Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spicy Bisque To Warm You On A Cold Night

At a recent farmer's market, I came across this delicious soup recipe. The ginger and cayenne pepper make this soup a little spicy but so good on a cold fall night. Enjoy!

Spicy Winter Squash Bisque

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Medium Onion, coarsely chopped

2 Tbsps of Chopped Fresh Ginger

1 Medium Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed

1 3/4 Cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth

1 Cup of Coconut Milk

2 Tbsps of Sugar

1/4 Tsp of Salt

1/4 Tsp of Cayenne Pepper

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger and cayenne pepper, saute 5 to 7 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in squash and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer 3o minutes or until squash is tender. Add coconut milk, sugar, and salt; cook five minutes more. Process mixture in batches in a blender. Serves six.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cake Wreck No More

For those of you looking to avoid a "cake wreck"- Cuisipro's Food Decorating Pen is a must have tool. This plunger-style pen makes writing and decorating so easy and works well with icing, honey, sauces or chocolate. From cupcakes to cookies, it comes with two tip sizes and is dishwasher friendly. All you do is pull back to fill and squeeze to decorate for a consistent, professional look every time. Goodbye messy icing bags.

Cuisipro Food Decorating Pen is available online at amazon.ca or from your local kitchen store. Retails for $9.99.

Looking for a laugh, check out
http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/. Warning, it is addictive.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's The Great White Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

I love decorating my home for the fall season. Baskets of assorted gourds and pumpkins, candle holders adorned with colorful candy corn and beautiful orange Chinese lantern flowers are a few of my favorites.

This year, I plan on going a little more contemporary by decorating with white pumpkins. I love the simple look of a white pumpkin on a black stand with black stenciling. A few grouped together would make quite a statement and look fabulous on a fireplace mantle. Plus, for under $5 a pumpkin, it is a cost effective way to decorate for the fall season.

Pumpkins available at your local grocery store.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Has Arrived. Welcome Pumpkins.

Fall has arrived and nothing says autumn like bright orange pumpkins!

For your next special dinner, these stuffed baby pumpkins make an impressive side dish to a roast turkey, chicken or ham.

Plus they are so colorful and festive that they are certain to impress your guests.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

4 baby pumpkins
1/6 cup vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sage leaves, dried
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup bread crumbs, whole wheat
1/8 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
1/6 cup celery -- finely chopped
1/8 cup apricots, dried -- chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes, grated
Soy sauce, low sodium to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the top 1/2 inch of each pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Bake pumpkins for 15 minutes.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat stock or water to simmering until onions are softened but not browned. Add garlic, sage, thyme, and bread crumbs. Cook, stirring, 1 minute, then remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Lightly fill pumpkins with stuffing. (Any remaining stuffing may be baked separately in a lightly oiled baking dish.) Bake for 15 minutes, or until stuffing is lightly browned and heated through. Be careful not to overbake the pumpkins, because they will split.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Keeping Music on the Menu

Two things that can make or break a great party are music and lighting. The same can be said for a dinner party. Beyond organizing a menu, dressing your table and lighting some candles, background music plays a key role in setting the mood. Here are a few of my favorites CDs which have received a lot of airtime over the years:

Big Night Soundtrack – a great mix of Italian favorites perfect for your next pasta dinner. Louis Prima’s voice is magical.

Rendezvous A Paris – A Starbucks branded CD that would compliment your next Beef Bourguignon perfectly.

Buena Vista Social Club – I literally wore this CD out. So good. The music tempo is ideal for a dinner party and keeps your party lively without being raucous.

Share your favourite dinner party music by clicking “Comments” at the bottom of the post.

All CDs available on Amazon.ca.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bringing New Meaning to "Designer Label"

Want to take your next set of favors or homemade goodies from drab to fab?
Check out Beau-Coup’s designer labels. Beautiful, simple designs that would work for a wedding, baby shower or birthday. I love the silhouette series - both modern and fresh - I am just thinking of things I could stick them to! Plus, at $7 per sheet, they are a reasonably priced way to dress up an item.

Check them out at http://www.beau-coup.com/personalized-designer-labels.htm. $7 per sheet. Shipping and handling extra.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

We're Back With Flourless Chocolate Cake

After a summer hiatus, The Hostess Shop blog is back full force. Stay tuned all fall for great recipes, cool gadgets and party tips. Comments are welcome and forwards encouraged.

To kick things off, a recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake. So good and so easy, it is always a crowd pleaser. Served at room temperature, it is delish with vanilla ice cream and raspberries. Plus it is a great dessert recipe for all of those wheat intolerant friends. Bon appetit.

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

4 oz squares semisweet chocolate, chopped
(dark chocolate works too - just use good quality!)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch round cake pan, and dust with cocoa powder.


In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chocolate and butter (No double broiler? No problem. Use a low heat and melt it slowly in a small pot directly on the burner). Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slices can also be reheated for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Good Things Come In Small Packages

Notice how you can shrink anything and the cute factor immediately goes up? It’s true - we are obsessed with all things small and food is no exception. The Slider Mini-Burger Tool Set from Sur La Table is sure to have your guests "oohhing" and "aahhing" as you serve mini-burgers at your next outdoor soiree. The options are endless from beef to turkey to lamb or salmon burgers. There would be something for everyone including the kids who would love their manageable size!

Available online at Sur La Table (
www.surlatable.com). Slider Mini-Burger Tool Set $44.96 US.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Get Your Pimms On



The sun is shining and patios all over the city are coming to life with new garden furniture, plants and summer cocktails! I have long been a fan of Pimms No. 1 Cup, a gin-based British beverage infused with spice and citrus. Traditionally served with sparkling lemonade and garnished with orange, cucumber, apples and lemons, it is refreshing, crisp and so very civilized. To add to the beverage’s allure, it has been produced since 1823 from a recipe that is so secret, it is kept under lock and key with only seven people to have ever known its true ingredients! Join me in making 2009 the summer of Pimms with these recipes. Cheers!

Traditional Pimms
1 measure of Pimms
2 measures of lemonade
1 slice of lemon1 slice of Cucumber1 slice of Apple
1 slice of Orange
Fresh Mint

Pimms and Ginger
1 measure of Pimms
3 measures of Ginger ale
1 slice of lemon
1 slice of Cucumber
1 slice of Apple
Fresh Mint

Pim Pom
2 measures Pimm
3 measures Pomegranate Juice

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sensational Strawberries


With strawberries popping up all over the city in droves (and at excellent prices), why not try making stuffed strawberries for your next function. Each one is like a mini-strawberry cheesecake and sure to be enjoyed by your guests. The recipe first appeared in Martha Stewart a few years back but this is a timeless dessert perfect for the dessert buffet.

Stuffed Strawberries
- Whip 6 ounces of room-temperature cream cheese on medium speed until slightly fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar.
- Trim tops and bottoms of 12 strawberries to level.
- Use a small melon baller to scoop out tops.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip with cream cheese mixture; pipe into berries until it brims over tops.
- Toast 1/4 cup sliced almonds in a 350 degrees oven until golden-brown, 3 to 6 minutes; arrange slices over filling.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

For A Stylish Easter

Looking for the perfect Easter d├ęcor that says Spring but with a stylish twist? Then revert back to your childhood crafting days and dip some eggs to create pretty pastel votive candles. These make a great centerpiece all clustered together or a lovely hostess gift.

Material:
- Egg shells as many as you would like
- Egg cups to use as the base
- Food coloring
- Egg carton
- Warm and hot wax or tealight candles

Instructions:
- Make a hole in the top of each egg with a pin; enlarge the holes, and pour out the yolks;
- Clean shells;
- Then dye them with food coloring (follow package directions).
- Nestle shells in a carton.
- Cut wire-core wicks to 4 inches long, flatten one end, and fasten in shell with warm wax.
- Using a funnel, fill shells with hot wax (tinted with dye pellets). Let the wax cool.
Trim the wicks, and light.

An alternative is to use tealight candles instead of using pure wax. You would need to make the egg holes large enough so that you can insert the tealight candles.

Enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stamp Out The Competition



Just think how fabulous it would look the next time you are packaging up one of your prized pies to attach a customized gift tag adorned with your own stylish stamp?

Sweet Papery has a chic line-up of personalized stamps that would make great gifts. Ranging from trendy monogrammed stamps to “From the Kitchen Of” - I know hostesses everywhere would love one. I sure would.

Available online at Sweet Papery (
www.sweetpapery.com).

Ranging from $35 to $45.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Non-Floral Centrepieces with Household Items

Spring is just around the corner and tulip bunches are making there way onto dining tables all around the country. To change things up, try a non-floral centrepiece for your next event. Most often, these centrepieces can be created from existing household items and will enhance your theme with little effort or money.

Take your favourite glass bowl or vase and fill it with lemons and limes or some bright red apples.

For an Italian theme, fill a basket with red, green and yellow tomatoes.

Use a cake stand to display candles of varied heights with cherry blossom cuttings or fall leaves scattered amongst the base of the candles. Or use that same cake stand and pile it up with shells for a beach theme.

For a movie/games night, fill vases with popped popcorn, M&M's and licorice or layer a number of candies.

Be creative, think outside the box and have fun!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Giving New Life To The Wedding Cupcake Tree


With wedding season upon us, no doubt some of you are either planning your big day or showers for friends who are knee deep in wedding magazines. As you scour the net for fresh ideas, consider these fabulous cupcake wrappers for your next event. While cupcakes have been a very popular alternative to the traditional wedding cake, they can now look that much prettier with laser-cut cupcake wrappers. Available in a variety of colors and patterns, the wrapper easily slips over your cupcake to help create a beautiful cupcake tree or a unique favour at individual place settings.

Available at Estilo Weddings (
www.estiloweddings.com). They come in packs of 12 for $12.50 or packs of 50 for $48.50 plus shipping.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sip It With Flowers


Valentines Day is around the corner and what better way to celebrate then with a little champagne. Only this time, make it even more special and sip it with flowers. That’s right, forget the overpriced red roses and instead, drop a flowering hibiscus into your date’s drink. All you need to do is pour a glass of champagne and add one Wild Hibiscus Flower. The flower will sit on the bottom of your glass and as the bubbles stream off, your flower will open. Pop it into your mouth and you can enjoy its raspberry and rhubarb taste. So pretty, romantic and tasty.

Available at Whole Foods and Gourmet Warehouse. Priced between $12 and $14 for a jar of 11 flowers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gourmet Dinner In A Bottle

It’s Monday night and you have offered to have friends over for dinner. After a long day at work and little time to prep a truly gourmet dinner, what is a hostess to do? Crack open a bottle of Fischer and Wieser’s Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and wait for the compliments to pour in. This smoky, fruit-forward sauce is delicious with pork or chicken.

I love to bake a pork tenderloin lightly salted for 45 to 50 minutes at 325 degrees, slice it and arrange it on a plate in a semi circle. Pour the sauce on top and serve with roasted baby potatoes and a spinach salad. You will look like you have slaved all day and still have enough energy to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine.

Fischer and Wieser’s Roasted Raspberry and Chipotle Sauce is available at Gourmet Warehouse (
www.gourmetwarehouse.ca) for $7.99 per bottle.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Skip the Line at Vij's with To Go Options





Vij’s packaged meals are an easy way to entertain at home with little fuss. Pick up a couple of curries, cook some basmati rice in half coconut milk/half water and serve a green salad topped with mangos and fresh mint. One of my favs is the Raw Sugar, Garlic & Garam Masala Beef Curry. $10.50 for a package that serves two. Sure beats standing in line for a table.

To sweeten the deal, Edible BC in Granville Island is holding their annual January Winter Sale with everything at their retail store marked down 15-25%! The sale will run from January 25th - 31st. Some of the fabulous products that you will find on sale include Vij’s gourmet take-out meals. Yummy made easy!

www.edible-britishcolumbia.com/store/retail-store

www.vijsrangoli.ca/market/index.html

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Evite is so 2008

Who doesn’t love receiving mail? No, I don’t mean those pesky credit card bills but the kind of envelope that you know contains an invitation for some fabulous party. For 2009, let’s say goodbye to those electronic invitations and hello to VistaPrint. I have been a huge fan of this site for over three years now with its product selection, flexibility and price point. Where else can you custom design one hundred glossy postcard-style invitations for less than $30?

Order from them once and you will receive all kinds of freebies by email from T-shirts to personalized note cards.

So for all of you who have friends getting married, baby showers to throw, milestone birthdays to host, check out VistaPrint for your invitation needs.

www.vistaprint.ca

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Award-Winning Cheese Pleaser


The holidays are over and our pocketbooks are bare. January is the month to hunker down and enjoy some time at home and there is nothing I like more then a nice glass of wine, an assortment of cheeses and a few friends to share it with.

If you are off your local deli to pick up some supplies for the weekend, you will not regret picking up some La Sauvagine. La Sauvagine is a washed-rind cheese from La Fromagerie Alexis de Portneuf in Saint-Raymond de Portneuf, Quebec. This award-winning cheese is smooth like butter with a rustic taste. Bring it to room temperature and it will maintain its shape and melt in your mouth. I stumbled upon it completely by accident and now pitch it to fellow shoppers at the cheese counter.

Available at Urban Fare.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year!


I hope you had a fantastic holiday season and rung in the new year in style. If you were lucky, your stocking was full of all sorts of items to help you entertain all year round.

One such item I was pleased to receive was the Cuisipro Ice Cream Scoop and Stack. This kitchen tool cuts cylinder shape blocks of ice cream that can be stacked on a cone or used for creative dessert presentation. Just think how fabulous you could make a scoop of coffee ice cream look adorned with three chocolate covered espresso beans on a small white plate. Simple, delicious and so easy.

Available in green and pink, it's dishwasher safe and can be found under $20 at most kitchen shops.