T’was the night before my daughter’s birthday party and visions of rainbows and unicorns danced through my head. In the morning, she would be turning 3! We would have an AM birthday party and keep the menu pretty simple, but what I had in mind required time. Time that I thought I had, and I most definitely did not. It was me against the clock, and the clock was beating me.
We had just spent the last hour walking through Hobby Lobby. I let her “shop” for her party. She was having the best time throwing everything and anything into the cart, and when she would turn around to find the next pack of party favors, I’d put three things back on the shelf. This went on for way too long, but I loved every minute of it and so did she.
Now we found ourselves at Target for the paper goods and some cleaning supplies. After this stop, I had planned to go Trader Joe’s for the ingredients to make a proper brunch spread for our guests, but it was now 6 pm. How am I supposed to tidy up the house, get all the party prep done + cook? The party is in 17 hours, and we are not even home yet.
I either needed to sacrifice a Friday night of much needed sleep, or change course. And then, as I was walking down the bagel aisle at Target, it came to me, “A bagel bar! I can get several kinds of bagels and a variety of cream cheese.” And then the thoughts kept coming. “No, that’s not it. Along with all the rainbow decorations, there could be a table full of rainbow colored food + bagels,” I say to my daughter who is way too tired for this leg of the shopping trip and not enthused.
I had seen it before on Instagram. These women who are truly artists making “foodscapes” on tables for parties and in boxes for gifts. The name of the company is Palette Graze Boards, and they are innovators. Turns out, my college friend’s hometown friend is one of the co-owners! And I am a huge fan of these women entreprenuers.
Long story short, the problem was solved. Using those Instagram photos and whatever I could find at Target, I would try like hell to make the best grazing table I could. And I did.
It was March 7, 2020. It took less time to make it than it did to eat it, but most of it was gone by the time the party was over. The extra raw veggies were saved for a stir fry the next day, and we tossed the wooden board in the fire pit. Easiest party clean up EVER. I thoroughly enjoyed not having to follow a recipe or be on call at the oven. Little did we know, in just one week’s time, we would be following social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders. This party was the last time we would all be huddled closely around a table, grazing on shared food, for quite some time.
The Things You Will Need:
- Cutting board
- Utility Panel: Plywood (Common 1/8 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.)
- Dip Bowl
- Cheese Knives
The Hacks + Tips:
- Dry Mix of Ranch Veggie Dip (The kind that comes in the packet and you just add Greek yogurt or sour cream)
- Cheese Cubes (already cut)
- No Cooking Required
- Ask For Help.
- Have an early guest or family member carve the bread bowl and make the dip, while you slice and style the food.
- Give someone the job of 1/2 peeling the clementines (I left the peel on the bottom of the clementines for visual interest)
This isn’t a recipe, but it’s a shopping list and method. Please don’t feel like you have to stick to this ingredient list and formula. There is more than one way to create this and different combinations of foods you can use. If it’s a PM party, you could substitute bagels for sliced baguettes, and replace the cream cheese with a soft herb cheese. You could even stray from this theme completely and go with a Mediterranean spread, for example.
Grazing Table (Brunch Style)
Don't forget to ask for help. The store-bought dip and carving the bread bowl are an easy task for anyone to handle. Shopping list below. Wooden board is not listed in the shopping list, but it is linked in the post. No cooking required!
- 1 bag of bagels (cut halfway so they look like a rainbow)
- 2 types of cream cheese
- Cheddar cheese cubes
- Block of cheese (your choice!)
- Assorted nuts (shelled pistachios, mixed nuts)
- Round crusty bread
- Veggie dip dry mix packet
- 1 head of cauliflower (florets)
- Greek yogurt or Sour cream for dip
- Cherry tomatoes (cut lengthwise)
- Sweet peppers (yellow, orange and red)
- Strawberries (cut lengthwise)
- 6 clementines (peeled halfway)
- 2-3 loose carrots (peeled and cut on the bias)
- Bananas (leave peel on, cut 2 inch chunks)
- Pineapple (cut in triangles skin on, save leaves)
- Celery (cut sticks 4 inches)
- 1 head of broccoli (florets)
- 1 bag of sugar snap peas
- 1 bunch of green onions (cut with scissors on the bias)
- 2 English cucumbers
- 5 stems of kale
- Purple and green grapes
- 5-6 purple flowers (cut off stems)
- Step 1 Prep all the veggies. Everything but the bananas can be cut ahead of time.
- Step 2 Carve the bread bowl and make the dip according to the instructions on the packet.
- Step 3 Space the cream cheeses and dip bowl apart and place them where people can reach them. Put the pineapple leaves somewhere in the middle for height and interest. Build your food in circles around the bowls (see picture).
- Step 4 Fill in the empty space by arranging the food in lines like a color by number, and try to keep the colors balanced. For example, if look at the green food spaced apart in the photos, there isn’t too much green all in one area.
- Step 5 I used the kale leaves to cushion some of the veggies like the snap peas and celery. Then sprinkled the small container of blueberries over the blackberries, strawberries, and red peppers (blue and red contrast looks nice!).
- Step 6 I added in the nuts in small bowls and found space for the extra shelled pistachios. Then the crackers last keeping them away from any juicy or wet foods. Sprinkle the green onions over the veggie dip and on top of the snap peas and kale.
- Step 7 Lastly, place the purple flowers and clementines in desired spots, and put out the tongs and serving utensils. You did it! Remember, this method is just one of the many ways to put this together.
What Did Your Guests Say?
If you decide to go for the gold and make this, please let us know how it went! Did you tell your guests it was inspired by Hardly Homemade and Palette: Graze Boards and Boxes?
Snap a photo of your hardly homemade grazing table on Instagram and tag us @hardlyhomemade and #hardlyhomemade so we can see it!