The Cooking Chronicles: Welcome to Our Home!

I learned a lot from helping organize Mack and Kimmi’s housewarming two years ago. Though we had incorporated a few make-ahead dishes, I remember spending more time in the kitchen than was ideal at a party where socializing should have been the main focus. So for our first *official* housewarming for friends, I planned to build a menu based upon recipes that could be prepped in advance.

Housewarming

The spread

Giada de Laurentiis’ white bean dip, served with Sunbake Pita chips, was one of the first dishes that came to mind, primarily because both components could be made the night prior. That said, it’s tasty too, and is a solid alternative to hummus (we suspect that Mack is allergic to tahini).

Housewarming

White bean dip and pita chips

At our friend Devin’s housewarming party over the summer, we sampled Gordon Ramsay’s simple but colourful cherry tomato & feta kebabs. We decided to replicate it, but with a local twist – Doef’s cherry tomatoes, basil from Morinville Greenhouses, and Smoky Valley St. Maure goat cheese. We put these together early in the afternoon, and pulled them out of the fridge just before guests arrived.

Housewarming

Cherry tomato & goat cheese kebabs

My favourite appetizer that night was Donna Hay’s Thai wonton cups. We took a few shortcuts with this one, including using a store-bought rotisserie chicken, but it made our lives much easier. While oiled won-ton cups pressed into mini-muffin tins were baking in the oven, I cooked down 4 tablespoons each of fish sauce and water, 2 tablespoons of lime juice and 100g brown sugar, then combined it with 2 cups of shredded chicken and a bunch of cilantro leaves. The result was fabulous, though as Mack indicated more than once, it’s a dish meant for lovers of fish sauce – I couldn’t get enough of the sweet and fragrant tang adopted by the chicken. We topped a few of them with sliced red chillies – definitely not for the faint of heart, but made for an eye-catching garnish. Though they were best served warm, they were enjoyable at room temperature as well.

Housewarming

Thai wonton cups

I’d been looking for a reason to make Trish Magwood’s cremini mushrooms stuffed with chevre and leeks for some time, especially knowing I could source everything locally – cremini mushrooms from MoNa (ordered through the Good Food Box), chevre from Smoky Valley, and leeks from the farmers’ market. I assembled them that afternoon, but didn’t bake them until just before guests arrived. These were definitely tastier warm, but Mack loved them regardless – the creamy chevre made them the perfect little one-bite treat.

Housewarming

Cremini mushrooms stuffed with chevre and leeks

Also from Magwood’s Dish, I made her parsnip, celery root, and apple soup, knowing that I wanted something to serve hot, kept warm using the slow cooker. It was also fantastic to have a soup made with all seasonal ingredients – parsnips from the Green & Gold Farm, celeriac from Greens, Eggs and Ham, and apple-pears from the OSFM. All the peeling and chopping required made this the most time-consuming dish, but it was worth it. I had made the vegetable stock the night prior, which made it somewhat easier, and after the vegetables were tender, pureed the soup and transferred the batch to our slow cooker. The texture was a bit unusual, grainy from the apple pears, but for the most part, it was light but warming.

Housewarming

Parsnip, celery root and apple-pear soup

To accompany the food, we had local beer and wine: Mack’s favourite Alley Kat brew, Charlie Flint’s – and wine from Barr Estate Winery. Most of our friends hadn’t heard of Barr, and they particularly enjoyed The Other Red, made from raspberries.

We also decided to have more casual snack food, in the form of unusual chip flavours – PC brand hot dog-flavoured potato chips and Doritos Late Night Cheeseburger flavoured chips. The label-less bowls ended up serving as a blind flavour tasting station of sorts – though our friends picked up on the hints of mustard, relish and hamburger seasoning, no one could identify the flavours outright. On a larger scale, it’d make a fun game (of note, PC recently released a pizza flavour too!).

Thanks again to everyone who helped us celebrate!

The Best is Yet to Come: Jane & Yi-Li Get Married!

It’s safe to say that Jane & Yi-Li are the “old married couple” of our group, having been together for ten years. Hosting gatherings since our high school days (with many an epic game night), they are the tireless social connectors that ensure our group doesn’t lose touch.

Jane & Yi-Li were engaged last January, and two weeks ago, (finally) tied the knot! Although the ceremony was traditional in many ways, it was neat to see their personality shine through in many aspects.

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

The wedding party

For example, they exited the church as man and wife to the theme from Indiana Jones (complete with a hat for Yi-Li), and in addition to roasted pork for the light reception following the ceremony, hired Fat Franks to feed hungry guests!

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Careful, now!

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

With the happy couple (Jane was stunning!)

Jane & Yi-Li opted to host their reception at Chateau Louis (they love perogies), and their entire wedding party entered the ballroom to the theme from Harry Potter, glasses and all.

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Harry’s here in spirit

They also prepared fun paper placemats and crayons at each of the tables to keep guests entertained.

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Lost, anyone?

Unlike receptions at Chinese restaurants however, the buffet meant there wasn’t a lengthy wait time between courses – another bonus in addition to all-you-can-eat perogies! The prime rib and chicken kiev were other fantastic dishes.

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

My plate

And being fans of the gelato from Chocolate Exquisite,  it was only fitting that “gelato cakes” were served (pistachio and orange-passionfruit were the flavours).

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Cutting the cake

Mack and Carmen did a great job as the MCs, keeping the program rolling throughout the evening. I’m not sure how Carmen did it, but she was, as Jane said, a “wedding superhero” that day.

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Carmen and Mack

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Yi-Li tosses the garter

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Dickson “caught” the garter

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Jane throws the bouquet!

Andrew and Jessica had originally planned an elaborate entrance to the Glee version of “Don’t Stop Believing”, but it was axed. Thankfully, they weren’t shy about performing a version later on in the evening.

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Mr. Shue is listening somewhere

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

May, Jen and me

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding

Mack and Megan

Mack and I were so happy to have been a part of their special day. Congratulations, Jane & Yi-Li – the best is yet to come for you both!

Jane & Yi-Li Wedding