happy hour at home [one]

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As a table person, few combinations are better than fellowship and good food.  Naturally, I’m constantly dreaming about menus and parties based on what I love to eat and what I want to try.  New recipes or techniques don’t scare me.  It’s an organic practice that drives me to be better in the kitchen, at the table and surrounded by people.

Since I think everyone should take a whirl at entertaining, bringing your people together to eat, I’m starting this new series happy hour at home.

My philosophy on food and entertaining is to keep it simple and elevate ordinary ideas to make them special without totally losing it.  If this sounds good to you, please follow along!

My goal is to share a variety of quick and simple small snack menus with varying flavors and ingredients, focused on allowing you to have a good time with your guests.  Whether it’s girls’ night in, book club, game night or an awards’ show viewing party, it should be way more fun than stressful.  And the first rule for any good party: must have good snacks.

My hope is that whether you use a happy hour at home menu entirely or choose different items from separate posts that you are inspired to entertain more and worry less.

cupcakes and cheese board

Let’s start with a classic go-to: a cheese platter and cupcakes.  Most items are obviously store-bought yet carefully selected and balanced with homemade dessert.

Any good cheese platter should include: at least two cheeses (soft + hard), crackers or bread, fruit, meat and nuts.  Think sweet and savory, soft and crunchy.  I like a combination of brie, havarti, mozzarella and sharp cheddar, along with something spicy, but typically we go with what we have on-hand or what sounds good.  I can’t have bleu or gorgonzola cheeses (unfortunately), so you won’t see those on my board.  If grapes aren’t in season, I’ll hit the bulk bins for dried fruit like apricot and mango.  Apples are always a good idea, along with olives and salami.  Other great additions would be chocolate dipped pretzels, prosciutto, bell peppers and jam or honey.  The important thing is to make sure your cheeses pair well with the other items instead of being a random mash-up.

My rule is that if I’m serving something like a cheese platter made up of prepared items, I also make something sweet from scratch.  It can be as simple as chocolate dipped pretzels, but what’s better than classic vanilla cupcakes, right?  Inspired by the dreamy cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, I love this cupcake recipe with this frosting.  I could do an entire series on how to amp up these seemingly plain cupcakes, but I promise you they’re incredibly delicious as-is.  But if you’re looking to make something pretty and special, whip in some fresh strawberries to the frosting!

This cheese platter and cupcakes combination works great whether you’re sipping. wine and champagne, or lemonade and punch.

lemon vanilla cakesBonus: If you end up with more cupcakes than you need for the evening, toss them [unfrosted] in a plastic bag and freeze them for next time.  Then, you’ll have homemade cupcakes on-hand for the next happy hour or unexpected guests!  You’ll just need to let them thaw for at least 30 minutes.  I recommend making a simple glaze of lemon zest and juice with powdered sugar.  It’s a light and tasty complement to the perfectly fluffy cake.

xo, mh

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