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Saturday, September 14, 2013

What the heck is supper blogging?

For over a year now I have had this dream in my head of doing something I call "supper blogging". I had hoped to start it a while ago, and then with Tim's accident, and just life being busy, it was one of those things that was easy to put off.

My idea for the concept is that people from all different parts of the community will come to supper, but they have to agree to a ten minute interview at the end of the evening, and only that part will be shared here in the blog.  Whatever conversations we have during our supper is off the record, in order to keep it light and fun.  I want to eventually have it work so that I put up a menu on Twitter and Facebook and whoever might be interested in coming will respond.  Because everyone's schedules are so different I will do one through the middle of the week to mix it up some.  But I realized that some weeks invited guests will also be fun, and that is kind of how I kicked it off.

A few weeks ago I had some guests lined up, and close to the day that it was suppose to happen, they had something come up and they couldn't make it.  I was still nervous about how it was going to work, so I did the only thing I could think of, and called some of our best friends, John and Kerin MacLean and asked them to join us for supper.  In all of my posts I plan on posting my recipes, and interviews with the guests, but in order to keep this first post somewhat shorter, I will tell you that night I did a three cheese dip and a variety of cheese and crackers for appetizers, and then did a mushroom risotto, and beef wellington with a red wine rosemary sauce and homemade lemon meringue pie for dessert.
I did not put them through the agony of being interviewed by me when they were so good to be my guinea pigs on short notice.  But Kerin works at Ecole St. Paul  and John works at Williams.  They have two kids, Sam and Colin, and all of them are constantly active in the community.  You can catch them volunteering at such things as the Festival of Trees weekend, at the schools, and with John's fellow employees.  They are the kind of friends that everyone wants, they helped us so much in the last two years, and were the ones who looked after Shayleen so that we could take our first vacation alone in 18 years!  I was happy that they were my first supper guests, it made me relax, and Kerin has only been encouraging in all my crazy ideas that I sometimes get.

And then in a recent conversation with Country 93.3 Radio morning host, Jerry Neville, he said that he would love to come some night.  I immediately thought to myself that he and his wife Jen Pick Neville would be the perfect first "official" guests to have, as they get to eat at all the big events in town, and are so active in the community that it would be wonderful, stimulating conversation as well.  I mean, why not just jump in and have people over that are real foodies, and well known throughout the community.  Nothing like freaking yourself out on the first go around.

The night before they were coming, I had my menu organized, and thought I was totally a head of the game when I went to the grocery store and got every single thing I needed.  And then I got home and Tim, hubby, says, "You're making lasagna?"  Of course, being a man, he didn't realize the seed he had planted, and that night, and most of the next day I thought, "Damn, does my lasagna suck?  Should I make something else?"  But given that it was a Thursday, and I had a full day of running with the kids, cooking, and trying to clean up at least a little bit, I didn't have time to start getting to the store again.

So I went with bacon wrapped waterchestnuts in a sweet and sour sauce, and Mexican pinwheels for appetizers.  The chestnuts are something that one of my friend's had at her birthday party way back in our college days, and they are easy and everyone loves them, so they are become a staple in my favourites to do.  The same goes with the pinwheels, it is just flatbreads spread with a cheese and pepper mixture, but they are kicked up with some Epicure spices.  So again, easy to make and always a hit.

I went with the lasagna as the main course with breadsticks and homemade ceasar salad to round it off.  And then I finished with Frozen Chocolate Cheesecake, a recipe that my friend Donna George from Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia shared with me almost 9 years ago, and again, a favourite.  I went with this menu because they were things I was comfortable making and that people always seemed to like over the years.  But in the weeks to come, I will be experimenting and doing theme nights.  I also hope to do a night just for women from Fort McMurray and do all desserts.  Another night, I want all local youth from the community, another night with seniors, and my ideas go on and on....

When I told the kids who was coming for supper, they were impressed, and I didn't even have to try to convince them to be home for the evening.  And supper was all I had hoped it would be.  Years ago I had a column that I called "Around the Kitchen Table" and I when I started my blog, I carried it over for the simple fact that I love the conversations that start around the table.  For some reason when sharing food and drink people relax and open up, and that night as Jerry and Jen sat with my family, and my son's girlfriend, Waneita, some great conversation happened.  We talked some about life, the community, and Jerry shared some entertaining stories that my kids ate up.  It was so interesting hearing about some of the things he has done, the people he has met and his passion for Fort McMurray was evident in all the stories he shared.  Jen was absolutely charming, and she had lots of funny side stories to Jerry's, as she often finds herself being his right hand woman in Jerry's busy schedule.  In fact, during one of the nicest moments of the evening Jerry shared that he really couldn't do all that he does(and he does alot) without Jen and everything she does.

I had hoped to share some time with Mitchell's girlfriend to add to this blog, but the girl is busy!  So hopefully I will get to talk to her in the coming days and I can add to this, as she has had a very interesting few months, as she just came back from Advanced Aerospace camp in Quebec.

Jerry and Jen both hail from Nova Scotia and have been in Fort McMurray for going on three years now.   Jerry has been doing radio and even some TV since the young age of 16!  He started out at Q104 in Halifax and at one time was working in Montreal when he almost became a writer for Jimmy Kimmel.  After arriving in Fort McMurray, both have embraced and fell in love with the city.  Jerry will be hosting the Run for the Cure in October, as well as the Harvest of Hope.  And in early November he will be emceeing the Keyano Gala, and in between his job at the station, these events and live on location events he also works all the home Oil Barons games, where he gets the crowd pumped up and cheering for their team.  Both are proud supporters of all the food bank drives, and local minor hockey. You wouldn't think they would have time for fun, but they love the outdoor activities here and especially love their golf games at MacDonald Island.  They have also started to learn to skate on the outdoor rinks here last year, gone skiing at Vista Ridge, and even snow mobiling with the club here in town.

I asked Jerry when he sleeps!  He is up and out the door at 3:30a.m. for his morning show on Country 93.3 where he makes being stuck in traffic almost bearable for people during the morning commute.  During the summer, he then loves to hit the golf course when he gets the chance, and then off to any events in the afternoon and evening.  Last year when he was in the Keyano play, Hometown, he averaged about three and a half hours sleep each night over a two month period!

Jen works at the SPCA in town, and says the best part of her job is that when it gets stressful she can go out back and pet some of the animals.  She just organized the Paws in the Park event and had a great  turnout and some much needed funds were raised for the SPCA.  I had heard that Jen had a love for Elvis, like I do, and she said that the first time she went to Graceland it was a special trip for her Aunt, herself and her mother about a year after her father had passed away.  Her aunt had always loved Elvis, and then had been a tremendous support when they had to make the decision to sell the family home and part with her father's effects.  The trip was one they had dreamed of, and they had a fantastic time. A few years later, Jen and her aunt were able to go back at Christmas time, to see it all decorated, as they both love Christmas as well.

When I asked what things they had to do when they returned home to Nova Scotia, Jen was quick to answer that she has to have a feed of lobster and scallops with her mom, and Jerry said it would totally just going to spend some time with his mother.  Many always say that they go to a favourite pizza or burger place, for Jerry, it is the apples from the Annapolis Valley that he misses the most, and loves to go grab a few of his neighbour's trees when he is there in the fall.

I was almost boggled thinking about their schedule here in Fort McMurray, but then Jerry said some things that made me realize that there is more behind his bubbly radio personality than some might think.  Jerry said that after watching his father slip into dementia and then passing away over a very short period of time, he really started living a bit differently.  He said that he is a perfectionist, and a workaholic, so it is not his work schedule that makes him work so hard, and lose the sleep, it is his need to have things perfect for his show, the Oil Baron games, etc.  But he said that after his father passed away he has really tried to live every day to the fullest and to make a difference in his community in people's lives if he can.  He also spoke passionately about the various events that support anything to do with cancer.

Jen said that there are a few new things at the SPCA.  You can now sign up to be a monthly donor to help out the shelter, that is a no-kill facility.  You can go in to get personalized tags for your pets in case they roam off and whoever finds them can call you.  There is also another program where you can "sponsor a kennel" and once the pet in it is adopted, you will keep sponsoring the next pet.  They have a fostering program at the SPCA where you can take a pet into your home on a short term basis until their forever family is found, and they are always looking for people to come in to walk the dogs.  So you can help out and get some exercise!

Both could not say enough how much they love the lives that they are able to live here in Fort McMurray, the people they have met and some of the really fun things that they have been able to do.  I was so happy that we got to sit down with them and share our stories, and evening of food and great conversation.

When I open this event up, I won't have the luxury of preparing any questions to ask the guests who will be coming, but I believe everyone has a story to tell, and that it will be great fun hearing and getting to tell all those stories!  Special thanks to Jerry and Jen for helping me finally realize that I can do this, that it will be fun and interesting, and everything that I had hoped it would be!

I was interested in hearing what the kids all thought, and I think if they were not Jerry Neville fans before, they are now.  They loved that he talked and shared so openly, and they thought Jen was a total sweetheart and super smart.  Above the kids gathered with Jerry and Jen for a picture, and then a great shot of the guests of honor.  Afterwards I thought I should have done the picture "Around the Kitchen Table" and I will try to do that in the future.  When they arrived, we were talking drinks, and Jerry said he would have a Pepsi, it was the middle of the next day when I realized I never gave it to him!  So I will have to work on my details, lol.

And now for the recipes!!

Bacon wrapped water chestnuts
Wrap a water chestnut in a half a piece of bacon, and keep it in place with a toothpick. I usually use a whole can with a half a pound of bacon. Cook at 350 degrees for about a half an hour, and then drain any grease off.  Mix 3/4 cup brown sugar with 2/3 cup ketchup and pour over the chestnuts, bake for another half hour.  Super hot when right out of the oven, so let them cool for a few minutes before serving.

Mexican Pinwheels
Mix 1/2 cup cream cheese,  1/2 cup grated mozzarella and cheddar, 1 Tbsp. red pepper, 2 tsp Epicure Cheese and Jalapeno Dip mix, 1Tbsp 3 Onion Dip, and 1 tsp. Louisiana hot and spicy dip mix.  Spread mixture on flatbread tortilla, cut about 2.5cm thick and back at 450 degrees for about 5 to 7 minutes.  You can serve these with sour cream and salsa to kick them up even more.

Cape Breton Style Lasagna(to keep it easy)
Cook about a pound a half hamburger with a chopped up onion.  Drain off fat and then add 28 oz. of tomato sauce(your preference)...I usually use good old Prego mushroom sauce, one jar).  Put a little sauce on the bottom of your casserole dish, then a layer of lasagna noodles.  Then a layer of meat sauce and another layer of noodles.  Then put a container of cottage cheese, and then the rest of the meat sauce.  Then top it off with mozzarella cheese, or add some variety by finishing it with the four cheese Italiano mix that you can buy at the store pre-shredded.  Bake for about 40 minutes at 350.

Frozen Chocolate Cheesecake
Mix 11/2 cup oreo crumbs with 1/4 cup melted margarine and press into a 9X9 square pan.  Beat 2 tubs of spreadable cream cheese with one can of Eagle Brand Milk.  Melt four squares of semisweet chocolate and blend into the cream cheese mixture.  Then add in one tub of Cool Whip.  Put in freezer for about three hours before serving.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs, and serve.  Delicious!

I hope you all will enjoy the stories that I get to share with my supper blogging, and try out some recipes too!

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