Tag Archives: entertaining

Gluten-Free Halloween Treats: Layered Ice Cream & “Spooky Eyes” (Baked Chicken Meatballs)

Halloween is the ultimate holiday in my books. I love wearing costumes, carving pumpkins, lighting fireworks, decorating our apartment, trick-or-treating, eating copious amounts of chocolate and candy, and the list just goes on from there! This was my first Halloween eating gluten-free and soy-free so I needed to rethink the candy and chocolate situation a little. I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat much of the store bought stuff, but what fun, Halloween-themed items could I make for myself instead? Here’s what I came up with…

“Spooky Eyes” are a fun meatball appetizer I developed using sliced black olives over melted mozzarella cheese to make them look like ghoulish eyeballs. These meatballs were super easy to make and they looked and tasted great. Here’s my simple recipe if you want to make them yourself.

“Spooky Eyes”: Ghoulish, Gluten-Free Baked Chicken Meatballs

For the meatballs:
850 grams ground chicken (you could also use ground turkey, beef or pork too)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup minced fresh basil
1 medium onion, minced
1 small can tomato paste (5.50z / 156 ml)
1/2 cup ground Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

For the topping:
1 – 2 cups tomato sauce
grated mozzarella cheese
1 can sliced black olives

1. In a large bowl, combine ground chicken with all of the meatball ingredients listed above. I made sure my onions, garlic and basil were finely minced by running all of them through my food processor first. Mix ingredients together until they are evenly combined.

2. Shape mixture into evenly sized meatballs and bake them in the oven at 425 F until they are cooked and start to brown (about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven).

3. Remove the tray of cooked meatballs from the oven and allow them to cool slightly (enough to work without burning yourself). Once ready, spoon a dollop of tomato sauce directly onto each meatball.

4. Top each meatball with a handful of grated mozzarella cheese. Arrange the pieces of cheese so that they will melt into a solid white shape easily.

5. Top each meatball with a good slice of black olive to make it look like an eyeball. If you wish, you can set the olive slices off-centre to make them look cross-eyed.

6. Return the meatballs to the oven and bake for 5-10 more minutes, until the cheese has melted solid. Serve warm.

Layered Ice Cream

I also had my first foray into the world of layered ice cream this Halloween. I saw a photo of it in a cooking magazine and Halloween was the perfect excuse to try it. These tasty treats were also very easy to make. However, they did require a lot of time and patience to pull them off successfully.

I used disposable plastic wine glasses as the ice cream dishes since I didn’t have any glass ones. I used store-bought vanilla and mango ice cream, and some gluten-free and soy-free chocolate sauce. I let the mango ice cream melt a bit, then I pressed spoonfuls into the bottom of the cups trying to fill in all the gaps. I let them sit out on the counter until the layer leveled out a bit before putting them into the freezer to chill.

Many hours later I added the chocolate sauce layer, but here’s where I screwed up. I had put the little ice creams into our mini-freezer before, and they weren’t actually as frozen as I had thought. I had to heat the chocolate sauce up a bit to get it to pour smoothly and once the warm chocolate sauce hit the semi-frozen ice cream it sank straight to the bottom of the cup. I ruined quite a few this way before pulling the plug on the chocolate sauce operation. I cleared some space in our regular freezer and froze the cups over night. The next day when I added the warm chocolate sauce layer it settled perfectly. Time and patience are truly the key to this dish.

After the chocolate sauce layer had sufficiently frozen, I microwaved a big dish of vanilla ice cream to make it a liquid. I filled up the cups with the remaining vanilla layer and chilled them for a few more hours. The results, at least in the cups where I re-froze the mango again, were nice flat layers of ice cream with a gooey chocolate sauce layer in the middle. If you have the time, I highly recommend making these next Halloween!

Gluten Free Swiss Chard Turkey Rolls with Goat Cheese

We’re growing Swiss chard again this year and it’s quickly becoming a star in my books. It grows fast and furious, and it’s incredibly versatile. Within about three weeks ours has grown large enough to start harvesting, and the long, broad leaves make it perfect for leafy rolls. You can use it instead of lettuce or spinach in most recipes. It has a peppery flavour, like lettuce with a kick.

I made a really tasty appetizer on the weekend that I just had to share. It’s quick, simple and it tastes great with a glass of chilled white wine.


12 leaves of Swiss chard
150 grams of goat cheese (flavoured or regular)
400 grams ground turkey breast
28 grams fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot
40 grams parmesan cheese
handful of pine nuts
handful of assorted lettuce (mixed baby greens)

1. Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the leaves in half along the spine of the leaf, and removed the spine completely (the spine is too stiff to roll properly if you leave it connected).

2. Using a food processor add the garlic, parmesan and shallot while the processor blade is spinning. Run until mixture is thoroughly chopped.

3. Add basil, assorted lettuce and goat cheese to mix and pulse until smooth.

4. Sauté ground turkey in a frying pan until cooked. Strain any fat, then combine the cheese & herb mixture with the turkey and cook until the cheese begins to bubble and melt.

5. Stir in the pine nuts and allow the mixture to cool enough that you can carefully touch it without burning yourself.

6. Place the Swiss chard leaf underside up on a cutting board. Use a tablespoon to roughly measure the amount of filling you place in each chard leaf, then roll the leaf around the stuffing. Carefully place the rolls on a serving dish so that they won’t unroll accidentally. Serve warm and enjoy!

Vegetarian Tapas for Four

My husband and I love to have friends over for dinner, and we recently invited two friends over who presented us with a serving conundrum. The man is a vegetarian, though he’s alright with eating seafood, but the woman eats only chicken, and isn’t interested in any other meats or seafood. We’ve had dinner with them many times before and always stuck to serving a safe vegetarian dish. But, I was starting to get bored. I turned to my shelf of cookbooks for inspiration and for the week leading up to the dinner, skimmed through countless recipes for meatless main courses, salads and appetizers. I couldn’t decide which recipe to pick. But finally, inspiration struck. Why not cook a series of small dishes instead? My husband liked the sound of that.

I decided to make five dishes in total, and space them out over a number of hours. The thing I hate the most about hosting a dinner party is getting stuck in the kitchen while everyone else gets to talk and drink, so I resolved to pick recipes that were easy and could mostly be prepared in advance. Here’s what I ended up serving:

1. Sun-dried Tomato Hummus with Pita Bread
2. Camembert with Caramel Sauce
3. Vegetarian Stuffed Baguette
4. Vegetarian Thin Crust Pizza
5. Chocolate Brownies with Cookie Dough Ice Cream

1. Sun-dried Tomato Hummus with Pita Bread

Hummus is a great vegetarian dish because it’s packed with protein from the chickpeas, and it can be whipped up very quickly in the food processor. Adding a 1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes to the recipe adds a nice tangy flavour, and gives it a good kick of colour instead of the usual brown. I used the hummus recipe in The Cocktail Chef, by Dinah Koo & Janice Poon, but I ended up needing to add a lot more liquid (water, lemon juice and olive oil) to the mix. Any other hummus recipe would do just fine. Serve with toasted pita bread triangles brushed lightly with butter.

2. Camembert with Caramel Sauce

This recipe, from the cookbook Caramel, by Trish Deseine, is almost too good to be true. It’s simple to prepare, but best of all, it’s makes a stunning presentation. It’s also gluten-free. I will definitely be making this recipe again… and again.

The trickiest part is getting the caramel to the right consistency. In a small sauce pan mix together a 1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar and 2 Tbsp water. Stir them together, then bring the mixture to a simmer and watch it closely until it turns a light golden brown. If you have a candy thermometer try and achieve the soft ball stage (116 °C or 240 °F).

In the meantime, place a round of camembert in the centre of a serving dish and dress up the top and sides with a healthy mix of nuts and dried fruits. I used a combination of almonds, cashews, peanuts, dried cranberries and dried bluberries. The first time I made the caramel I completely burnt it since I wasn’t watching closely. Be warned, once it starts to change colour, it changes very fast. Once the caramel reaches the desired colour and consistency pour it gracefully over the arranged cheese. Let it cool for at least a few minutes before serving. The caramelized suger will be extremely hot at first.

Tips: Place the cheese either on parchment paper on a plate or on a wooden cutting board. That will make it easier to cut through tough caramel chunks, if necessary. Brie is a good substitute for camembert if you can’t find it at the store.

3. Vegetarian Stuffed Baguette

I had the most fun making this appetizer. I created my own recipe based on one in The Cocktail Chef that I’d made before. Again, this recipe is simple to make, yet it possess a certain wow factor that makes it a great choice for easy entertaining.

5 ounces roughly chopped fresh basil
1 finely chopped shallot
2 or 3 tablespoons minced garlic (as desired)
1 package Yves Veggie Ground (or substitute with any type of ground meat)
1 30-inch baguette (or 2 smaller baguettes)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup ground parmesan cheese
1 cup roughly chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Slice the ends off the baguette and then slice lengthwise, without breaking the bread into two halves. Hollow out the baguette by removing the soft inner bread by hand. Reserve the bread chunks. If you’re using a very long baguette (like I did) you may want to cut it in half to make it easier to manage.

Sauté the Yves Veggie Ground (or other ground meat) in a frying pan with the minced garlic and chopped shallots until cooked. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Using a food processor, pluse the bread chunks into fresh bread crumbs and add 1/2 the amount to the mixture. Mix all ingredients together in the bowl.

Spoon the mixture into the hollowed out baguette carefully, so as not to crack the spine of the bread. Fill the baguette as much as possible. Once the baguettes are stuffed wrap them in tin foil and bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 375°F.

To serve, slice the baguettes into 1 inch rounds and enjoy!

4. Vegetarian Thin Crust Pizza

To make this easy on myself I pre-chopped all the pizza toppings earlier in the day and made the pizza crust a few days before. By the time we were ready for the pizza the sun had long ago set and all of us had consumed our fair share of wine. I thought it would be fun to switch things up a bit, so instead of preparing the pizza myself (like I normally would), I got the crust ready on the pizza stone and let my guests arrange the toppings themselves. It was pretty fun, and of course, it’s hard to go wrong with pizza. For toppings we had some Yves Veggie Ground, basil, mushrooms, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, garlic, and cheddar and mozarella cheese.

5. Chocolate Brownies with Cookie Dough Ice Cream

No meal is complete without some type of dessert. I had some Triple Chocolate Ghirardelli Brownie Mix in the cupboard already so I decided not to reinvent the wheel. Chocolate brownies are always well received. They’re even better when slightly warmed and topped with a few scoops of cookie dough ice cream.

All in all, the vegetarian tapas were a success. Everything tasted great and I was satisfied that I hadn’t spent too much time working away in the kitchen. With these five easy recipes I had a lot more time to sip wine and enjoy a night of great conversation with friends. That’s what entertaining is all about!