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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!