Since moving to Alberta, some of my friends and I have started a monthly dinner night ritual. These nights see a pair host dinner where they create a main course to share with 6 guests. The 6 other guests rotate between bringing dessert and beverages. The nights usually end with board games and other fun activities that tend to lead into a session of gut-busting laughter. Food, friends, and games...what else could be better?
This weekend, Andrea and I were up to host dinner night. Before I go any further, I need to back track a bit about a month to Christmas 2012. For Christmas, Mom wrote out some of my favourite family recipes and arranged them into a book for me. What a special gift! So, I knew immediately that I wanted to make one of these family favourites for my friends. Meal of choice? Lasagna! And I don't think I've ever been so nervous to cook for a group of people. The meals we have had so far during these dinner nights have been outstanding! Homemade tacos (and by homemade, I mean EVERYTHING made from scratch - from the tortillas to the refried beans) and delicious comforting chili at another. Also, I was making a recipe I have never made before. Not always the best idea when hosting 6 people for supper, but with patience and by following the recipe exactly, I knew I could do it...(and with a little encouragement and reassurance from mother and father dearest!)
Good thing I read the recipe earlier in the week before making the lasagna on Saturday! Because to my surprise, I had to let the sauce simmer for 4 hours. I completely understand why this step is necessary - to help develop and marry the flavours together. So the sauce simmered, and simmered, was stirred and stirred, then simmered some more. In all honesty, this recipe is super simple, just takes time.
Once the sauce is done, and the lasgna noodles have been cooked in boiling water, all that's left is to layer everything together. A little bit of sauce needs to be placed on the bottom to keep everything from sticking, then you layer noodles, sauce, cottage cheese, and mozzerella cheese, repeating until the pan is full. I made two layers. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour and you've got a gooey, delicious, cheesy main course. To go with the lasagna, Andrea made her mother's homemade caesar salad. The dressing Andrea made was to die for! Garlicy and creamy, it truly is a good thing we were all eating the same meal. Garlic galore. And it was a hit!
I've really been enjoying these dinner nights. I'm getting to know new people, getting to explore the things I love (cooking and food!) and I'm getting to try new things. It's an affordable way to have fun in this large city! I Skyped with one of my good friends, Cara, yesterday. During our talk, we discussed how sometimes I feel like my life is stagnant and I'm not going in the right direction. When I told her about these fun dinner nights, she was amazing in reminding me that this is proof that I'm putting myself out there and finding new adventures. Sometimes it's hard to keep these things in perspective when you watch other peoples lives develop and change as well. But it's good friends like Cara that keep me level headed. And it's these dinner nights that keep me passionate and allow me to have fun!