Browsing: Food Celebrations

Sister # 2

January30

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Sister # 2 is the most organized cook I have ever known.  She menu plans, grocery shops from that plan, batch cooks to leave in the freezer for her family when she travels and also portions out meals for extended family members.  Her kitchen is exquisite and well suited for our big family gatherings and is a place where her children’s friends are always welcome.

I have heard from her daughter’s friends that the dinner party that she puts on to celebrate her daughter’s birthday is perfection.  I promise to get pics and menus.

On this particular night, we were gathering to celebrate a number of family milestones-her daughter and boyfriend’s return from Mexico, the upcoming family wedding and the departure of our daughter on her mission trip.  Supper was Sweet and Spicy Cashew Chicken from the Best of Bridge and here is the recipe:

Ingredients:
Sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
4 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth

The Rest
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1/4 cup oil
2-3 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 red peppers, cut in strips
2 carrots, thinly sliced on diagonal
2 cups snow peas
1 1/2 cups cashews
sprinkling of sesame seeds, toasted

Instructions:
Combine sauce ingredients and set aside. In a bowl, combine cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add chicken and toss. Heat wok or frying pan to highest heat. Add oil. Heat to hot, not smoking. Add chicken, ginger, garlic and onion. Stir until chicken is opaque (about 1 minute). Add peppers and carrots. Stir 2-3 minutes. Add peas and sauce. Cook until sauce comes to a boil. Add cashews and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

IMG_0276She prepared a chocolate fondue for dessert.  It reminded us of the time she made the same dish to top off our New Year’s Eve dinner when we traveled together to Isla Mujeres.  We assembled on the 3rd floor roof of Glady’s Apartments for a feast of chili barbecued shrimp (fresh from the dock), roasted potatoes and veggies, pork tacos and a chicken baked in lime mayonnaise.

n507467088_250712_2494There were our two extended families and American girls who were also staying in the apartment building.  They invited friends they had met in the hostel and were in sore need of a meal.  My son was the bartender and we lugged three blenders to the roof for a choice of margaritas.  It was a night I will forever remember.

My Daughter #2 and Sister #2's Daughter #1

My Daughter #2 and Sister #2's Daughter #1

Winnipeg Winter Wedding

January25

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The January Wedding of our son and his long time love took place in a winter wonderland.  Although the weather had been mild of late, there had been a fresh sticky snow that had clung to the trees.    To be prepared for pictures they had booked the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature.

They had a cocktail reception at The Academy which in our opinion is the perfect venue.  It had comfortable booths close to a small stage for speeches and video presentations.  This area was the ideal place for some of the older guests to sit.  The bar is beautifully lit and very inviting so a number of family members congregated there.  The dance floor is at the far end and was set up for the live band.  The younger guests assembled here at high cocktail tables.

The appetizers were well prepared and came out before the wedding party arrived.  19167_440979195286_530215286_10850736_5756438_nAfter speeches there was milk and cookies.  A tiny melt-away favourite of the bride’s made by her Mom (I promise to share her recipe here) and the groom’s pick of Winnipeg’s famous  Imperial Cookies.

Manager Brian Allison and the staff were very accommodating.  They even had an AV person available for all the technical aspects of the evening.  Special mention must be made to John the Bartender who was the epitome of what Winnipeg hospitality was all about.

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Glee Club

January21

The girls 2Sister #3 has a group of GFs thast get together on a regular basis over over the winter for themed dinner parties.  The format is kind of like “Dinner and a Movie” and they’ve watched “Joy Luck Club” and had Chinese Food, “Shirley Valentine” and had Greek food, Chocolat and had fondue and most recently they watched “Julie and Julia” and cooked from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking“.

Beef BourgSis #3 was host and made the entre of Boeuf Bourguignon.  Below is a copy paste from Oprah.com.

Cheese course was a selection of berries and Bothwell Cheeses.Chesse course

The dessert course was Julia’s Chocolate Almond CakeChocolate Almond Cake

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
  • 6 oz. bacon
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind
  • 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
  • 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs

Directions:

Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the melt is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Covet the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.



Artichokes

January20
Artichokes in the market in Nice

Artichokes in the market in Nice

I have two favourite vegetables-eggplant and artichokes.  My co-workers always know what I am going to order from a menu when they skim through the ingredients in a salad or a pasta.  Surprisingly I have never eaten a fresh artichoke.  I have seen the fine art demonstrated for me but never had the opportunity myself.  I remain a fresh artichoke virgin even after a quest through Italy and Southern France this fall.  I did have a wonderful appetizer served in Nice at a restaurant called Frog.  The course was served in a cellar jar and the restaurant had very sexy lighting.DSCF1310   This gorgeous place was near the sea and was a couple of streetcar rides for us as we were staying in the north fringe at an amazing hostel called Villa Saint Exupery.  I digress….

My first exposure to artichokes was when I was given my second  Best of Bridge cookbook.  I have the entire series including two “Best of the Best”.  The recipe is entitled Artichoke Nibblers and here is my modified version:  Saute 1 small finely chopped onion and 1 clove of minced garlic in a dollop of olive oil.  Chop the drained artichokes. Combine 4 beaten eggs, 1/4 c bread crumbs, and a 1/4 t each of salt, pepper, oregano and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in 2 c of sharp grated cheddar and artichokes. Blend with the onion mixture. Pour into 9″ round wax papaer and oil sprayed baking dish. Sprinkle with 2 T parsley and bake at 325 F. for 30 minutes, or until lightly set. Cut in wedges.

I am making these today for a dinner party that we are throwing this Friday.  They are delicious hot or cold.  I have often served them along side a meaty soup instead of bread for a delicious supper.

My Grandma’s Kitchen

January19

My Grandma on my Dad’s side was a little Polish lady named Felicia.  To my kids she was known as Grandma Saskatchewan.  She was in her 90’s when she died and she had picked peas in her garden that morning.  I spent most summers with her (before I discovered the beach) and learned so much about the celebration of food and how the kitchen is indeed the heart of the home.

poppyShe baked her own bread every week, and simmered potato soup, fashioned prune dumplings with butter and cinnamon sugar and  poppy seed roll and took all day to make fried chicken (fried in lard folks!).  Nobody worried about carbs in those days because you needed the energy to haul water from the town pump, pick stones in the field, chase the turkeys back into their pen and pick your veggies out of your garden.  She ate well and wanted everyone else to as well.  I can still hear her say to my brothers “Dougie, Tommy, eat, eat, you’re too skinny!”

I want to live and cook and feed people like my Grandma.  Those who knew her, say I look most like her and so I suppose I am well suited to the job.  I want all my meals to be “from scratch” and use everything thats in my kitchen or give it back to my garden.

She had geraniums on every single window ledge and a chair in her kitchen….not just a place to sit but a deep, luxurious chair.  It was in the corner near the big Aga stove (that she lit every morning even before she went outside to the biffy).  I would nestle there and chat away as she worked and watch her lovingly produce the most amazing food.  I have a chair in my kitchen.  It is for me when my husband gets home and tells me about his day and for puppy dogs and friends.

Caleb like to sit in my kitchen chair

Caleb like to sit in my kitchen chair

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