An on-the-fly dinner for guests: fresh asparagus pasta with sun dried tomatoes and mini lime cheesecakes

I enjoy stressing myself out.

Last Wednesday night I invited my former roommate Alex over for a “lets catch up on each others lives and gossip shamelessly” sesh.  Obviously dinner was to be included.  I don’t have guests over any other way.

In hindsight, I probably should have realized that weekday evening dinners are a little chaotic.  Throw in a guest, an after work grocery shop via bike and backpack and my great need to make an extravagant, three-course meal, and you have a potential meltdown on your hands.

But not tonight.

I hope you are partially impressed by the fact that this meal was completely prepared within an under-two-hour time span.  FYI: that includes the grocery store trip and a painful, construction filled bike commute.

#awesome

For the main course,  a spaghetti dish I found on tastespotting, made with fresh pasta (ever since I was a child I’ve had a unparalleled love of uncooked, fresh pasta… much pre-dinner snacking occurred), peas, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes.  For someone who had never tried the latter two ingredients before, this was a make-it-or-break-it meal for me.  The chopped asparagus tasted like the stalks of broccoli and the sun-dried tomatoes were like slabs of dried ketchup.  This may sound gross, but I actually enjoyed it profusely.

Leftover goat cheese also made an appearance.  Happiness ensued.

If anything, the dessert was the most chaotic part of this meal.

Time was of the ultimate importance, which is why I chose to make these no-bake cheesecakes.  The recipe, which I adapted ever so slightly from Canadian Living, suggested I refrigerate everything for long periods of time.

Translation: if you are short on time, just pop everything in the freezer for an hour.  Voila, a dessert prepared and set in the blink of an eye.  Add some poorly cut lime slices and peel, and you have the cutest little cheesecakes you’ve ever seen.

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Penne with Sweet Peppers and Two Cheeses (& Dinner Party Part II)

Intro note: It is an extremely bad idea to type a post on your food blog right before dinner.  Going to eat ice cream after this.

Last week, myself and a few of my fabulous co-workers trekked over to our local Value Village in search of an afternoon treasure hunt.  Other than finding a fantastic red zig-zag blazer, I was disappointed in the clothing segment of the hunt, and thought that my Value Village purchases would remain minimal.  Oh how wrong I was.  Waiting for my friends to finish trying on their finds, I started eyeing up the book section of the store.  Of course, I found the cookbooks, and OF COURSE I bought vintage Canadian Living cookbooks.

Here is my count so far:
Canadian Living cookbooks: 4
Everyday Favourites
Make it Tonight: Quick, Simple and Healthy Family Meals
The Canadian Living Rush Hour Cookbook circa 1989
Canadian Living’s Family Cookbook circa 1995

The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook? I AM COMING FOR YOU.  As you can see, I am clearly out-of-control, and my addiction will soon lead to my own chubby demise (this as I now eat ice cream for dinner, gosh).

Deciding what to make for my dinner party’s main dish created this scene in my dining room (if you look closely you can see a sneak peek at what I made for dessert):


Anyways, I finally settled on a dish from the oldest of my cookbooks (the Rush Hour one).  This “Penne with Sweet Peppers and Two Cheeses” recipe (since CL wasn’t online in 1989, I can’t find the recipe through google – will post in Recipes tab!) looked simple enough and reinforced the reason why I love cheese so much.  The combination of swiss and parmesan was awesome, and peppers are slowly sneaking up to become one of my favourites foods (yes, a complete shocker I know, but they are just so good when they are soft!).  I was originally hesitant to make this dish, with the cookbook being published in 1989 and all, and with no picture being provided for my visual pleasure.  After much inner-conflict, however, I chose this recipe, and I am so glad I did!  Even more proof that Canadian Living recipes are timeless (but lets be realistic, does a good recipe ever lose credibility?).

Keep checking for my dessert post which will be coming out in the next few days!

Gord’s Dinner, Part Three: Chocolate Volcano Cake

BY FAR THE MOST DELICIOUS, DELICATE AND DIFFICULT THING I HAVE EVER MADE.  I am so proud.

I’ll keep this short and sweet.  In my mind, these chocolate volcano cakes are the Holy Grail of dessert and, being a self-proclaimed chocoholic, I knew I would go to extreme measures to ensure that they were completed perfectly.  The recipe was from Canadian Living, obviously, and the preparation instructions originally scared me to death.

Here are a few things I learned from these cakes/morsels from heaven:

1. How to separate the yolk from the egg white
1a. When you continuously blend egg whites, a heavenly, peaked mixture comes into existence.  I knew this happened, I have just never experienced the magic before.
2. These cakes are called volcano cakes for a reason.  One of them blew up as I tried to pick it up.  My counter consequently suffered a chocolate flash flood.
3. A set of six ramekin dishes for $9 is the best investment a girl can make.
3a. I need a second job to afford all the extra dishes I am buying to make my food plating a pretty process.
4. The picture below DOES NOT do this cake justice.  If I could include a scratch-and-eat feature on wordpress, I swear you would all love me.

Gord’s Dinner, Part One: Chickpea Tabbouleh Salad

(Eeeee, it has been a week since I last posted, apologies!)

……..

To celebrate the completion of my tofu challenge a few weeks ago, my good friend and fellow blogger Gord made me a delicious dinner of quinoa salad, gazpacho and creme brule (see a few posts back for the scrumptious results).  This meal started a pattern of what I now call “reward dinners,” where each of us cooks for the other when a challenge is completed.  Gord’s very first challenge was to make a pie from scratch, and the result was an amazing strawberry rhubarb pie, a dish whose tastes boggled my mind one afternoon after a long day in the office (I ate it in a record-breaking two minutes).  To honour the completion of his challenge, I knew I had to make Gord a dinner that was just as, if not more delicious than the dinner he made for me.

Knowing that Gord is way more into vegetables than I am, I knew this supper had to incorporate a fair share of legumes.  I also happen to know that Gord likes chickpeas.  With these two checkpoints in mind, I flipped through my Canadian Living Everyday Favourites cookbook, and found the perfect recipe: chickpea tabbouleh salad.  The salad is apparently a Lebanese delicacy, and used bulgur, something that I have been curious to cook with for sometime now.  Since I obviously didn’t know what bulgur was before making this recipe (I simply liked that it rhymed with “vulgur”), I have decided to include the Bulk Barn definition below, should anyone also be confused as to what this strange sounding food is:

Bulgur (noun) – bulgur is made from soft wheat kernels that have been cooked, dried and then cracked; thus “cooking” it is simply a matter of rehydration…

Now that we all know what bulgur is, let me just sum up this post by saying that the salad was great, with a lemon dressing and crunchy cucumber (even if there were a few too many vegetables for my liking).  The only thing I didn’t like were the tomatoes (raw tomatoes are my greatest enemy, next to tofu), but I simply included them for Gord’s benefit.  Alas, they added a gorgeous red colour, which I must admit to loving.

Stay tuned in the next few days as I post parts two and three of Gord’s dinner (appetizer and DESSERT).  It just gets better from here!!!