Ha… as I was dreaming up this blog post’s title, that phrase came to mind…”Company’s Coming for Dinner”. Remember the small coil bound cookbooks by that name that would be found on a turnstile in Canadian Tire of all places? The problem with cookbooks.. (with the exception of the Podleski sisters in MY experience) is that you usually only find one or two recipes you like and will re-use.. .and they just take up valuable real estate in your kitchen. So i Google, and Pinterest (that’s a verb now, didn’t you know?) and then I usually do my own thing based on what I’ve found.
This Blogpost is going to be one of recorded attempts and failures, and a note about going with what you know.. and sometimes.. the simplest is best… read on….
I may have mentioned it on this blog, I can’t remember.. but a few weeks ago we had invited a couple over for dinner to get to know them better. They’ve been coming to our church for likely almost 5 yrs now, and we’ve barely crossed paths, and we wanted to rectify that by sharing a meal and time together. I found out that one of them had food sensitivities to garlic, onion, spice… and for some reason i had a mental block. I mean…. I can cook without gluten, dairy.. i actually do it all the time unintentionally. But no garlic? onion? spice??
I dug through my cookbooks, and Pinterested.. and one idea came to me to try.. but i knew I had to test it before hand, not make our guests be the guinea pigs. I decided to try Chicken Cordon Bleu. I would pair it with some fresh cooked veg, a salad, and a side dish of wild rice.
I followed the recipe (almost) to a T. I added some (garlic free) mustard, and made sure the meat was also garlic free.
I followed the instructions i found on a few different sites, laying out plastic wrap, then raw thawed chicken breast, and then another piece of plastic (sorry for those of you who are non-plastic users… you may want to just roll past that) and rolled out the chicken to a nice thin 1/2″ or less.. then sprinkled with S&P, wiped on a little dijon (not enough IMHO) and then topped with Swiss and a really nice cut of thin ham (not enough). Rolled up in the plastic, and then refrigerated for about an hour. Next step was the flour/eggwash/breading.
I then unwrapped the little chicken logs, rolled in flour with a little S&P, eggwash, then Planko blended with some herbs & (too little) parmesan. Rinse & repeat for all 4. It was messy, a lot of work and dishes, but fun… Then baked in the oven at 350 for about 25-30 min.
Here they are plated with baked asparagus and wild rice.
they look amazing, right? But i found them to be … Blah. They needed some more.. zest, zing.. they were a little overcooked. Maybe a sharper cheese? More ham? i could have used more of each. Maybe more mustard? Or the nice sauce that was supposed to go over them, but it had all 3 of the “no-no’s in it.. onion, garlic and spice.
So.. Guillermo and I enjoyed this meal a couple nights before our guests came… when I instead bought a ham that I cooked in the oven with pineapple, and paired with a salad, bread, and oven roasted potatoes. I never took a photo.. but it was a hit… and pretty simple. Ha.. that’s what I get for trying complicated.. Sometimes it’s just the simple things that please. I need to remember that having company over doesn’t have to be complicated. That same meal, I made a large Pavlova (dinner plate sized Meringue) and topped with whip cream and a medley of berries for dessert. Again no photos, but it turned out pretty fantastic. This is the recipe that I (again, sort of) followed: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/388154061626894250/ and it looked “something” like this.. (stock photo from Food Network)
What I HAD tried to do previous to this.. (and failed miserably) was make my own little chocolate cups with frozen “ice muffins” which were meant to be filled with a chocolate mousse and whipped cream. that failed.. I ended up with a bowl of ruined melted chocolate.. Problem was I hadn’t allowed the “ice muffins” to completely freeze (impatience!) and the chocolate was too hot.. so the ice melted into the chocolate.. and wouldn’t stick long enough to make a chocolate cup. It was supposted to be EASY as per Tasty (sidebar: don’t you just LOVE Tasty’s easy recipe videos? If you haven’t discovered them, check out a few.. I follow them on FB, and always enjoy watching them for inspiration) .. but after my 2nd attempt a week later with solid frozen ice.. still not. If you’re interested.. here’s the directions: https://tasty.co/recipe/easy-ice-cube-chocolate-cups
So for the next couple that came for dinner a couple weeks later, we did a mushroom rice stir fry with green beans, paired with Kirkland Signature chicken breasts wrapped with asparagus, spinach & feta that I found ready to cook from Costco,
Meat is where i struggle. I second guess seasoning, cook times & temperatures.. and decided to give myself a break. I will tell you.. if you get a chance to try these from Costco, they’re actually quite fabulous.
and then made a 2 layer pudding dessert topped with whip cream and toffee pieces (incomplete dessert shown here with just the puddings. Dark Chocolate & English toffee. Yum… I actually made both with lactose free milk too. I kept it simple.
For the rice, we’ve been loving the nutty flavour and texture of wild rice.. this brand in particular. It takes a good 40-45 min to cook, but so worth it. If I know I’m using it in a recipe, I’ll often cook it the night before. Or do a larger batch, and freeze half. Best part of this bag? It velcros closed with a nice seal. Lately I’ve been cooking my rice in broth instead of water as well, especially when adding it to a stir fry like this.
so,no recipe here.. but this is what I did…
(remember, this was the second couple, no allergies or food intolerances here!)
EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and Butter in the pan, with fresh ground garlic. Then some onions, then a whole lot of mushrooms, and more butter.
Then, with the rice MOSTLY cooked ( a little undercooked)
dump it , toss it in the pan, and then follow with green beans, (put lid on quickly to hold in heat & moisture for about 5 minutes as rice continues to cook with the remaining broth and mushroom juice and beans begin to steam) followed with zucchini…. lid back on to finish cooking while the Zuke heats and slightly softens. Added in some sage and oregano, S& P.. and it turned out fabulous and so flavourful.
Another iteration I did recently had ground chicken in it.. another was meatless with lentils and water chestnuts.. that was actually my favourite.
So… moral of this blog’s story.. it doesn’t have to be difficult, fancy, or time consuming to please or company worthy. And it doesn’t always have to be from Scratch. Do what you know.. trust. Keep it simple. Have fun.