Monday, 23 March 2015

Moms Retirement Dinner

My insanely beautiful mother is retiring this week after 37 years of working full time. I know this is a recipe blog but I wanted to write a quick post to share some photos of the dinner party we hosted for her last Sunday. Mom had a great time, surrounded by her dearest friends.

We made a long table runner out of old photos of mom (thank you Pinterest), easily printed on a black and white printer. The cake was probably my favourite part of the whole dinner.

I used the rosette technique and buttercream recipe developed by i am baker found here. With rosette cakes you use a lot of sweet buttercream so I've found it's best to go with something less rich for the actual cake. I made a sort-of angel food cake with raspberry and blackberry mouse filling, by modifying the recipe found here. The filling was very light and tart so it worked well with the vanilla buttercream.

When I don't want to stress about appetizers - the best go to is a cheese board. Expensive, but so easy and beautiful. My friend Laneil is a master cheese board assembler so I tend to poach her ideas. The orange things are physalis fruit, which were found at Vic's. My fav cheeses: caramelized onion cheddar (aka heroin or crack cheese), aged gruyere, fresh mozzarella and dubliner.

Along with copious amounts of wine, we passed around blood orange margaritas to start. As usual, my younger brother Glen was keen to come over early and help. The poor guy was tasked with juicing 6 blood oranges and upwards of 10 limes. They were made by combining two parts tequila, one part triple sec, 2 parts fresh juice, and a squeeze of agave, shaken over.

For dinner we started with a procuitto melon salad. Made by placing a handful of arugula on each plate, drizzling over olive oil and balsamic, chopped canteloup and topping with a prosciutto crisp and grated pecorino. Note my amazing brother assiting again. Not pictured: homemade, warm breadsticks.

Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Dates

I call them my "potluck girls" but really, after over ten years of friendship, I'm not going to try to express on a food blog what they mean to me. Last Friday, we had the pleasure of watching our friend Kaitlyn be The Bachelorette in a dating game at a local bar. Luckily, Gill's baby boy Ryder was in attendance (our first potluck baby) at the pre-game to provide a male perspective to the outfit selection process. He obviously approved of the little black dress. I suspect he won't always enjoy attending our potlucks. 

I forgot how fun it is to eat snacks on the couch while your friend models her outfit options for the night. It felt like we were right back in high school, only difference being that one of our offspring was present and we weren't pounding raspberry vodka and five cent candies. After years of potlucking this is not the first time these ladies tasted stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto. Isn't it fantastic when a few simple ingredients combine to make a killer snack? This "recipe" has been passed back and forth many times, everyone puts their own spin on it. Ever since first tasting it at my friend Lori's house, I was sold on the concept. It takes a bit of time to make each individual bite but it's very simple. Because each piece is so easy to grab, it's one of my top go-tos for parties. 

An alarming side effects of transitioning from your twenties to thirties is the new found comfort level for eating savoury cheese and meat in the same mouthful as dried fruit. The craving for salty/sweet seems to intensify with each passing year. Add in the additional contrast of textures - soft and chewy with the crunch of an almond, and let the addiction begin. For some reason I'm still not down with the meaty, chewy texture of uncooked prosciutto, so I always roast these little guys before serving to crisp it up, but that's your call. I used goat cheese here, but if I was making them for the chèvre-averse (husband) I would use a herbed cream cheese or Boursin. You can find dates pre packaged, but also usually in the bulk section, which is ideal because then you can hand select the biggest, best ones.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Wild Blueberry Cordial - Part One

I am one lucky lady. At the cabin a few weekends ago my Dad's very thoughtful girlfriend Donna gifted me a ziplock bag full of wild Whiteshell blueberries she hand picked in summer and froze. Last year was a fantastic year for blueberries in our little corner of the Canadian Shield, but with the bumper crop of berries also came a mosquito invasion that made foraging unbearable. Knowing the effort that went into picking those berries made the gift just that much sweeter.

 I brain stormed for a few long weeks about how to honour the blueberries. Plans for pie, muffins or coffee cake crossed my mind. But booze is always the right answer. Cordial takes about two months to develop, so this batch will be ready just in time for Mother's Day and my Dad's birthday. Best way to ensure I will continue to get a cut of Dad's foraged bounty - turn it into booze and share it with him. It helps that last weekend Dave's Oma gave me a box full of stunning antique mason jars.

I considered actually making my own alcohol with the berries, by starting from scratch using yeast. But the risk of wasting the bounty on an experimental recipe freaked me out. Making a cordial using vodka is fool proof. I made a similar recipe last Christmas using over ripe blackberries and loved the results. This time to compliment the blueberries, and jump on the herbal cocktail band wagon, I'm trying one jar with mint and one with rosemary. This is a very loose recipe, you can use any fruit and flavours you can think of, and the ratios are far from strict.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Tarte Flambee on Cracker Thin Crust

If like me, you have an unhealthy obsession with the cracker thin crust pizza that's prevalent around these parts, cut into those familiar squares (think Gondola or Niakwa), then you can understand how excited I was to stumble upon this crust recipe. Amy Theilen, the loveable host of The Food Network's Heartland Table, has won me over in a serious way. She seems so authentic, and she's one of the few female cooking show hosts that doesn't give me the urge to smash my TV after a half hour episode (a la Pioneer Woman or Farmhouse Rules). When I read about her long time struggle to reproduce the crust we're so used to in the prairies, I was so excited to try the recipe. Her secret is to use no yeast.

The result was even better then I expected, and I plan to use it exclusively for pizza now. A few pages over from the crust recipe, contained in her debut cookbook The New Midwestern Table, was a recipe for Tarte Flambee, a French dish that Dave pointed out tastes like an ideal intersection of quiche lorraine and pizza. The few simple ingredients combine to make a savoury, decadent lunch, best served with a fresh salad.

To accomplish a high quality result you will need a pizza stone, parchment paper and high heat. As much as I'm into restaurant quality at-home-pizza, I refuse to buy a pizza peel (the oversized wooden spatula) - that would just be going a little too far, even for me. I managed without.  I was inspired by Amy's recipe, but made a few small tweaks to make it easier. I used part buttermilk in the crust because I had it for the toppings, but you could use all water if you don't have buttermilk on hand.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Grilled Chorizo and White Cheddar

Last weekend was glorious. Sparkling fresh fallen snow, bright blue skies, and campfire cooked sausages; I would never tire of winter if every weekend was spent at the cabin. Dave and I cross country skied out to Pine Point Rapids, close to our cabin in the Whiteshell. At the far point of the 6 km loop there's a warm up shack that's usually stocked with fire wood. When we showed up to the rapids one group was just leaving and had already started a nice fire in the grate outside - a perfect spot to cook up our picnic for two.

Admittedly this is another random grouping of ingredients more then it is a recipe. Without question, the most important take away from my Articling year was the patented move of combining grilled chorizo with white cheddar in one mouthful. There's a good chance that if you've been to our house or cabin in the past six years - we've fed you this. It's become quite a staple among our friends.