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Mediterranean Soiree 

8 Mar

This past weekend I hosted an intimate gathering in honour of my mother and sister’s upcoming birthdays as I won’t be seeing them on their respective special days.

I decided to go with a Mediterranean theme for the menu taking cues from Italian, French and Greek cuisines. 

As a rule, whenever I entertain I lays try not to bite off more than I can chew. Preparing for an event no matter how small or relaxed can become extremely stressful if you try to make everything yourself. So I chose the “semi-homemade” route, making simple recipes and using some ready made fare.

The menu served 10 persons and was as follows

Bruschetta

Mushroom crostini

Olive bar

Cheese and meat board

Chicken souvlaki (kebabs) with Tzatziki sauce

Assorted artisan mini pastries (premade)


Creme cheese croissants (premade)

Biscotti  (premade)

I will share how I prepared the items for this get together. 



BRUSCHETTA 

Bruschetta is a popular antipasto found in many Italian eateries and with good reason. It consists of slices of toasted bread coated in oil and topped with a variety of things including meats, cheeses and perhaps best known…tomato.

I made tomato bruschetta using a sliced baguette.

WHAT YOU NEED (makes 20-24 slices)

1/2 of a baguette  

Butter or olive oil

One large ripe tomato 

Spices- I used Italian spices and a pinch of salt


WHAT TO DO

Tomato

1)Dice tomato

2)Add salt and spices with a drizzle of olive oil

3)Stir to mix and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow flavour to mature.

Tomato mixture 

Bread 

4)Slice baguette into approximately 1/2 inch thick slices

5)Lay flat on a baking sheet

6)Coat with butter/oil.

7)Bake until golden or desired crispness 

Bread coated in melted butter




Top bread with tomato mixture just prior to serving to avoid bread becoming soggy.

Bruschetta 


MUSHROOM CROSTINI 

If you were to ask me the true difference between crostini and bruschetta I’m not sure I could answer clearly. Both have Italian origins, both involve slices of grilled bread and both are often topped with similar items. That being said, I’m totally comfortable with calling bread topped with tomato bruschetta,  but topped with mushrooms not so much. So I’m calling it crostini.

This recipe is almost identical to the bruschetta one except for the preparation of the topping so I’ll focus on that.

WHAT YOU NEED (makes 20-24 pieces)

12 OZ of fresh mushrooms -feel free to use canned ones 

1/4 cup of finely diced onion 

2 tbsp of brown sugar- I used coconut sugar 

2 tbsp butter

1/2 of a baguette 

Ingredients 



WHAT TO DO 

Mushrooms

1)Heat butter, sugar and onions in a skillet until onions sweat (become soft and translucent) 

2)Add mushrooms and Sautee until browned.

Onions,butter and sugar mixture 


Mushrooms being sautéed 


Bread

See 4-6 for bruschetta 

3)Top bread with mushrooms just before serving

Mushroom crostini 


CHICKEN SOUVLAKI/KEBABS 

Kebabs are always a favourite of mine for parties. Who doesn’t enjoy eating bites of food off a stick? Something about it is just so much fun. Lol.

The inspiration for this came from a blog post by Closet Cooking who created this recipe after tasting something similar while on vacation in Greece. The chicken is flavour education with the tart lemon and spices and topped with tzatziki. Tzatziki is a Mediterranean yogurt based dip infused with herbs and spices. It is served with meat or used with pita bread or vegetables as a dip. You can make it yourself but it is also widely available in most supermarkets  (I bought mine).

WHAT YOU NEED (makes about 15)

1/2 lb Chicken breast/thighs boneless

1 large lemon

Minced garlic or garlic powder 

Tzatziki

WHAT TO DO 

1)Cube chicken and coat with juice of lemon, garlic and any other seasonings and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes.

2) Skewer chicken Bake until cooked

3)Drizzle with Tzatziki-I also served some on the side.

Chicken souvlaki 


OLIVE BAR

This one was easy-peasy. I saw an amazing olive bar at Whole foods and knew I had to recreate it even if on a micro scale. I bought a container of mixed olives and worked with that.

WHAT YOU NEED

Various olives- You can use as many types as your heart desires

Containers- to display the olives

WHAT TO DO

Distribute the olives in their various containers along with spoons and display. I used a wooden cutting board.

Olive bar 



CHEESE AND MEAT BOARD

I have to say, that out of all the dishes on this menu, this is the one I was most excited about. Cheese and meat boards or antipasti boards are becoming a bigger and bigger trend in the foodie world making appearances on lots of restaurant menus. But these amazing appetizer boards are well established in Mediterranean cuisine. 
WHAT YOU NEED

Cheeses- At least two types but as many as you wish. I used Asiago, Gouda and sweet onion Swiss cheese by Laughing Cow.

Meats- At least two types or skip it if you want a strict cheese board. I used sliced turkey and turkey salami

Extras- I used purple or red grapes, almonds and some crackers

Board- This can be your cutting board, a marble board, slate board, metal board etc. Whatever you have. I used a rectangular board and most that I’ve seen do the same but this can work on a circular or oblong board as well.

Ingredients 

WHAT TO DO

1)Arrange your cheeses and meats on the board. I tried to create something visually pleasing by placing the cheeses at differing heights and placing the meats in between.

2)Place your extras to fill in the empty spaces

Cheese and meat board


PREMADE items

To round out this Mediterranean inspired fest I purchased some items to cut down on prep time and stress.

Pastries 

I bought a box of frozen mini pastries which came in four flavours: spinach and cheese, red bell peppers and cheese, sweet onion and cheese and mushroom and cheese…there was a lot of cheese.

Assorted savory pastries 

Dessert

All the dessert was premade. Desserts are satisfying to make but boy will they eat up your time. I purchased some Biscotti, a tasty Italian treat often eaten along with coffee. I also bought some French Creme cheese pastries which I warmed in the oven and served.

Biscotti 

Cream cheese pastries


A few more shots of the finished table

The evening was great, spent with family and friends. There was good conversation and tasty food. As I say I always recommend doing some things yourself and getting help with others when entertaining,  it makes everything a bit easier.

I hope my Mediterranean inspired Soiree gives you some ideas for your next event. Have an awesome day and Happy International Womens Day to all!

Healthy Snack- Chia Pudding Pots

26 Jan

Today’s recipe is an easy versitile one, so easy I almost feel guilty for calling it a recipe. This is chia pudding which is actually super trendy these days, something I didn’t realise until I decided to do this post. 

Chia Pudding Pots


FunFact: I used to work at a health food store way back in the day. I’m talking wayyyy back. I was a university student and the owner was a nutritionist. The name of her business was “Chia Seeds” . She explained to myself and all the others who would be working there that the chia seed was small but powerful. It had so many benifits for something so insignificant in appearance  (it was a bit of a life lesson too)
So what IS chia?

Chia is the seed of the chia plant which is a member of the mint family. The seed is very tiny, like sesame seed size and it is rich in nutrients including omega fatty acids, some vitamins and minerals. 

Chia seeds have long been popular among the “health food” set but recently has become far more mainstream making a massive debut on pinterest(lol). Chia seeds can be added to smoothies, health bars and cereals. However,  a notable property of chia seeds is the fact that they become swollen and gelatinous once exposed to liquid. This makes for a great puddding. A healthy, nutritious pudding. 

I will be making 3 variations of chia pudding today ; vanilla spice, chocolate and berry.But really the options are limitless.

WHAT YOU NEED  (for each)

1) 1/4 cup of chia seeds (I used black chia seeds , yiu can use white ones if you like)

2) 1/3 cup of vanilla almond milk (or whatever type of milk you prefer)

3) 1 tbsp of honey – add it to your preference

4) 1/4 tsp of assorted spices– I used cinnamon and nutmeg

5) 1 tbsp of cocoa powder

6) Assorted berries– I had strawberries and blueberries 

7) Containers for storage (I used small jelly jars but for more practicality you can use small resealable plastic containers)

8) Blender/Nutribullet 

Ingredients 

WHAT TO DO 

 Pour almond milk into container and add honey and mix.

Vanilla spice

1) Add chia seeds and spices then mix in well.

Add chia seeds and spices
Chocolate

3) Add cocoa powder and mix

Cocoa added




Berry blast

4) Chop fruit and add a few pieces to the mixture and stir.

Add fruit




5) In your blender/nutribullet etc blend the fruit with a bit of water forming a slurry.- I did it separately for visual effect.

Fruit slurry


6) Place your mixtures in the refrigerator and let them sit for a few hours,  until a gelatinous consistency is formed. I left mine overnight. 

Your treats are ready to eat!

Ready to eat


These are great healthy “to go” snacks that you can make long ahead of time. You can play around and try a multitude of flavours. These would also make an amazing dessert for a dinner party. It’s different but tasty.

The chia seeds become fluffy and gel like and it truly tastes like a pudding. The different additions all go well with it because the chia seeds lend to sweet flavours.

Definitely try this one and definitely have an awesome day! 

January Cake

15 Jan

Today’s recipe is a two layered naked cake topped with sugared fruit and nuts. I called it January cake simply because it was made in January.It’s a white butter cake with minimal icing so it’s a light(ish), dessert great for after a holiday season of decadent eating and drinking.

This butter cake recipe is adapted from my favourite baking website, Joy of Baking. I added the strawberries and cut down on the sugar a bit. The recipe makes two 8 inch diameter cakes. However, I made 2, 4 inch diameter cakes and so I had excess batter.

WHAT YOU NEED 

Cake

1) 2 eggs, separated- Allow the whites to come to room temperature. 

2) 1 1/3 cups of flour

3) 1 cup granulated sugar divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup.

4) 1/2 cup butter

5) 1/2 cup of milk

6) 2 tsp baking powder

7) 1/8 tsp cream of tartar

8) 1 tsp vanilla extract 

9) Strawberries  (about 1/4 cup chopped)

Toppings

1)Assorted fruits- I used strawberries but you can use any berries you like.

2)Assorted nuts- I used almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. 

3)Granulated white sugar- about 1 cup.

Frosting

1) 1 cup confectioners sugar

2) 1/4 cup butter 

3) 1 tsp vanilla extract 

4) 1 tablespoon of milk

5) Food colouring of choice

Ingredients 

Ingredients 

Topping ingredients 


Frosting ingredients 


WHAT TO DO 

Cake

1) Beat butter until soft then add 3/4 cup of sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract and beat well.

2) Keeping mixer on low speed, add flour and milk alternately beginning with flour. Add chopped strawberries and mix in gently with a spatula.Set batter off to the side.

Batter with strawberries 


3) In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.

4) Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.

Soft peaks

5) Add 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Stiff peaks


6) Fold meringue mixture into batter careful not to deflate the meringue. 

Batter


7) Pour into baking tins and bake at 350 F until done.

Batter in tin


Baked cake


Toppings

1)Mix about 1/2 cup of sugar with a small amount of water until a thick syrup forms.

Syrup



2) Dip strawberries and nuts into syrup and allow to partially dry then roll into remaining sugar.

Sugared fruits

3) Set out to dry at room temperature. 

Frosting

1) Beat butter until smooth and creamy.

2) On low speed add the confectioners sugar.

3) On high speed add milk and beat until frosting is light and fluffy.

4) Add food colouring  (I added WAY too much).

Assembly

I intended initially to make a 3 layered cake but due to the narrow diameter , it wasn’t structurally sound,  Depending on the size of your cake you can do however many layers you wish.

1) Level the cakes using a sharp knife or cake leveler. 

2) Place a dot of frosting on a sturdy icing surface and put first layer of cake down.

3) Place a dollop of frosting on top of cake and using a knife spread it out. 

One layer


4) Place second layer on top and cover top with icing allowing some to spill over the edge.

Two layers


5) Place in refrigerator and allow everything to firm up for about 15 minutes. 

6) Add a bit more frosting on top and spread it with a straight edged tool (palette knife ) until there is a light layer of frosting around the cake.Think of just doing a crumb coat layer of frosting.

7) Add toppings and  you’re done.

January cake


This cake was delicious. The butter cake is light but somehow still dense. Not like a sponge cake at all which is how I thought it might be at first. The sugared fruits and nuts add a whimsical flair. The icing was sweet and buttery but not overwhelming because there wasn’t much of it.

This is great to have as a teatime dessert or a brunch dessert or really anytime. 

Have an awesome day.

Champagne Gummy Bears

28 Dec


Hello everyone.  Hoping you had a beautiful Christmas/Holiday season and are as eager as I am to leave 2016 behind. It hasn’t been all bad but it was definitely messy. 

This is a recipe I tried a couple months ago but I thought would be a perfect NYE treat… Champagne Gummy bears. Of course, you can also use regular wine.

I first heard of these about two or three years ago. At that point they were only being sold by a very high end gourmet candy company and though beautiful and delicious looking, not easily attainable for me.

Then the pictures and tutorials began showing up on Pinterest and I knew…I had to try.

The recipe I used is a mash up of two I found online.  One is from Cooking with Janica and Sprinkle Bakes. I used less gelatin than both recipes called for and it gave me a softer gummy which I prefer. I also used the recommendation from Sprinkle Bakes of adding an additional flavour because just using the wine makes it a bit bland. So let us continue. ..

WHAT YOU NEED 

1) 1 cup Wine– champagne, prosecco, red, white, blush. I used a white, a red and a sparkling rose.

2) Gummy bear molds– I bought these on Amazon, each can make 50 bears and it comes in pairs.

3) 3 packets of gelatin (or if you want a vegan option, use agar-agar)

4) Food colouring– Depends on the flavour, I used pink for the rose, red for the red wine and a little yellow for the white wine.

5) 1/2 cup of white sugar

6) 2-3 drops of wine food flavouring – yes this exists but I couldn’t get any when I wanted it so I used strawberry, I think any berry flavour can work.

7) Squeeze bottle– for easy delivery of the gel.

Ingredients 

WHAT TO DO 

1) Mix 3 packets of gelatin with water and let it dissolve.

2) Add sugar and mix in.

3) In a saucepan /frying pan Pour in wine and allow to come to a boil. 

4) Add sugar/gelatin mix to warm wine and stir in to dissolve.

5) Add food colouring and Flavouring and mix.

6) Pour gelatin/syrup into bottle and carefully fill molds.

7) Place in refrigerator and let firm up- I left them in overnight 

Sugar and gelatin 




Add water




Fill molds




Finished gummies 



They look like gummy bears, they kind of smell like gummy bears but they don’t quite taste like gummy bears. They taste like a sweet cocktail or wine cooler. This is a sophisticated treat that’s pretty straight forward to make and I think it’s a perfect party favour for a NYE shindig!

Try this out and eat gummies responsibly. Have an awesome day!

Blogmas Bonus- Cranberry Scones

25 Dec

Blogmas Bonus – Cranberry Scones

Hello and Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Back in November when I was meticulously planning each and every Blogmas post, I asked my sister to do a guest post on something sweet and easy to make. I told her what daybI was thinking of putting it up and told her to get back to me.

Well she did. Yesterday. But I digress. Better late than never.

This recipe is taken from our favourite online baker Stephanie fron Joy of Baking (I have referenced her more than a few times)

Since this is Kristine’s post I will present it the way she did.

Ingredients

image

2 cups of flour
1/3 cup of white sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
2/3 cup of fresh cranberries
2/3 cup of milk

She left out the candied fruit and the almonds listed in the original recipe.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400F (200C) and butter or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients then cut butter in. Use a pastey blender of you have one if not use forks or knives creating course crumbs.

image

image

Add the cranberries and gently mix

image

Add milk and stir careful not to overmix

image

On a floured surface knead dough four times then form a circle about 7 inches (18 cm) in diameter.

image

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Cut it into 8 triangles and brush top with milk.

image

Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is brown.

image

My sister gave these to some of her cowokers for Christmas. They make great gifts or a light dessert to have with coffee after all the heavy Christmas dinner.

Enjoy and have an awesome day!

Cozy Christmas  Breakfast 

24 Dec

BLOG-Mas DAY 24!

I feel like breakfast at Christmas time should be a little special and these two recipes are bound to be. The first recipe is Cinnamon pancakes with Blackberry syrup and paired with a spicy hot cocoa. 

WHAT YOU NEED 

Pancakes 

1) 1 1/3 cups (135g)Pancake mix 

2) 1 tbsp cinnamon

3) 1 cup Blackberries  Any type of berries will do. I chose blackberries because they were the cheapest st the supermarket. 

4) 1/2 cup (48g)  White sugar 


Ingredients 


WHAT TO DO 

Pancakes 

1) Add cinnamon to pancake mix and stir in. 

Add cinnamon 

Mix in cinnamon 

2) Add water and mix well. 

Batter

3) Heat skillet and make pancakes to desired size. 

Cook pancakes 

Stack





Syrup

4) Place blackberries, sugar and teabag into a skillet or saucepan.

Ingredients in skillet 

5) Add  water and bring to a boil.

Boil





6) Adjust to a simmer until syrupy in consistency 

Syrup 

7) Pour over pancakes. 

Pancakes with syrup 




Spicy hot cocoa 

WHAT YOU NEED 

(Makes one 16 oz(475mL) cup )


1) 1/4 cup(56g) Chocolate morsels /chips

2) Cocoa powder  (unsweetened )

3) 1 tbsp of White sugar 

4) pinch of Salt

5)2 cups (16floz )of milk

6) 1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper 


Cocoa ingredients 


WHAT TO DO 

1) Place all the dry ingredients including the chocolate morsels into a saucepan and mix until chocolate has melted.

Ingredients in saucepan 


2) Add milk and let simmer 

Cocoa in pan

3) Pour into cup and top with marshmallows and pepper 

Finished cocoa 

Your breakfast is ready to serve! 

Finished breakfast 

This is a delicious cute breakfast.  The cinnamon adds a festive feel to the pancakes and the fruit based syrup gives it a more complex grown up flavour.

The hot cocoa is rich and decedent and the pepper adds a most unexpected  dimension. It gives a slow smokey burn that somehow goes beautifully with the chocolate  (because what doesn’t go beautifully with chocolate? )

Definitely try this one out and have an awesome day !

Christmas Appetizer -Honey Garlic glazed Meatballs 

18 Dec

BLOG-Mas DAY 18

Welcome to the 18th day if Blogmas where I bring you a simple recipe for a delectable appetizer great for your yuletide gathering (or any other time of year). 

This is a recipe my mother makes often.She got it from TasteofHome. She has altered it a bit and I have altered her version so this is a version of a version. Lol.

WHAT YOU NEED 

Meatballs 

1) Ground beef-you can substitute this with another ground meat : turkey, lamb, pork, chicken or for a vegetarian option you can use textured vegetable protein (minced soy chunks)

2) 1 large egg.

3) 1/2 cup(125mL) of milk

4) 1 cup breadcrumbs.

5) 1/4 cup of diced onion.

Meatball ingredients 


Sauce

6) 2 diced garlic cloves.

7) 3/4 cup(6oz/170g) of ketchup

8) 3/4 cup of honey

9) 3 tbsp(45mL) of soy sauce

10) 1  tbsp butter

Sauce ingredients 




WHAT TO DO 

Meatballs 

PREP

Season your ground meat-I use black pepper and Worcester sauce and let it sit for about 30 minutes. 

1) Mix egg and milk together.

Egg and milk 


2) Add breadcrumbs and onioin and mix well.

Breadcrumbs and onioin  added 




3) Add ground beef (turkey,  lamb, soy etc) and form a firm mixture.

Meat mixture 




4) Form balls, approximately 1 inch (2.5cm) in diameter. This recipe gives approximately 24 meatballs this size. Of course you can make them larger or smaller if you so desire.

Meatballs formed


5) Place on baking sheet and bake at 400 F (205 C) for 15 minutes or until cooked all the way through. 

Sauce

6) In a saucepan heat garlic and butter then add ketchup, soy sauce and honey. Allow to simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.

Sauce


Serve Meatballs with sauce either on the side or coated.

Meatballs with sauce on the side 



Meatballs glazed with sauce 



The original recipe(linked above) makes more meatballs than stated. My mother also finds the amount of breadcrumbs recommend isn’t quite enough to make a firm meatball. She also recommends using more honey than listed. For me I halved the amount of ground beef but had to tweak it in a few other places. The take home message is be careful if you plan to use the original recipe.

These Meatballs are always a hit. The meatballs themselves are firm but moist and flavourful. The sauce is has complex flavours but is super easy and affordable to concoct. The salty soy sauce , the sweetness of the honey and the tang from the ketchup make give a unique taste combination sure to impress your guests.

Definitely try this one out guys and have an awesome day.

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