Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Everyone who has read my blog has already met my wonderful boss Alan. If not, swing on over tothis post,where he spent the afternoon demonstrating how to make fresh pasta. I will never forget the long process and endless kneading, but the result was nothing short of SPECTACULAR.

I’ve worked with Alan for 12 years and believe it or not, he has never come to our home for dinner. Most likely because he is highly allergic to cats, and at one point we had two roaming around the house making unsuspecting visitors SNEEZE.

I asked his wife Francine if we could “try” to experiment with a dinner celebration for Alan’s birthday – which would include Tiffany (the cat). She said “OF COURSE!”. The worst thing that could happen is that he ends up eating outside in the garage. God I love Francine (and the way she solves potential problems and scenarios).

We made sure to have a box of antihistamine on hand JUST IN CASE and I prayed that Tiffany would stay in her favourite retreat for the night (the spare bedroom).

When Alan arrived, he was carefully monitored for any signs of wheezing, sneezing, coughing or symptoms associated with kitty allergies. You know what? NOTHING. Which is really good, because now I can invite them over more often, without hesitation. Francine? Do you want to come next weekend again?

My dear colleague Eve was also in attendance and brought a spiralized zucchini salad with feta, pepitas, pomegranate seeds with a yummy honey dijon dressing.

I really wanted to spiralize too (because I’m having a vegetable twirling addiction now) so I managed to do a watermelon radish as a garnish for my fruit salsa.

I have been a bit obsessed with my new spiralizing attachment lately, but I have to tell you something (that I’m not really proud of).

I broke it already.  Yes, you heard me. I BROKE IT. Here’s what I did and I’m going to call KitchenAid when I finish writing this to ask them HOW and WHY this happened. I watched all the videos and how to’s. I read the instructions (clearly not well enough). And I thought that you could do raw beets on this gizmo.

Well, apparently not. I placed one on the other day and the machine started moving inwards, bending the small blade attachment and making a noise that went something like this – errrgggggggggaaaaaaaa!!!! It completely screwed it up and now I don’t have the skinny spiralizer anymore. My husband said I did “something”. I disagree. If it’s supposed to swirl and twirl, why didn’t it?

Hang on a sec. I’m calling right now. I’ll be right back.

I’m back…..

After being transferred into 48 of the 50 of United States, AND…..large appliance divisions in each category…..finally landing back in Canadian territory where they placed me through to kitchen appliances and had me on file (because I used to have 3 large appliances before I sold them on Kijiji – due to the fact I stopped loving them) only to be told that I was not talking to the Canadian Small Appliance and Repairs division. Still with me?

Do you want to know the good news? They are replacing the part (that I broke) for free because it is still under warranty. Now I’m really “impressralized” by their service (not withstanding the fact that I went to Kalamazoo and back to find the right department).

Can we now get back to this dinner party please?

Okay.

I spent about a month visualizing and creating the tablescape and menu for the evening. In an effort not to bore you, I’m going to give you a precise list of what I purchased and what was on tap for the evening.

1) The dinnerware – Sea Grass blue plates – Pier1Imports 2) The wine glasses – Speckled blue and clear – Pier1Imports 3) Napkin rings – Blue Sea Grass bobbles –Pier1Imports 4) Placemats – Have you ever seen anything so stunning? – Pier1Imports 5) The salad/dessert plates – Marshalls 6) Flatware – Beyond the Rack 7) Napkins – Are you ready for this? I couldn’t find white cloth napkins so I bought Flour Sack towels from ……….WALMART. Yes. WALMART (my husband unfolded his and said they were diapers) 8) Candles – From my favourite store on God’s Green Earth – DOLLARAMA 9) Candle holders – MARSHALLS 10) Vases – From none other than Little Miss Party – She has the most amazing stuff in her “Party in a box” collection

MENU

Starters:

Cheese tray which included 4 types of cheeses – 3 hard  1 soft. Assorted nuts. 3 kinds of crackers. Fruit and a Fig Cabernet Preserve made by Tishbi  – thanks to Eve.

Strawberry Crostini with Whipped Honey Pepper Goat and Feta Cheese, fresh basil and balsamic glaze – recipe below

Mains and Sides:

Steve’s Salmon – click herefor the recipe which really isn’t a recipe but it turns out the same every single time.

Dill Sauce – You need to ask Steve about this because I have no idea what was in it but I’m guessing sour cream and dill. Right Steve?

Fruit Salsa – click herefor a similar recipe. I used nectarine and substituted 1 tablespoon of honey for the sugar.

Pink Couscous with Pecans – click herefor the recipe and once again I need to say that this was the most stunning dish I’ve ever made………..STUN……..ING.

Golden Beet Noodles with Goat Cheese, Pepitas and Pomegranate – click here for recipe by Inspiralized, Eve substituted Feta Cheese for the Goat and Zucchini for the Golden Beet Noodles.

Mixed Greens with Warm Polenta Croutons and Seasoned Ramen Noodles – recipe below

Desserts:

Lemon Meringue Tart – click here for the filling and meringue and click here for the graham cracker crust.

Espresso Cupcakes – click here for the cupcake recipe, but substitute espresso coffee for half the liquid portion in the batter and all of the liquid portion for the buttercream. I also garnished mine with a chocolate covered coffee bean.

Fresh Strawberries & Blackberries with Mint

But really? The best part of the evening was when Tiffany decided to enter the room and guess what? NOTHING HAPPENED TO ALAN.

MIXED GREENS WITH WARM POLENTA, ASIAGO AND RAMEN NOODLES

The Salad -1 10 oz package of organic mixed greens -1 package of seasoned ramen noodles, crushed -¼ cup of dried cranberries -¼ cup of pumpkin seeds (pepitas) -1 cup chopped cucumber -¼ cup of freshly grated asiago cheese

Polenta Croutons -2 tablespoons olive oil -1 cup of prepared polenta cut into 1 inch cubes -½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt -¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper -1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley)

Creamy Balsamic Dressing -⅓ cup balsamic vinegar -⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil -2 teaspoons dijon style mustard -¾ teaspoon sea salt -1-3 garlic cloves, peeled, and finely minced or put through a garlic press -2 tablespoons coconut or almond milk (full fat) or coconut yogurt

1) Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Prepare salad dressing by placing ingredients in a small bowl and whisking well or just throw the ingredients in a mason jar and shake it up (much easier). Place in fridge until ready to serve. Shake well before dressing the salad. 2) Prepare polenta croutons by heating the olive oil in a large non stick frying pan. Add polenta and season with salt, pepper and parsley. Cook for 10 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside. 3) When ready to serve, top salad with warm croutons and dressing. Toss and go!

STRAWBERRY CROSTINI WITH WHIPPED HONEY PEPPERED GOAT, FETA & BALSAMIC GLAZE

-1 whole grain baguette, cut into 1 inch slices -½ cup extra virgin olive oil mixed with ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley -10 oz (300 grams) of plain goat cheese (you can use any flavour to kick this up a notch) -¼ cup fresh crumbled feta cheese -½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper -1 tablespoon organic honey -2 cups strawberries, diced -5 - 6 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (chiffonade style) - click hereto see how and also to observe how cute this chef is, I know you will be clicking fervently right now. haha ½ cup fresh arugula

Balsamic Drizzle - store bought or click here for a homemade version by Martha Stewart

1) Toss strawberries with fresh basil and place in fridge until ready to garnish. 2) Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. 3) Place sliced bread on the baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil and parsley mixture. Set aside. 4) In a food processor or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip goat and feta cheese with the pepper and honey. 5) Toast bread lightly and remove from oven. *you don't want these too crunchy so keep an eye on them. 6) Place a small amount of goat/feta mixture onto each slice of bread then top with a few arugula leaves.(This will ensure that the arugula adheres to the bread and won't slip off - Steve's idea - he's so SHMART) 7) Place a nice dollop of goat feta mixture on top of the arugula. Top with a small amount of the strawberry/basil mixture. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.