September 18, 2011

A few of Mike's classmates live in the same apartment complex as us, so they all decided to throw an "apartment hopping" dinner party last night. The idea was that each apartment would cook a different course (appetizers, entree, dessert) and everyone would hop to each apartment throughout the night. I was obviously excited at the prospect of cooking for people and even more excited to be assigned the entree course. Each apartment also had to have a signature drink or cocktail for everyone.

We didn't even plan to have all vegetarian food, but our choices for a "tapas" style entree turned into all vegetarian dishes. We thought there would be a lot of food throughout the night, so we wanted to keep whatever we made to a smaller scale, but still delicious.


We started with a selection of dips, including hummus, black olive tapenade and eggplant capanata. I made the eggplant dip earlier in the week and knew it would be perfect for a party. It's similar to an antipasta dip and includes eggplant, celery, onions, olives, capers, pine nuts and raisins (recipe from Canadian Living). The olive tapenade is black olives, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic blended together.

The main feature of our "entree" was quinoa veggie burger sliders. Again, I made these earlier in the week as a meal and thought they would be great on mini ciabatta slider buns (recipe from Chatelaine).
These make a great vegetarian meal and the quinoa and veggies mixed together form quite a substantial "burger."


Cook the quinoa using a 2:1 ratio (2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa). Grate celery, zucchini, carrot and add it to a pan with minced shallots and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until browned. Add cornstarch and eggs and form into patties. Then pan fry for about 3-4 minutes a side until golden brown.


 We put out some homemade corn relish, honey mustard and cottage cheese for people to put on the sliders. They were a big hit and looked great on my cupcake holder from Ikea.



Our signature drink was a tea fusion of earl grey tea, blueberry juice and SoCo (lychee liquor). I didn't end up getting a picture of the table set up with all the food, as it was eaten so quickly, but you get the idea.


The party turned into more of a potluck, as some people just brought things over, but we all managed to hop to three different apartments during the night. It was a fun night and a neat idea for a dinner party.
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September 07, 2011

Ever since I got a canning kit for my birthday I have become obsessed with canning. Every time we have leftover veggies or fruit, I think, hey, maybe I can can them. I am constantly flipping through my canning recipe book thinking of something else that would make a neat gift or something to store over the winter. I believe I am addicted to canning now.


Since corn has been in season over the last few weeks, we have been buying it almost every weekend. We usually buy a dozen and then eat it with pretty much every meal that week. The season for beautiful, delicious Ontario sweet corn is coming to an end, so I thought I would savour some of the bounty by making corn relish and corn salsa. The relish was simple and fairly quick to make and tasted great on grilled sausages. The salsa, on the other hand, takes almost an afternoon to make, but is worth it in the end.


Corn Salsa (adapted from "Chunky Homemade Salsa" recipe from Better Homes and Garden)
(Makes 2.5 pints)
Ingredients:

4 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 cups of corn
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped and seeded
4 chili peppers, chopped and seeded
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup parsley (or cilantro)
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup white vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/4 can of tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black pepper

Directions:

1. To peel the tomatoes, immerse them in boiling water for about a minute, then dunk them in cold water and remove the skins. Remove cores and seeds and drain in a colander and set in the sink for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer tomatoes to a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Let simmer for an hour and a half.
3. Add corn, peppers, onions, parsley, lime juice, vinegar, tomato paste, garlic, cumin seeds and pepper. Return to a boil and let cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. You could just keep this in the fridge to eat or begin the canning process by ladling the hot salsa into sterilized jars. Process the jars in the canner for 15 minutes then take out and let sit for about 24 hours.

I'm still fairly new to canning, but I love that I can now make homemade sauces, relishes, chutneys and jams for little cost (plus, homemade always tastes better). I will never be going back to store bought salsa after this and I know it will be nice to taste fresh corn in the winter.
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September 03, 2011

A few weeks ago we got back from our South America trip and had nothing in the fridge to eat except a butternut squash and some onions. I thought it would be fitting that I make a dish using quinoa, a grain that originated in the Andean region of South America. I tried a few quinoa dishes while we were there including chicken and quinoa soup and quinoa salad and loved their many uses for the now popular "super grain."


Whenever I make quinoa, it seems to turn out too dry and sticky. The quinoa I had in Peru was moist and flavourful and the little beads just popped in my mouth. This recipe from Martha Stewart Living calls for chicken stock while cooking the quinoa, which I think adds a lot more flavour to it than normal.

Quinoa and Butternut Squash Pie (full recipe here)
Ingredients: 

1 butternut squash, peeled, halved (plus a few slices for the top decoration)
A handful of fresh sage leaves
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove
1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Handful of kale

Directions: 

1. Brush butternut squash with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
2. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onion, garlic and cook until translucent for 3-5 minutes. Add kale.
3. Cook quinoa and stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let stand for about 2 minutes.
4. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with margarine or cooking spray. Add a few butternut squash slices and sage leaves.
5. Mix quinoa, squash, sage, parmesan, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Add to pie plate.
6. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cook for 5 minutes. Invert onto serving platter. Serve with a side salad or cottage cheese. Makes a great packed lunch too.
I will post some pictures and stories of my trip soon, so stay tuned!
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