Special meals don’t have to be difficult to make. You just have to be a bit organized if you’re short on time and select recipes that are particularly tasty, but not complicated to prepare.
For instance, this salmon casserole doesn’t even require a bunch of dishes to get it all ready for the oven. I just assemble everything in the casserole dish I use to cook it in.
Brownies too are a very easy sweet to serve following a meal, but make them into a fancier dessert with the addition of a fruit sauce like this raspberry coulis, using the fruit you picked or picked up fresh last summer and froze.
We all have occasions to celebrate that don’t need to include a table-full of guests: a good day at the office or a promotion; a new job or completion of a course; an anniversary or a move; a new friendship or the re-kindling of an old one; or just because.
Don’t hesitate to use any excuse to celebrate—and it’s all about food, isn’t it?
Foods trigger memories because there are always particular foods that we associate with special occasions.
Most couples and families have a favourite food or dish that they make for small celebrations because it’s special to them.
There’s a particular dish that my kids always ask for to help them celebrate their birthdays.
There are lots of ideas and recipes for such special dinners in my book, Jude’s Kitchen, which is organized by the seasons of the year, around special occasions. It’s available at Mosaic Books in Kelowna, the B.C. Wine Museum or Calona Vineyards wine shop, as well as at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery in West Kelowna.
Salmon Rice Casserole with Vegies
This is an all-in-one meal that contains a good balance of nutrition and flavour in a single dish. It’s quick to make and you could do some preparation ahead of time by grating the carrot and slicing the mushrooms, ready to just assemble after work.
15 oz. (426 g) salmon
10 oz. (283 g) spinach
1 c. (250 ml) rice
2 c. (500 ml) milk
2 tsp. (10 ml) garam masala
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Drain and mash a couple of tins of salmon in a large casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid, retaining the bones, but crushing them well.
Beat an egg and add it to the salmon.
Chop the spinach if fresh, or squeeze out the extra juice from thawed spinach, and add.
Grate carrot, finely chop the onion and thinly slice the mushrooms and add to the salmon mix.
Add the raw rice to the salmon mixture with the milk and seasonings and thoroughly combine everything.
Cover with a snug lid and bake in the oven for about an hour.
This can also be cooked in the microwave oven in a microwave-safe casserole dish on medium power for about 25 minutes, if white rice is used.
Make sure you use a large enough dish that four inches or so of head room remains.
Double Fudgie Brownies
This recipe, or one very like it, has come to me from more than one source, but I got it first from my Mom. It’s simple and very chocolatey, and it can be fancied up easily by drizzling a square with a little raspberry coulis.
2 tbsp. (30 ml) cocoa
3/4 c. (175 ml) dark brown sugar
1/2 c. (125 ml) butter
1/2 c. (125 ml) flour
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) salt
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) vanilla
1/2 c. (125 ml) chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 325F.
Combine cocoa and dark brown sugar.
Melt butter and add, along with two large eggs, slightly beaten.
Whisk flour and salt together, then mix into batter with vanilla.
Add walnuts or pecans instead of chocolate chips if desired.
Pour into greased 8x8x2-inch pan.
Bake for 25 minutes, cool and cut into squares.
This is full of fresh raspberry flavour, but without those pesky seeds. Serve it over a square of Double Fudgie Brownies for a quick and simple dessert, with a sprig of fresh mint to garnish, or it can be frozen, ready to serve over a scoop of ice cream or a wedge of cheesecake.
2 c. (500 ml) raspberries
1 tbsp. (15 ml) brown sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. (30 ml) cornstarch
1 oz. (30 ml) vodka
Squash raspberries and push through a fine sieve or food mill until you have two cups of fruit. Discard the seeds.
Pour puree into a pot and dissolve brown sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch in the juice. Bring the mixture to bubbling over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens slightly and clears.
Remove from heat and cool completely. Whisk in the vodka just before serving.
Refrigerate until ready to use.