These Layered Cranberry Cheesecake Parfaits are an irresistible holiday dessert!
My dark, rich Hot Chocolate is the perfect way to warm up on a cold day, and I’m sharing four delicious ways to make it!
How was your weekend? I’ve been sick since last Wednesday, so mine was super lazy. I did catch up on seemingly every Hallmark Christmas movie ever made though (total guilty pleasure). So, even though I missed Thanksgiving, I did manage to get into the holiday spirit!
My non-stop love affair with my couch also meant I was able to plot out my holiday gift list. I pretty much never buy anything full-price, so scouting out the sales is part of the fun! I’ve found some great Cyber Monday (or Cyber Week, in many cases) deals. Scroll to the end of this post to check them out.
Now that I’m feeling a little better, it’s time to get festive. I love entertaining during the holidays, but I like to keep it simple. When I want to impress my guests the easy way (always!), I serve a cheese tray. It looks super luxurious and decadent but couldn’t be easier to put together.
- Soft Cheese: I like double- and triple-cream Bries for cheese plates since they are so readily available (it’s what I used here). Other soft cheeses that I love are St. Marcellin (sometimes hard to find, but so good) or Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam or Redhawk.
- Hard Cheese: I’m partial to aged Gouda (the middle cheese above). It has a rich, caramel flavor, and the really good kinds have crunchy crystals, which are just delicious. I also like sharp aged cheddar or nutty Gruyere.
- Blue Cheese: For this cheese tray, I used St. Agur, which is rich, smooth, and creamy. Gorgonzola Dolce and Rogue River Blue are also very good.
It helps to keep these three categories in mind when shopping, but don’t worry about finding the exact cheeses that I used. A well-stocked supermarket or specialty store should have everything you need. Both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have great options. Just remember, even if your selection is super slim, it’s cheese. You can’t really go wrong!
Other tips to keep in mind when choosing cheese:
- Use a combination of soft, hard, and crumbly cheeses.
- Vary the intensity of the cheese you choose. For example, don’t use three stinky cheeses, or your cheese tray will be overpowering.
- Shop somewhere with knowledgeable staff. A good cheesemonger will help you navigate endless options. Plus, they’ll let you taste before buying, which is half the fun!
- Keep a record of your favorite cheeses, so you can buy them again.
- There’s no need to stop at just three cheeses! Add as many as you like to the cheese tray.
- Crackers: Looks for crispy crackers with a plain flavor that won’t overpower the star of the show, the cheese. I used 34 Degrees Savory Crisps. Another classic option is Carr’s Table Water Crackers.
- Thinly-sliced baguette: Buy the crustiest baguette you can find and slice it thinly on the diagonal.
- Fruit (dried or fresh): Fruit balances out the rich flavors of the cheese. I used dried black mission figs, which are a favorite of mine and are perfect at this time of year. Fresh fruit, such as grapes, apples, or pears, is also delicious.
- Nuts: Crunchy nuts are a great counterpoint to creamy, soft cheese. I love to use Marcona almonds, but any kind of nut works. Choose your favorite.
- Dark Chocolate: I love chocolate on a cheese plate. Look for a super dark chocolate with lower sugar content.
- Place your cheeses first. I like to keep the cheeses separated, leaving room in between for the other tray components.
- Add the crackers and bread. Put these at the back of the tray, since they take up a lot of space. You could also place the crackers and bread in a separate basket or bowl.
- Fill in the gaps on your tray with fruit, nuts, and chocolate.
- Add a fun flourish. This step is totally optional, and I often skip it. I used rosemary sprigs here, which added a fragrant, fresh element to the cheese tray.
Keep in mind that you don’t even need to use a tray. A wood cutting board is another option.
What goes hand in hand with cheese? Wine, of course! I like to serve white wine with cheese. Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite, but an unoaked Chardonay works, too. Sweeter wines, like Riesling, or even Champagne can also be good. You can also try serving red wine, but avoid strong reds with lots of tannins, because they’ll overpower your cheese. Pinot Noir or Sangiovese are a great options.
- e.l.f. Cosmetics: take 50% off sitewide with a minimum $30 purchase with code CYBER50 (valid through 12/2). My pick: the 15-piece nail polish cube or the 83-piece essential makeup collection. Either would be adored by your favorite teen!
- Julep: save up to 80% on amazing gifts and more in the Julep Secret Store (normally available exclusively to subscribers!) through 12/3. My pick: the Trophies set, which includes 4 full-size polishes perfect for the holidays (and only $14.99!).
- Nordstrom: has a huge selection of Cyber Monday deals, plus 12/2 is a double points day! My picks: the Kate Spade Netta Bootie, the Vince Camuto Double Wrap Pyramid Stud Watch in Rose Gold, and the Kelsi Dagger Susanna Tote. I want them all!
- C. Wonder: enjoy 40% off site wide + free ground shipping on orders of $75 or more with promo code GIFTS40 (valid 12/2). My pick: the Cashmere Tres Chic Intarsia Gloves or anything from the Monogram Shop would make great gifts!
- ModCloth: get 20% off sitewide (valid through 12/2). My pick: the vinyl-lover in your life would be psyched to receive a Busk Stops Here Turntable.
- Ruche: get 30% off new arrivals, plus check out their 4 sales buckets – under $20, under $15, under $10, or under $5 (valid through 12/3). My pick: the Willow Creek Plaid Scarf (only $8.50!).
- BonLook: up to 50% off eyewear plus free shipping (valid 12/02). My pick: the La Marquise has a fun, slightly retro shape and where else can you get prescription glasses for $79?
- Lucy: save 30% off the Perfect Core collection + free shipping (valid 12/2). My pick: the Perfect Core Pant works for yoga and so much more!
- The Limited: get 50% off full-priced items plus free shipping with code JINGLE (valid through 12/3). My pick: the Colorblock Halter Top, which would be perfect for a holiday party paired with skinny pants and killer heels!
- Alex and Ani: get 15% off + free shipping with code MANIA (valid 12/2). My pick: the Set of 7 Thick Smooth Bangles would make it super easy to start an arm party!
- Alternative Apparel: Choose your Cyber Monday deal! Buy 2, get 1 free: leggings with code LEGSB2G1; tees/tops with code TEESB2G1; dresses with code DRESB2G1; or hoodies with code HOODB2G1. My pick: the Dolman Pullover Eco Fleece Hoodie, which adds a little style to a casual basic.
- Bauble Bar: grab 20% off sitewide with code: CYBER20 (valid through 12/3). My pick: the Classic Script Monogram Necklace. So pretty!
- Lulu & Georgia: take 30% off with code THANKS30 (valid through 12/2). My pick: the Only Happy Thoughts Print or the Thomas Paul Jackie Sunglass Case. I love both too much to choose!
- Art.com: for ONE DAY only, save 40% on all orders with coupon code CM2013 (valid 12/2 from 12:01am PST to 11:59pm PST). My pick: this Elephant giclee print would look beautiful as part of a gallery wall.
- Home Decorators: today is the last day for Home Decorator’s “12 Days of Deals”! Get 10% off everything, plus free shipping – no exclusions or limits (valid 12/2). My pick: get something big and heavy that would cost a lot to ship otherwise, like the Custom Rockford Sofa.
- Harry & David: take 10% off $49, 15% off $79, or 20% off $199 with code HOLIDAY (through 12/2). My pick: the Rogue Valley Gift Box, combines gourmet cheese from the Rogue Valley with fresh pears (you can even add wine and chocolate), very apropos for today’s post!
- Best Buy: has Cyber Week sales in every department now through 12/7, plus special deals for Cyber Monday (12/2 only). My Pick: a $100 iTunes Gift Card for just $85!
- Target: save during Cyber Week with new daily doorbuster deals now through 12/7. My pick: the Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven for your favorite little baker!
- Starbucks: save $25 on any $60+ purchase and receive Free Shipping on $35+ orders (valid 12/2 only). My pick: the Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa Mix, which would make a great stocking stuffer!
- Amazon.com: shop Cyber Monday Deals all week and literally something for everyone. There’s too much here to pick a fave!
- Kohl’s: get 20% off everything site wide with the code CYBERWEEK (valid through 12/4). My pick: Kohl’s has logo apparel for every sports team/fan, including my husband. I’d get him a Wisconsin Badgers Hoodie.
- Three Dog Bakery: save 10% and get free shipping on $65+, exclusions apply (valid through 12/3). My pick: the Pup-kin Spice Latte. Don’t forget Fido!
- Paper Source: is one of my all-time favorite stores, and they have lots of great sales going on right now. My pick: a custom address stamp for your friends who just moved.
- Cost Plus World Market: save 20% and enjoy free shipping on $100+ with code CYBERSAVE (valid 12/1 – 12/2). My pick: a set of Vintage Brooch Stoppers (along with a bottle of wine, of course) would make a great present for a gal who likes a little bling with her wine!
- Gaiam.com: save 20% on your order, plus get free shipping with code: SHOP20AFCY13 (valid through 12/4). My pick: add vibrant color to your couch with a hand-knit sweater pillow.
- Hancock Fabrics: has lots of great sales running through 12/4. My pick: the Hancock Curvy Sewing Machine, which would make any crafter very happy!
- Walgreens: has great sales on photo gifts. Print those Thanksgiving pics now!
- Novica: get $10 Off $50 with code ARTISAN10; $15 Off $100 with code ARTISAN15; or $25 Off $150 with code ARTISAN25 (valid through 12/3). Plus, free shipping! My pick: any woman would be happy to receive a luxurious, artisan-crafted Alpaca Wool Patterned Shawl.
- Walmart: has a Cyber Week sale with deals through 12/7. My pick: your favorite Instagrammer who’s ready to graduate from point-and-shoot will love the Canon EOS T3 12.2MP DSLR. It comes with two lenses, SD card, camera bag, and bonus coupon for 2 canvas prints – pretty much everything he/she will need to get started!
What is your favorite kind of cheese? Let me know what I should try next!
I’m linking up with Huckleberry Love’s Much Ado About Monday, So Much Better with Age’s Give Me the Goods, A Stroll Through Life’s Inspire Me Tuesday, Home Stories A to Z’s Tutorials & Tips, Inside BruCrew Life’s Time to Sparkle, Cedar Hill Farmhouse’s The Scoop, Coastal Charm’s Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Cozy Little House’s Tweak It Tuesday, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia’s Tuesday’s Treasures, Made in a Day’s Christmas & Holiday Link Party, City Farmhouse’s Inspiration Exchange, Creations by Kara’s Look What I Made Wednesday, Life with the Crust Cut Off’s Lovely Ladies Linky, Your Girlish Whims’ Your Whims Wednesday, SNAP’s Show & Tell, The Turquoise Home’s Work It Wednesday, Lemoine Family Kitchen’s The Wednesday Roundup, 52 Mantels’ Thursdays Are Your Days, Live Laugh Rowe, No Minimalist Here’s Open House Blog Party, Sweet Bella Roos’ Pin It Thursday, Embracing Change’s Creative Inspirations, Chic on a Shoestrings Flaunt It Friday, Craft Dictator’s Craft Frenzy Friday, Design Happy’s Holiday Link Party, Remodelaholic’s Anonymous, I Heart Hands-On’s Show Off Friday, Twigg Studios’ Sunday Show Off, and Alderberry Hill’s Make the Scene Monday.
Happy Friday! How was your Thanksgiving? Unfortunately, I was sick. I spent most of the day curled up on my couch. I had to enjoy the day vicariously through my husband, who went to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (those are his photos below) and enjoyed some delicious meals cooked by our friends in Brooklyn.
Are you heading out to do some Black Friday shopping today? I’ve done that a few times, but I really don’t like dealing with the chaos, especially since I can find plenty of great deals online. I’d much prefer to shop in my pajamas than elbow my way through a crowd (especially in my current sickly state)!
So today, along with my favorite links of the week, I’m including links to some of the best online Black Friday deals, too.
First things first, Tracy’s Culinary Adventures has 15+ ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers.
Speaking of leftovers, Turkey Pie always made an appearance in my home post-Thanksgiving. Here’s a visual recipe:
Rambling Renovators has some great tips for storing holiday decorations in a small house.
This Jackie Kennedy look book is pretty awesome. I love that lady’s style!
I really like the idea of Guests, a digital guestbook, which allows your friends to leave comments and photos at all of your parties. You can even create a PDF of the guestbook later.
Also perfect for your next party … the Beauty Department shows you how to make a mega bow party headband. This would be a super cute photo booth accessory!
Dress up your couch with a no-sew Greek key pillow.
I was planning to heat up some apple cider with cinnamon sticks for an easy seasonal treat, but then I saw this recipe for the best ever Wassail from Yummy, Healthy, Easy. It’s basically hot apple cider kicked up about 100 notches!
Brooklyn Limestone has nominated the hottest home decor item for 2013. I’ve had my eye on this one myself!
Do you like trying new recipes at this time of year? I know I do (the trickier the better). If so, you’ll want to check out Wit Wisdom and Food’s 5 tips for tackling a challenging recipe.
Are you expecting guests soon? Jones Design Company shows us how she shopped her home to create a pretty guest room?
I’ve always wanted to make a Christmas village, but given my current space restrictions this DIY winter village snow globe jar may be a better option.
OK, on to my favorite Black Friday deals!
- Julep: $1 Nail Polish – what?!?! My pick: Lacey, a gorgeous midnight blue with purple shimmer.
- e.l.f. Cosmetics: Buy 1, get one 50% off, plus get a $10 gift card! Valid through 11/30 with coupon code BLKFRI and a minimum $30 purchase. My pick: the lash & brow comb (a personal favorite) and the 56 piece natural makeup palette (a great holiday gift).
- Juice Beauty: get a FREE full-size Green Apple Age Defy Moisturizer with any $50 Purchase – a $45 Value – valid through 11/29. My pick: the Green Apple Age Defy Serum, which promises to lighten, brighten, and tighten. Who doesn’t want that?
- Nordstrom: shop Black Friday deals at my all-time favorite department store (seriously: when will it arrive in Manhattan?!?). My pick: anything Kate Spade!
- C. Wonder: enjoy 30% off 3 items or more, plus free ground shipping on orders of $75 or more with promo code GIFTS30 (valid thru 12/1). My pick: the Printed Geo Speedy Bag. Tres chic!
- ModCloth: 100’s of items 50% off! My pick: the Knock Noggin, Who’s There? Top, which combines a cute skull print with a super feminine fit.
- Mr. Kate: is having a 50% sale! My pick: the feather cuff ring is just my style.
- Zappos: is having a Black Friday clearance. My pick: the Corso Como Chatham Bootie, which I’d wear non-stop this winter.
- Bonlook: save 50% on selected eye-wear plus get free shipping (valid 11/29 only). My pick: anything tortoise shell (get that smarty pants look).
- Lucy: take 25% off all bottoms (Friday only) AND take an additional 30% off sale (Thanksgiving weekend). My pick: the Hatha Convertible Capri Legging.
- The Limited: get 50% off everything (plus free shipping) with code THANKS. Plus, check out their doorbusters here. My pick: I love this fun colorblock sweater!
- Alternative Apparel: get 25% off any order with code BLACKFRI. My pick: the Leila Eco Fleece Wrap. So cozy!
- Bauble Bar: take 15% off 2 items with code: FRIDAY15; take 25% off 3 items with code: FRIDAY25; OR take 35% off 4+ items with code: FRIDAY35. My pick: the Rainbow Starlite Bib Necklace, which will brighten up the gloomiest of winter days!
- Lulu & Georgia: take 30% off any order over $50 with code THANKS30. My pick: the Mirayam Suzani Rug. Hello, gorgeous!
- Art.com: save 35% on all orders with promo code BF2013 (Valid through 11/29). My pick: the Pier Pilings 15 photo by Lee Peterson. I love the reflections!
- World Market: shop Black Friday deals all weekend long! My pick: these gray Gia bath towels. Such a cool pattern and buy 1, get 1 free!
- Home Decorators: get 50% off plus + free shipping on 500 Gifts & Custom Art!
- Sur La Table: all sorts of sales going on here, from Wusthof Knife Sets to a Classic Round Red Dutch Oven and so much more!
- Target: literally something for everyone! My pick: get a $100 Target Card with purchase of an Apple iPad!
- Kohl’s: get 15% off everything site wide with the code BLACKFRI, plus earn $15 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 you spend (valid through 12/1). My pick: the KitchenAid Artisan 5-quart Stand Mixer. The only problem is what color to choose!
- Paper Source: all sorts of sales going on here! My pick: the Winter Sleighs and Skis Holiday Cards, which are 25% off when you buy 4 or more.
- Best Buy: has all kinds of Black Friday Deals & Doorbusters. My pick: a MacBook Air so I can blog from the comfort of my couch. A girl can dream, right?
- Gaiam.com: buy 1, get 1 50% off with code AF13BOGO50. My pick: the neo-baroque print yoga mat (makes downward dogs more fun).
- Harry & David: take 10% off $49, 15% off $79, 20% off $199 with code HOLIDAY (through 12/2). My pick: the holiday tower of chocolates (endless chocolate=a very happy Ginnie).
- Starbucks: has a few great deals. My picks: buy the Espresso Refill Tumbler and get your favorite espresso drink free every day in January 2014 OR get Verismo 580 Machines for just $99.
- Walmart: has Black Friday deals for the whole family, plus get free shipping on all orders of $35 or more! My pick: this LG 42″ TV for a crazy low price.
Whew … that was a big list! After all that shopping, why not really get yourself into the holiday spirit with this Santa’s Little Helper cocktail?
Are you planning to do any Black Friday shopping?
I’m linking up with Craft Dictator’s Craft Frenzy Friday, French Country Cottage’s Feathered Nest Friday, Just Us Four’s Pinworthy Projects Party, Liz Marie Blog’s Inspire Me Please, The Shabby Nest’s Frugal Friday, The Stitchin’ Mommy’s Get Crafty Fridays, Whipperberry’s The Party Bunch Link Party, I Heart Hands-On’s Show Off Fridays, Tater Tots and Jello’s Link Party Palooza, Too Much Time on My Hands’ Get Schooled Saturday, Your Homebased Mom’s Finding the Pretty and Delicious, SEWlicious Home Decor, Will Cook for Smiles’ Showstopper Saturday, Twigg Studios’ Sunday Show Off, Yummy Healthy Easy’s Saturday Night Fever, Flamingo Toes’ Think Pink Sunday, Suburbs Mama’s Sunday Link Party, and Embracing Change’s Creative Inspirations.