February 12, 2014.)

Thanksgiving Activities for Kids

Mrs. Fields Secrets Thanksgiving activities
While you’re busy getting the last details of Thanksgiving dinner together, here are some great ideas to keep little kids entertained and out of the kitchen:

1. Fruit Turkeys will make a perfect quiet activity at the kids’ table, not to mention a great appetizer!
2. Turkey Bowling in a hallway will keep the kids occupied and laughing it up.
3. Oreo Turkeys are almost too cute to eat. Almost. You might even find a few adults taking part in this craft.
4. Decorated Marshmallows with edible ink can be used later in hot cocoa. Kids will love writing on their food.

Do you have any favorite ways to keep the kids busy on Thanksgiving?

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