The parties are over, and my recovery is mostly complete. I confess to spending last week and weekend cooking as little as possible, and sleeping as much as possible, to catch up as much as I can from three weeks of visitors, parties, and camping trips, all while suffering from a nasty summer cold which has made its rounds on the entire family. My kids are still coughing and sniffling. I thought I'd share my recipes and experiences from three very different, but all wonderful, summer events.
Party #1: Food Writers' Get-Together
I invited some local food writers, with whom I had taken a food writing workshop last year, to a get-together, which will hopefully become a regular occurrence. It's great fun to hang out with fellow foodie/wino peers and indulge in food talk and a bit of wine snobbery. Especially with this gang, who is particularly down-to-earth.
The party theme (I always have to have a theme) was 'matching your favourite wine to food/favourite food to wine' depending on your priorities. Since one of the attendees is a wine writer, his focus was obviously on the wine side.
The day was HOT and it had been hot for days prior. I ran in to said wine writer at the grocery store that day, and he said, "all I'm bringing is salsa and some chips. And wine, of course. It's too hot to eat!" The unmentioned fact is that it is not too hot to drink wine.
I had a few simple items planned, including fresh, homemade goat cheese on baguette, topped with radish leaf pesto (my new favourite recipe for turning garden waste into deliciousness—thanks, Chocolate and Zucchini!). I also prepared another canapé topped with homemade chorizo sausage mixed with butter beans and basil, topped with yogurt, a recipe from Cook, Eat, Smile.
The other writers showed up with homemade deer sausage (delicious!) and a couple of homemade salsas. The wine writer showed up with a CASE of vinho verde and Lambrusco (for any true wine snobs out there, you'll laugh, since Lambrusco does not have a very respectable reputation), his recommendations for light, refreshing summer drinks. He was right. It was delicious, and went GREAT with sausage! We had a great time until the wine writer got too enthusiastic about playing with my kids and wiped out on the carpet while giving 50lb. D a piggy back ride. The party ended on that note, with a grown-up with a bloody nose (D was fine) and the rest of us shaking our heads and wondering how it had gotten to that point. Perhaps foolishly, we are already talking about the next event.
Party #2: Blessingway BBQ for 25
My sister-in-law is due to have her first baby on G's birthday in August. She asked if I would host her "Blessingway," a sort-of baby shower that has many spiritual aspects to it, and is intended to surround the mother with loving women and prepare her for childbirth and motherhood. It was a beautiful ceremony, and was followed by a bbq that included husbands and kids, as well as all the women that had attended the ceremony.
From the food perspective, I needed to prepare a meal that could mostly be made ahead of time, so that I wouldn't be distracted during the ceremony, and which could be set out the second we were done to accommodate the hungry kids coming back from the park. My menu worked perfectly, except for the fact that I second-guessed myself on food quantities late the night before, and had to pull out another package of meat from the freezer to make myself feel better. The quantities were just right before I pulled out that package, so we ended up with a few leftovers, but nothing too unreasonable. It was a good lesson in trusting my instincts. I truly have cooked enough to know the right amounts for 25 people. But I still live in terror of running out of food.
The menu, taken mostly from recipes on the internet, with an Asian theme, and nothing too spicy, as my sister-in-law's baby-infused tastebuds are very sensitive to things like onion and raw garlic:
Raw vegetables with Asian-inspired Dip (made ahead)
Szechuan Noodles and Shredded Vegetables (designed to be made the night before)
Cold Chinese Rice Salad (cooked the day before and mixed that morning)
Grilled chicken, beef, moose and elk skewers, with various Asian marinades (marinated over night, skewered early in the afternoon)
Grilled baby bok choy with Asian marinade (my new favourite from a couple weeks ago)
Thai Iced Tea (using red tea from Thailand that my brother and sister-in-law brought back with them a few years ago)
Coconut milk and honey frozen pops (made the night before)
It all came together with a minimum of stress. A very satisfying experience!
Interlude: Ukrainian Braided Wedding Bread
Oh yes, and besides the parties, I was also trying to work out how to appropriately honour my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary (65 years is a big deal!). I considered making 65 bread doves, which my grandma has made many times as table decorations for her grandchildren's weddings. My mom got the recipe and instructions from her, at which point I realized that I did not have time, nor enough sanity, in the three days remaining before their anniversary, to make them, 20 at a time, dry them in the oven overnight, then glaze them and paint eyes on them.
I opted instead to make them my version of a traditional Ukrainian wedding bread, which my grandma had made for our wedding. It had probably been 65 years since someone had done it for her, so it was time for a redux. I found a recipe on King Arthur Flour's website. The dough was wonderful to work with, and the resulting loaf, while a tiny bit lopsided (I made it in an 8" pan instead of a 9" pan, and used some of the extra dough to make doves for decoration, and then had some left over, which I added to the centre of the loaf, and it turned out to be too big for the pan) was still not bad for a first try. My dad took a picture, which I will try to scam from him to post here.
My granddaughterly duty done, I could then return to meal planning for the next big summer event.
Party #3: Wyld Womyn's Trail Ride Supper Duty
The weekend after the Blessingway was our annual wyld womyn's trail ride. My mom and I are usually in charge of suppers. We usually cook over the fire, or outside in some fashion. I wanted to try something a bit different this year, so I pitched the idea of making southern fried chicken in the turkey fryer. It's something I've wanted to do for a while, and this seemed like a good opportunity, especially because my dad has the fryer basket required to make the job easier, a piece of equipment I have yet to purchase.
Lynn Crawford's Southern Fried Chicken (this calls for a bbq spice rub as part of the spicing. I used this recipe)
Mom's homemade potato salad and coleslaw
Fresh fruit (eventually...first, we went for a ride to burn off the chicken)
I can happily report that the effort of marinating, breading and frying chicken, while messy and a bit hot when done outdoors in 30-degree temperatures, is well worth it. The results were fantastic. I am now hunting in earnest for a basket for my own fryer, so I can do it again at home.
Beef souvlaki kebabs, cooked over the fire
Lemon rice (we cheated for this and plugged in a rice cooker in our camper, which was hooked up to power)
Baklava (from the RecipeSource website, an amazing resource for all kinds of ethnic dishes. Check it out when you have a chance!)
Our beef was a little tough, in spite of marinating overnight, but everyone still raved about the food. The baklava was especially popular. I forgot that I had also picked up some Lebanese candied fruits from a new shop in Saskatoon, and we never even got around to eating them.
Night #3 is the night when husbands, kids, friends and other family is invited, and we have a big wiener roast. Great fun for everyone.
So after the past few weeks, while I enjoyed every minute of it while it was happening, you might be able to imagine why I laid low this past week, cooking minimally. We still ate well though, thanks to some thawed pizza dough that covered us for two meals. More on that in an upcoming post!