September retreat menu

I've been told that some people attend my retreats for the food. Sure, the farmhouse is gorgeous; working on creative projects is amazing; getting away from the kids is healthy. But the food is really divine. 

If you're waiting to sign up because you're curious about the menu, I've got my first draft hammered out on the chalkboard. 

September is a great time for Ontario produce.

Waffle breakfast will have plenty of berries, stone fruits, apples and pears.

There are so many options for quiches I'll probably make them mini so you can pick a bunch: rapini, zucchini, tomato, leek, eggplant, mushroom? Who knows what I'll end up making. What's certain is that an apple and beet salad will accompany the quiche.

One of my favourite ways to make risotto is with tomatoes straight from my garden. Top it with your choice of roasted chicken, barbecued sausage, or grilled eggplant.

Sunday morning promises a spread of breakfast pastries with homemade preserves and delicious Devon clotted cream. 

Are you excited?? Make this weekend about whatever you want. Rest assured you will be well fed.

Lots of spots left for the retreat. Sign up here!

Quinoa for the quiche

I know that some sort of quiche will be on the menu at the Farmhouse Retreat. That is a must. Being September, I feel like everything besides asparagus and rhubarb is in season.

I've posted about quiches before on done-well, so nothing new to share. I'm not even sure I'll practice before the retreat. But I have been keeping an eye out for interesting salads to accompany the quiche.

Although my recipe for a quiche is relatively light, (I prefer milk to cream, and don't like a lot of cheese in the filling,) it is still a plateful of deliciously flaky, buttery pie crust. So I always find the side salad needs to be light, acidic, and colourful.

My go-to salad with a quiche is arugula. Arugula plus whatever I have in the fridge. Oh, I have nothing else in the fridge? Then plain arugula with salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil. Yum.

But that's no fun for a retreat of crafty ladies.

The Mexican quinoa salad that I made at my birthday picnic is an obvious choice.  It's tangy and colourful, light and healthy. A great make-ahead. It's even good spicy.

But I'm reminded of another quinoa salad I tried recently from la prep, a Montreal based fresh and healthy mini-restaurant. The salad had deliciously tangy marinated hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, chickpeas and parsley, all surrounded by crunchy al dente quinoa.

With a couple revisions to accommodate my pantry, this white bean quinoa salad is still light and refreshing, but filled with healthful ingredients.

Two vastly different quinoa salads. Both equally tasty. Go make them both and tell me which you like better. And then imagine it alongside a fluffy cauliflower and roasted red pepper quiche. Ooo, or maybe a caramelized fennel and onion quiche. Or! a spinach and wild mushroom quiche! Man, oh man, I'm excited for lunch at the retreat...

Mexican Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup super finely diced red onion
1 cup corn niblets (If corn is in season, cook and cut the kernals off a few cobs of corn, otherwise, I choose canned)
1 tomato, diced (or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes)
2 limes
handful of chopped cilantro
generous amount of salt

Add quinoa to 2 cups of boiling water. Salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until water is absorbed.

Prep the rest of your ingredients while the quinoa is cooking, and add to a large bowl.

When quinoa is cooked, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Salt and add the juice of one lime.

Add the quinoa to the tomato corn mixture. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lime; taste and adjust seasoning.

Chill in the fridge for one hour before serving. I find it tastes best at room temperature.

Tangy White Bean and Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
1 jar (170 mL) marinated artichoke hearts
1 jar (200 mL) marinated mushrooms, reserve liquid
1 can (540 mL) white kidney beans, rinsed
2 tbsp fresh chopped chives
1 handful arugula

Add quinoa to 2 cups of boiling water. Salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until water is absorbed.

Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

Add half the liquid from the jar of marinated mushrooms.

Add the aritchoke hearts, mushrooms, white kidney beans, chives and arugula. I like to go easy on the arugula so it's acting more like an herb than the leaf of a salad.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Birthday Picnic Goodies

Check out this amazing picnic!

No, this was not my birthday picnic. This was Brandi Henderson's wedding! Brandi is the founder of The Pantry, an amazing Seattle community kitchen and cooking school.

Here's my more humble birthday picnic. I regret not taking the time to whip out the camera, back up, and take a big picture of my amazing friends who came out to celebrate with me.

My crafty friends and me, scheming about our upcoming Farmhouse Retreat!
It has always been a dream of mine to host a big picnic party, and living in Toronto, what better setting than beautiful, urban High Park?

After failing to book a picnic site last year because I only called one month in advance (yes, every single picnic area was booked for the month of July when I called in May/June) I decided to book the event in March -- a whole 4 months in advance.

That gave me 4 months to dream up my ideal picnic menu. Maybe some ideas for my farmhouse retreat in September??

It was a group of about 60 people, so I wanted to keep the food simple.

Starting with snacks, I pulled out all my favourites: cheetos, ringolos, skittles, m&ms, and your classic brown paper lunch bag to fill and bring back to your picnic blanket.

I set up a sandwich station with a variety of deli meats and delicious cheeses, homemade pickled peppers, arugula, fluffy buns. We also offered a grilling station to warm your sandwich if desired. To keep ingredients cool in the summer heat, I used double foil pans and filled the bottom pan with ice. A perfect trick that kept the meat and cheese cool for several hours.

I avoided the typical mayonnaise filled salads (despite my love for them) and opted for a healthy mexican quinoa salad. This salad deserves a post on its own, but suffice to say it was packed with flavour. Corn, red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, limes: heaven.

A summer picnic event would not be complete without watermelon or corn on the cob. I read a great tip on how to cook corn on the cob for a large group and it turned out beautifully. I put my cleaned cobs of corn into a cooler (also scrubbed clean) and added a large pot of boiling water. Close the lid. The corn's ready to eat in 20 mins, and it stays ready to eat for hours.

My dessert had to be birthday cake, but something that would stand up to the heat. I didn't want to have to pull out the forks and deal with messy icing, so I settled on my favourite pound cake recipe and created three different flavours: grapefruit, strawberry jam, and chocolate vanilla.

Pound cake freezes beautifully, so when my friends asked how I had time to bake 6 pound cakes, I explained that I just did it throughout the week and froze them. The perfect cake to eat by hand.

The weather for my birthday picnic was surprisingly perfect. Little humidity, full sun, not too hot. It was probably the best Toronto weather all month.

I hope you're all enjoying your summer and making time for good food and good friends!

Following several requests (always so flattering), recipes for the pound cake and quinoa salad will be posted soon!

Photo credits to Em and Dan.