Chatelaine Kitchen

Be my guest

This past Sunday, I enjoyed a lovely brunch (club) day, hosted by Maureen Halushak, Chatelaine’s Associate Editor. Maureen has had a huge influence on my development as a writer because she’s a great one. So, I am very excited that she has written this guest blog post. Here’s what Maureen had to say: Whenever I’m having company over, I think of this passage from Bridget Jones’s Diary, when Bridget is in a mad rush trying to get her birthday dinner together before her friends arrive: “Suddenly hate the guests. Have had to slave for two days, and now they will all swan in, demanding food like cuckoos. Feel like opening door and shouting, ‘Oh, go f*ck yourselves.’ ” Like Bridget, I’ve often found myself scrambling to get a meal on the table, while silently resenting my guests (never mind that I was the one who invited them over). Last week it was my turn to host brunch club (similar to a book club, but without the required reading). Unlike the last time I had the girls over – when I rushed around at the last minute, making way too much food – I wanted to prepare most of this year’s brunch in advance, so that I could actually enjoy the afternoon. I decided to choose a theme, berries, which really helped to edit down my menu options. I settled on blueberry muffins, blackberry crisp with whipped cream, make-your-own granola, yogourt and berry parfaits and – for something savoury, a strawberry-topped baked brie with baguette. Brunch was set for Sunday, so on Saturday morning I made my blackberry crisp and premixed the dry ingredients for the muffins. I also set out all the dishes we would be using. On Sunday morning, I baked the muffins and got the parfait fixings together before the girls came over. After everyone arrived, I made the baked brie – which took about 10 minutes – and reheated the crisp, then spent the rest of the afternoon eating (and gossiping) with my guests. This was – in my opinion – the best get-together I’ve ever hosted, largely because I wasn’t stressed. The food was pretty good, too. I’ve made the crisp and the muffins dozens of time before, but the brie was something new – I found the recipe in a barbecue forum (thanks, Google!). I don’t often use recipes that aren’t from a reputable source, like, but this one was quite basic so I was pretty sure it would work. I heated a wheel of brie (with the rind on) in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. In the meantime, I stirred one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and four tablespoons of my mom’s strawberry freezer jam together in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture thickened. Once the brie felt like it was getting nice and runny inside, I took it out of the oven and topped it with the warm jam mixture, followed by a handful of chopped fresh strawberries and a tablespoon of toasted sliced almonds – deelish!