lesleystowe.com/blog » Recipes, entertaining tips, and more with Lesley Stowe

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Entertaining at home is such a great way to connect with family and friends and slow down our frenzied world. For a meal that’s memorable, take the time to add some special touches, not only to your cooking but also to your table. Place cards, napkin rings and knife rests are extras that are often forgot- ten or just skipped. But I love arranging place cards on the table; it’s a chance to stop and think about where to seat guests in order to stimulate the best conversation. Also, place cards prevent that awkward moment when everyone arrives at the table and wonders where to sit. There are so many creative options besides traditional cards: one of my favourites it to cut a sliver in a pear and insert the card into it, then use a copper plant label for writing the guest’s name where the plant name would be. Get your children to help attach gift tags or wine labels to napkins using ribbon or raffia strands. At Easter and Christmas, the children help me make large sugar cookies, and we decorate them with the names of our guests.

If you don’t own knife rests, get creative and use flat rocks, chopstick rests or shells. Ribbon, cording and raffia work well for making napkin rings; add flowers, leaves, grasses, herbs or shells. Finally, if you really want to impress everyone, print up the menu and make a couple of copies for the table.

Friends and clients often ask me how they can give their party a more polished look. I always go back to my mantra: keep it simple. Whether we’re talking about the food, presentation or decor, more is not better. You don’t need to have six salads for a buffet dinner. Instead, have two or three really amazing ones and make each totally different. For example, you could make the Grilled Potato Salad with Crispy Pancetta, Green Beans and dijon Vinaigrette, then pair it with an oversize platter of vine-ripened tomatoes drizzled with pesto, grilled flank steak and some fabulous bread.

Present the flank steak on a huge wooden board and arrange a bunch of watercress, cilantro or Italian parsley in the corner of the board for a simple but dramatic presentation. Make sure the platters and serving bowls will hold slightly more than you have; salads present best when the contents aren’t spilling over.

If you’re having a multi-course dinner party, keep the hors d’oeuvres to a minimum. My preference is to offer two different types of olives, per- haps niçoise and Picholine, and some warm toasted almonds. Toss whole blanched almonds in enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat then sprinkle them with coarse sea salt. Roast the almonds in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 5 to 8 minutes and serve warm. (You can also make them ahead and reheat them for a couple of minutes just before serving.) Serve the olives and almonds in interesting bowls – they don’t have to match, but try for a theme that ties them together. For example, use white dishes of different sizes and shapes, or perhaps earthenware dishes of similar colours.

 Well winter is officially here! The temperature outside our house has dropped dramatically and the mountains all around us are covered in snow and ready for us to hit the slopes. One of my favourite ways to warm up the family after a day out in the great outdoors is to have a pot of this thick and hearty soup ready and waiting. It doesn’t take long to make and warms up perfectly so I can make a batch the night before an outing and it’s ready in about 10-15 minutes when I need it the next day. This has become a tradition now for us at Christmastime when the kids are home from university and we all get together up in Whistler to celebrate the holidays. Served alongside some fresh French bread or our Harvest Hearth Bread and it’s a meal fit for even the heartiest of appetites!

Makes 2 quarts

  • 1 1/4 pound canned clams, minced, juices reserved
  • 2-3 cups bottled clam juice
  • 3 bacon slices, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 3 cups heavy cream or half and half
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste

Drain the clam juice from the minced clams and combine with enough bottled juice to equal 3 cups of liquid.

Cook the bacon slowly in a soup pot over medium heat until lightly crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the clam juice, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add more clam juice to adjust the consistency. Add the bay leaf and fresh thyme. Add the potatoes and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the clams and cream in saucepan and simmer together until the clams are cooked, about 5-8 minutes.

When the potatoes are tender, add the clams and cream to the soup base. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire

Theresa Tinsley - November 12, 2013 - 11:26 pm

Yummy, this sounds really good.

The holiday season is officially upon us  so we’re ramping up our entertaining ideas, tips, and recipes including this deliciously decadent dish from our friends at allyouneedischeese.ca! This dip contains 100% Canadian Cheddar Cheese and is perfect served alongside a platter of crudité or with your favourite flavour of Raincoast Crisps or Flats.  It also whips up in mere minutes so is perfect for when friends and family drop by. Enjoy!

Hot Dip with Maple Dale Medium Cheddar

Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 cups cauliflower pieces
  • 5 oz Maple Dale Medium Cheddar, shredded
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a saucepan over high heat, bring water to a boil, add cauliflower and cook 10 minutes. Drain cauliflower, reserving 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the cooking water.

Preheat oven to broil.

Purée cauliflower using reserved cooking water, half of the Cheddar cheese, and cornstarch diluted in a bit of water. Add herbs and spices and season and add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into an oven-safe baking dish, sprinkle remaining cheese on top and brown in the oven.

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