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pre-prepped charcuterie board
Pre-cut all your items and put them in containers to empty and place quickly on your board. If you take more than 5 minutes for set up you lose your advantage.

Charcuterie (pronounced Shar-coo-ter-ee) boards are very popular now and you can really Wow! your friends if you bring one to a party or serve one at a pool party or movie night. You don't have to be a cook and you can find pre-made foods and dips in the grocery store if you know what to look for. Charcuterie is really just a wooden cutting board covered in veggies, fruits, nuts, crackers, cheeses, etc. BUT you can't just dump the stuff on the board and call it quits. Rule number one! It has to look pretty and there is the hitch!

But not to fear, you can follow a few rules and your board will look professional. THINK COLOR! Put contrasting fruits and veggies beside each other. Put red grapes beside white apples slices or banana chips. Put carrot slices beside zucchini or cucumber slices. Do the same with your crackers and cheese. Pair a darker colored and flavored cracker with Brie or Gouda cheese and a lighter Ritz cracker with sharp cheddar or even bleu cheese. You can buy cut fruit and vegetable trays with dip and simply re-arrange them on your wooden board. Use your imagination on how they are displayed. Baby carrots could form a double layer circle so they look like a sun or you can slice a carrot in thin slices with a vegetable peeler and spin them up in a pin wheel then pull the outer layers back a little to look like a rose. A triangle of cheese can be tucked, point end of one under the center long-side of another, then keep doing that working up an area of the board so it ends up looking like a braid. Cheese sticks can be cut in half and wrapped around the center with prosciutto or strip of another lunch meat. They could be stacked in a crisscross manner or even a log cabin square. Put piles of mixed nuts or olives in between to fill in holes and place appropriate dips in a couple of places.

Some ideas for dips for fruits are 1) Caramel sauce 2) 4 Tbs. Peanut Butter mixed with one Tbs. of Honey. You can also add 1 Tbs. of Nutella to this for a different variation. But here is my favorite. It is so simple but people never guess what's in it and they love it. Mix one jar of marshmallow fluff with 8 oz. of cream cheese, softened. That's it. Mix it thoroughly till smooth and you won't believe how good it is. You can take some of this and add dried Oregano or Sage and a couple of shakes of salt for dipping veggies or beef sticks into it. Other veggie dips, of course, are Ranch dip, Queso sauce, or salad dressings like Italian and Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Here's a rule that will make or break your success. Pre-prep Everything! Pre-cut all your items and put them in containers so you can just lift and place on your board at someone else's home. All dips should be in small lidded but colorful containers so you can just set them on the board and remove the lid. If you make carrot roses bring them in a container you can just lift them out of whole. If you take more than five minutes to put your board together you'll lose your advantage. I was once at a party where someone took an hour to put a Charcuterie board together. It looked beautiful but people had already filled their plates and gone to other rooms before it was done so it was never enjoyed or admired.

Remember 1) Color contrast 2) A couple of fancy stacks or swirls 3) Colorful dip bowls and 4) Pre-prep, practice if you need to and get it set up fast. Then you'll enjoy the compliments that are sure to come!

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