Back at the end of August, some of our friends helped Dark move in to his place for the year. We’re talking spending the day driving a rented truck up and down the city and toiling with heavy furniture. Dark wanted to thank his friends by making them a homemade dinner. Somehow, the dinner for 3 helpers snowballed into including roommates as well as other friends in the group, turning into a huge dinner party for 10. Not including time used for cleaning and getting groceries, Dark and I spent 5 hours in the kitchen yesterday churning out food. On the menu: cauliflower cheese soup, roast chicken, pasta with shrimp and sausage, and Nutella cookies.
Cauliflower cheese soup. We made enough for 10 people and we still had leftovers.
Cauliflower cheese soup recipe:
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
- 1 cup cubed potatoes
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/2 cup diced carrots
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
- In a large saucepan, combine water, cauliflower, potatoes, celery, carrots, and onion. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Set aside.
- Melt butter in separate saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and gradually stir in milk. Return to heat, and cook until thickened. Stir in vegetables with cooking liquid, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese until melted, and remove from heat.
The sum of my mincing efforts. Hand cramp, anyone?
Boiling vegetables in water.
We love this soup. This is the third time Dark and I have made it. We always make more than the recipe calls for, usually doubling or even tripling parts of it, so I can’t tell you exactly how many the recipe above serves. We’re not very good judges of how much a cup of vegetables should be, but we figure that vegetables are good for you anyway – more wouldn’t hurt!
I think I’m bad with proportions because normally when I make Chinese food, everything I do is approximate, eyeballed, and instinctual. When I season my meat, I don’t know how many teaspoons of soy sauce I use, or how much pepper I sprinkle. Maybe things are instinctual when you’ve made Western-styled foods enough, too?
Anyway, the worst thing about the cauliflower cheese soup is how time-consuming it is – mincing all of the vegetables really puts a cramp in your wrist. And standing there stirring and tasting the soup constantly while it thickens. We also tend to add a lot of cheese because we love cheese and it really gives the soup a rich taste. We also had extra herbs so we threw in some chopped parsley. Worth it because it tastes great, but tiring.
I believe this soup was from allrecipes.com, but I can’t remember.
I was mostly in charge of the soup. Dark was mostly in charge of the chicken.
I didn’t really do very much here except for maybe help mince some of his ingredients and helping him tie the legs together. He made two of these! Maybe he’ll be willing to type up a recipe later on, but here’s some of what I do know, for those of you adventurous enough to try it on your own anyway.
This is the stuffing Dark used for the chicken. From what I remember, there’s ground pork, bread crumbs, onions, apples, sage (or thyme?), and parsley. The onions were cooked first. When he’d mixed it all together, he browned the stuffing a bit in the pan. But considering our stuffing never seems cooked well enough (still pink – no good?), I think perhaps we should have cooked the stuffing more thoroughly before stuffing the chickens.
The chicken was also covered in a butter and (again, sage or thyme?) mixture, and with the potatoes, drizzled with olive oil. It was in the oven at 350F and it was supposed to be for 40 minutes, but I’m sure it’s always taken us longer for the chicken to be cooked thoroughly. The stuffing would have to be cooked for even longer though. You’re also supposed to take the chicken out twice to baste it – taking the sauce in the dish and pouring it back over the chicken – I guess to keep it from drying out.
This recipe was in a chicken cookbook Dark had bought at Coles on sale. I think it was only $5 CAD or something similarly ridiculous.
Then came the pasta sauce. No actual pasta sauce used!
Here are the ingredients that we used: sausages, shrimp, onion, tomatoes, garlic, and seasoning.
The sausages were boiled to cook them thoroughly, then sliced on the cutting board, held with a fork. Dark diced the onion and tomatoes, then he cut his finger so I insisted on taking over peeling the shrimp. I have a huge aversion to touching raw meat, by the way. I season all my meat and fish with chopsticks to avoid touching it. So this was pretty icky for me. Ick.
Minced garlic was tossed into some olive oil in the pan before throwing in the onions. After cooking them for a bit, we added the tomatoes and covered it until the tomatoes had released a lot of their moisture and the mixture was pretty watery:
We added the raw shrimp and just before they were finished cooking thoroughly, we tossed in the cooked sausage. Then we seasoned with paprika and black pepper.
I know this is a picture of cayenne pepper instead of black pepper, but that’s because I can’t handle spiciness so Dark used black pepper instead. He even got the mild sausages so I could eat them 🙂 So feel free to season with whatever you want. Looking back, we still had lots of fresh herbs so we probably could have tossed some in there, too. But at this point, we were pretty tired and creative juices just weren’t oozing.
Planning for such a large food-fest isn’t exactly easy, and we didn’t have enough room on the stove or enough time to really get everything out fresh at the same time. So we had cooked the pasta while we were preparing the soup and chicken and ran it in cold water to keep it from sticking together too much while it sits. (The bowl of chocolate you see was the cookie batter – more on that later.)
When we had finished the sauce, we just popped a large bowlful in the microwave for 1:30, run scissors through it to cut it into smaller pieces, and then poured the steaming sauce on top. Cutting it made it easier for our guests to self-serve (and gave us time to do other things while they helped themselves).
This recipe was all Dark – inspired from a summer he worked at Boston Pizza a few years ago. I’m so glad my boyfriend can cook ^__^
Because the rest of the meal had been so difficult, I wanted something really easy for dessert. Last week, I’d come across a recipe for Nutella cookies on a blog (can’t remember which) that only required 1 cup of Nutella mixed with 1 egg. I was skeptical, but her pictures were great – the cookies looked like cookies. So I tried it out myself, but I picked up PC’s chocolate hazelnut spread instead – it was on sale and almost half the price of Nutella. And the ingredients on the back are almost exactly the same.
Plus, I like that it comes in a glass jar. I prefer my spreads in glass jars rather than plastic.
So I mixed my cup of spread with one egg and proceeded, with a teaspoon, to drop them on parchment paper. I recently learned that there was a difference between waxed paper and parchment paper – parchment paper can go in the oven, waxed can’t. You learn something new every day.
In the oven they go at 350F for 8-10 minutes. The instructions said to give them some room as they expand quite a bit. What I wasn’t expecting was that they would spread so much as to resemble puddles. Watery chocolate puddles. I didn’t take a picture of the finished product because I was quite disappointed with the results. They had no depth, and were just thinly spread. They bubbled while they baked, too. The edges were crispy but the center was chewy and stuck somewhat to your teeth – not as much as caramel would, but sticky nonetheless. I was ashamed to serve this to my guests.
Just before I left for home, I was surprised that some people were asking if there were more. Being non-standard “cookies”, I suppose these were really a hit-or-miss. The pure taste of chocolate hazelnut was wonderful which made it a hit for some, while the construct of the cookie itself was a miss for others. So I guess it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought after all. It was more of a personal preference of how much you like Nutella versus how much you like cookies in themselves.
Next time, I need to try a Nutella cookie that will actually rise.