Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good Books/Great Food

Book Club is one evening I look forward to every month. It is always filled with good conversation, amazing food, and it is the perfect motivation to take time each month to finish an entire (adult) novel.

One of my favourite things about book club is the food. This may come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, I love to eat but because my book club rotates each month between each of the members’ homes, you only host once a year and therefore everyone goes all out. While we don’t make a meal per se, most of the group don’t eat before coming because we all know that there will be LOTS of food.

I know that there are different ways to run book clubs but in ours, when you host, you are responsible for it all, from choosing the book, finding discussion questions, selecting drinks and of course, the most exciting, coming up with the menu. The rest of the year you are a guest and need only show up prepared to discuss the book. This month was my turn and I delighted in the chance to host the evening and try out new recipes.

To get prepared for the evening I utilized my new passion Pinterest to help me source new recipes and organize my thoughts. While some months the host will try and coordinate their menu with the theme of the novel, this month’s book didn’t provide much inspiration on that front. Instead, I went with a mix of comfort foods, healthy choices and of course a few sinful sweets to satisfy our sweet tooth.

Here was the menu:

Taco Cupcakes:

 -  with fresh salsa, sour cream and homemade guacamole.

Photo & Recipe: Plain Chicken

I followed the recipe but used mini-muffin pans instead which made them bite-size and perfect for a buffet. My homemade guacamole recipe is simple; 1 ripe avacado - mashed, small tomato - diced, 1/4 c. or so of red onion - diced, generou sprinkle of sea salt, generous sprinkle of cumin, juice of 1/2 - 1 lime (depending on size of avacado). Mix together and serve. 


-with 5 year old cheddar, brie, blue cheese, mild and hot salamis, olives stuffed with garlic, bacon marmalade, dried fruit and nuts and an assortment of breads and crackers.

Edamame Salad with Lemon and Mint:


Photo & Recipe: Wit & Whistle


I made the recipe just as it was outlined but I doubled it. I made it the day before to give the flavors even more time to be absorbed and added the cheese just before serving. 

Gemelli Salad with feta, olives and sundried tomatoes:


I altered this recipe slightly. Instead of using ricotta as outlined, I cut up some feta cheese (because I love it) and used that in the recipe instead. I also served it cold as a salad. I made it the day ahead to give the flavors time to blend. Yum.

Individual Caprese salads:

 - so easy yet impactful – and delicious!

Photo & Recipe: Framed Cooks

For this recipe I purchased Tre-Stelle Baby Baby Boconncini and cut them in half for each "salad". For some reason the only basil I could find was a basil plant but it turned out perfectly because the tiny leaves were the perfect size.

Crudités and dip/hummus:

Nothing too fancy here, just a healthy option to lighten the meal a bit. I served everything up in my Mexican blue glass drinking glasses that I carried back in my hand luggage many moons ago.

Salted pretzel and peanut butter cup cookies:

- mmmm...perfect mix of salty and sweet!

Photo & Recipe: Sugar Cooking

These were a HUGE hit. I altered them slightly because I didn't have peanut butter chips but I did have a package of President's Choice Peanut Butter Cup Melts. So instead of using 1/2 c. peanut butter chips and 1 c. of chocolate chips, I used 1 1/2 c. (well, a whole bag if we're being honest) of the peanut butter cup melts. Can you say 'divine'!

Fresh Fruit salad:

Photo & Recipe: Wit & Whistle

One thing I've learned about hosting in January, there seems to be a bit more concern about eating sweets. It is always that way after we all indulge at Christmas so I wanted to do something fresh and light. Nothing too exotic here except that I took the idea from Wit & Whistle and used a cookie cutter to make it a little more fun. Since our book was about 'love' I chose to use a heart. At first I was disappointed when I broke a few hearts but our novel was also about heartbreak so I decided it was appropriate. My 5 year old son LOVED helping me cut them out and especially loved eating all the discards. 

Chocolate Mocha wafer cookies:

These came in a gift basket we received at Christmas. I'm trying to clean out our pantry of all the holiday goodies.

It is always a bit risky trying recipes you’ve never made before when you are hosting a group but when else are you going to try them if not for company. Some recipes are bigger hits than others but the variety lets you take some risks. I’m already looking forward to next months’ meeting and know that I leave feeling fulfilled from an evening with friends and a belly full of delicious food.

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