Maria Morera Johnson shares a tradition with preteens that grew into a treasured time now that they're adults. Print our recipe card and shopping list.
When my children were entering late elementary school/middle-school age, we started having a “pallet night” on Friday nights to kick off the weekend. Everyone gathered their blankets and pillows and made what my husband called little “pallets” to sleep on and define their space. He would clear the coffee table and other big items from the living room, and I would make finger foods for dinner. In those days, frozen fish sticks or cheese-filled pizza rolls, complemented by oven-baked French fries, got the job done for this tired mom. We’d watch a family-friendly movie or two, and have a fun night of snacking.
As they got older, I ventured into more complicated appetizers. There were always the standard pizza rolls, but a favorite appetizer was a meatless nacho bite (recipe below). I would use store-bought tortilla chips. Any kind works, but I found a brand that makes bite-sized bowls that were perfect for popping straight into our mouths. They were such a hit that I added it to my regular appetizer offerings.
Every once in a while, especially if our adult children are visiting, we’ll reinstate pallet night. No more pallets, though, and my offerings are for a more refined palate.
On those evenings, we’ll enjoy a carefully curated cheese board that includes something for everyone’s tastes. I like to include nuts, crudités, and fruit to round out a lovely selection. The real effort is in the shopping trip to get all the items. Although social media offers many beautifully prepared charcuterie and cheese board masterpieces, my family-style presentation tends to be an informal collection of small plates around a small cheese board.
Instead of watching an animated movie, we gather around the food, helping ourselves, enjoying a glass of wine or sparkling water, and talking. The informal snacking is a great way to relax and reconnect and lends itself to multiple generations by selecting items everyone can enjoy.
Cheese Board Shopping List:
- Soft cheese (My favorites are Brie, Camembert, or Havarti.)
- Hard cheese (I prefer to include Manchego and Cheddar.)
- Spreadable cheese (I like Boursin. It includes a variety of ingredients available.)
- Goat cheese (There are so many varieties.)
- Two kinds of fruit (The traditional offerings, depending on the availability, include grapes, figs, apples, pears, and berries. Sometimes I add dried fruit such as apricots.)
- Veggies (I love to include olives stuffed with garlic, calamata olives, artichoke hearts, and standard veggies such as carrots, cherry tomatoes, or cauliflower.)
- Two kinds of nuts (I like to offer salted nuts, such as cashews or pistachios and sweetened nuts such as walnuts or pecans.)
- Bread or Crackers (I like a variety of textures here: crusty bread, water crackers, and pretzels.)
- Jams and Jellies (I always opt for a sweet jam and a hot jelly.)
Tortilla chips (store-bought triangles, discs, or bite-sized cups)
1 15 oz can of seasoned black beans (I like the Cuban black bean seasoning)
1 15 oz can of refried beans (choose your heat/spice level)
1 small jar of chunky salsa (choose your heat/spice level)
1 8 oz container of sour cream (or squeeze bottle)
1 small white onion, diced small
Fresh cilantro for garnish
Drain most of the liquid from the canned black beans and mash to a thick creamy consistency.
Tear or chop up cilantro.
Build each bite by layering the black beans on the bottom, followed by the onions, refried beans, salsa, sour cream, and topped with a small sprig of cilantro for color.
I warm up the refired beans and black bean mash to make it easier to handle. I use sandwich baggies to pipe the two kinds of beans. Pro tip: use thin layers, especially if using the pre-made bite-sized bowls. Ready to eat immediately or refrigerate for serving later (at room temperature).
Copyright 2023 Maria Morera Johnson
About the Author
Maria Morera Johnson, author of My Badass Book of Saints, Super Girls and Halo, and Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love writes about all the things that she loves. A cradle Catholic, she struggles with living in the world but not being of it, and blogs about those successes and failures, too.