Monday, December 9, 2013

My Night to Cook

When my brother and I were little, my mom started a tradition with us called "My Night to Cook." Her intention was to not only to teach us to cook and enjoy the process of entertaining, but also to appreciate the time and effort that goes into cooking. I was a pretty picky eater, so it taught me to be polite and eat, or at least try, the food that someone had taken the time to prepare for me and not just turn up my nose at it. We were taught the entire process of planning a meal from buying the groceries, setting the table, cooking the food to even inviting guests. Lastly, if we did the planning and cooking, Mom and Dad did the dishes! This little tradition turned into a great love for cooking and entertaining for both me and Graeme. We still have our "Night to Cook" every now and then and our friends and family sometimes have friendly arguments over who gets to be the guests for the evening!

Tonight I had "My Night to Cook" and my guests were a best friend of mine, Karla and her husband Guy. We started the night with a simple but very tasty appetizer and a cocktail that is definitely one of my new favorites! For the appetizer, I made these crisps that I saw in the latest issue of Food Network Magazine. Buy a package of wonton wrappers (usually in the refrigerator section of the grocery store) and cut out shapes using a cookie cutter. I cut out little Christmas trees. Next, lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Then brush them with pesto and sprinkle with salt. Feel free to make your own pesto, but I was trying to cut back on time, so I bought a pre-made kind at Fresh Market. Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes. Let cool slightly and then transfer to a serving dish. I served them on a platter with marinated mozzarella balls and peppadew peppers. They were delicious! I waited too late to take a picture and most of them had been gobbled up already. 

For the cocktail, I started with a simple syrup infused with fresh sage. Add 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Throw in a bundle or two of fresh sage leaves and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Take the sage leaves out and add the juice of 1/2 a lemon to the syrup. Refrigerate the syrup until it's time to use it. In a champagne flute, add 3 blackberries. Muddle slightly to break them up and release some of the juices. Pour in a few tablespoons of the sage infused syrup, then top it off with champagne. Add a sage leave for garnish, then enjoy!

For the main course, we had white French onion soup from the Heart and Soul cookbook. Each bowl was topped with a piece of toast covered in melted Gruyere cheese and accompanied by a small green salad. The salad was just my "go to" salad made up of lettuce, parmesan cheese and a lemon vinaigrette that consists of fresh lemon juice, dijon mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. 

For dessert, I made ice cream sandwiches with chocolate chunk cookies (Barefoot Contessa's recipe) and peppermint bark ice cream. It was kind of fun to eat dessert with our hands and it was totally delish! I have to say, I came up with the best idea for making the ice cream look nice and uniform. I let it get a bit soft in it's container and then dumped it all out into a parchment lined 13x9 casserole dish. I spread it out so that it filled the whole dish and was smooth across the top and then re-froze it. Once it was frozen, I pulled the parchment out of the dish and laid it on the counter. I used a round biscuit cutter to cut circles out of the ice cream slab and place them between the cookies. It was sooo easy and made the sandwiches look so nice and professional!

For the table setting, we used red and white dishes, plaid Christmas napkins, jingle bell napkin rings. Our gingerbread houses made perfect centerpieces! 

What a fun night with good friends and good food!


  1. OH WOW!! I remember when I was there and you had your night to cook! Your selections sure have changed from 15 years ago!! =) That all looks AMAZING!!

  2. That's so neat that you were there for one my nights to cook! Yes, I am sure my selections are very different nowadays! :)