Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lunch at SAIT

So its been a few days since my last post but I had good reason. I was travelling from Ireland home to Calgary and it takes me a couple of days between the travelling itself, then visiting with my family and getting over the jet lag. But I had a great event to enjoy the day I landed: the Christmas Lunch Buffet by the culinary students at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology).

The pate and purees table

There is a restaurant on the grounds of the school and the students in the culinary program prepare the food. Normally its a set card menu but on most Thursdays its a buffet. It can be difficult to get a table as its $25 per person and you get an amazing spread, so the value makes it very popular. They put on a Christmas themed meal this time of year, so my Nana was quite anxious to book a table. We were on a wait list but found out the day before that a table had become available. Guess she knows the right people, luckily for me!

The cheese, cracker and fruits table

The lunch service began at 11:30 so we arrived nice and early, which gave me a chance to take pictures of the set up before the throngs of diners arrived (after asking permission of course!). I'll try to share what we experienced here, but I know it won't do it justice.

The sculpting was amazing!

There were so many delicious foods! All the servings were nice and tiny though which suited us perfectly so between a few of us we could take quite a few items and all have a taste. The food was fantastic, it was beautifully presented and it was a lot of fun to be enjoying the tiny servings. So without further ado, here we go!

Chicken consomme with prawn dumpling
The breads selection

For the first course we had the option of chicken consomme with prawn dumpling or broccoli and cheddar. We all decided to go for the consomme and it was just delicious. A great way to start the meal and it had the added bonus of warming us up since it is pretty darn cold outside!

From top left: chicken and ham roll; venison pate; smoked salmon mousse with salmon en croute; salmon, artichoke and dill mousse; parsnip puree

For the second course we tackled the pate table. Oh my goodness the selection was amazing. Of this selection the venison was my favorite. It was lightly spiced which kept a warm feeling in my mouth after it was finished. I wasn't too sold on the parsnip puree, but I guess that's not too surprising as I'm not mad about parsnips anyway :)

From top: braised beef in tomato with curry; arctic char; butternut squash dahl on pilau rice; tomato stuffed with mushrooms; fresh gnocci with pesto; potato pave; green beans in black bean sauce

The entree had another wonderful selection of delicious foods. The braised beef was everyone's favorite. It was delicious and just fell apart. The butternut squash dahl was a very close second and everyone groaned in delight when tasting the mushroom-stuffed tomato. Oh my mouth is watering now just thinking about it!

The best part of any meal!!

Oh the dessert. Oh me oh my. Our table was right beside the dessert display so we had lots of time to scope it out and make our selections. We couldn't choose just one, so did what we had for the previous two courses: filled up a plate and everyone grabbed a fork :)

Clockwise from top: mango and raspberry mousse push up; raspberry/chocolate fudge with crushed pistachios; cranberries in a mix of creams on a shortbread biscuit topped with a decorated milk chocolate disc; fruit tart; hazelnut banana cake; chocolate and cream cheese brownie; pistachio, cranberry and peanut nougat.
In center: peanut butter, banana, chocolate and peanut mousse.

The desserts were lovely. My favorite was the cranberry in creams. Until ...
Pumpkin Creme Brulee


This dessert was just divine. There were none when we went up to get our desserts as they just flew off the table. But oh me oh my it blew the rest of the treats out of the water. It was like pumpkin pie but slightly more spicy and a little sweeter. Oh my goodness, it was a real treat. A fantastic way to finish up a wonderful afternoon.

If you are every in Calgary I'd say you need to get to this buffet if you can. There are a lot of students around that will answer any questions about any of the dishes. And their pride in their work is very apparent, and extremely well deserved. It was a fantastic afternoon and a great way to start getting over jet lag :)

Have you ever been at an event like this? Do you prefer to have one thing for your meal or do you like tasting lots of different things?

Jenn x

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Post #10: Why I Love Snow

The view from my apartment this week

Just so you know, I love snow. Love love love snow. More than chocolate. More than tv. More than sleeping in. Well almost. But you get the idea. I love snow. I think this may have something to do with the fact that I grew up in north western Canada where we got savage snowfalls during winter, which kinda went from mid October to mid March. When I was a kid we had to plan our Hallowe'en costumes over a snowsuit. When I was an adult I realized that boxes of beer have bigger handles so you can carry them while wearing mittens. I loved the winters and the fun that could be had sledding, building snow forts on the front yard and going ice skating no matter how cold it got. I loved the yummy hot chocolate we got when we stumbled into the house, exhausted and chilled to the bone. We even had to leave 20 minutes earlier for mass so we had time to change from our snow boots into proper footware.

Then I moved to Ireland, where the white stuff is so infrequent that 2cm of snow literally stops the country. I haven't felt like I've gotten a proper winter. Until now :)

This amount of snow fell overnight. That is the second time my neighbour went out to clear off her jeep. That's my igloo, I mean civic, to the left of her jeep. It was cleared off before I went to bed...

The snowfall has been the main topic of the news for the last week. I heard one report that said 1 in 5 people were stranded and couldn't get into work. Cars were left all over the place and my adopted family have been trapped in their house since Monday! People are staying indoors, which is a great thing as I haven't heard of a single death on the roads this week, which is a first since I moved to Ireland (unfortunately its on the news nearly every day).

This fell overnight!! My little ledges were bare!

In fairness to the Irish, they are not at all prepared to drive in this weather so I can understand their frustration. At home we have snow tires, ploughs to clear the roads and winter boots. None of that is here. The army fellas have been out clearing the footpaths (sidewalks) so they are clearer than the roads, which have gotten pretty slushy. 

 Brushing off my car. Yes, he's wearing a Calgary Flames cap and a Gryffindor scarf. And baby blue mittens.

But despite the inconvenience, I think its just gorgeous. I love how it makes everything look pure and beautiful. I love hearing the kids all excited to be playing in it. I love the silence. I love the sound my feet make when I walk on it. I love the feeling of it in my hands. And I love the feeling when I pelt my sweetie with a snowball. I even love it when he gets me back. But he doesn't get me more than once. Growing up as the oldest of 4 who all loved snow has finally paid off :)

Its pretty helpful too. I made a dish yesterday (here's a hint):
Lamb gigot chops, homemade beef broth, carrots, thyme, baby onions and potatoes. Any guesses?

and I foolishly grabbed the very hot dish before I put it in the oven to bake (or stew. Another hint. Ha ha). And didn't I burn the heck out of my finger. Oh it was unpleasant. I shouted a bit. And jumped on the spot. And shouted a little more. And believe it or not, that didn't help. So I did the cold running water thing, and the rest in cold water thing and that helped a lot but I love my snow so I thought I'd chance it.
Ooooh that snow felt good!!!

And you know what? It worked!
Barely a mark!

So for its healing properties, overall gorgeousness and  fun potential, I LOVE SNOW!

Me and the sweetie in our Calgary Flames caps :)

How do you feel about snow?

Hope you have a fantastic Friday!

Jenn x

Post #9: My Favorite Bread

In one of my previous posts I gave you the recipe for a fantastic white bread that I got from my 'Object of Lust #3 of 10' (complete list to be detailed later), the Avoca Cafe Cookbook. Much to my delight, I got a couple of requests for the recipe for the multi seed bread I made. Its really good and full of healthy seeds. I enjoy it under a poached egg or even with a little bit of butter and homemade rhubarb and ginger jam. I hope you enjoy it! If you make it let me know how you liked it :)

Multi Seed Brown Bread (adapted from The Avoca Cafe Cookbook)

To make 1 large loaf:

200g plain flour
350g coarse brown flour
50g bran
25g wheatgerm
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
1 level teaspoon salt
handful and a half of any seeds you have (I like to use flax, sunflower, and pumpkin. All raw or unroasted)
1 tablespoon treacle or molasses
600-900ml milk

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Warm the milk (start with the 600ml) enough so the treacle dissolves into it. Add the milk/treacle to the dry ingredients and mix to make a moist dough, like stiff porridge. If its too dry, add more milk. Place the dough in a greased 2lb baking tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180C/350F for 1 hour or until the loaf is well browned and sounds hollow when turned out of the tin and tapped underneath. Leave on a wire rack to cool.

The recipe calls for sultanas and semi dried apricots to be added but I like to stick with just the seeds. This bread freezes extremely well. I slice the loaf when its cooled, throw it in a freezer bag and take out slices as I need them. Its brilliant. I never buy bread anymore.

Hope you and yours have a great day :)

Jenn x

Friday, December 3, 2010

Post #8: Overdue

Ahhh ... so I broke the cardinal rule of blogging: blog frequently. I thought I'd make it to 10 posts before I'd fall off the blogging wagon. Not quite. Now in my defense its been a pretty hairy couple of weeks. My sweetie was in and out of hospital a couple of times (nothing too serious, thanks be to God) and I finished up at my job, which meant it was mental crazy trying to hand everything over. As a result, my blog suffered. Poor thing :( But my cooking and baking did not, so I'm going to post a couple of the things I did over the last few weeks today and get back into a groove of regular posting. I promise :)

Anyway, the same day as my last post (over a month ago. Oops) I decorated some cupcakes. In the last post I told ya how I made bread to take down to a big family get-together. I also took cupcakes. Pretty ones. And some decorated for the holiday it was (any guesses?)
(the scary ones on the left were for the holiday). And some pretty ones:
I'm just starting to ice cupcakes and I gotta say, its a lot of fun! I got a killer icing recipe from Whisk Kid and its super awesome. Its a meringue buttercream, which takes a bit of work to make but its super duper delish. I also used the icing to cover a cake I made to celebrate my Irish daddy's 40 years in the army (way to go!)

Outside the cake

Inside the cake. Colourful, eh?
I stole the idea for the cake from the Whisk Kid's Super Epic Rainbow Cake and obviously mine didn't come out nearly as nice, but I thought it was ok for a first attempt.

I also made a tasty baked cheesecake for my Irish co-workers as none of them had tried one (they do chilled cheesecakes here which are yummy too but I prefer the baked ones. Guess its what you grew up with) and it came out really good:

Baked Lemon Cheesecake with a short crust pastry instead of digestive biscuit. Yummy!
I did some dinners too, but the desserts are more colourful :) 
Sorry again for the long gap between posts. I'll try to be better :)

I'll post tomorrow with the amazing snow we've had here and my oft requested multiseed bread recipe :)


Jenn x