Monthly Archives: April 2013

A delicious comedy of errors

We hosted our latest Mi Casa-Su Casa meal last weekend, a lunch for a group of eight people… four adults and four kids!  It was a departure from our usual routine of 10 grown ups having dinner at our place, but we were really excited to try something new.  Plus, we love kids and had a blast coming up with a kid-friendly menu that would also tempt the adults at the table.

The menu for the lunch was:

Nibbles and cocktail on arrival:
Joan’s Newport Cheese Puffs and a White Wine and Pineapple Punch (without wine for the kids)

Starter:
Corn and Cheddar Chowder and Bread

Main:
Andy’s Famous BBQ’d Pork Ribs, Sweet Potato Wedges with Creamy Ketchup, Classic Coleslaw

Dessert:
Apple Fried Pies with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Sounds good, right?  I was especially pumped about Andy’s ribs (he’s discovered a new variation on his classic recipe and his BBQ’d pork ribs are now better than ever!) and the fried pies, which were my brother’s favourite snack when we were little.

We set a bright and colourful table for our very first Mi Casa-Su Casa Family Fun Lunch

We set a bright and colourful table for our very first Mi Casa-Su Casa Family Fun Lunch

But, despite all the positivity about the menu and how much we were looking forward to hosting such a fun and adventurous group, the whole meal almost fell apart… more than once.  If something could go wrong on Sunday, it did.

We woke up to a bright and beautiful Sunday morning, which was lucky because I was planning to serve the nibbles and cocktails on arrival outside in the park directly next to our building.

But, before we’d even gotten out of bed, I realised that the apartment was eerily quiet.  No whir of the fan or hum of the fridge.  Because we had no power.  Eight people coming for lunch.  No electricity.  There went my plans to provide homemade bread for the starter course (I needed to do the bread in our bread maker because the oven was going to be full of sweet potatoes and cheese puffs.)  No worries though, we’d just pop down to the grocery store and serve a store-bought baguette.  Crisis averted.

Then, around 2.5 hours later, our power came back on and I started prepping in earnest.  I got the sweet potato wedges (which had to be baked in two batches) all ready for the oven… which had suddenly decided not to work.  I thought I’d been pre-heating the oven, but all I’d really done was give the knobs a futile turn, because the oven wasn’t working.  I’ll admit to a minor freak out at this point.  I flounced off to the couch and let Andy fiddle with the oven while I muttered to myself about plans to make sweet potato mash instead of wedges.  Then, suddenly, Andy shouted in triumph!  He’d fixed the oven! (I still don’t know what went wrong… I’d rather not know.)

Corn and Cheddar Chower for a starter at the Family Fun Lunch

Corn and Cheddar Chower for a starter at the Family Fun Lunch

The rest of the morning went smoothly.  We got the ribs out of the marinade and ready for the grill.  The fried pies were assembled and fried with no dramas.  We were at a great point to stop, rest and eat our own lunch before our lovely guests arrived.  No sooner had I sat down with a bowl of brown rice and tuna when… there was a knock on our door.  Andy and I stared at each other in total silence.  I whispered “I swear, that’s not them.  I swear, I said 1pm.  I swear….”, trailing off as I realised that I probably didn’t say 1pm.  I probably said 12pm.

Andy stood up and looked out the peep hole and said, “Well, it IS them.”  He was so calm. I, of course, was a flaming wreck.  No makeup.  Not properly dressed.  Nothing to feed the guests yet.  And, the worst bit of all, knowing full-well that it was entirely my own fault.  I’m going to go ahead and blame this one on Pregnancy-Brain.  Lately I’ve been saying things, then totally forgetting whether I’d actually said them.  This was, to date, my biggest Pregnancy-Brain screw up.  So, while Andy greeted our guests I was in our bedroom, frantically putting on mascara and eyebrow pencil whilst shouting apologies out to the living room and thinking “This is it… no one will ever come to my house for a meal again.  Ever.”  It wasn’t my finest moment as a host.

Luckily for me our guests for the day were over-the-top delightful and understanding.  They simply headed out to the park a few minutes early and allowed me the time to try to compose myself.  I immediately switched gears and got the cheese puffs in the oven, brought their cocktails out right away and generally tried not to look as rattled and flustered as I was.  I’m sure I failed on that count, but they let me off the hook.

Things seemed to go better after that.  We got the soup ready to go, put the ribs on the BBQ to heat up and brought everyone inside for the meal.  It was a joy to cook for such well-behaved children, although I was nervous as one of the small guests informed me that she’d be giving me marks!  I think I passed… :)

The starter went out.  I began getting the components of the main course organised in the kitchen.  Smooth sailing.  Until Andy walked in from the balcony to inform me “The barbie ran out of gas.”  Half way through the second batch of ribs, we’d run out of gas.  At this point, I really really really wished I was allowed to have a glass of wine.  Really.  But it was actually ok.  The ribs were already cooked, we were just warming them up and getting a bit of a char on them.  So we simply left the lid of the BBQ closed to conserve the heat and hoped for the best.  The ribs turned out beautifully and there wasn’t a single one left at the end of the meal!

Andy's Famous BBQ'd Pork Ribs... the meat just fell off the bone.

Andy’s Famous BBQ’d Pork Ribs… the meat just fell off the bone.

The main course went out.  The desserts, which, thank Christ, were already cooked and ready, went out.  We got the kitchen cleaned and then joined our lovely guests for a chat to relax and get to know them.  We were SO lucky to have such laid-back diners for this meal.

When the guests left I felt both exhilarated (We’d done it!  Despite all the odds, we’d put out a fun and delicious meal!) and exhausted (Whhhhhyyy???)  Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a nap, which I promptly took.

Really, most of the disasters last Sunday were out of our hands.  Ok, I shouldn’t have forgotten what time I said that the meal would begin, but otherwise there wasn’t much I could do about the events of the day.  These things happen.  We’ve opened our home to people to come and enjoy food and friends… things are bound to go wrong once in a while.  And, as I said to Andy after the BBQ conked out, “For God’s sake… the blog post practically writes itself!”

 

Did you miss me?

So, I think I officially qualify as the World’s Worst Blogger.  I haven’t written here since November.  Ouch.  That’s just harsh.  And kind of sad as I LOVE my little blog and all the inspiring friends I’ve made through this space.

The past few months have been pretty crazy.  I started a new job.  Quit the new job (long story… it wasn’t the right place for me right now.  I’m VERY happy about the change.)  Moved from one side of my sparkling beautiful city to the other.  Hosted lots of dinners, both for Mi Casa-Su Casa and just for random Wednesday nights with friends.  And… well…

I got pregnant!  Hurrah!  Being pregnant is the most fun EVER, but combined with a new job, a house move and a busy social life, it can also be very draining.  And that’s literally my only excuse for not posting here more often.  But, since things have settled down a bit now, I’m hoping to be back to blogging far more often.  And I’ve got LOTS to tell you about!

In my absence from this space we hosted a Mexican fiesta dinner that was one of the most fun, and most delicious, dinners yet!  We had a hilarious, highly entertaining and hungry group of diners who tucked in to shrimp ceviche (which Andy had to taste-test for me since I can’t eat raw shrimp… sad), carnitas and a variety of salsas and a tres leches cake for dessert.  We had a blast!

The table is set for our first Mexican fiesta at Mi Casa-Su Casa!

Homemade guacamole, roasted vegetable salsa and grilled corn ensalada for our Mexican meal.

Tres Leches cake made from a recipe given to me by the Spanish teacher (and great friend of the family) at my father’s school. It’s stellar!

Our most recent dinner was something very different for Mi Casa-Su Casa.  I had a new sous chef!  Katie, the host of Local Sprouts, stepped in when Andy wasn’t available for the evening.  A fellow American and lover of all things food, community and fun, Katie lent a New England flair to our typically Southern style  meals.  The menu was a combo of her Northern US roots and my Southern US food.  If they’d had food this good in the 1800’s, I bet the Civil War could have been avoided!

Sadly, I have NO pictures from that night (we were really busy in the kitchen and usually Andy is the one who remembers to get some snaps) but the menu was:

Nibbles and cocktails on arrival: Old South Cheese Straws and Spiked Sweet Tea
Starter: Cream of Mushroom and Tarragon Soup with homemade bread
Main: Pork Chops smothered with Mushroom and Parmesan Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes with Apples, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Gravy
Dessert: Bill’s Banana Puddin’ Pie

I had a blast working with Katie and hope to get a chance to do that again!  I’m sure Andy wouldn’t mind another night off from washing piles of dishes!  

And now… it’s your turn to get in on the fun!  We’ve got three MCSC dinners scheduled for the next two months.  Details are:

14 April at 1pm- Family Fun Sunday Lunch!  Bring the kids!  We’re doing a menu of family-friendly favourites for a group of parents with kids who like to eat!  Only 2 seats left!

27 April at 7pm- Almost-Cinco-de-Mayo-Fiesta!  Ok, it’s not QUITE Cinco de Mayo, but it’s close!  We’re doing another Mexican menu so plan to bring your sombreros!  6 seats left.

25 May at 7pm- Old School Southern Menu!  We’re going back to our roots with a menu full of family favourite recipes from the Deep South.  10 seats left.

I really hope to see some of y’all at these upcoming dinners.  And in the meantime, how about a recipe for the amazing Tres Leches Cake from my friend Michelle?

Tres Leches Cake (serves 8-10)

For the cake: 
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

For the Tres Leches Syrup:
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp light rum (or 2 Tbsp.brandy and nutmeg is Michele’s version)

Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.

Generously butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

For the cake:

Beat 3/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder.

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, adding the cream of tartar after 20 seconds. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm, but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture. Pour this batter into the buttered baking dish.

Bake the cake until it feels firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 35 to 45 minutes (check your cake after about 25 minutes as mine cooked more quickly.)

Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Unmold unto a large, deep platter. Pierce the cake all over with a fork, taking care to not tear it up.

For the milk syrup:

Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream, vanilla and rum in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended. Pour the syrup over the cake, spooning the overflow back on top, until it is all absorbed.

You can serve the cake as it is, or you can go a little crazy and top the cake with a layer of sweetened whipped cream and some fruit salsa, which is what we did at Mi Casa-Su Casa.