Girls' Night Done Right

By Tina Albo:



When I became a single mother last year, it was my friends and family who helped lift my spirits. If there's anything I’ve treasured as much as the support I received from my parents, it was my small group of girlfriends. Each lady, special in her own way, showed me that I could rise above the shock and sadness of my divorce and stand on my own two feet again.


As an introverted old soul, I'm always reluctant to go out to the many bars and clubs Edmonton has to offer, as it's vastly out of my comfort zone. I've never been one to go dancing or clubbing, but I have nothing against that scene at all . . . it's just not for me.


My girlfriends, bless their hearts, are always more than happy to come to my place for a night in. Whenever they are able to find a sitter and want to hang out, my kitchen is always the place to be. Or sometimes, we alternate houses and visit accordingly. Either way, there's no expectations of anything except a nice, calm time.


Our “Girls’ Night In” routine is pretty standard. Food is made, bottles of wine are opened, and we vent and enjoy each other’s company. We don't need to go out to have fun—we just need each other.


That being said, nothing makes a Girls’ Night better than mouthwatering tapas. None of us is fond of huge, heavy meals on nights like these, so we set a simple yet delicious tapas menu to enjoy with our wine.



Amanda's Wicked Jalapeño Poppers


Amanda has been a good friend of mine since I moved into the neighborhood four years ago, and she was the first to welcome me with open arms. She is a ballsy gal with a wicked sense of humor, and we get along like a house on fire.


While our situations are different, we are still both thirty-something divorcees with a lust for life. If there's anything we truly bond over, it's our love of new and interesting food. Amanda is excellent with meal planning and can make a delicious meal out of scattered leftovers in her refrigerator.


So when she presented her version of Jalapeño poppers to me one night, I was delighted to see how she'd transformed the traditional pub treats into a healthier, yet tastier alternative. After that first bite, I knew I was hooked and immediately convinced her to give me her recipe.


Not only are these poppers incredibly easy to make, but they also take less time than the traditional ones we know and love.


20 minutes of preparation - 20 minutes to cook - Serves 2–4 people.


Ingredients

14 Jalapeño peppers

1 package plain cream cheese

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp black pepper

14 slices bacon


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare the Jalapeño peppers by cutting them in half and removing the stems, veins, and seeds.

3. Cut the cream cheese into 14 separate pieces, enough to place in between the halved peppers.

4. Insert the cream cheese inside one half of the pepper, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then seal with the other half.

5. Wrap each sealed Jalapeño with one slice of bacon and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Place filled cookie sheet in preheated oven and cook until bacon is fully cooked, about 20 minutes.

7. Remove poppers from oven and serve plain or with your favourite dip.


If you love spicy food as much as we do, then this will be a hit at your next get-together. Just make sure you have a lot of napkins handy, as your mouth will be watering even before you enjoy that first bite!



Tina’s Kickin’ Cornbread


Cornbread is a staple in my household, and I always have some around when I make a stew or chili for dinner. I’ve also found that it pairs nicely with Amanda’s Jalapeño Poppers.


It’s mildly sweet and savoury with the added kick of chili pepper.


This recipe takes about 40 minutes from prep to baking and makes around

9 servings.


Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal

¼ cup white sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon chilli powder

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup milk

1/4 cup butter, melted


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

3. Mix egg, sour cream, milk, and butter in a small bowl.Fold egg mixture into flour mixture until just moistened; pour into prepared baking dish.

4. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.


Smiles are shared all around when I bring out my cornbread. We either eat it as is, straight from the oven, or we enjoy it with a nice glass of Moscato. What better way to tantalize your taste buds?



Tina's Bloody Caesar Chicken Salad


While I have made several recipes my own in recent years, this is one that I have created and perfected myself.


Although I do not drink cocktails very often, the Bloody Caesar is one of my absolute favourites. It's tangy, spicy, and altogether delicious—a veritable delight that is Canadian-invented and enjoyed throughout the world. (Please don't confuse this cocktail with the standard Bloody Mary, as it's an entirely different drink that uses a lot of different ingredients.)


A while back, a friend issued a challenge for me to take the unique flavours of the Bloody Caesar and incorporate them into a snack. Inspiration hit when I saw the leftover roast chicken in my refrigerator—and the rest is history.


Chicken salad is a quick and easy snack to serve at Girls’ Night (or any gathering) and adding a unique twist definitely kicks it up a notch. To achieve that irresistible, heady combination housed in the cocktail, I've had to endure some trial and error. The end result is a smoky, spicy chicken that you won't be able to stop enjoying even after the last dollop has been eaten.


20 minutes preparation and serves 3–5 people.


Ingredients

2 cups chopped leftover chicken

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp chipotle pepper seasoning

1 tsp chili pepper seasoning

1 tsp celery salt