Thoughts On: Dessert Tables

mini brunch table

Thanks to the likes of Amy Atlas, Goddess of Gorgeous, dessert tables have become a spectacular trend among party planners. The themes and ideas and colors and desserts are becoming ever more elaborate and amazing. I honestly am madly in love with dessert tables. There are zillions of great party and hostess blogs with incredible ideas. I have a couple of friends who do some really spectacular tables!

Foodie Baby is 2 years old today! We call her our Little Button, and she is about the sweetest, most delightful little package of pink. I love her soulful brown eyes, her cheeky smile, and her feisty ways. She makes having a 2 year old seem like the most perfect part of life.

I wanted to do something sweet to celebrate her today, but you know, she’s 2, so didn’t feel the need to do anything too enormous. So we put together a “mini” brunch table. It was simple and not time consuming but oh so sweet. All things mini for our Little Button: mini cupcakes(pink vanilla as she has chanted to me for a month), mini button cookies, mini chocolate milkshakes, mini marshmallows, mini olive scones, quiche and raspberries. I found a metal pillar candle holder that served as a mini cake platter, and a mini bud vase.

She chattered about how pretty it was all morning. Not knowing that all eyes were on her pretty little face, not the pretty cupcakes.

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!

Local Fare: Cruffs

Birthday Boy

Sexy Husband is 34 today!!! Happy Birthday Love! The world is celebrating him by snowing. Again. Not what he deserves for being one of those people who lives to serve others, do anything to make his family happy, and enjoy the simple things in life. He really is the best person I know.

Every year I ask him what kind of cake he wants. I’m hoping he’ll say something like 6 layer hazelnut ganache torte or baked alaska. But no, it’s always something like, Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake, or Strawberry Shortcake. I want to put monstrous amounts of effort in to show my love, he wants me to spend 2 minutes buying it, instead of 2 days baking it. Of course this is why I love him. This year he requested cream puffs. A tower of cream puffs to be exact. So I purchased enough cream puffs to feed the SW corner of Calgary. But then this morning we were downtown and noticed Cruffs, a Cream Puff Store!! Perfect! So I stopped in and now…you MUST! Click on the link to see their website.

Cruffs is owned by 2 brothers from Indonesia. The couple who were working were passionate about their cream puffs, taking great care to tell me how to store them until tonight. They were also seriously about the nicest people I’ve talked to in days. I left wanting to be their friend. This is how it works. You choose mini or regular sized cream puffs. The minis are about 3 times of the size of minis you get in a tub from Superstore. The large ones about the size of a donut. Then you pick your fill, and he injects the filling straight into the cream puff, so it’s completely fresh!!! Fillings included: hazelnut chocolate, coconut, lemon, strawberry, vanilla, and chantilly cream. How amazing is that? They cost exactly half the price of fancy cupcakes and I love the idea of getting exactly the kinds you want!

yum yum

Tonight we will celebrate with a tower of cream puffs, particularly coconut, lemon and hazelnut ones. Tomorrow is Foodie Baby’s 2nd birthday(can you BELIEVE I have 2 important people to cook for and celebrate within 48 hrs? Tricky). So the afternoon is being spent baking all things mini: mini cookies, mini scones, mini cupcakes, all for her little Button mini brunch table tomorrow. Pics to come I’m sure. Forgive my few day foray away from normal, healthy, easy meals!

My little Button

Think Fresh: Pavlova

pavlova with vanilla whipped cream and berries

Pavlova is such a beautiful, colorful dessert. It is light and airy and completely versatile. It seems like the ultimate springtime dessert. I made a couple of pavlovas for Easter Dinner this year. It just seemed right with the sun finally out, and the slightest hue of green starting to emerge.

I wouldn’t exactly call pavlova healthy, as it has a fair bit of sugar in it. However it is low in fat and sweet enough that a little goes a long way.

Follow the basic pavlova recipe below and then add any toppings you like. I like it with vanilla whipped cream and fresh berries on top, or you can top it with whipped cream and any fruit! Another favorite is to make lemon meringue pie filling, and fold in some whipped cream, layer that on top of the pavlova for a lemon meringue type dessert. You can also add a bit of cocoa to the basic recipe and top the chocolate meringe with whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts. mmm, so many options! Let me know if you try a great combination!

I’m going to give some credit to Martha Stewart for this basic pavlova recipe. It’s the recipe I use from my head for pavlova but I’m pretty sure that a million years ago when I first made it, I probably got it from Martha.

Vanilla Pavlova

1 serves about 8

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 200. In a standing mixer, beat 4 egg whites, 1 tsp white vinegar, 1/2 tsp cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Mix on medium until very frothy. Very slowly add 1/2 cup superfine sugar. Beat on medium-high until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and very slowly add 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar. Beat on medium-high until very stiff glossy peaks form, 5 more minutes. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla. Using a spatula, plop meringue onto parchment and form into about a 9 inch circle, making a bit of a divot in the middle for the filling. Bake for 2hrs. Meringue should be marshmallowy in the centre but dry to touch and easily lift off parchment. Turn off oven and crack door open. Let cool in the oven. Whip cream and add toppings right before serving(or up to 1 hr ahead). Enjoy!

Recipe: Pasta with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

pasta with asparagus and cherry tomatoes

What started out as a “hmm – I have 2 vegetables in the fridge what ever shall I make for dinner” moment, turned out to be potentially the yummiest, freshest tasting dinner I’ve made in a long time. Being a bit of the arty type, color is a big deal to me. There MUST be color on my plate. I think the nutritional value of white is…zero. Particularly I seem to judge how healthy a meal is based on how much green there is. Then how much red there is. And it really is true, the most naturally deeply colored foods are the ones with the highest antioxidants. Think of any of the superfoods you’ve heard of: blueberries, acai berries, broccoli, pomegranates – all deeply colored. Simplest health rule ever: if your plate has color(umm food dye doesn’t count), you’re doing ok!

If you need something colorful and delicious for the easiest supper ever, give this a try!

Pasta with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

serves about 4

pasta – use whatever you like for as many people as you like. We usually eat brown rice pasta.

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and discarded, chopped into 2 inch pieces

1 container of cherry tomatoes

4 tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

juice of 1/2 a lemon

sea salt, to taste

feta (or romano) to garnish

Directions: Boil pasta. In a large pan, heat 2 tbs of olive oil over medium heat and saute garlic, sea salt, asparagus and tomatoes, until asparagus is soft and browning, and tomatoes have released their juices. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Toss with pasta and garnish with feta. Enjoy!

Local Fare: Boston

mmm pinkberry happy face

As expected, Boston is AMAZING! Seriously it is maybe the most beautiful city I’ve been to. The people were incredibly friendly, which could be because half the world was there for the marathon. The architecture blew my mind. ¬†Everyone was enthusiastic, customer service was over the top great, and the whole city was alive with marathon pride! We had a great time. We also ate a lot of great food! Foodie highlights include: post race fish and chips at Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub in Harvard Square, lychee fro-yo from Pinkberry(ok let’s be honest, pomegranate, coconut and mango were equally great!), veggie pizza from Uno, giant cookies from Quincy’s Market, breakfast sandwiches from Au Bon Pain, and cappuccino from some hole in the wall in the Italian North End district. We ate well. We also walked 12 hours a day to justify eating so well! IronSister rocked her 21st marathon(5.5 months pregnant I may now happily announce!)

In other MAJOR news(at least in my life), the Calgary Farmer’s Market reopened today!!! I took the girls to check it out. It was utter pandemonium, first day craziness of parking schmazzles etc, but I’m so so thrilled to have the Market open. It is beautiful and spacious, all sorts of new stuff. Traditional cap from Fratello was worth the parking lot endurance sport. I can’t wait to go back and get my routine on. I’m home, it feels like spring, so I intend on being back in the action this week. Hopefully I’ll have some new recipes for you!

IronSister: Boston!

I’m off with IronSister today to Boston, where she will run her 21st marathon, the Boston Marathon! This is on her bucket list(and she’s 28 so I’m thinking she’s doing alright). We are there for 4 days of food, fun, shopping, sight seeing, oh and a little racing. I’m sure I’ll have lots of foodie stories when I return. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Vancouver Marathon last year! Where IronSister qualified for Boston.

Recipe: Mini Stuffed Peppers

mini stuffed peppers

I love to entertain. That’s not really true. I LOVE to feed people that I love. I love it when my people are around my little kitchen table, wine has been poured, laughter rings, stories are exchanged, and everyone is fed. If I plan a big meal for people, it doesn’t really matter to me much if the raspberry compote is swirled just so, or if the basil garnish is chopped just perfectly. I appreciate beautiful and intricate food, but I’m mostly concerned with the food being healthy, tasting great, and not taking me away from the conversation around me. I don’t do the whole hide-in-the-kitchen-until-I-dramatically-unveil-perfectly-plattered-meals business. So I have a great appreciation for recipes that can either be prepped ahead or at least don’t take up too much hands on time when I know one of my hands will be holding a wine glass and the other will be dramatically gesturing in conversation.

This little appy recipe is so easy and simple it should barely be considered a recipe. But it is one of my go-to’s because it fits what I’m looking for: healthy, super yummy, so easy.

Wishing you all: the deepest of conversation, the richest of friendships, the fullest of stomachs!

Mini Stuffed Peppers

plan on 3 mini peppers/person

mini bell peppers, I bought some organic ones in red, yellow and orange

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

a dozen or so mushrooms, scrubbed and coarsely chopped

crumbled feta

cracked pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and mushrooms and saute until golden. Meanwhile halve the mini peppers, leaving the green stem intact. Remove seeds. Crumble as much feta as you like into the mushrooms. Stir. Place peppers in a glass baking dish. Place a tbs or so of the mushroom mix into each pepper. Roast until peppers are turning a bit golden, 30-45mins. Serve hot!

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