Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Celebration of Love

Katie (our newest addition to the group) and Tanya hosted our first Gourmet Club Dinner this year on January 31st.  It was perfect timing a few weeks before Valentines for a "Celebration of Love".   We got these cute invites.

Our "love"ly hostesses: Betsy (a kind friend that helped out), Katie, and Tanya

The appetizers were set up for us to enjoy and sit and visit when we arrived.  The cute container with tree branches had envelopes with each of our names on one hanging from the branches. Every frame in the two rooms of the house we were in had quotes and thoughts about love.  They really did thing of everything.  There were also pictures of all of us with our spouses in frames around the room.

The table was beautiful.  We all loved the stripes.

 Appetizers:  Smashed Avocado Bruschetta, Valentine Night Strawberries and Raspberry and Brie Paninis.  All were delish!

The menu

Each place setting had a cute frame with a picture of us with our spouse and a tag tied to our glass with our first inital. 

Raspberry, Avocado and Mango Salad and a Pomegranate Blueberry Mocktail

The main course was perfect.  So yummy and just the right portions.  Salmon with Shrimp in a Sweet Spicy Pecan Sauce, Rice Pilaf and Garlic and Pepper Roasted Vegetables.

Then, on to dessert.  Fried Ice Cream (a favorite!),  Raspberry Truffle Brownie, and a Chocolate Dipped Strawberry to finish it off.  Perfection.

Top Row: Alyssa, Brenda, Emily
Middle Row: Corinne, Alisha, GG, Holly, Tori
Bottom Row: Carrie, Tanya, Katie, Brittany and Mandy

We each got one of these fun buckets filled with romantic treats to enjoy with our husbands.  Candles, chocolate and massage oil.

It really was a "love"ly evening with every detail thought of.  Thank you Tanya and Katie for a fabulous night out!


Smashed Avocado + Tomato Basil Bruschetta (

Serves: 4-6
·    Cooking spray
·    1/2 loaf whole grain french bread (or 1 petite loaf), sliced 1/2 inch thick
·    2 avocados, smashed
·    1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
·    1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus exta
·    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
·    4 large roma tomatoes, chopped
·    2 cloves garlic
·    2 Tablespoons olive oil
·    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
·    3-4 basil leaves, chopped
1.     Preheat oven on broiler setting.
2.     Place slices of bread on baking sheet, spray with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt; broil slices in oven about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from oven and rub with one clove of garlic (make sure to cut it in half before rubbing).
3.     In a medium bowl, mix smashed avocado, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and ground pepper.
4.     In a separate large bowl, combine tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Mince other garlic clove and add it into tomato mixture.
5.     Spread smashed avocado mixture onto each slice of toast, then generously spoon tomato topping on top. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.

Valentine Night Strawberries (
20 fresh strawberries
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 ½ tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Dice two strawberries and set aside. Cut the stems off of each of the remaining strawberries, forming a base for strawberries to stand on. Starting at the pointed ends and cutting most of the way, but not completely through the stem end, slice each strawberry into four wedges.

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy; stir in the diced strawberries, walnuts, and powdered sugar. Spoon or pipe about a teaspoon of mix into each strawberry.

Raspberry Brie Paninin (

Belgian or French bread
toasted chopped hazelnuts (optional)

Lightly butter two pieces of bread. Flip the bread over as the buttered side will become the outside of the sandwich. Place slices of brie on one piece of bread, top with a sprinkle of raspberries (and chopped nuts if you are using them) and a drizzle of honey. Place the sandwich on a preheated panini press and cook for just a few minutes or until crispy and golden brown on the outside. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Raspberry, Avocado & Mango salad (EATINGWELL.COM)


·       1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, divided
·       1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
·       1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
·       1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped
·       1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
·       1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
·       8 cups mixed salad greens
·       1 ripe mango, diced (see Tip)
·       1 small ripe avocado, diced
·       1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
·       1/4 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts, or sliced almonds (see Tip), optional


1.     Puree 1/2 cup raspberries, oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender until combined.
2.     Combine greens, mango, avocado and onion in a large bowl. Pour the dressing on top and gently toss to coat. Divide the salad among 5 salad plates. Top each with the remaining raspberries and sprinkle with nuts, if using.

Pomegranate Blueberry Mocktail
¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
3 oz. pomegranate soda (we used 7-up)
3 oz. pomegranate juice
2 oz. white grape juice

Add blueberries to a tall glass and mash slightly.  Fill glass with ice, if desired. Combine the soda, pomegranate juice and white grape juice.  Pour the mixture into the tall glass with the blueberries and garnish with a slice of lemon.

Rice Pilaf
2 T butter
1 Cup uncooked rice
¼ Cup minced onion
1/3 Cup minced celery
2 Cups hot chicken broth
2 T chopped parsley
¼ Cup slivered almonds

Melt butter in frying pan.  Add rice, onion and celery; stir and melt butter in frying pan.  Add rice, onion and celery; stir and cook until slightly brown.  Add chicken broth.  Cover and simmer on low heat until rice is tender.  Add parsley and almonds just before serving.

Salmon with Shrimp in a sweet spicy pecan sauce (
We baked our salmon in the oven then topped with this sauce
Sweet Spicy Pecan Sauce, makes about one cup, 8 fl oz, 240 ml :
§       ¼ c (2oz, 50g) butter or oil
§       1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
§       1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
§       ½ c (2oz, 50g) chopped pecans
§       ½ c (3oz, 75g) firmly packed light (soft) brown sugar
§       2 Tbsp (30ml) fresh lemon juice (lime might be great or even orange)
§       2 tbsp (30ml) gf Worcestershire sauce (check labels) – Note I do not find this amount to be too salty and I am naturally a low salt user.
§       1+1/2 tsps (8ml) chili sauce – I tested this with Trader Joe’s Chili pepper sauce, listed as gf on their web site but states made on shared equipment with wheat, eggs, soy and fish. Choose whichever hot sauce you safely use and like. Original recipe quoted one tablespoon hot sauce.
§       Think about adding zest of any citrus to match with different juice
§       I didn’t add salt or pepper to sauce.
§       Think about adding different fresh herbs, parsley, cilantro, basil, lemon thyme, even lavender at the end for a very sophisticated taste sensation.
1. Melt butter/oil in 1 quart (1 litre) saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add onion and cook gently for 3-5 minutes or until totally cooked and tender.  You could also use white parts of green onion (scallion, spring onion).
3. Add garlic and cook for one minute over gentle heat.
4. Stir in rest of ingredients and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.
5. Store in airtight container in fridge until required.
Shrimp with sweet spicy pecan sauce
I had some sauce left in the fridge, raw shrimp were on sale and I fancied salmon for dinner. I cooked one 7 oz salmon fillet between two of us, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. I bought a little over half a pound (250 g) of raw, butterflied, tail on, medium shrimp. I put the shrimp into pan in single layer in the same skillet as the salmon when the salmon was nearly cooked. When first side of shrimp was pink I flipped the shrimp and then added the pecan sauce to pan and left the shrimp to cook in the sauce
Garlic and pepper roasted veggies

Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Minced garlic
Veggies of choice

Cut of vegetables.  Combine olive oil and some fresh garlic.  Drizzle the oil mixture over the veggies then sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

No-Fry Fried Ice Cream (
6 cups hone coated corn flakes, crushed (or regular)
2 Tbsp white sugar
3 Tbsp butter, melted
5 Tbsp corn syrup
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 gallon vanilla ice cream. Softened

Combine crushed cereal, sugar, butter, corn syrup, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Shape ice cream into 3 inch balls and roll in the cereal mixture, pressing lightly to ensure the ball is fully coated.
Place ice cream balls in muffin tins and freeze until ready to serve.
To serve top with syrup, whipped topping, and a spinkle of cinnamon if desired.

***We used sweetened condensed milk caramel to top ours
Line crock pot with foil (to prevent rust ring).
Remove paper from can.
Place can in crockpot and cover with water.
Cook on low 6 hours then cool in water or fridge.
Can will be under pressure so be careful when opening.

Raspberry Truffle Brownies (
Brownie ***(seriously, we didn’t like this brownie recipe so we used a gharadelli brownie mix)
·       3/4 cup all-purpose flour
·       1 tsp cocoa powder
·       1/2 tsp baking powder
·       1/4 tsp salt
·       1 pinch ground cinnamon
·       1/2 cup butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
·       1 1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)*
·       3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
·       2 large eggs
·       1 1/2 Tbsp milk
·       1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Truffle Filling
·       1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
·       1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
·       1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
·       1/4 cup powdered sugar
·       3/4 tsp raspberry extract
Chocolate Ganache
·       1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
·       2 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream
·       For the brownie:
·       Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, set aside. Melt butter along with 1 1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in microwave on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. In a separate mixing bowl using a wooden spoon, mix together light-brown sugar and eggs until well blended. Stir in milk and vanilla, then pour in melted chocolate chip mixture and mix until combine. Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combine. Pour mixture into a buttered 8 by 8-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center doesn't come out covered in batter. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
·       For the truffle filling:
·       Melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl on 50% powder in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth, set aside to cool slightly. In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on medium speed, whip cream cheese until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in raspberry jam, powdered sugar and raspberry extract. Pour melted chocolate chips into mixture then using a rubber spatula, fold until well combine. Spread mixture over cooled brownies. Cover baking dish tightly with plastic wrap then place in freezer for 15 - 20 minutes to allow truffle filling to set slightly (truffle filling won't ever set fully, mine was still soft and slightly runny but set enough to cut into squares after 15 minutes of freezing. Chill longer to further set if desired).
·       For the ganache:
·       Melt remaining 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips along with 2 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Pour mixture into a piping bag or Ziploc bag and cut a small tip off corner. Drizzle over top of brownies (or cut into squares then drizzle over individual squares). If desired, sprinkle top lightly with cocoa powder and a tiny bit of cinnamon, then garnish with a fresh raspberry and mint leaves. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
·       *If you don't want such a rich chocolate brownie then you can replace the bittersweet chocolate chips with semi-sweet or even milk chocolate chips for the brownie portion. You could also replace the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the ganache with milk chocolate chips.
·       Recipe Source: adapted slightly from The Curvy Carrot