Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘special occasions’

The Nine Course Affair

Speaking of birthdays…….

From time to time, the Chef and I like to put on “special dinners”.  Usually consisting of  a several coarse tasting menu.  He does most of the cooking, while I do the arranging, the shopping, the decor and the clean up.  And if I’m lucky, sometimes I actually am allowed to make a dish or two myself!



First Course:

Seared Tuna, Avocado and Red Pepper Sushi

I have to admit, the Chef does a nice sushi, which is good because I only ever eat sushi at home, what with the shell-fish allergy, eating it in restaurants is just too high risk.




Second Course:

Belgian Endive and Mini Kale Pancakes topped with Smoked Gorgonzola and Candied Walnuts

This was a tasty one.

They don’t show up that well in this picture, but I made mini versions of my famous Kale Pancakes.  Then to add some freshness to it all, they were alternated with leaves of Belgium endive.  Then both were topped with a small slice of smoked Gorgonzola cheese and a chunk of candied walnut.

We often enjoy this as an anytime snack.


endive & kale pancake



Third Course:

Beet Carpaccio Salad with Arugula, Blood Orange and Shaved Boursin Cheese

I really like beets, so I always encourage the Chef to somehow incorporate them into our special dinners.

So on this occasion, he thinly sliced both red and golden cooked beets.  Then topped them with super thing slices of Boursin Cheese, ( I’ll tell you another time about how he does that, because if you have ever dealt with Boursin, you know that slicing it in any way isn’t easy!) slices of blood orange, arugula and then drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Very refreshing.

Beet Salad



Course Number Four:

Halibut  “Fish and Chips”

This was a whimsical item.  The “fish and chips” refers to the halibut being roasted with grated yam on top and then drizzled in a balsamic dressing.   The yams form and nice crust (chips) and keep the halibut moist (fish) and then vinegar on top.




Course Number Five:

Spinach and Pine Nut Stuffed Chicken Breast with roasted Celeriac Puree and marinated Red Cabbage

I hate to be judgemental, but I think this one was my favorite dish of the night.  The chicken was moist and flavourful, the celeriac both sweet and earthy at the same time and the crunch sourness of the cabbage just all really worked well together.  Oh and I didn’t even mention the delicious grainy mustard sauce in the title ( made it too long to look good on the page)!


Stuffed chicken


Course number six:

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

I actually got to make this course myself.  It is a favorite of mine to make and to eat and it often shows up on our special dinner menus.  But I can’t take the credit for it.

It is blatantly stolen from the menu at celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello’s Napa Valley restaurant, Bottega.

We tasted it there awhile back and I was determined to recreate it.  But luckily for me, they were generous enough to just post the recipe on-line!

So please do try it out for yourself.  It is surprisingly wonderful.

Brussel sprout salad


Course number seven:

Mediterranean Lamb & Bell Pepper Kebobs with Cous Cous and Kaffir Lime Leaf Scented Demi-Glace

It is a little joke we have with the birthday guest.  Inevitably whenever we go to her place for dinner, she serves lamb!  So it only seemed fitting that there should be a little lamb on her birthday party menu. The startlingly delicious item in this dish was the Kaffir lime leaves.

They don’t really show in the picture but they were in the sauce.  At this point in the evening ( course seven) sticking one’s fingers in the food and pulling out the lime leaves and sucking on them was clearly NOT frowned upon.  What a delightful taste, the tart lime flavour mixed with the luscious demi glaze.




Course number eight:

Cheese & Apple

It seems we were just too delirious by this point to actually remember to take a picture.

We had retired to the lounge for a little reprieve before moving on to desert but just wanted to add this extra little treat to the mix.

Norwegian Ski Queen cheese, is just a delightful thing to try.  Although it is a cheese, it would remind you more of a really rich version of those caramel square candies that we used to get a Halloween. Perhaps those crossed with butter or some other unbearably delicious creamy substance.  You really do need to try it.  We find it in the speciality cheese section of most major grocery stores.

So our eighth course was slices of Ski Queen matched with slices of Ambrosia Apples lightly dusted with fresh cracked black pepper.

Really nice.

( No Photo Available )



Course number nine:

Raw Chocolate Tart topped with Pomegranate accompanied with fresh chunks Pineapple and Chocolate dipped Candied Ginger.

I also got to make this one!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I like to startle people from time to time with my “raw” dishes.  So after a somewhat decadent night so far, I thought why not toss in something a little healthy to end the evening and leave us feeling good about ourselves!?




It was a very successful evening.  Good times all round.

Stay tuned for when the next one happens.  Who knows, YOU might even get invited!


Thumbs up


A Special Holiday Breakfast

Well, it doesn’t have to be for a holiday specifically, but let’s just say, you might want to save it for special occasions!

This baby is SO rich that we even skip a year or two between partaking in it!

Let’s call it “Fancy Baked French Toast”.

You actually have to start it the night BEFORE you are going to eat it!  It’s THAT big of a deal!

So, the night before……….

You will need:

  • One large baking dish ( like for lasagna)
  • Fancy bread   **

**  I actually use Italian Panatone which is practically like cake already!  Or a nice challah bread works well too.  Or  push comes to shove, some raison bread would do.  But use something nice, not your run of the mill slice bread.

  • Heavy cream
  • eggs
  • vanilla

Now I haven’t given you amounts because it will depend on how much you are making.  But for this one I used:

1 panatone, six eggs, 1/2 pint cream and 1 tsp vanilla.

Slice the bread and lay slightly on top of each other in the dish.

2013 holidays039


Mix the wet ingredients and lightly beat.


2013 holidays040


Pour wet mixture all over the bread and then push and poke the bread down so it starts to suck up the liquid.

( the bread should NOT be swimming)


2013 holidays041


Then cover with cling wrap and refrigerate over night.

In the morning, heat oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile make up about a half cups worth of:

  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • toasted walnuts

and squish them all together into a creamed paste.

Then shmear this paste over the top edges of the bread or pretty much where ever you like, but it looks nicer if it is in some sort of uniform direction.


2013 holidays042


Then bake until golden brown!




Meanwhile, as if all this isn’t bad enough…….

I serve it with cranberry glazed sausages.

Basically all you need to do here is cook your breakfast sausages as you would, then finish them by adding about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cranberry juice to the frying pan of sausage.  Keep cooking and stirring them until the juice reduces right down to a sweet goo.

Oh yeah.

And there you have one of the most decadent breakfasts going!

So seriously…….please use with caution!!


2013 holidays045

Cranberry Glazed Sausage

I usually reserve these ones for special occasions.

Or at the very least, near holidays where cranberries are more appropriate!

But hey, why not live a little!!

Cranberry glazed sausage

Cranberry glazed sausage

It is terribly simple really and it was quite by accident that I ever made them.  I think I found myself with some overly dry sausage one Christmas morning and wanted moisten them up a little and the idea made sense.

Fry up a batch of your favorite breakfast sausage and then when they are as good as done, give them a generous splash of cranberry juice, or even the “cranberry cocktail” type stuff.  But I would advise against the jelly in a can type stuff.

Mile zero003

Bring the liquid to a boil and just keep stirring everything around until the liquid is almost evaporated and you are left with a sticky, tasty goo on your sausages.

Mile zero004

Okay, maybe “goo” isn’t the best word, but it is a little thicker than regular glaze.

Mile zero006

Serve with your favorite breakfast food…….like French toast maybe.

But I realized as I wrote  this that I see no real good reason to limit the idea to only breakfast sausage.   In fact I think this might work really well on turkey sausage for instance!!

Because it is cranberry and a little bit tart, it has a really nice balance and isn’t too sweet so it can work with other sweet or savory items!

Mile zero010

I don’t think you will be sorry.

Birthday Cake

Are you always the person who gets asked to “Please make the cake?” for any occasion?

No, me neither!

That’s cause baking isn’t really my forte.   If you visit my blog often you will have noticed that I’m not exactly a recipe girl, I take  more of a toss some stuff together and hope it tastes good kind of attitude.   Which is fine if you like to think of cooking as an expression of “art” or something like that.

That sort of approach also doesn’t bode too well as a professional Chef where “consistency” if often the desired outcome.

The problem with baking is that it is more of an exact science, chemistry, if you will.  Where it DOES actually matter if you use a teaspoon or a tablespoon.

But every now and again I take the plunge into the baking world, especially if it is for a good cause, like someone’s birthday!  And on this particular occasion I lucked out and managed to create a very celebratory worthy creation!  Although I still have to admit, I was a bit lacks on my “exact measurements”!

I like to look at pictures of stuff on the internet and then try and make them, unlike smart people who actually look up the recipe.  I’ve been eyeing this layered cake for some time now and thought I might like to try it out.

Because this particular birthday celebration fell dangerously close to Valentines Day, I thought I best go with the spirit of that and make a very chocolate and “pink” cake.

I started by baking four 8″ round chocolate cakes.   I used the recipe from TV’s Food Network show The Barefoot Contessa  ( click here ) as a guideline and then jazzed it up with a few things of my own, like extra chocolate and the like.

Four plain chocolate cakes

Once those were baked and cooled, it was time to make the icing.

Basically I mixed unsalted butter, plain cream cheese and icing sugar……let’s say 1/2 cup of each, but who’s counting?   Oh yeah and a little shot of good vanilla.   Then whipped them together in the mixmaster with the whisk attachment.   When it was well whipped, I added a few drops of colour and whipped it some more and kept on like that till I got the desired colour.

Add pink icing

But then it didn’t really look like it was going to be enough to achieve my desired effect, which was to have layers of chocolate with nice pink squish oozing out in between.   And the butter cream combo seemed just a little too rich, so I decided to whip up a batch of whipped cream too.   I also made this pink, but not AS pink as the icing, just to give it some contrast.

Icing and whipped cream

I also remembered I had some fresh raspberries in the fridge, so why not add them to the party as well?

First I laid out all of the naked cakes, then topped them with the pink icing.

Then a layer of the less pink whipped cream

Then a layer of fresh raspberries.

Then carefully assembled the structure on top of the cake stand.

And to top it off, I stuck a few lovely tulips in the top! 

Flowers on top

But be sure to put some plastic wrap on the ends of them.  I don’t think they are dangerous but still…..nobody needs flower juice leaking into your cake!!

And there you have it!  Beautiful birthday cake!

Photo courtesy of Mandy Leith

%d bloggers like this: