This post is part of “The Art of Cheese”, a partnership between Honest Cooking and Castello Cheese.
With a food simple dishes and Aged Havarti appetizers, the holidays do not have to be so daunting.
By Jovina Coughlin
Castello Aged Havarti is a creamy, finely textured cheese made from traditional methods dating back over 130 years, when Hanne Nielsen first made Havarti cheese. Castello Aged Havarti is allowed to mature for at least 12 months to encourage a unique and rich flavor. Castello Aged Havarti is the perfect cheese for your cheese board. The taste and flavor standout. As a snack, it is delicious with nuts, fruit and wine.
We are in the midst of the holiday season and I love this time of year with all the fun things there are to do. You only need a few really good ingredients to create festive and delicious holiday food. Go for a mix of shapes and colors and your guests will love how beautiful everything looks.
While overindulgence is often the hallmark of holiday celebrations, your guests will appreciate party food that is nourishing and healthful as well as appealing. I like to arrange an appetizer tray with a mix of foods that can meet different dietary choices: vegetarian, gluten-free, low-calorie, etc.
Whether you want to host a few friends or have a big, open-to-all affair, the best way to make sure your guests enjoy themselves is to enjoy the party yourself—a relaxed, unruffled host makes guests feel welcome and at ease. With this in mind, do a little preparation ahead of time.
At a recent get-together at my home, I arranged appetizer trays filled with Castello Aged Havarti Cheese cubes at room temperature, homemade crackers, Prosciutto di Parma wrapped pears, mixed green olives, Mission figs/roasted red peppers/Castello cheese kabobs and homemade cranberry sauce for topping Castello cheese squares. What remained after the party were just a few crackers – everything else – gone. I had many compliments on the food and my friends loved the Castello cheese and asked where they could buy it.
Here are my recipes for you to recreate for your next party. I guarantee they will be a big hit.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 cup of sweet potato puree (from 1 cooked sweet potato)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
- Roast the sweet potato in a 400 degree F oven for about 45-50 minutes; then let it cool, remove the skin and purée using a hand blender until smooth. You will need 1 cup of sweet potato purée for this recipe; use any leftover potato for another use. Set the purée aside.
- Place the flour, baking powder, rosemary, paprika and salt in the bowl of a processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until is the size of small peas. Add the sweet potato puree and honey. Pulse until a dough forms.
- Roll the dough into a ball and divide it into 4 pieces. For easier rolling, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for a 1/2 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. Use the paper to roll out the dough.
- Roll the dough 1/4? thick and cut into 2? squares, using a pizza, pastry wheel, a bench knife or a plain knife. Prick each cracker with a fork.
- Lift the parchment onto the baking sheet. Separate the crackers a bit, leaving about 1/4? between them, so they crisp evenly. If you’re not using parchment, transfer the crackers to the baking sheet, leaving about 1/4? between them.
- Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. You will need to bake a second batch after the first finishes baking.
- Bake the crackers for 12 to 16 minutes, until their edges are starting to brown. Switch pans after 10 minutes.
- Remove the pans from the oven and slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter. Repeat baking with the second batch of crackers.
- Store cooled crackers in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic.
- 7 oz block of Castello Aged Havarti Cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- Mission figs, cut in half
- Roasted Red Peppers, jarred, drained and cut into one inch cubes
- Drain the peppers on paper towels. On each toothpick skewer one piece of cheese, one fig half and one piece of red pepper. Repeat until all the cheese cubes are used.
- Arrange the kabobs on an attractive serving platter.
- 1 3/4 cups Almond Meal Flour (Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur are brands I use)
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea Salt
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- Cracked pepper
- Dried Italian seasoning
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. Use the paper to roll out the dough.
- Mix together the almond meal flour, olive oil and beaten egg whites. This will make a crumbly mix that shapes quickly into a ball.
- Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a rough square.
- Roll out one piece of dough at a time, keeping the piece you’re not working with covered to prevent drying.
- Roll out on the parchment cut for the pan.
- Roll the dough 1/4? thick and cut into 2? squares with a pizza, pastry wheel, a bench knife or a plain knife. Prick each cracker with a fork.
- If you’ve rolled out the dough on parchment, simply lift the parchment onto the baking sheet. Separate the crackers a bit, leaving about 1/4? between them, so they crisp evenly.
- If you’re not using parchment, transfer the crackers to a baking sheet, leaving about 1/4? between them.
- Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
- Bake the crackers for 12 to 16 minutes, until their edges begin to brown. Switch pans after 10 minutes.
- Remove them from the oven, cool right on the pan and then move to an airtight container to keep crisp and fresh.
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups port wine
- 2 packages fresh cranberries
- 4 long strips orange zest
- 7 oz block of Castello Aged Havarti Cheese, room temperature
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and port wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the wine has reduced slightly, about 4 minutes.
- Add the cranberries and the orange zest. Simmer until the cranberries soften and the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; remove and discard the zest.
- Set aside to cool for a few several minutes. Place the cheese in an attractive serving dish and spoon the warm sauce over the cheese.
I was born in New Jersey to first generation Italian parents. Both sets of my grandparents were born in Italy and emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. They brought with them a love of the Italian culture and cooking. I have 2 brothers and 1 sister. I learned many of my cooking skills from my parents and grandparents, but I also studied Italian cooking and made many of the recipes for my children as they were growing up. I am married with three children and six grandchildren. Besides New Jersey, I have lived in Pennsylvania, Michigan and now on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Masters of Science Degree and I have taught high school English and special education. I have also been an administrator in the public schools at the district and county levels. Now that I am retired from the teaching profession, I have the time to write a blog and share my information about Italian American cooking and culture. Because I am a teacher by trade, I feel that I have the skills to share with readers the techniques for preparing authentic and healthy meals.