Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter

Comin’ at ya with the most delicious non-recipe recipe today!

Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

I’m calling it right now: Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platters may just become summer’s “it” entertaining item. Because, I mean, when it’s sunny and 75 degrees out, who doesn’t want a plate piled high with pineapple, papaya, kiwis and allllllll the cheese?


Now, I know what you may be thinking: “Ick, how does tropical fruit and CHEESE pair well together?” Well that, my friends, is all in the cheese. You see, I take my job as a food blogger very seriously and would never want to lead you astray, so I was sure to taste multiple cheese and tropical fruit combinations before I settled on the ones you see here. True, there are some pairings that just don’t work, but hey, there are a lot of pairings that do and I’ve taken all of the hassle of figuring that out off of your shoulders and come up with some fantastic pairings that will make your next Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day or Memorial Day get-together to the next level.

Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

I actually came up with the idea for this Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter last October, when my dad and I took a “business” trip to Oahu, which essentially entailed us eating our way through the island for a week. If you’re in tune with the Oahu restaurant scene at all, then you’ll be no stranger to local celebrity chef Ed Kenney’s restaurants that have been making waves (haha, pun intended) all through Honolulu over the past 10 years or so. We ate at three of his four restaurants while we were there (and only skipped the fourth one because we had eaten there multiple times when I lived there) and were duly impressed by each one. Be sure to check out my Travel Diaries: Honolulu post for more deets on all of those, but right now I want to tell you all about the basket cheese we had at one of these said restaurants, Mud Hen Water.

We were able to talk my aunt and uncle into joining us for this dinner, which was all the better since everything is served family style and this way we could order double the amount of dishes to share. I was immediately intrigued by their menu offering of “Homemade Basket Cheese” so we decided to give it a shot. What was delivered to our table just moments later was a soft, ricotta-like cheese served with a multitude of fresh tropical fruits and, let me tell you, my mind was blown.

Up until that point, I had only thought that grapes, apples, apricots and the like were acceptable to be served with cheese, but boy was I proven wrong. The creamy, mellowness of the basket cheese paired perfectly with the mango and papaya that were served alongside it, and it immediately got the food blogger wheels churning in my head about what other types of cheeses might pair well with what are some of my favorite genre of fruits.

Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

Of course, Hawaii has the luxury of a tropical climate (and plenty of local fruit) year round, but I decided to wait until the weather started warming up a bit again here on the mainland before giving my Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter a shot for this here blog. With temperatures in the high 70’s/low 80’s expected for us in Santa Barbara this weekend, and so many fun holidays right around the corner, I figured what better time to finalize this idea on paper! (Er, I mean on screen.)

So here’s what I ended up discovering in my in-depth research of the perfect tropical fruit and cheese pairings: Any of the mild, soft ricotta-like cheeses are a DREAM pairing for allll the tropical fruits. Especially if you add a little honey! I took some creamy mascarpone I had sitting in the refrigerator and sweetened it up a little, and let me just say you’re lucky I saved some to photograph because I could have very easily sat there and eaten the whole bowl with my pineapple and papaya spears.

Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

Sticking with the creamy theme, I also found that a good, simple goat cheese is a great pairing for most tropical fruits. It adds a simple tang (much like unsweetened or Greek yogurt would) without overwhelming the fruit with too much funk or contrasting flavors.

The only hard cheese that made the cut in my taste test was a basque cheese I picked up from Trader Joe’s. It has just a touch of funk, but not so much that it fights with the other flavors on the platter. It’s fairly mild compared to some other hard cheeses, and the slight saltiness is a great contrast to the sweetness of the fruit.

Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

Some other small touches that I found make a big difference that you may not think of:

Papaya is an interesting fruit, and can be fairly one-dimensional and almost a bit musty tasting at times. I find that a squeeze of fresh lime juice over top really transforms the flavor palate so be sure to serve some lime wedges on your platter for people to add as needed.

Of course another typical component you see on most traditional fruit and cheese platters is some sort of nut. This adds a crunchy and often salty element to the mix to contrast all of the sweet- and savory-ness. In sticking with the tropical theme, I added some macadamia nuts to the platter which added the perfect finishing touch.

And that’s it, folks! Really, the only “cooking” involved in this super easy party dish is stirring some honey into the mascarpone and plopping it into a bowl. Easy as that! Now, as I mentioned, we’ve got Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and a whole summer of entertaining ahead of us, so start scoping out the best tropical fruit you can find and get to making this to-die-for Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter!

Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com
Print
Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter
Prep Time
10 mins
 

Tropical fruits are paired with a delicious selection of cheeses, honey and macadamia nuts - perfect for your next warm weather get-together!

Course: Appetizer
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
Assorted tropical fruits, such as:
  • Pineapple spears
  • Papaya spears
  • Sliced kiwis
  • Mango slices
  • Lime wedges
Honeyed Mascarpone:
  • 8 ounces mascarpone
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
Other ingredients:
  • Creamy goat cheese
  • Basque cheese
  • Macadamia nuts
Instructions
  1. Make the honeyed mascarpone by combining the two ingredients in a small serving bowl.

  2. Arrange all ingredients on a large platter and serve!

Tropical Fruit and Cheese Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

Breakfast Banana Split

It’s time to have some fun with our food!

Breakfast Banana Split | CaliGirlCooking.com

Let’s start with this festive, tasty, KID-FRIENDLY Breakfast Banana Split. It’s got all of the fun of a classic banana split, yet it’s healthy enough to be acceptable for breakfast. That’s my kind of meal!


The idea for this recipe (if you can call it that) came to me while I was working out at the gym, as many of my great ideas do. I’m not sure what spurred it, sometimes things just pop into my head as I’m zoning out on the elliptical. But once I thought of it, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I needed to make a Breakfast Banana Split ASAP!

Breakfast Banana Split | CaliGirlCooking.com

Let me tell you a little story to set the scene for this idea.

When I first moved to Santa Barbara almost four years ago, I hunkered down in my brother and sister-in-law’s casita for a few months until my job went from temporary to permanent. I had a pretty sweet little set-up there, a futon bed, a full bathroom to myself, and a little nook with a mini-refrigerator. I did not have a kitchen, but luckily my fam didn’t mind me popping into the house and whipping something up, especially if it involved me making something that there three young kids, my niece and nephews, would eat.

While I lived there, I took a little bit of a challenge upon myself. Like most kids, my niece and nephews were not huge fans of foods that held any sort of nutritional value, so my challenge was to find ways to make food that they would love to eat while secretly sneaking in some healthy fruits and veggies. My greatest success with them was when I made “breakfast popsicles,” which were basically a big batch of smoothie loaded with greens (and sometimes other veggies,) poured into popsicle molds and frozen overnight. I mean, what kid doesn’t want to eat popsicles for breakfast?

As soon as the idea came to me for these Breakfast Banana Splits, I knew they’d be one of these dishes that kids will just jump at the chance to eat in the morning. I don’t have any children of my own (yet) but I look forward to exercising my nutrient-hiding creativity once again, and I know a Breakfast Banana Split will be making a frequent appearance on our household menu.

Breakfast Banana Split | CaliGirlCooking.com

So here’s how it goes down: Banana sliced lengthwise, just like the classic setup. Heaps of plain nonfat Greek yogurt in place of the ice cream, because we’re making this acceptable for breakfast. Loads and loads of toppings (mostly healthy, some a little more indulgent.) Finally, we can’t forget the cherries on top!

The great thing about this Breakfast Banana Split is that it’s incredibly versatile. I decided to use toppings like flaked coconut, chopped pineapple, date caramel, strawberry jam, toasted nuts and cacao nibs, but you can really use whatever you like (or whatever you have in your pantry!) Some other ideas you could include are freeze-dried fruit, melted almond or peanut butter or hemp seeds. The possibilities really are endless.

Whether this is a true “recipe” or not, you have to admit it’s a pretty genius breakfast option, especially when you have finicky little ones.

Breakfast Banana Split | CaliGirlCooking.com

What are some ways you sneak nutrient-rich foods into your picky eaters’ diets?

Breakfast Banana Split | CaliGirlCooking.com
Print
Breakfast Banana Split
Prep Time
10 mins
 

The classic soda fountain treat is given a healthy spin and turned into a delicious, kid-friendly breakfast. Who doesn't want dessert for breakfast?

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 1 serving
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 banana, peeled and split lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry jam, melted
  • 1 tablespoon date caramel (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
  • 2 maraschino cherries
Instructions
  1. Place banana halves on either side of a sundae dish or larger, shallow bowl. Scoop Greek yogurt in between banana halves and add toppings. Don’t forget the cherries on top!

Recipe Notes

To make the Date Caramel (will make extra): Soak 20 pitted dates in warm water for 10 minutes. Drain and place in a food processor with 4 tablespoons water and 4 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Pulse until a smooth puree forms into a thick caramel consistency. Store any extra in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Breakfast Banana Split | CaliGirlCooking.com

 

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like:

Twisted Tropical Blender

Do you know what today is?

Twisted Tropical Blender | CaliGirl Cooking

Today is the day that I bring you this delicious, (mostly) healthy, Twisted Tropical Blender that will both transport you to a white sand beach and make you feel like you’re partying in The French Quarter at the same time. We’ve got a multi-layer, brightly hued, refreshing beverage that is a party in your mouth yet isn’t overly sugary/artificially sweetened like our favorite classic Tiki drinks (i.e. Lava Flows, Pina Coladas, Blue Hawaii’s, etc. etc. ) Twisted Tropical Blenders come with great taste and leave you with a happy waist! You see what I did there?


But do you know what else today is? You guessed it: April Fools! I’m pulling a fast one on ya and for the first time ever I’m posting a more-than-delicious beverage, on a Friday, that doesn’t. even. contain. alcohol. That’s right folks.

Twisted Tropical Blender | CaliGirl Cooking

As I’ve mentioned in my last couple of posts, the fiancé and I have been trying to be more conscious of what we eat and drink in these last few months leading up to the wedding, which includes cutting back on the “Oh I’ll have a glass of wine when I get home from work because it was a ROUGH day” mindset. We’re by no means going on a “diet,” because we’re not really into that stuff (balance baby!), however we’re trying to be a little more conscious and ease up just a leeetle bit on our favorite things that aren’t necessarily the best for us (I’m talking to you, cheese and booze.)

So, needless to say, we’ve been experimenting in the tasty non-alcoholic beverage department a little more than usual lately. You already know that we’re a big fan of smoothies in our household (can’t turn down a Power Protein Smoothie or a Date “Shake”!) so with this Twisted Tropical Blender I aimed for a middle-ground between nutritious smoothie and festive Tiki drink. And what says “festive Tiki drink” more than a couple of brightly hued, fruity layers poured into a glass that clearly shows them off?

Twisted Tropical Blender | CaliGirl Cooking

Okay, let me get down to the nitty gritty. As much as this Twisted Tropical Blender looks like it MUST have some sort of artificial dye to give it this coloring, let me assure you that it absolutely does not. Yes, that’s right. These bright colors all come directly from the fruits themselves. Fancy that!

The bottom layer is where we indulge just a teensy tiny bit (see mention of balance two paragraphs up ⇑⇑.) We combine vanilla ice cream (although I totally wouldn’t be opposed to the use of frozen yogurt), frozen blueberries and almond milk and voila! We have a tasty blue concoction that would make even the Smurfs jealous.

Next up, we combine frozen mango, pineapple juice and more almond milk to provide the more frosty and less creamy top layer. Because the bottom layer has a bit more density to it due to the ice cream, the mango-pineapple layer floats nicely on top without too much blending going on….Picture perfect!

Twisted Tropical Blender | CaliGirl Cooking

Of course, this recipe is completely customizable, so feel free to mix and match whichever frozen fruits and juices you prefer! Just keep in mind that, if you’re looking for a more visual presentation, you’ll want to pick fruits that have highly contrasting colors to really give this Twisted Tropical Blender that “pop!”

What do you think? Are you ready to try this out on a FRIDAY night? If you can’t give up your Happy Hour just yet, this is also perfectly acceptable for breakfast.

What are some of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage options? Got any good virgin cocktail recipes to share with me?

Hope everyone has a fabulous, healthy, fun-filled weekend!

Twisted Tropical Blender

Yield: Makes one blender

A fun, healthy and refreshing blended drink with vitamin-loaded blueberry, mango and pineapple.

Ingredients

    For the bottom blueberry layer:
  • 1 scoop vanilla ice cream (or frozen yogurt)
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries
  • ¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
    For the top mango-pineapple layer:
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients for the blueberry layer in a high-powered blender. Puree until ingredients are of smoothie consistency. Pour into a glass.
  2. Rinse out the blender and then add all ingredients for the mango-pineapple layer. Puree once again until all ingredients are of smoothie consistency. Gently pour on top of blueberry layer in glass.
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Twisted Tropical Blender | CaliGirl Cooking

It’s Friday and it’s Tiki time!

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust

It’s finally here!

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

The dessert I’ve been promising you. If you don’t remember (or aren’t following me on Instagram, which you should be!) I posted a “teaser” photo of this right around the holidays. I may have used some clever Emoji-ing (is that a word yet? If not, I’m sure it will be in the Urban Dictionary in no time) to hint at the fact that this recipe involved pizza, cheese, and a cookie. Weird, right? Did anyone have any idea that this is what I was talking about? If so, yay for you and you should definitely consider playing a game of Pictionary this weekend.


But I digress. I came up with this recipe idea after Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest recommended dipping dark chocolate into her Honey Baked Brie (genius!) I have to admit I was curious and eager to give the pairing a try.

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

It just so happens that every Christmas Eve, I have the tradition of making a “dessert” pizza for my family to enjoy while merry-making, opening gifts, etc. Is everyone familiar with dessert pizzas? I’m sure if you live anywhere near a BJ’s Restaurant you are quite familiar with the Pizookie! Which is basically the ultimate dessert pizza: a hot, deep dish cookie (your choice of flavor), served in a cast iron skillet and topped with ice cream.

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

Now, I don’t get quite that fancy here (as far as serving style, at least) but let me tell you this perfect combination of flavors certainly makes up for it. For me, another classic pairing with brie is orange and almond (I’ve been known to top some baked brie with Frangelico which, BTW, is amazing and you should totally try it) so I wanted to figure out a way to serve it altogether. I started thinking about my crust, which in the past has been a classic sugar cookie crust (maybe once or twice from the dough that comes in those pop-open cardboard cans, but I’ve graduated from that now.) I figured shortbread would be the next best thing (or better) than sugar cookie, so I did some Googling and found this delicious Almond-Orange Shortbread recipe from Martha Stewart.

The first time I made this dessert pizza, I followed Martha’s shortbread recipe to a T. The second time I made it (partly because I was lazy and didn’t want to go to the store and partly because I was curious) I subbed in Amaretto for the almond extract. Let me just tell you, it was amazing. As you’ll see in the adapted recipe below, I also modified the refrigeration/freezing process so the dough would work better in pizza form.

So, this dessert pizza. We make the dough (which does take a little bit of time to set up in the refrigerator, so plan ahead) and then we roll it out onto a good ol’ pizza pan. We then bake it for a bit, just until it starts to get set and golden on us, but not until it’s completely cooked.

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

We pull it out of the oven and lovingly adorn it with sliced brie and chopped dark chocolate, then pop it back in to get that brie and chocolate all ooey-gooey, melty and delicious. Once we pull it out again, we pile on some fresh fruit – I went with pomegranate seeds and raspberries because they were in season (and looked delicious!) but you can really use whatever tickles your fancy here. And, if we want to really add a final flourish, we throw on some basil for another touch of color and one more little pop of unexpected flavor.

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

Now, I know it’s not Christmas anymore, but judging by how quickly this dessert pizza was eaten up by all of my coworkers (and their pressure on me to post this recipe), I think you’ll be just fine making Chocolate-Brie Dessert Pizza for any type of upcoming event or celebration. And it has fruit, so it’s healthy, right? 😉

Enjoy your weekend friends! And be sure to follow me on Instagram to see all of the fun times we’re about to have visiting our dear friends in Livermore!

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust

Yield: Makes one 16-inch dessert pizza

A delicious dessert pizza pairing brie, chocolate and fresh winter fruit with a crunchy almond-orange shortbread crust.

Ingredients

    For the shortbread crust (adapted from Martha Stewart):
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon Amaretto
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 teaspoons)
  • ¾ cup sliced almonds, toasted
    For the pizza toppings:
  • 6 ounces semi-firm brie, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or finely chopped dark chocolate)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries
  • ½ cup pomegranate arils
  • Basil to garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Begin with making the shortbread dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, Amaretto and salt until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour and orange zest, just until a dough forms. With a rubber spatula or your hands, mix in the almonds.
  2. Remove dough from mixing bowl and, using hands, shape into a round disc, somewhere around an inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once dough is chilled, remove from refrigerator. You may need to warm it up in your hands a bit until it feels “rollable.” Spray your pizza pan with nonstick cooking spray, then place the dough on the pan. Using a pizza roller, roll the dough out as far as possible to meet the edges of the pan (it’s okay if it doesn’t reach all the way to the edge, the shortbread will expand as it bakes.) Place the shortbread in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookie looks like it has set and begins to get golden.
  4. Remove shortbread from oven (but do not turn off the oven) and top with sliced brie and then dark chocolate pieces. Return to oven and let bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes longer, or until chocolate has melted.
  5. Remove from oven once again (you can turn it off this time!) and immediately top with raspberries and pomegranate arils. Garnish with chiffonaded basil, if desired. Let cool slightly before serving.

Notes

Wine Pairing Notes: I’m not usually one to pair wine with dessert, but this one just screams for a White Port. My absolute favorite is the Aria White Port from Prager Portworks which, by the way you should absolutely go visit their tasting room if you are ever in Napa. The lightness of this particular port is the perfect match for the orange and almond flavors, as well as the brie, yet it’s hearty enough to not get overwhelmed by the dark chocolate. A match made in heaven if you ask me!

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Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

Pizza. My. Heart.