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.

Oh Fudge!

Today is National Fudge Day, the day we all gather to celebrate the rich, chocolaty goodness that is known as fudge. But how will you pay homage to this perfect confection? Here are some favorite fudge recipes to inspire your day:

Instead of your morning coffee, how about morning coffee fudge?

Or swap your sandwich for Mini Mint Fudge Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Think you don’t have time for fudge? Think again. This recipe for Easy Chocolate Fudge comes together in only ten minutes!

And happy hour just got happier with fudgy Guinness Brownies.

Heat things up in the evening with a little hot fudge, because everything is better with Hot Fudge Sauce (except, perhaps, spaghetti).

Or, cool things down with some Homemade Fudge Pops, the perfect treat on a summer evening.

Whatever you do, enjoy your day enjoying fudge!

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!

Recipe: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mrs. Fields Secrets Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tomorrow is National Peanut Butter Cookie Day and we’ve got you covered with a delicious recipe that will give you a proper peanut butter fix with the added benefit of chocolate chips. We suggest making a batch and sharing it with friends. After all, you wouldn’t want them celebrating National Peanut Butter Cookie Day empty handed, would you?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
3/4 cup sugar + more for rolling
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and peanut butter together, then add both the sugars and mix until creamy. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, followed by the chocolate chips.  Roll dough into 2-teaspoon balls, then roll in the extra sugar before placing on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are slightly browning. Remove to a cooling rack.

Flash Giveaway: Give Your Dad a Superhero Name

He’s got a way of saving the day, whether it’s fixing your flat tire or lending a listening ear. Father’s Day is coming up on Sunday and we’ve got a flash giveaway to help you honor your dad in the sweetest way possible! We’re giving away three delicious Mrs. Fields gifts to three superhero dads, nominated by you! But hurry, you’ve only got 24 hours to enter one of these amazing prizes for Dad:

Father’s Day Bites Box

Our fabulous Father’s Day Bites Box is full of Dad’s favorite bite-sized cookies and brownies.

Toolbox of Treats

While he’s fixing your drain, you can fix his sweet tooth with our Toolbox of Treats!

Cool Caddy Cooler

And finally, our Cool Caddy Cooler is the reusable portable personal cooler, filled with bite-sized goodies now and his favorite beverages for years to come.

Here’s how to play: Leave a comment telling us the superhero name your dad deserves. We’ll choose three random winners on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 and have the prizes shipped just in time for Father’s Day!

And of course, you can still shop all of our amazing Father’s Day gifts at Mrs. Fields. We’ve got everything Dad wants and all that he deserves!

Fine Print: One entry per person, please. You must be 18 years or older to enter and nominees must live in the continental United States. Winners will be chosen and notified via email. Entries accepted until 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, June 10 MST.

Great Ideas for Tackling Road Trips

If your summer plans include a road trip with the kids, the difference between whines of “Are we there yet?” and happy campers usually comes down to some smart planning ahead. We’ve found some genius ideas to make life on the road easy, so take note and buckle up!

1. Tackle Box Snacks. Forget expensive gas station grub along the way. Get the kids their own inexpensive tackle box and fill the individual compartments with a colorful mix of healthy and fun options.

2. Individual Coloring Kits. Keep colored pencils and paper in a handy kit by reinventing a DVD case. It’s easy to pack and store for any kind of travel.

3. Canvas Shoe Bag Organizers. Keep the car tidy and everything in reach with this clever idea. A simple canvas shoe organizer can be tied around the seat  and filled with toys, books, snacks and supplies.

4. Stop for Scenic Outlooks. A great way to ensure fabulous photos from your trip and plenty of rest for the travelers is to commit to stop for scenic outlooks. There is often ample space to park, bathroom facilities, and the kids will enjoy watching for the random signs.

5. A Map for Everyone. One of the best ways to avoid, “Are we there yet?” is to equip the kids with their own map or atlas. They can follow along, look for upcoming towns, and they may even be able to help you avoid getting lost.

Do you have a favorite road trip tip? Share your ideas in the comments!

 

Recipe: Melon and Mint Salad

DSCN3621
Today’s recipe is a refreshing summer salad that you’ll want to put on repeat the whole season through. It’s got bright crisp flavors of fresh, sweet melon, mint, tart lime, sweet honey and crunchy toasted almonds. It’s grown up enough to serve at any summer soiree and still accessible enough to please the little ones too. Trust us, this one is a keeper.

Melon and Mint Salad
from Susan Vaughn

1/2 large seedless watermelon, diced
1 cantaloupe, diced
1 lime
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 handful fresh mint roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted almonds

Directions
In a large serving bowl, toss the diced watermelon and cantaloupe together. Cut the lime in half and squeeze one half over the melon, then cut the other half into wedges for garnish. Drizzle the honey over the salad and give another toss. Sprinkle the fresh mint and almonds on top before serving, and garnish with fresh lime wedges.

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?

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