I may look very ordinary, but as my husband likes to say, I’m like a cherry-filled chocolate, chocolate with surprise. Although I’m usually pretty straight-forward and prefer simple things, when it comes to entertaining, I like to kick it up a notch.
Although having two small boys, makes it feel like a party every day, my husband and I love to entertain. The gatherings we organize usually happen either in our backyard, chilling with barbecue and beer or we go the more sophisticated way and throw a red wine and cheese party. Our friends prefer my ‘not-your-traditional wine & cheese’ parties. Not because I’m this super-generous hostess and offer them expensive food and top-priced red wine, but because my wine and cheese party does not feature a cheese platter.
I know what you all may be thinking, “what kind of party is that?”, but trust me it is a hit. What I do is, instead of a traditional cheese platter, I make cheesy appetizers. The main ingredient are different types of cheeses. Before I reveal to you my top demanded appetizers, I have to say, they go perfectly well with Shiraz, Merlot or Cab, but these red wines are my favourites.
- 2012 Sacredthree by Gemtree Classic Vine Shiraz – $19.99 – This red wine is a classic organic wine from low-yielding, certified organic vineyards of McLaren Vale. It is a rich, plump and full-flavoured wine that goes well with a variety of cheeses and other types of food.
- 2013 Mons Rubra Macedon Pinot Noir – $34.99 – A quality Pinot Noir wine often described by wine collectors as the Holy Grail. For me it is one of the greatest Pinot Noir discovery of the last few years.
- 2014 Grant Burge Hayburner Merlot – $10.99 – I have been searching for a wine like this since my first ‘not-your-traditional wine & cheese party’ – a top value Merlot wine that we love to drink. Rich in blueberry fruits flavours, this medium body wine is pretty easy to drink.
Finally, here are my top demanded appetizers.
Bite-Size Jam & Brie Muffins
- A sheet of puff pastry
- Brie cheese (cut into smaller pieces)
- Cranberry Jam
- Oil spray
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out puff pastry, shape the dough into a 1 cm thick dough and cut it into small squares 5 x 5 cm. Spray the mini muffin pan (I use the 24-cup one) with oil and then place cut dough into each cup. Put a piece of brie cheese on top of the dough and top it with 1 tsp cranberry jam. Take a look at the photo, this is how it should look like. Bake it for about 15 minutes or until it becomes golden brown. It is best when served hot, but the muffins will taste great on room temperature as well. If you want to serve them hot, you can prepare them up to one day in advance. Just take them out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking and they should be ready.
Three Ingredients Cheesy Caprese Dip
This dip is not only a super cheesy and super delicious recipe, but it also consists of only THREE ingredients. It will surely be a hit at your next wine & cheese party. Try it out!
- 300 grams fresh mozzarella
- 1 pack cherry tomato
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil
Cut the mozzarella in small cubes, the cherry tomatoes in half and chop the fresh basil. Combine all the ingredients in a small baking dish. Bake at 180º C for about 15-20 minutes. After that, broil it for 2 minutes so that the cheese becomes golden and bubbly. Serve it hot with crackers. You can prepare it in advance, keep it in the fridge and then bake it right before your guests arrive.
No-Fry Parmesan Zucchini Fries
Every year I grow zucchini in the garden and try to create different recipes to use it. And that is how I got to this one. The most amazing thing of this recipe is that it has the delicious fry taste but it is baked instead!
- 2 large zucchini
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- cooking spray
Dip choices to go with this appetizer include ranch and warm marinara. However, for me, chipotle mayo is the best choice for this recipe.
Chipotle Mayo Dip
- 1/3 cup mayo
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 chipotle
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
To prepare chipotle mayo, combine all the ingredients and blend them until smooth. Set aside.
To prepare Parmesan zucchini fries, preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, olive oil and pepper. Mix well and set aside. Wash the zucchini well and cut it into fries (leave the skin on). Beat eggs and milk together. Toss zucchini in the eggs and milk mixture and dip each part into the bread crumb mixture. Press the crumbs to ensure they stick. Place them on a parchment lined pan and spray with cooking spray. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until the crust is crispy. Serve the no-fry Parmesan zucchini fries with the chipote mayo dip. Voila. Enjoy.