Friday party trick: Pasta in a bag

November 27, 2009

Last week’s party trick was so much fun, that I think I’ll offer another!

I wish I could take full credit for this idea but truthfully, this picture appeared in Donna Hay magazine originally. When it was featured in her magazine, Donna’s team recommended popping cooked, lightly sauced pasta in a parchment pouch with raw seafood and then heating it gently to cook the shellfish and reheat the pasta.

I love this idea for entertaining since serving pasta to a crowd can be a rather steamy, messy affair that leaves the hostess’s hair either limp or frizzy. So, if you’re a pasta lover but don’t have perfectly bouncing and behaving locks but like to look good form company, this idea is for you!

Do you often serve pasta for company? If so, do you go for baked dishes like lasagna or brave the humidity and cook noodles in a vat of salted water?

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Cool Yule

November 25, 2009

Christmas is one month away as of today. I’m stunned, to be honest. I really can’t believe that the year is almost over (life is moving so fast that I almost feel like it’s flashing before my eyes!)

Given the symmetry of the date, I’ve chosen today to launch my holiday gift guide series that I’m calling Cool Yule. Anyone can toss a bottle of wine in gift bag and make a gracious offering; however, giving gifts that are on trend and show off your good taste is so much better, don’t you think?

At about $300 I’ve chosen a high ticket item to kick off Cool Yule 2009; however, it’s just so perfect for the oenephile (that’s a wine lover, btw) on your list. This wine essence set features 40 aroma flasks that can be used to help train your nose and isolate the aromas in wine.

Besides being a great gift for a wine lover, it’s also fun to pull out at a wine tasting, so if you’re planning one during the holidays, it might make a good gift for yourself, too.

Smaller kits featuring 12 aromas commonly noted in white or red wine are also available at a considerably lower price.

Contact Browne & Co. in Canada for information on availability in your area.


Weekend Party Trick: 60-second appetizer

November 20, 2009

brie1

The challenge: make a great looking appetizer that tastes fantastic in less time than it takes to wiggle into your party clothes.

The solution: Fruit and Nut topped Camembert

1 wheel Camembert or Brie cheese
Liquid honey
1 handful Back to Nature Raisins, Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, Pecans and Apricots blend

Place the cheese on a platter and drizzle with some honey. Mound some of the trail mix on top. Drizzle with a bit more honey and serve with grapes, apple slices and crackers.

Need a wine match? Try an off-dry Riesling for white drinkers or a light, fruity pinot noir for a red choice. Can’t decide between red or white? Prosecco is a great match, too!

Now that you’ve seen my favourite party trick, tell me about yours!


Quiche me if you dare

November 12, 2009

quicheIt’s that time of year again. Time to pull out your cocktail party clothes and brush up on current affairs because the holiday season party invitations are going to start rolling in!

Or, maybe you’re thinking of hosting a holiday shindig. If so, chances are mini-quiches are on your list. They’re a party time stand-by but unfortunately, so many of the bought frozen quiches are just awful! Yet, people keep tossing their good money away by buying them. Such a shame when they are so very easy to make ahead, freeze and then heat in the oven when you need them.

All you need to do is whisk together
8 eggs
4 cups (1 litre ) 35% cream

Seriously, that’s it. Then, toss some yummy stuff like cheese, ham, salt, pepper, mustard, green onions and such together and divide them evenly between blind baked tart shells. Fill with the egg mixture and bake at 350ºF (180ºC) until the filling is jiggly and just barely set. Cool to room temp, place in zip top bags and freeze until needed. To serve, bake from frozen on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350ºF (180ºC) until the crust smells toasty.


Bonfire envy

November 11, 2009

marshmallows toastingGenerally, I love being a Canadian — but when I learned last week that Brits have a Bonfire Night every November 5th to celebrate the capture of renegade Guy Fawkes in 1605, I was bitter. Why don’t Canadians have a bonfire night? Just for surviving our crazy climate we deserve a bonfire. We do! We really, really do!

So, since we have no culturally sanctioned bonfire holidays here, I decided to put my pyromaniac urges to good use by lighting up the charcoal grill over the weekend while I was raking leaves.

During the summer, standing over a smoky, hot charcoal grill can be uncomfortably hot. But, stoking up the coals as you do your yard cleanup in the fall is actually a pretty fantastic way to make an afternoon spent outside in the crisp fall air more enjoyable.

So, why not create a low and slow grilled brisket or flat chicken this weekend? Or, just use the hot coals to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and to warm your hands after planting bulbs?

Be sure to have lots of marshmallows around and cups of hot chocolate so that you can bribe your helpers to stick around and help for more than a few minutes!

Is your grill kit packed away for the winter or are you still grilling and barbecuing?


Happy Halloween – have you ever worn a food-related costume?

October 30, 2009

coolest-california-roll-sushi-boy-costume-37615Photo credit: www.coolest-homemade-costumes.com

I’ve just today realized that I’ve never had a food-related Halloween costume. I once dressed my infant son as a pumpkin but I’ve always had scary costumes myself.

One year my brother was a marshmallow but it was a costume of convenience: he was five and just out of the hospital from having pneumonia so my mom dressed him in a fuzzy white ‘fun’ fur coat of hers and threw a white hat on him so that he could go out trick or treating without catching a chill. Most people thought he was a Russian czar but he didn’t mind; he was just glad to be allowed out of bed!

Some of the best food inspired costumes I’ve ever seen are here on thee Serious Eats blog.

How about you? Any good food inspired Halloween costumes in your past or present?


Double-duty packaging

October 23, 2009

bird house wine boxReduce, I support. Recycle, I support. But, reuse, I love!

Check out this great ‘green’ package. It’s a wine gift box that is also a hummingbird house! So clever.

As we proceed into the holiday dinner and cocktail party season, many people will pick up gifts, flowers or bottles of cheer to take to their hosts. What other smart double-duty packages can be used to carry a gift and then be used for something else? Gift bags don’t count – I want you to dig deeper today, dear readers.

PS: Here are instructions on how to make a wine bottle birdhouse.