Celebrating Graduation in a Different way this year

Saying there have been challenges in 2020 is an understatement. To say you will grow stronger from it and carry your head high, I believe is true and will make you attack each day in a new way. 

I certainly never thought celebrations would become virtual, especially milestone ones like University Graduation. I recall my graduation from Brescia to be a beautiful day to celebrate with friends and family and enjoy what I had accomplished. This is what still can be done just in a different and new way. Everything is new and the challenges will continue to approach so as new grads be sure to accept them and move forward with strength and join the many who have come before you to create what you want. Enjoy your journey and celebrate everything you have achieved. 

I have put together a few recipes to help celebrate this year's Brescia 2020 graduates. They can be made ahead so you can enjoy your online ceremonies and celebrate with those in your home. It is an occasion for all! 

Whether you are graduating from University, High School or Elementary School, this is an opportunity to enjoy a meal together no matter where you are. At everyone's table sharing the same food and the same ceremony and stories that got you here. 
Make a toast and enjoy this time because you know you got this, no matter what the next steps are. Eat well, stay well and enjoy life!  

Olive Walnut Spread

Enjoying different spreads are always fun to enjoy for any occasion. This spread takes it’s flavour from the mighty Greek olive-Kalamata. Combined with walnuts its crunchy yet creamy texture is a perfect match for toasted croutes or crispy Melba toasts.

1 cup (250 mL) pitted Kalamata olives
1 cup (250 mL) walnut halves
1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream
2 tbsp (25 mL) extra-virgin olive oil 
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh Italian parsley

Toasted Garlic Croutes:
Half French baguette
3 tbsp (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, halved

In a food processor, pulse olives and walnuts together until coarse. Add sour cream, oil, lemon juice and oregano and pulse until combined well. Season with pepper to taste and stir in parsley. Scrape into bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Toasted Garlic Croutes: Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). Thinly slice baguette and brush slices with oil. Place on baking sheet and toast in oven for about 8 minutes or until light golden. Rub each toasted slice with garlic and let cool. 

Place toasted croutes on platter and serve with spread.

Yields about 1 1/2 cups (375 mL)

Smoked Salmon Devilled Eggs

Change up a classic and use some smoked salmon for extra flavour and texture everyone will love!

12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
1/4 cup (60 mL) mayonnaise
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped smoked salmon
4 tsp (20 mL) minced capers
1 tsp (5 mL) minced fresh dill or basil
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice
Pinch pepper
Smoked salmon strips and fresh dill sprigs or small basil leaves

Cut eggs in half lengthwise and remove yolks to bowl. Place egg whites onto platter; set aside.

Add mayonnaise and Dijon to egg yolks and mash with fork. Add smoked salmon, capers, dill, lemon juice and pepper and mix until smooth. Scrape mixture into piping bag or resealable bag and pipe or spoon into egg whites. Garnish with smoked salmon strips and dill sprigs. 

Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes 24 pieces.

Horseradish Devilled Eggs Variation: Omit smoked salmon and lemon juice. Stir in 2 tbsp (30 mL) horseradish with mayonnaise mixture. Garnish with smoked paprika if desired.

How to Hard Cook Eggs: Place eggs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; cover and remove from heat. Let stand about 10 minutes. Drain well and cover with cold water. Let stand in water for about 20 minutes. Peel eggs in water if easier to remove all the shells.

Roasted Beet and Fennel Salad

In this salad, roasted beets give a luscious depth of flavour. Look for baby greens or use your favourite salad greens in this salad for the delicate background to the fresh flavours.

4 beets, stems removed
Extra virgin olive or canola oil
1 orange
6 cups (1.5 L) mixed baby greens
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped toasted pecans
1 fennel, trimmed

Orange Mustard Dressing:
3 tbsp (45 mL) extra-virgin or canola olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) white wine vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated orange rind
2 tbsp (30 mL) orange juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Toss beets with a little oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast in 425 F (220 C) oven for about 1 hour or until beets are tender when pierced with a knife. Let cool. Peel and slice beets into 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick wedges; set aside.

Meanwhile, cut top and bottom ends of orange off. Using serrated motion cut skin and white pith from orange starting at top to bottom. Slice orange crosswise into thin slices; set aside.

Orange Mustard Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, orange rind and juice, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. 

In a bowl, combine greens, shallot and pecans. Cut top frowns off fennel. Cut in half lengthwise and thinly slice; add to bowl. 

Pour dressing over greens; toss to coat. Divide among 4 plates. Arrange beet wedges and orange slices around greens. 

Makes 4 servings.

Make Your Own mixed baby green mix: Look for baby spinach, frisee, red oak leaves, red leaf lettuce and arugula. Buy a small head or bag of each and combine them to have your own customized mixed green bag.

Spicy Shrimp Salad

This recipe from Best of Bridge Weekday Suppers co-authored by Emily Richards and Sylvia Kong is a winner. Show up to a party with this salad and everyone will be asking for the recipe. Feel free to use a combination of different lettuce greens.

1 lb (454 g) raw shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) chipotle chile powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cumin
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and chopped
8 cups (2 L) chopped romaine lettuce
1 cup (250 mL) corn kernels
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups (500 mL) coarsely crushed tortilla chips
Lime wedges

Cilantro Lime Dressing:
1/2 cup (125 mL) lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and stems 
1/3 cup (75 mL) mayonnaise
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic 
1/2 tsp (2 mL) liquid honey
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
Cilantro Lime Dressing: In a blender or food processor, process cilantro, mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic, honey and salt until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. In a bowl, combine shrimp, garlic, chile powder, cumin, salt, pepper and oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 24 hours.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, romaine, corn and cheese. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Heat a large skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until pink, firm and opaque. Divide salad onto plates and top with shrimp and tortilla chips. Serve with lime wedges. 

Makes 4 servings.

Note: Use regular chile powder for a milder spice for the shrimp. You can substitute boneless chopped chicken for the shrimp and cook until no longer pink inside. Or omit the shrimp for a vegetarian option.

Wild Rice and Vegetable Brunch Bake

This tasty roasted vegetable bake showcases nutty wild rice that is perfect served hot or warm. If you need to get a step ahead, be sure to roast your veggies a day or two ahead.

1/2 cup (125 mL) wild rice
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Asiago cheese
3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh Italian parsley 
2 small zucchini, sliced
1 package (12 oz/400 g) grape tomatoes
1 package (8 oz/250 g) gourmet/mini mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each dried oregano and basil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt 
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
2 tbsp (25 mL) extra virgin olive oil
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) 18% table cream

Place wild rice in deep saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil; partially cover and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and place in bowl. Add cheese and parsley.

Meanwhile, in large bowl combine zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, thyme, oregano, basil and half each of the salt and pepper. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat. Spread vegetables onto large parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in 425 F (220 C) oven for about 30 minutes or until golden and tender.

Divide rice mixture among 8 greased 1 cup (250 mL) ramekins and top with roasted vegetables. Place on large baking sheet.

In bowl, whisk together eggs, cream and remaining salt and pepper. Pour evenly over rice mixture. Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 35 minutes or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean.

Makes 8 servings.

Large Casserole Option: Spread rice mixture and vegetables in 13x 9 inch (3 L) casserole dish and bake for about 35 minutes.

Chicken Variation: Stir in 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) chopped cooked chicken into rice mixture and layer as recipe directs.

Turkey and Cranberry Strata

Strata is a dish that has layers of bread usually with an egg custard. It is a great make ahead dish for casual entertaining. In this strata, croisssants are the bread of choice and it is a perfect match to leftover turkey. You could substitute 12 slices challah or egg bread for the croissants.

6 croissants
2 tbsp (25 mL) Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1 cup (250 mL) cranberry sauce
3 cups (750 mL) chopped cooked turkey
6 slices old cheddar or Swiss cheese
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) milk
5 eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh sage or 1 tbsp (15 mL) crumbled dried sage
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

Slice croissants in half horizontally and spread with mustard. Sprinkle with half of the pepper. Spread bottom half of croissants with cranberry sauce and top with turkey and a slice of cheese. Place top half of croissants over top. 

Place filled croissants into large casserole dish, overlapping slightly; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, garlic, sage, salt and remaining pepper. Pour over croissants to cover. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Unwrap and press down croissants slightly into egg mixture. 

Bake in preheated 375 F (190 C) oven for about 45 minutes or until golden and knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 to 10.

Chocolate Balsamic Polenta Cake

Aged balsamic vinegar typically is aged in wooden barrels and has a sweet thick syrup quality that is most exquisite drizzled on top of cheeses and meats. It works perfectly in this dessert to enhance the rich taste of chocolate.

1 cup (250 mL) water
1/4 cup (60 mL) cornmeal
1/3 cup (75 mL) ground almonds
6 oz (180 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (75 mL) unsalted butter, cubed
3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup (150 mL) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
3 tbsp (45 mL) aged balsamic vinegar 
1 tbsp (15 mL) each icing sugar and amaretto liqueur
Real vanilla ice cream

Line bottom of a 9 inch (23 cm) springform pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring water to boil. Whisk in cornmeal and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes or until thickened and starting to become smooth. Stir in almonds and cook for 1 minute.

Add chocolate and butter and stir until both are melted and smooth; set aside.

Divide egg yolks and egg whites into two separate bowls. Using an electric hand mixer, beat egg yolks with half of the sugar and vanilla until pale yellow in colour. Beat egg whites with remaining sugar until stiff but not dry peaks form. Stir egg yolk mixture into cornmeal mixture until combined. Fold egg whites into mixture until no streaks remain. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for about 35 minutes or until set. Let cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, sugar and liqueur. Using a skewer or toothpick, poke cake all over. Pour vinegar mixture all over cake and let cake cool completely.

Cut cake into wedges and serve with ice cream. 

Makes 16 servings.

Tangy Lemon Tart

To finish this tart you can sprinkle 1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar over top and broil or use your handy little blow torch to brulee the top for a sunburnt look. Serve with softly whipped cream.

1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (30 mL) granulated sugar
4 tsp (20 mL) cornstarch
3/4 cup (175 mL) butter, cubed

Lemon Curd:
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, cubed
2 tbsp (30 mL) grated lemon rind
1/2 cup (125 mL) lemon juice

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and cornstarch. With fingers work in butter until mixture clumps together. With floured hands, press dough evenly into 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm and chilled. (Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.)

With fork, prick pastry shell all over; bake in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 25 minutes or until golden. Let cool completely on rack.

Lemon Curd: In a heatproof bowl, set over simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl) whisk together egg yolks, eggs and sugar. Cook, whisking frequently for about 10 minutes or until thickened and pale in colour. Whisk in butter, one piece at a time, not adding another piece until other is melted. Add lemon rind and juice; whisking constantly for about 4 minutes or until thickened to the consistency of pudding and no longer frothy.

Pour filling into prepared crust; smooth top. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until set. (Make-ahead: Tart can be made up to 4 hours ahead.) 

Makes 8 servings.

Almond Crust Variation: Reduce flour to 1-1/4 (300 mL) cups and add ¼ cup (50 mL) ground almonds and ¼ tsp (1 mL) almond extract.


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