Have you ever had an experience where you woke up the next morning and you wondered if it was all a dream? I have. It happened on the eve of the Equinox this year. Annaliisa and I had this brilliant idea to share our love of thoughtful, balanced and delicious food with a small group of people in an intimate setting.
Things just kept falling into place. We found a STUNNING location and then realized it had an industrial kitchen. Then we starting brainstorming flavours and textures. We cooked. And we cooked. And we cooked some more and some more. Then we cooked. Annaliisa came into my life just over a year ago. She has been a guiding light in my life. She introduced me to some amazing authors (Gabrielle Bernstein!) and enlightened my investigations in culinary experiences. As someone who had been paleo-ish as well as loosely following the four hour body, her knowledge of holistic nutrition inspired me. I remember asking her this spring why her skin was SO AMAZING and she informed me it is because she rarely has dairy in her diet.
My first reaction was, "NooooooOOOOoooo cheese!" Then I ate it a little more and more infrequently and slowly but surely the bumps on my face went away. Hmmmm, maybe there's more to this than I thought. Then Annaliisa suggest I do her 2 week cleanse. The recipes were DELICIOUS. I lost some weight; a few inches here and there; and my sleep started to get better. Then I followed her 30 day slim down. If for no other reason participate in one of her programs for the smoothie recipes. They have changed my world. I can not go a day without a delicious AOK concoction.
I noticed my body started to perform better. My sleep was improving everyday. And the best part was- I wasn't missing the gluten & dairy. Every time I delved back into my pre-cleanse world I paid for it. The thing that boggled my mind was that I didn't realize how sensitive I was until I cleaned out my body. I now notice every time I eat something I shouldn't be eating. It's amazing how my body tells me what is not good for me!
So if I didn't know before, I wonder if other people don't know either?! In a world where corporate conglamerants dictate the food guides of what we should be eating, it is more common for people to not listen to their bodies but to the dogmas of society for generations. I challenge you to ask before you lift a fork to your mouth- just because people have done things a certain way for a long time, does that make it right?
Don't get me wrong. I like pizza, poutine, chicken wings, pasta, cinnamon buns and anything from Catch 122 or smothered in Hollandaise. And Trader Joe's truffle cheese. But 70% of the time I try to make balanced choices. For anyone that knows me they know I love to cook. A lot. All the time. I like going out and drinking wine and trying new dishes. I LOVE checking out new restaurants and broadening my culinary experiences.
I was inspired. What if Annaliisa and I were to host a dinner that illustrated this healthy balanced way of eating that also favoured my love of decadent, delicious food. The dinner would be about balance. Honouring your body and the people that chose to come and share an evening with you. Food that was delicious and thoughtful but you didn't have to roll yourself out of the room at the end of the night feeling like crap.
I remember dreaming about what I wanted the tablescape to look like. My love of chiaroscuro came through once again. White and black with natural accents. Light fading into dark. Black stoneware with sparkling gold. With this emphasis on balance, and the most recent line I released inspired by constellations, I thought it was quite fitting to have the dinner's theme be the Equinox.
Welcome to our night of love, light, & balance.
Kerri from Rogue Florist helped me out with the floral for the dinner. She went with me to the flower shop and helped me pick out some beautiful greenery and flowers that would look beautiful together. I think she did a great job, don't you? The spray roses are STUNNING.
Handthrown black stoneware candleholder & Fault in our Stars Constellation bud vase.
Handthrown black stoneware Fault in our Stars Constellation bud vase- Orion.
Martini glasses waiting for the Kombucha & Apple Cider concoction (with vodka.)
Handthrown black stoneware Fault in our Stars Constellation mugs- Cassiopeia.
Annaliisa created this beautiful soup. We worked on the recipe together playing with the subtle flavours and consistency. Soups have got to be one of the most interesting and versatile recipe you can play with! With sweet potato, thyme and a generous amount of lemon, the flavours are light, aromatic and zesty.
While I was in Edmonton a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of eating at a small vegan restaurant. One of the dishes came with a dehydrated onion bread. I asked about some of the ingredients and together Annaliisa and I recreated our version of the bread- but in cracker form to pair with the delicious soup. Slightly sweet with a touch of saltiness, these crackers are PERFECT for dunking into the soup -and packed with protein from hemp seeds!
Roasted Delicata squash with fresh arugula, mint // cilantro // arugula pesto, and warmed pepitas. The first time I tried the pepitas they BLEW MY MIND. I never realized that pumpkin seeds could be so insanely delicious. Annaliisa roasted the squash in coconut oil, and the sweetness from the squash was heightened by the flavour of the coconut. The pesto and greens provided a touch of fresh & zesty, and the pepitas brought warmth and a little kick to the dish.
Kale & Caramelized Onion Stuffed Chicken Breast // Kale, Caramelized Onion & Marinated Sprouted Tofu Stuffed Zucchini. Served with Vegan Pavé, dressed Kale & Truffled Cashew Cream.
For the main course Annaliisa and I decided on chicken. So I started racking my brain for delicious recipes. I of course wanted to avoid gluten- so phyllo was out. Pork has next to no nutritional value and that left Coq au Vin. We wanted to do something different, decadent & delicious. Roast chicken was too boring. I also wanted to try making something I've never done before. Stuffed chicken.
The first time I cooked it I made it with Kale, Granny Smith's and Sage -inspired by the stuffing my mother makes at every holiday. As the other pieces of the dish developed the apples were then replaced with mushrooms. Then the mushrooms were dropped when I decided to caramelize the onions to further define the flavour.
Years ago I used to work at the Hart House and would lose my mind whenever their Pavé was on the menu. Ooey, gooey and the epitome of everything decadent. But what were we to do? Annaliisa and I had agreed on no dairy. So the investigation continued. We tried it with coconut milk; loads of oil; and vegetable stock. The coconut oil was fantastic but Annaliisa and I texted each other simultaneously one day to say that we preferred the simple stock version. The simplicity of it allowed the flavour of the Thyme to really shine through. And also accented the Cashew Cream.
I would say the Truffled Cashew Cream in the 'winner, winner, chicken dinner" of the dish. LOL. Annaliisa had told me of making a cashew cream instead of an alfredo to go with pasta- so I altered the idea slightly with the addition of sautéed onions for richness and real White Truffle Oil (from All of Oils) for flavour.
After the first several rounds of plating I decided the dish needed some oomph. It was sort of lacklustre on the plate, and didn't have the 'fresh' quality or 'zing' I like to have with my dishes. I pondered it for several days. What could I add that would compliment the flavours and presentation but not overwhelm? I would say about 3 times a week I eat a lunch of tomatoes & diced red peppers dressed with a simple mix of really good quality Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, organic Garlic, fresh Basil and salt // pepper with poached eggs. So I channeled that for the addition of the Kale leaf -dressed simply in Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Garlic, Lemon & Salt // Pepper. I massaged the dressing into each leaf and let it sit in the fridge for about 3 hours before serving. The guests were stealing the leaves off of each other's plates.
It never ceases to amaze me how such a simple thing can be SO delicious.
Roibos & Chair Poached Pear with Honeyed Coconut Ice Ball, Wildflower Honey drizzle & Vegan Shortbread Crumble.
If I'm being completely honest I think we decided on the dessert first! We were so in tune with each other when we dreamed up the idea of a poached pear. Annaliisa envisioned the amazing combo of Rooibos and Chai. I so incredibly intrigued by the creative development René Redzepi (Noma, Denmark) and David Chang (Momofuku ,NY) employ with their dishes. They were part of my inspiration in creating the Honeyed Coconut Ice Ball & Vegan Shortbread Crumble.
The idea behind the Ice ball was that as you sit and enjoy the company of your guests it softens slowly. It slows you down, makes you wait. You have to savour it -slowly. Else it'll fly off your plate. The Vegan shortbread crumble was made of coconut oil, GF flour, and raw cane sugar. It added the third component necessary for the dish- texture. With a slight crunch and a buttery saltiness it balances out the softness of the pear and ice cream. I added my signature rock salt for the occasional zing on your tongue.
We all had the pleasure of celebrating with a few of our guests on the dinner. There was a birthday and an eleventh anniversary. I am so incredibly grateful we were honoured to share those special evenings with you!
Thank you so much to everyone that made it out and shared this beautiful evening with Annaliisa and I. We could not have done it without every single person that showed up and made space for us, together we created a miracle. Together we made magic happen.
If you are interested in future events stayed tuned on social media, or email us! annaliisasorganickitchen.com // gceramicandco at gmail.com
Favourite my Etsy store to be notified when the Fault in our Stars collection becomes available online!
Photos- Hannah Cummins Photography
- 1 Tsbp cooking oil
- 1/2 sweet onion
- 1 Cup soaked Cashews
- 1/2 Lemon Juice
- 1 Tbsp GF Tamari
- 1 Tbsp White Truffle Oil from All of Oils
- 2 Tbsp Water
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Soak cashews for 2 hours. Drain and rinse
- Dice sweet onion and sauté until transparent.
- Add onions, cashews, lemon juice, and tamari to a blender. Begin adding water until the ingredients begin to move inside the blender. Slowly drizzle as much Truffle Oil as you like. If you want the Cream to be more saucy, add more water. Season with salt and pepper.
- Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 7 days.
- If you want it a little cheesy, opt out with the Truffle Oil and add 1 Tbsp of Nutritional Yeast, 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika, 1/4 Tsp Cayenne.