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MARGARET PROUSE: Time to call on creativity when planning a menu for a special event

Broccoli florets are the main ingredients in this week’s recipe for Mini Broccoli and Cheddar Crustless Quiches.
Broccoli florets are the main ingredients in this week’s recipe for Mini Broccoli and Cheddar Crustless Quiches. - 123RF Stock Photo

Planning a menu is a creative challenge, especially when it’s for a special occasion.

There are two events coming up that I need to plan for. One is lunch for company (a small family group), and the other is technically not a menu at all but simply to select the birthday cake to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. 

First, the lunch menu. I want something that can be prepared ahead of time and is child-friendly. 

Since broccoli is a favourite vegetable of the child who is joining us for lunch, I have decided to make Mini Broccoli and Cheddar Crustless Quiches, taking advantage of the fresh local broccoli that’s available now. An added advantage is that they can be baked, cooled and frozen for up to two weeks, and then reheated from frozen at 180 C (350 F) for 15 to 20 minutes, until heated through. I’ll serve it with fresh bread and a green salad.

Mini Broccoli and Cheddar Crustless Quiches

From Hession, Julie Anne: 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes, Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2013. 

15 mL (1 tbsp) unsalted butter
One half of a yellow onion, chopped
5 large eggs
250 mL (1 cup) whole milk
250 mL (1 cup) steamed fresh or frozen* broccoli florets, chopped
150 mL (⅔ cup) shredded Cheddar cheese
30 mL (2 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley leaves
30 mL (2 tbsp) chopped green onions
2 mL (½ tsp) salt
2 mL (½ tsp) ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F) and grease a 12-cup muffin tin. 

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended. Add broccoli, cheese, parsley, green onions, salt, pepper and reserved onion, stirring to mix.

Pour mixture into prepared muffin tins, filling almost to the top.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are puffed and set. Cool for 10 minutes, then carefully run a knife around edges and unmold. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Makes 12 quiches.

* If using frozen broccoli florets, heat in microwave according to package instructions, and drain fully before adding to bowl. Otherwise, the quiches will be watery.

Now for the cake.  I like to make something seasonal, and a cake that utilizes pumpkin or squash is right for autumn.

Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake

Adapted from Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook, Juniper Publishing, Montreal 2015. 

175 mL (¾ cup) chopped pecans
400 mL (1⅔ cups) packed brown sugar
60 mL (¼ cup) butter, softened, or vegetable oil
3 eggs
175 mL (¾ cup) vegetable oil
500 mL (2 cups) roasted pumpkin or squash purée (recipe follows)
625 mL (2½ cups) all purpose flour
10 mL (2 tsp) baking powder
8 mL (1¾ tsp) cinnamon
5 mL (1 tsp) EACH baking soda and ground ginger
3 mL (¾ tsp) salt
1 mL (¼ tsp) EACH nutmeg and ground allspice

On a baking sheet, toast pecans in 180 C (350 F) oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

Stir pecans with 30 mL (2 tbsp) of the brown sugar; sprinkle over greased and flour-dusted 3 L (10 inch) bundt pan.

In a large bowl, beat remaining brown sugar with butter; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in oil until fluffy. Beat in pumpkin until smooth.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, salt, nutmeg and allspice; stir into egg mixture. 

Scrape into prepared pan; tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Smooth top.

Bake in 180 C (350 F) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Transfer cake to rack.

When cake is completely cool, brush with brown sugar/rum syrup or apply a caramel glaze. 

Makes 10-12 servings

Roasted Pumpkin or Squash Purée

Halve and seed 1 sugar pumpkin (about 1 kg) or 1 butternut squash (about 900 g). Prick skin all over with fork. 

Roast, cut side down, on rack on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet in 180 C (350 F) oven until flesh is browned and tender, 60 to 75 minutes. 

Let cool. Scoop out flesh; discard skin. In food processor, purée flesh. Makes about 500 mL (2 cups)

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column for The Guardian every Friday. She can be reached by email at [email protected].

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