Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

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Happy Halloween!

Spooky!
Scary!
Freaky!

I have to share these Halloween pictures of years ago. Many, many years ago. A couple of years in a row, my dad and I would dress up - in some of my mom's things - and trick or treat at the Sherstan's. We would laugh so much - and we were so ridiculous - but we had so much fun. Looking back at these pictures, I not only know that I am so blessed to have the actual photos, but to have the memories too. I was very fortunate to just be able to have a lot of fun with my dad.

I am anticipating the trick or treaters to start arriving shortly. The pumpkins have been carved, orange lights have been hung, pumpkin seeds roasted, pasta dinner simmering on the stove and trying to keep the pups calm with the loud fireworks in the distance.

I have been laying low this weekend. :( I have shingles. Gah!!! Shingles! I thought only older people got shingles. Not the case. So, they are unpleasant. If you have never had them, I wish that you never do. Not only is the area on your skin extremely painful, but the nerve pain. Oh my. It's excruciating and so hard to describe. Oh well. Bring it - I am eager to know what I will get next. :) Actually - this is it. I can feel it.

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My friend, Jocelyn, was down just around Thanksgiving and she brought me some of their smoked salmon. I love smoked salmon - and hers was so delicious. Joc and I were roommates during college. I am not sure if she remembers, but one of our 'appetizers' that we used to make up from time to time, were crackers with cream cheese and smoked salmon. With this smoked salmon, I had to make these for us to snack on. They are easy - try them - just don't miss a step.

Crackers
Cream cheese
Smoked salmon

Place some cream cheese - herb or plain - on a cracker. Then crumble some smoked salmon on top.

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The smoked salmon was so moist and so sweet. Yumma. I served these with sliced apple as well - and it was a great snack.

A Geisha, a fairy and two others just came to the door. The trick or treating has started.

Happy Halloween.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oh October

I kind of can't believe that Halloween is just around the corner, and October is almost over. I'm so sad. The month went by so quickly. It's my favourite month, and it's almost done. I feel that the month just came and went so quickly. It's like take a breath and 15 days pass.

November is one of my new favourite months now too. In 32 days it will be our 1 year anniversary. 1 year! This time last year was full of so much excitement. It's been a great year - marriage wise - and I can't wait for our anniversary. We are going to do the traditional wedding gifts each year - 1st year is paper. I have an idea - and hopefully I can pull it off.

I just joined Pinterest. I was calling it 'P interest'. My friend Tracy told me not to call it that. How embarrassing. Anyways. Uh - how could I not have joined this sooner? There are some incredible ideas. I don't really know how to use it at this point - but it has been fun looking around on it. I found a recipe for pumpkin frozen yogurt and no sugar no butter chocolate chip cookies - oh my - I'll keep you posted.

A couple of weeks ago my friend, Beth, brought me a bag of mixed grains from Trader Joe's. I really want to go to Trader Joe's - she has brought me a few different treats from there - I am spoiled. These mixed grains were Israeli cous cous, vegetarian orzo, red quinoa and mini garbanzo beans. I LOVED this mix. I used it in our turkey soup and then in stuffed peppers. Since we don't have a Trader Joe's here, I need to try and make the mix myself.

For this stuffed pepper recipe, if you don't have Trader Joe's grain blend, then try it with any of the following: quinoa, barley or rice.

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Stuffed Peppers

6 bell peppers - for stuffing
1 cup of blended grains
Vegetable stock
1 onion - chopped
2 garlic cloves - minced
1 lb of ground chicken
1 cup of corn
1 bell pepper - chopped into small pieces
2 tbsp of tomato sauce or paste
1/2 cup of goat cheese
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

*This is a very easy to make vegetarian. The grains are full of protein.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Prepare your grains as per the packaging. I cooked my grains in vegetable stock instead of water.

In a large skillet saute the onion in a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Saute for about 8 minutes and add the garlic. Then add the ground chicken and saute until full cooked. Add in the tomato paste, the bell pepper and the corn. Add in the grains and let it simmer to have all of the flavours meld together.

In the meantime, slice off the top of the peppers. You can chop up the tops of the peppers if you like and add it to the stuffing.

Stir in the goat cheese until it is blended in. Spoon the mixture into each of the peppers. Mix the parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and top each of the peppers with this topping.

Lay all of the peppers in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Broil for the last 3 minutes on low to lightly brown the topping.

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I served these with a simple salad - and they were a hit!

Loves.

Enjoy!







Sunday, October 23, 2011

Right now...

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I am...
- sipping on a hot cup of Cammomile tea - it's my new favourite thing
- watching the end of 'Top Chef - Just Desserts' - and the drama drives me nuts but I can't help watching what they make
- loving my new nail polish that I got in America for 'free' by accident.

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- sore from my workout with Tanya yesterday. My shoulders, abs and biceps are in pain. Good pain though. I am going to start working out with her again - I missed her so. We did a completely different workout than we have done before. I am not sure where she comes up with some of this stuff - but oh my oh my.
- thinking about taking the pups for a walk - somedays I would just like to stay in my pjs all day instead
- in awe of the beautiful Chestnut tree that reaches into our yard. At this point, the falling leaves are worth it. The colours are incredible.

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- looking forward to having friends in for dinner tonight and watching episode 2, season 2 of 'The Walking Dead'. I am hoping that I can watch it without a blanket covering my eyes.
- thinking of the chili that I will make for dinner. I am going to switch it up just a tad
- about to tell you about my soup

Yesterday after a workout, and driving over the Malahat in foggy and wet, wet rain, I was feeling like some good soup for dinner. I wanted Chicken Noodle - my favourite - so decided to mix it up a bit.

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Thai Chicken Noodle soup - Sims Style

8 chicken legs* - skinless
2 limes
1 medium onion - chopped
2 medium yams - peeled and chopped into small cubes - about 3 cups
3 tbsp of red thai curry paste
5 cups of chicken stock
2 cans of coconut milk
1 red pepper- thinly chopped into strips
1 1/2 cups of corn
1/2 pack of rice noodles**
Cilantro

*I used skinless chicken legs b/c they were on sale at Thrifty's this week and I quite like them. I think that boneless skinless chicken breasts would also be really great too.

I also used chicken stock, but you could easily make this soup vegetarian/vegan, without adding chicken and using a good vegetable stock.

Pre-heat oven to 375.

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil and place the skinless chicken legs. Drizzle juice of half of the lime over top and season with kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes.

In a large pot, saute the onion in a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt, for about 10 minutes. Add in the yams. Continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Add in 1 cup of the stock (I use chicken - use what you like) to be able to soak up all the bits on the bottom of the pot. Add in the thai red curry paste. If you want more spice, add more of this. Mix it all together and let it simmer. Add in the coconut milk and the remaining stock, the corn and the peppers. Let simmer on low.

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I love this stuff - it's full of flavour and super convenient to have on hand.

**Rice noodles. I used half a box. I put them in a bowl and covered them with hot water and let them sit for 30 minutes. When they were soft - I drained them and cut them into half or in threes - they weren't all the same length. This was a lot of noodles - so you could probably split the box into 3 - and just use a 1/3.

When the chicken is done - remove from the oven and coarsely remove the chicken from the bones. Chop the chicken and add it to the soup. Add in the noodles and let simmer until the noodles are at a soft consistency.

Add in chopped cilantro and the juice of a lime.

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Serve hot.

We really liked the flavours of this - and it was a nice treat to try something different. This made A LOT of soup. When we were done - I added a bit more stock just to soup it up a bit. Yum leftovers!

Alrighty - off to walk the pooper scoopers.

Have a great Sunday!

Loves.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Half full!

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Happy Wednesday. Oh my Wednesday's are the 'glass is half empty/half full' day of the week. I am going with half full this week. If I picked 'half empty' I would be loafing around in my comfy clothes, eating mac & cheese (with bacon) and pigging out on Halloween candy, while sobbing that this is the longest week of my life. Uh, something about that scenario is kind of close to what I am actually doing. I am happy to report that I haven't touched the Halloween candy and I am not sobbing. I did however, eat mac & cheese tonight, and I am lazing around in cozy clothes.

I had the greatest weekend in America. I like to call it that. We went to just north of Seattle to do some shopping. We hit the Seattle Premium Outlet Mall and then a couple of malls in Mt. Vernon. My mom and I were dedicated shoppers. My mom spoiled me rotten. We had such a good time, and got some great clothes and deals. I am all set for winter season. We only got lost a couple of times, which was a good thing. The ferry from Sidney to Anacortes is a beautiful trip. I think that I am going to make this an annual thing.

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The night before we left, I made a pumpkin loaf. Are you tired of pumpkin recipes yet? I haven't made pumpkin loaf before - I adapted my Zucchini bread recipe - and I will definitely make this again.

I did a regular sized loaf and then a small loaf that I added organic dried cranberries to.

Pumpkin Loaf

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups pumpkin puree
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
3 cups of flour
1 cup of chopped walnuts

In a large bowl mix together the eggs. sugar, and vanilla. Add in the pumpkin puree and the vegetable oil and mix together. Sprinkle with the baking soda and salt. Add in the flour and mix it. Add in the walnuts, raisins and the lemon zest.

Place in a large loaf pan or two smaller loaf pans.

Bake for 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes. Remove it from the pan - and enjoy!!

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I enjoy the pumpkin loaf at Starbucks as a treat - and I think that this recipe was almost as deelish.

Loves.

Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mmmmm Bacon

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Today is my Friday. Super short week for me. Tomorrow my mom and I are heading down to America to do some shopping. We are hitting the outlet malls - having a little adventure - a little road trip - mother/daughter bonding - and shopping, shopping, shopping. I am also going to count how many times my mom says 'Ah Crap!' - it's her new thing and it cracks us up. We are both really excited - it'll be nice to have a little time away together and to find some great shopping deals.

We are pretty much done all of our turkey leftovers - day 2 of homemade turkey soup. There is nothing better than a hot pot of homemade soup. Tonight's dinner I made biscuits to go with it. My usual biscuit recipe - more and just added bacon and cheese. Does bacon make everything better? So many chefs on tv says it does - and I don't really think that it 'can't' make it better.

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Bacon Cheddar Biscuits

2 cups of flour
4 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of kosher salt
1/4 cup of butter
1 cup of shredded cheese - I used mozzarella
1/2 cup of chopped bacon - about 7-8 slices
1 egg
2/3 cup of milk

Pre-heat the oven to 425.

Place the bacon on an aluminum lined baking pan. Bake the bacon for about 10-15 minutes. Until it is crispy but not too crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and place on paper towel to help drain the grease.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the butter and with a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until it is in pea sized pieces. Add the shredded cheese and the bacon.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg and then add the milk and mix together. Add the egg/milk to the dry ingredients and mix together.

Place biscuit size biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes.

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Serve warm.

Alright - I have to go and catch up on Jersey Shore - just kidding - I'm not even watching it right now - I don't even know that they just had a fight. I don't even know.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Challenge Accepted.

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So the pumpkin pie milkshakes were a hit - and a few people told me that Dairy Queen is doing a pumpkin pie blizzard. Challenge accepted! Not sure if you've ever watched 'How I Met Your Mother' - Barney always says 'challenge accepted'.

Anyways - with leftover pumpkin pie, ice cream and a hand blender, I made it.

Pumpkin Pie Snow Storm

Get it? Snow storm can also mean Blizzard. Wooooo.

3 cups of ice cream
3 pieces of pumpkin pie - not huge ones
1/4 cup of milk

Blend ice cream and milk in either a blender or with hand held blender. Chop two of the pieces of pie. Add the pumpkin pie and blend. Then add the another piece of the pumpkin pie that has been chopped and mix with a spoon.

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It's good. I am trying to be ladylike and not gorge on this stuff - so I just had a taste. There is enough for the husband to have a couple of these treats.

Blending the ice cream reminded me of a time that my brother and I were visiting my grandparents in Vancouver. It was late one night - probably around 9 - I was probably 10 my brother 13 and we wanted to make malts. We got out the ice cream and the hand mixer. We filled a bowl with ice cream and my brother turned the hand mixer on. He then pulled the hand mixer out of the bowl and whipped ice cream around the entire kitchen.

He spazzed at me - not sure why. Then freaked out and told me to clean it up. I was laughing so hard that I'm sure I had to run to the loo. Thankfully my grandma was hard of hearing so she couldn't hear the havoc happening in the kitchen.

Oh my ice cream is my favourite. Oh how I wish that it was as good for you as broccoli.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner - I mean Thanksgiving Dessert

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Happy Thanksgiving.

I love this time of year. I love Fall, and I always think that Thanksgiving weekend is the kick off to a wonderful new season.

We had a great weekend! So fantastic - I wish that it was just starting now. My cousin and her family came down for the weekend. She did the 1/2 marathon at the Royal Victoria Marathon. 1/2 MARATHON!!!! She did amazing - so proud of her. We had a really lovely weekend with all of them. We love visitors (preferably people we know ;)) stay with us - we like to offer them Suite B - and tell them to just make themselves at home.

They brought the turkey from Merville - a free range, organic, happy bird that lived a great life. And it was delicious. I think that I will be trying to convince them to bring me one every holiday.

We did dinner last night. Friends and family - we really are thankful and blessed to have a wonderful group to be surrounded with.

On the menu:

Turkey
Stuffing - sausage, celery and onion with fresh sage
Mashed turnips with red pepper flakes
Brussels sprouts sauteed with bacon
Cranberry sauce
Mashed potatoes
Corn
Roasted acorn squash with brown sugar and pecans
Pumpkin pie
Rustic Apple pie
Pumpkin pie milkshakes

I'm usually all about the cooking - and I do love it - but for some reason at Thanksgiving I love the baking too. My baking is basic - easy - just the way I like it. These recipes can be made whenever, but they were a great end to our turkey dinner.

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Rustic Apple Pie

6 apples - peeled and cut into very thin slices (I used gala apples - and they were just perfect)
2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of brown sugar
1 -1.5 cups of pecans - I chopped about 1 cup into medium sized pieces and then left the rest whole
2 puff pastry
1 egg
(this is enough for 2 pies)

In a pan melt the butter, add the apples and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Saute over medium heat for about 20 minutes. When the apples are starting to soften - add the pecans. Saute for about another 5 minutes.

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Remove from the pan and let cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

When the apples are cool - roll out the puff pastry - into a 9-10 inch circle. It doesn't have to perfect at all - mine look like a square with rounded edges. Place half of the apple mixture into the center of each pastry. Pull the sides in towards the center - overlapping each piece slightly - but leaving about 4 inches open in the middle.

Place the pies on a piece of parchment paper on a baking dish. Add 2 tbsp of water to the egg and beat to make an egg wash. Brush the top of the pastry lightly with this.

Bake in the 350 oven for 30 minutes.

Let cool slightly and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or iced cream.

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The thing that I liked about this - is that you can make them ahead of time and then warm slightly just before serving.

And now for the special treat. I found this recipe on a blog that I like to peek at from time to time - How Sweet it Is. She made these - and I knew that I had to give them a try. I altered it slightly - and oh my - I am thankful for these!!!

Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes

2 cups of vanilla ice cream
3/4 cup of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of milk
1/3 cup of cream
1/4 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 tsp of cinammon
1/2 tsp of ginger
Whipped cream for garnish

In your blender, add all of the ingredients - blend - pour into a glass- garnish with whipped cream and ENJOY!

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So for today, this Thanksgiving 2011 I am thankful for:
My husband
My pups
My family
My friends
The incredible turkey - and the soup that I am making with it
My trainer - el Diablo (technically not my trainer anymore - but I am so thankful for her)
My health
Memories
Pictures
And oh so much more.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekend breakfasts

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We are on the verge of a gloriously long weekend. We are on the verge of spending time with family and friends and giving thanks. And we are on the verge of filling our faces with turkey, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie milkshakes (I know!!!) and all the other delicious trimmings that go with turkey dinner.

Well, we are - what about you? What are you plans? I hope that they are good - and I hope that you get to soak in a long weekend. They are therapeutic.

Getting ready for this weekend - I think that you should treat yourselves to a delicious breakfast. Something healthy, rich, tasty, hearty, simple... Here is what I have in mind.

Raspberry Yogurt

1 pint of raspberries
1 tbsp of water
Plain yogurt

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In a food processor, puree the raspberries and the water until smooth. Then add it to plain yogurt.

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Uh, really, that is it. It is so fresh, tasty and easy. A great starter for a warm breakfast.


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Baked eggs with tomato and cheese
Adapted from How Sweet It Is

(this is enough for one - just double, triple or even quadruple...)

2 eggs
6-8 grape tomatoes - sliced in half
3-4 basil leaves - chopped
1/2 tbsp of cream
2 tbsp of goat cheese or cream cheese
Kosher salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven for 375.

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In a small baking dish or ramekin, lightly (very lightly) grease the dish with butter. Add the tomatoes and basil and the cheese. Crack the eggs over top and cover with cream. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

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Bake for 5-7 minutes and then change the oven setting to broil and broil for 5 minutes. The longer the cooking the harder the egg - if you like your egg runny - just broil for a couple of minutes.

Remove from the oven, serve with some nice hot toast, and enjoy.

If these don't 'fancy' you, here are a few other breakfast suggestions.


Don't forget to eat your breakfast, it's the most important meal of the day.

Alright - time to make a grocery list and finalize the Thanksgiving Dinner menu. I love this!!!

Loves.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall - welcome.



Oh hello Fall. Welcome. Enjoy your visit for the next 3 months. I would appreciate it if you were dry, not wet. That you cool and crisp and not damp and windy. I would like for you to have a couple of Sundays where it's wet and dark and cold all day so that I don't feel guilty about not leaving the house and spend the day in my cozy clothes. Remember only a couple of those days. I think that if you can pull this off, it's going to be a great visit.

It's a blistery one out there tonight. I love the word blistery. I don't love the word blister. Trust me, I am not a fan of that. The word 'blister' reminds me of being a kid and getting new figure skates at the beginning of every season. New skates = El Diablo. The hard, very hard leather, doesn't give, your feet can't move in them and as a result you get golf ball sized blisters on your feet. Your feet hurt so much that you want to just stand at the boards and whimper - but then every time you try you hear your skating coach yell 'Cheryl, stop standing still and move your butt'. Or your sister skates by and says 'You're going to get in so much trouble from mom if you don't move it'. Or when you get off the ice and you have to try and pull your skates off without the blister popping and you hear your mom say 'Well that was a waste of an hour'. See! What had to deal with as a child skater - a child prodigy. Just kidding. Ya, so new skates can be really painful - but then once you break the skates in they mold to your feet so incredibly that they are the most comfortable thing to wear on your feet.

Where was I?

Oh ya - it's blistery out there. Magnum is growling at the wind. He's cute. Not tough. He's more of a lover not a fighter.

Tonight would have been a delightful night for a bowl of homemade soup. I would have liked to have made soup tonight, but... I did a Subway sandwich instead. It's a treat. I had my workout, walked the pups and headed to Subway. Oh not the subway - Victoria doesn't have one. Subway restaurant. I'm goofy tonight.

I made this soup last week, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I will be making this again - and I am not sure that I will change it at all.


Italian Wedding Soup Sims Style

1 eggplant - chopped into small pieces - about 2-3 cups
1 zucchini - chopped into small pieces - about 2-3 cups
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 cup of orzo
25 small meatballs - click here for the easiest recipe
6 cups of chicken stock
Kosher salt and pepper
Soft mozzarella - one slice per bowl of soup

Pre-heat the oven to 400. Place the chopped eggplant, zucchini and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper. Place the sheet in the oven and roast for about 30-40 minutes - until the vegetables are golden, soft and slightly caramelized.

In a large pot, saute the onion in small dash of olive oil and kosher salt. When the onion is translucent add the stock to the pot. Remove the garlic from the baking sheet and with the side of your knife, mash up the garlic and mince. Add the garlic, eggplant and zucchini to the soup. Add the cooked meatballs and let it simmer. Let simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Add in the orzo and continue to let it simmer until the orzo is el dente.

Serve the soup into the bowl and place a slice of soft mozzarella on top. Let it melt and enjoy.

Alright - time to curl up and hang with the husband.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dinner cruise



Last week I had the most amazing opportunity to do what I love to do most - cook. And not just 'cook', cook on a sail boat. It was a night of firsts for me. First time on a sail boat. First time being on a boat other than BC Ferries around Victoria. First time cooking for a dinner party that wasn't my dinner party per se.

The sail of Valerie Mae

How did this come about? Thanks for asking.

My friend/co-worker has a beautiful sail boat and he offered a night out on his boat with dinner to raise money for a charity that a team from work were raising money for - Power To Be. He asked if I would be interested in doing the dinner - and I was honoured. After I felt honoured he asked me, I had a moment of panic b/c I would be cooking for people other than my close friends and family.

Thankfully I knew who I was cooking for - as I have worked with the 6 lovely ladies for quite a few years. We had a crew of 4 - John the Captain, Treb the Captain's deck hand, Tracy - the photographer and myself - the cook.

I want to share the night with you with some incredible photos that were taken by my lovely friend, Tracy - Tracy Risinger Photography.Tracy took all of these incredible photos and she was my help - a huge help.

The Empress

John and Bert took us out around the Victoria Harbour. We saw the sunset over glass like water and we saw the beautiful lights of downtown Victoria.

The Parliament Buildings

I made dishes that I am comfortable making and that have been a tasted and liked before. I had a small galley to work in - and it was just perfect. The boat was loaded with everything - stove, oven, sinks, fridge, freezer. Just awesome. We served the dinner on deck so the guests could enjoy the scenery and fresh air.

On the menu:

Salumi board - meats, cheeses, olives, tapenade, baguettes
Fig and Goat Cheese pizza with pesto

Heirloom tomato and soft mozzarella stacks with fresh basil and balsamic

Linguine in a white wine cream sauce, with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, mushrooms, parmesan and fresh basil

Baked fruit with lemon mascarpone
Blondie brownie with sweet cream, ice cream and chocolate sauce

Salumi board - baguette from Fol Epi

Fresh figs - just like candy

Fresh basil from my garden - I was so happy to share it

Fresh local Heirloom tomatoes with soft mozzarella - oh my

'Low fat' pasta

Okanagan nectarines - oh how I love to share these

A light sprinkling of cane sugar

I was so excited for everyone involved in this night. Excited for John for being able to take out a bunch of friends on his amazing boat - and show them such a magical night. Bert for being such a great help for John and being able to 'drive' (is that the right word) such an incredible vessel. The ladies - we all tried to treat them like royalty. They were able to spend some good quality time together in a beautiful setting. Tracy who got to do what she loves most - take pictures. She was in her element, and took the most perfect photos - and thanks to her it will be a night that we will surely never forget.

High-fiving with the captain

And for me. I can't explain how perfect of a night it was. I got to do what I love most, for people I adore, hang out with my besty, and love every minute of it. I always stress that what I make won't be 'up to snuff' but I think that everyone was pleased with what they ate, and to me that meant everything.


Until next time... oh I hope that there will be a next time.

Loves.

Enjoy!