Spring is in the air, and we’re loving the warmer weather! It's time to take our entertaining outside and catch up with family and friends while enjoying all the good things together.

When it’s our turn to host, we like to serve a simple menu of appetizers and platters to get everyone mixing and mingling. Best of all, they can be made in advance and served at room temperature, and who wants to be stuck in the kitchen when all the fun’s going on outside?

Here are a few of our favorite ideas to impress your guests and reduce the stress of springtime entertaining.

Create a Charcuterie and Cheese Board

We love to combine our charcuterie and cheese boards into one big, awe-inspiring centerpiece. With the right mix of ingredients and a little imagination, you’ll have your guests oohing and ahhing at the amazing variety of colors, flavors, and textures. The possibilities are endless, and there is always something for everyone.

We’ve put together some suggestions below in the order they should be placed on your board. Pick & choose your favorites, and remember that it’s all about variety. Once you get the hang of it, we’re pretty sure this will become your go-to for outdoor entertaining too!

Accents – olives, nuts, jams, pickles, mustard, pâtés and vegetarian spreads (an artichoke tapenade or rhubarb chutney can’t be beat for authentic spring flavor). Tip: For items needing a vessel, mix & match whatever you have available - ramekins, candy dishes, cups, etc. – and space them out on the board.

Meats – a selection of pre-sliced cured meats like prosciutto, jamón serrano or ibérico, bresaola, and mortadella, plus hard meats like saucisson sec, hard salami, soppressata, and pepperoni. Tip: Cut sticks into bite-size rounds and roll up, fan or fold the other meats.

Cheeses – mix of mild, sharp, soft and hard cheeses such as Manchego, aged Cheddar, Camembert, Gouda and blue cheese. Tip: Include a variety of cubes, slices and wedges.

Bread/Crackers – sliced baguette rounds work fine, but if you want to add a variety of shapes and flavors with a pleasing crunchiness, choose a mix of our  Crostinis, CheeseSticks and CheeseCrisps and place them next to the items they complement. Tip: Our Melting Parmesan CheeseSticks go great with both apricots and prosciutto.

Veggies/Fruit – Fill in spaces with brightly colored raw veggies like spring carrots and both fresh and dried fruit. Let your inner artist shine and move items around to get the right balance of colors and textures. Tip: For a final touch, you can add a fresh sprig of thyme, mint or rosemary.

Add Variety with Appetizers and Sides

Once you’ve selected all the ingredients for your charcuterie and cheese board, you’re ready to decide what else to serve based on the size – and appetite – of your crowd.

One of the easiest spring sides – and we mean easy – is asparagus. This seasonal favorite will brighten up any presentation. All you need to do is boil the asparagus for 7-10 minutes with some lemon zest and sea salt and allow it to cool. Serve with mayo or aioli and our Chipotle & Cheddar CheeseCrisps on the side for a nice contrasting kick.

Roasted vegetables and vegetable casseroles are other great sides that can be made the day before and either re-heated or served at room temperature. Some of our all-time favorites for spring are carrots, fennel, asparagus and leeks.

Roasted vegetables have the added bonus of being ridiculously easy to make. Just brush the veggies with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and your favorite herbs. Pop the pan in the oven for about a half hour, and voilà! You have a healthy accompaniment bursting with flavor.

If you decide to go the casserole route, don’t forget to crush up some of our CheeseSticks and spread them on top before cooking to add a touch of crunchy, cheesy goodness. We do this with our creamy fennel and leek casserole, and the result is out of this world!

You can serve your casserole or roasted veggies on platters with small plates, but why not keep the appetizer theme going? Our trick is to divide them into small squares and serve on top of our CheeseCrisps or Crostinis as canapés. You can count on at least one guest asking for the recipe for this crunchy, fresh-tasting treat.

Our CheeseCrisps and Crostinis make great bases for canapés, and it’s fun experimenting with different toppings. Recently, we tried creamy cheese topped with caramelized leeks and sugar snap peas and a bruschetta inspired one with goat cheese and grilled artichokes. We thought both were delicious, and your guests will too!

Pea soup with crostini

Celebrate with a Holiday Brunch

With Mother’s Day and Easter coming up, why not change things up by hosting an outdoor brunch instead of a traditional sit down meal?

Now that you understand how a charcuterie & cheese board works, you’re all set to transform it into a breakfast board. Simply switch out some items with breakfast favorites like bacon, breakfast sausage, smoked salmon, cream cheese and fresh fruit. Remember to focus on variety, and you’ll wind up with an unforgettable mix of colors, flavors and textures that’ll be the talk of the party.

Of course, brunch isn’t brunch without some tasty eggs. When we have a smaller crowd, we like to make soft-boiled eggs. Instead of serving them with a “soldier” (a stick of toast) for dipping, we like to use our CheeseSticks to add a little more taste and crunch.

With larger crowds, we find it’s a lot more practical to serve quiche, frittatas or tortilla española (Spanish omelettes). These too can be made ahead of time and transferred to a platter, but – you guessed it! – we like to serve them appetizer-style to bring the perfect crunch to our brunch.

As with the vegetable casserole above, you simply cut the egg dishes into small squares and then place them on top of our Crostinis or CheeseCrisps for the ultimate brunch canapés. If you’re feeling creative, you can layer roasted pepper, bacon, arugula, smoked salmon or other items on top of the egg and secure them with colorful toothpicks.

To round out your brunch menu, you can add a few spring-inspired choices like roasted new potatoes with rosemary, guacamole or artichoke & spinach dip served with our CheeseSticks, and tossed spinach salad topped with our CheeseCrisps as a tasty alternative to croutons.

When it comes to dessert this time of year, nothing captures the flavors of the season quite like strawberry and rhubarb. We often stick with our traditional strawberry rhubarb pie, but occasionally we’ll change things up a bit by serving a strawberry rhubarb compote to spread on our Crostinis.

Whether you’re hosting a celebration or just getting together for good times with good people, we hope our suggestions will make it easier for you to enjoy the warmer weather while sharing your love of food. Remember to keep plenty of John Wm. Macy’s snacks on hand to complement the flavors of the season with a one-of-kind, mouth-watery, cheesy crunch.

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