Hi, Everyone! To say I’m pleased to meet you all would be an understatement I consider it a true honor! I’m Kelly Morris Dreher, and while I’ve been a development consultant for Life, Simpler for over a year now, this is my first official article, and I couldn’t be happier to have been asked to offer my writing, cooking and lifestyle advice to all of you through this awesome brand.
I’m a writer by nature, but a lot of things by trade. For years I was an English teacher in Pennsylvania and Tennessee. I worked with every age group between 10 and 19, and, yeah, that’s as crazy as it sounds. When the education world got too overwhelming or stressful, I always delved into my writing as an escape, and I was overjoyed when my first book “The Green Locket: Legends and Lessons from Near and Far” was published in 2014! Inspired by my students at the time (who are now in college, wahh!), the book contains 13 short stories that are in the vein of teenage fairy tales. I picked 13 because that’s the age of the kids I taught that year. They were a special group. After that, the book took off, and one quick relocation venture from the South later, I was back in Western Pennsylvania with all my favorite people, including THE guru of simple living, the lovely Elizabeth Leonard!
Elizabeth and I have been great friends since our college days at La Roche College in Pittsburgh where we met in 2002? 2003? Gah, that seems like forever ago! We’ve been super close ever since, and even served at bridesmaids at each other’s weddings over the years. We’ve got the pictures to prove it, and we’re not going to hold them against each other.
Besides writing and teaching, I have two other passions- cooking and theatre. Cooking, because I grew up literally living inside the building that housed my family’s restaurant and have been cooking all my life. And theatre, because it was the high school extra-curricular that I’ve never stopped doing! I started choreographing and assistant directing shows when I was only 20, and have written and produced three of my own original plays. While I do spend a lot of time writing, (I’m currently finishing my second book “The American Locket” now, and also have on-going writing assignments for Johnstown Magazine and Life, Simpler, of course!) my week is largely spent managing shows at The Palace Theatre, in Greensburg, PA. And every spring I still teach theatre to a fabulous group of drama kids at my high school alma mater. So life is crazy, but completely amazing.
When things slow down for a minute I love entertaining and hosting parties and a few years ago I even launched my own cooking and entertaining website Diva’s Dinners and Drinks www.divasdinnersanddrinks.com. Is there anything better than watching people make memories at one of your own gatherings? I’ve got a big Italian family, and the 11 of us cousins are more like siblings. Now they’re all getting married and having babies, and life just gets better and better with each new addition. While I admittedly like to get super fancy for small, intimate dinner parties, the giant family affairs require a little more simplicity and I’ve got a great recipe for you that I take to all my big events!
Enter the Antipasti Board.
My Antipasti Board isn’t just for parties though; it also makes a quick and satisfying weeknight meal or an awesome brunch spread! Assemble this and someone else can bring the champagne! The best part of this is that it requires no cooking. How much simpler can life get? (If I’m going to be honest, guys, this is my number 1, go-to, “I-live-on-this” food choice 24/7. Nothing makes me happier!) Cheers! – KMD
General Board Ingredients:
A Crusty Rustic Bread
ANY assorted meats, cheeses, olives and/or pickled vegetables like artichokes, red peppers and pepperoncinis you like!
Today I used:
Rosemary Sourdough from Whole Foods (because it’s to die for)
1 oz. Fresh mozzarella
1 oz. Pavino cheese
1 oz. Asiago (NOT the aged kind)
1 oz. Gouda
Spiced Greek green olives
Calabrese salami (I like the hot, because the sweet overly sweet for me)
Dipping Oil Ingredients: (Add them in order and stir frequently before and during eating)
A liberal shake of:
cracked black pepper
red pepper flake
*Then fill the container up with about 1/4 cup of good extra virgin olive oil. (I used Whole Foods’ “Seville” Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil.)
*Note: ONLY use olive oil for this. Also, make sure your oil says “Extra Virgin.” OH! And don’t bother with “light” olive oils. You don’t get that fruity, lively olive oil taste, not to mention olive oil is extremely good for you! Cut calorie corners elsewhere. Don’t skimp on the good stuff. Don’t look like an amateur. 🙂
Serving Suggestion: Lay this all out in a way that looks pretty and sprinkle with dried oregano and parsley. It’s gorgeous! I love serving this on a rustic looking old wooden board my in-laws found. It speaks to the earthiness of this type of food. This is the food my Sardinian ancestors lived on, and I love serving it on a platter that harkens back to that. Drizzle that dipping oil over the meats, the cheeses, the veggies, make little sandwiches, whatever you want!
Tweaking Tip: Anything really works here. I switch it up every time I make this. The other day I did a little bowl of fig preserves, bleu cheese crumbles and pita chips. Literally, anything goes. It’s whatever you have on hand. That’s the beauty of this dish! Manga!