Through the Kitchen Window

Every so often we get together with friends for a cards night. We play Euchre, usually have two or three tables going with a couple of “spare” players and have a great evening enjoying time with friends. While none of us is a great expert card player, we do have some great competition.

The format is simple: partners for matches are drawn from everyone’s name being thrown into a proverbial hat. We try to mix it up so that no “couples” are partnered, but that sometimes can make the competition more interesting too. Once the first round has been played, winners keep their seats (and their partners) and the losers (doesn’t that sound awful???) go back into the hat to be partnered with someone else and go back into the fray. Through the course of the evening we usually manage six matches. Scoring is a simple tally of wins versus losses, no complicated points system for us. At the end of the night, the two players with the most wins collect a prize and the two players with the fewest wins also collect a prize. Yours truly usually collects the fewest wins prize. But then again, I’m usually more interested in the food anyways.

It’s usually a laid back evening and in keeping with that, we try to have very laid back food too. Mostly this means appetizers, dips and munchies that fill two requirements. First they have to be yummy, and second they have to be easy and uncomplicated to eat. Hard to eat wings for instance and then try handling your cards.

For some people that means breaking out the frozen pre-made appetizers, cheese and crackers and nachos and dip. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The next card night at my place is set for mid April. If you’re in the area, drop in and join us. Failing that, I’m including the recipes and maybe some inspiration for you to do a card night of your own. They’re a lot of fun and a great way to break out of the “winter doldrums” and get back to entertaining.

Spring is in the air up here in the usually frozen north and I wanted my menu to reflect that so here’s what I’m going to be working on. Try them for yourself and let me know what you think.

Baked Vegetable Dip

  • 2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and steamed till soft, diced
  • 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained (make sure these are not the marinated ones), diced
  • 1 container spreadable cream cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp. cayenne (or more to taste)
  • 1 ½ cups grated asiago cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix everything together reserving ¼ cup of the asiago and all of the parmesan. Pour into a baking dish and top with the reserved cheeses. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is lightly golden. Serve hot with pita crisps or tortilla chips.

Make the pita crisps by cutting pitas into triangle wedges, brushing lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a dash of cayenne and bake until golden and crisp.

  • Yields: about 6 cups
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Roxx’s Chicken Strips

These can be made in any amount you need, have plenty on hand though because they’re yummy and will go fast. They’re great as leftovers diced and served on a salad too.
  • 1 ½ lbs. chicken breast, cut into strips & dipped in a light teriyaki sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • ½ tsp. thyme
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Dip the chicken strips as indicated.

Mix the remaining ingredients together.

Coat the chicken with the bread crumb mixture. Place on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until ready to bake them.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake the chicken strips for 15 minutes, turn the strips and continue baking until the strips are crisp and the cheese is melted, usually another 5 to 10 minutes.

I like to serve them with a spicy BBQ sauce for dipping but they’re great with plum sauce too. Alternatively, about 5 minutes before they’re done baking, they can be sprinkled with shredded sharp cheddar for a nice flavour surprise.

  • Yields: depends on how hungry your crowd is!
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Spicy Shrimp

  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. chili paste
  • 2 lbs jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Dash teriyaki sauce

In a hot wok, heat the peanut oil till smoking. Add the sesame seed oil, chili paste, shrimp and teriyaki sauce. Toss lightly until the shrimp curl and are just pink. Serve with a crusty baguette.

  • Yields: 2 lbs. shrimp
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Happy April. Good luck with your card parties. See you here next month!!!