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.

We’re still here!

Hi everyone!  I’m so sorry about the lengthy absence.  I’ve started a new full-time job and I have been finding it hard to keep up with work, friends, family, Mi Casa-Su Casa dinners AND the blog.  But, I’m settling into the job now so I will be back to frequent postings again in no time!

And, while I was away from here, I was still busy behind the scenes!  We’ve hosted two more Mi Casa-Su Casa dinners in the past month.  They were both tons of fun with lots of good food and great people!

First up was a New England themed dinner.  As a kid I spent every summer up in New England visiting my grandparents.  I took all of my childhood memories (and a few of grandma’s recipes!) and put them into a special dinner for our guests.  Here are a few shots from the night.

For our New England themed dinner we used newspapers to cover the table… a classic clam bake trick!

Our starter… Ethel’s Corn Chowder! Made from my grandmother’s recipe, this soup is incredible!

A traditional New England clam bake! Prawns, mussels, clams, sausages, potatoes and corn.

Another homage to my grandmother and the blueberry bushes that grew in her yard… blueberry poundcake with maple whipped cream and blueberry compote.

And the second dinner that we hosted was…. THANKSGIVING!  We had a fantastic group of enthusiastic diners all keen to try some All-American classics.  Thanksgiving is my all time favourite holiday and it was a joy to share the day with some wonderful new Aussie friends.  We didn’t get as many pictures of Thanksgiving dinner… we were too busy having fun with our guests!

The table is set for our Thanksgiving dinner! All of the decorations were mailed over by my mom so we’d have a well-dressed table.

We cooked our turkey on the new Weber Q! I brined it for 6 hours and then rubbed it with seasoned butter. It was the best turkey I’ve ever tasted!

A very happy group of Pilgrims and Native Americans! HUGE thanks to Katie Hatch (a hugely supportive and enthusiastic fellow American) for making the hats for all our guest! Aren’t they a gorgeous group???

Looks like fun, huh?  It really has been!

We’re taking the Christmas season off and heading to New Zealand for a few weeks.  We’ll be back in the new year with some delicious new meals!

Our first Mi Casa-Su Casa dinner in 2013 will be on Saturday, 12 January.  We’re going to do a Mexican themed dinner!  It’ll be perfect food for a hot summer evening, so let’s hope the Sydney weather delivers!

After that we’ll be having an anti-Valentine’s Day dinner on Saturday, 16 February.  I’m thinking big servings of food that you’d NEVER order on a date (pork ribs, perhaps??)

If you’d like to book in for either of these dates, email me at sarahkate@micasa-sucasa.com.au and let me know!  I hope to see you soon!

Opening night!

Hurrah!  After two very successful and fun preview nights, we felt more than ready for our official Mi Casa-Su Casa Opening Night.  When I announced the date of our Opening Night, the meal booked out in less than 24 hours.  I was overwhelmed and really looking forward to launching this venture with a houseful of brave and adventurous guests.

I’d just received a shipment of colourful and bright napkins from the USA, so I set a happy and vibrant table to match.  Bright yellow flowers and cobalt blue water glasses seemed perfect with the warm Sydney-spring breeze that was blowing in from our balcony.  We were ready!

A bright and colourful table is set for a fun evening!

Aren’t these napkins cool? Straight from America!

Menu planning for Opening Night was so much fun!  I veered away from old-school Southern food a bit to include a few of our personal favourite modern American foods.  And, since it’s football season (American football!  Gridiron!) at home, I got really excited about adding buffalo chicken tenders to the menu.  At this time of year in the States, we’d be rocking up to a different bar every weekend to sip beer, watch football and eat finger-lickin’ buffalo chicken wings.  It’s an all-American autumn tradition, and I was so excited to share that flavour of home with our guests.

Frying up the chicken tenders for the first course.

I brought this Buffalo flavoured Tabasco home with me from the States in August… I think it was too spicy for the guests on Opening Night!

The starter… buffalo chicken tenders with a celery and blue cheese salad.

Our main course was a Southern-style classic of pulled pork shoulder with homemade BBQ sauce.  The pork was cooked for more than 8 hours, until it basically melted into a massive pile of porky strands.  I served the pork with a hash of smoky chipotle black beans and roasted sweet potatoes, a side of tangy and creamy coleslaw with buttermilk dressing and crunchy rounds of skillet cornbread to mop up all the saucy goodness.

Coleslaw with buttermilk dressing.

It’s not the prettiest plate of food, but the pulled pork with homemade BBQ sauce was tasty!

I rounded out the meal with my new favourite dessert… sour cream and blueberry pie with a pecan praline topping.  A perfect mix of creamy and fruity and crunchy, this pie seemed very popular with the guests and even Andy (who is not a dessert lover) gobbled up a piece once we’d served the guests!

Plating up the blueberry and sour cream pie with pecan praline topping for dessert.

After dessert, we poured ourselves a couple of well-deserved glassed of wine and joined the guests at the table for a chat.  Such nice people!  One of the reasons we’ve started this supper club is to meet new people who share our love of good food, and we certainly had a tableful of friendly, funny diners!

As of right now, we’re fully booked until the new year.  But, don’t worry!  I’ll start organising some January and February dinners soon.  If you’re interested, drop me an email at sarahkate@micasa-sucasa.com.au and I’ll add you to a list.  We’d love to have you!

And, if you can’t wait until the new year, here’s the recipe for the coleslaw with buttermilk dressing to keep you going.  It’s picnic season in Sydney and I promise you’ll be very popular if you bring this coleslaw to your next gathering!

Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 green cabbage, finely chopped into ribbons
1/2 purple cabbage, finely chopped into ribbons
2 carrots, peeled into thin ribbons (use a vegetable peeler or a mandoline)
3 spring onions, finely chopped

For the dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tbs mayo
2 tbs Dijion mustard
salt and pepper

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a clean jar and shake well.  You might need to stir it up with a fork as well in order to incorporate all the sour cream.

Place all the vegetables in a large bowl that leaves you plenty of room to toss the veg with the dressing.

About 30 minutes before serving, toss the dressing with the veg.  Serve cold or at room temp in a pretty bowl.

Show time!

So, after all the prep I did to get ready for the second Mi Casa-Su Casa preview dinner with the group of bloggers… it was game time!  At promptly 6.3opm on Saturday there was a knock on the door!  The bloggers were here!  The bloggers were here!

The table is laid and the bloggers are arriving!

We enjoyed a lovely little half hour of cocktails and chatter and travel stories and the occasional flash from a camera.  Then it was time to eat.

I’ll tell you right now, I’ve never fed a table full of more enthusiastic or complimentary eaters.  It was a pleasure to bring each new course to the table.  To share our inspiration and the history behind each dish.  And to watch as our guests tucked into the food with gusto.  Everyone should derive as much joy from eating as food bloggers do.  The world would be a happier place.

The first course… Jethel’s baked trout with bacon and fennel seed potato salad.

Getting the main course ready was a bit of a drama as it took me far too long to get the vegetable oil properly hot for frying the chicken fried steaks.  I spent a few minutes silently freaking out in the kitchen and tensely whispering to Andy that “This isn’t working.  It’s not working.  WHY won’t it work??” but then… it worked.  And the oil got hot enough.  And the steaks cooked quickly and well.  And not one of our guests could tell that there had even been a slight hiccup.  We just rolled right on.

After a momentary freak out, the chicken fried steaks are frying beautifully!

At about 9.30pm, after the main courses went out, but before we began heating up the components of the dessert, I poured myself my first glass of wine of the evening and took a deep breath.  Andy was right next to me in the kitchen and we were silent.  All I could hear was the laughter and happy voices of our guests, the click of knives and forks on plates and the refilling of wine glasses.  Forgive me for seeming melodramatic, but it was like a symphony to me.  I looked up at Andy and I said, “That’s it.  That sound, the happy sound of well-fed people, that’s why I want to do this.  That’s what this is all about.”  Having people over for dinner is a lot of work and we’re not making money doing this.  For me, it’s all about the rush I get from feeding people.

Plating up the strawberry shortcake. I’m seriously concentrating, huh??

After dinner Andy and I joined our guests at the table and chatted and laughed and told stories for over an hour.  It was the perfect end to our evening.  I think everyone should have a group of food bloggers over for dinner.  It will give you a soaring sense of accomplishment.

I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of new and exciting people through this venture of ours.  And, if you’ve already booked in for one of our meals… I can’t wait to meet YOU!