5-Minute Fancy Cheese Plate on a Budget

Being able to throw together a solid cheese plate in a short amount of time is one of the keys to adulting.  It’s also key to making a night at home feel like a special occasion, even when you’re short on energy and the budget is tight.  Sure, you could eat the cheese on crackers pulled straight from the box while standing in the kitchen mindlessly trolling Facebook, but why not take five minutes to make the whole cheese and carbs thing a little more special?

In my experience, the secret to making a great cheese plate is variety:  contrasting flavors and textures make all the difference!  So, let’s talk cheese.  I like to think that there are four main categories of cheese:  soft, hard, stinky, and the wildcard.  Other folks may use stuffier categories, but this is what works for me!  When picking cheese, I try to select only one from each category.  For example, I might pick a brie (a classic, soft cheese that deserves a place on any cheese board), Manchego (hard), Gorgonzola (stinky), and smoked Gouda (wildcard).

Good news.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a good cheese plate–with just one nice cheese and some inexpensive accouterments, you can create an impressive spread for less than ten buckaroos.

one-cheese-plate-close-up

For this simple cheese plate, I picked a rich and creamy goat milk brie ($2.79 at Trader Joe’s), gluten free rice crackers ($2.50 per box), a handle of almonds I had on hand ($FREE), and several goodnessknows snack squares (half a box = $2.50). That’s a fancy, filling cheese plate for less than $8! As an added bonus, this combination is totally gluten free.

Sure they call it a “cheese plate” but I think it’s really all the OTHER stuff that makes a cheese plate shine.  Rather than spending tons of money at the grocery store, take a look in your pantry and your fridge, and pull out anything and everything that looks good for nibbling.  Pickles of any variety, dried fruit, chocolate, honey, fruit preserves, mustard, nuts, cured meats, fresh bread, crostini, croutons…  I realize this sounds like a big hodgepodge, but, assuming you only keep things on hand that you actually enjoy eating, I don’t think you can go wrong!  One of my favorite stumbled-upon combinations, for example, is goat cheese Gouda + dill pickles + stadium mustard.  THE BEST.  The odds-and-ends plate is where it’s at.

Say you’ve got some company coming over, and you need to bulk up your cheese plate.  For just a few extra dollars, you can easily add a second cheese.  Try to pick one that contrasts your first selection.  Here for example, I added some hard Parmigiano Reggiano, a sharp, nutty cheese, to contrast the soft, grassy goat’s milk brie.

two-cheese-plate-dark

It’s nice to have something sweet to balance out strong cheese flavor profiles.  A little sweet and savory action.  Here, a drizzle of honey and poppable goodnessknows snack squares do the trick, while requiring the teensiest effort possible. Each package of goodnessknows snack squares has four squares with nuts and dried fruit nestled into dark chocolate, and they’re an easy, delicious compliment to cheese.  The cranberry, almond, dark chocolate is my favorite, but you can’t really go wrong here.

Whatever cheeses you select, make sure to take the cheese out of the fridge an hour before it’ll be served.  Cold cheese is a sad, sad thing.  If this is news to you, I beg you to do your own trial.  It goes like this. Get some brie.  Set a chunk on a plate on the counter for one hour. Wait patiently. Then do a side-by-side taste test with a piece straight from the fridge.  It’s like comparing butter to rubber, baby. Butter to rubber.

Say you want to take things up another notch.  A three-cheese plate is very decadent, and requires hardly any additional effort.  For this plate, I simply added a semi-soft Gouda plus a handful of dates to the plate.  Here’s a tip. Rather than cutting a wedge of cheese vertically (so you end up with lots of too-small, oddly shaped pieces), cut the cheese (yes, I said it) so that the shape of the wedge is maintained by laying the wedge on its side and cutting large sheets of cheese (see pic below).

three-cheese-plate-dark

Good enough for company, good enough for date night.  And all for about $15!

To find where you can purchase goodnessknows near you click here!

5-Minute Fancy Cheese Plate on a Budget {ferventfoodie.com}

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of goodnessknows. The opinions and text are all mine.

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