Sunday, December 1, 2013

Menu: December Chill

Being an American living in Canada, I've found myself in a surprising number of conversations with strangers in grocery stores about food items and holidays. In October, when I realized that Thanksgiving was coming up, I read about it and thought about planning a small Canadian Thanksgiving for our friends. While doing my weekly grocery shopping in the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaw's, a woman came up to me and asked me when Thanksgiving would be this year. For the briefest of moments, I thought I was on some version of Leno's Tonight Show, where they seek out ignorant street people and ask them basic questions about life and government. I felt pretty proud when I answered the question!
So patriotic ...

Last month, while shopping about in Walmart, (something I plan to stop due to their atrocious attitude towards worker pay and rights) a woman came up to me and just started talking about lemon pie mix, talking rather conspiratorially about how the brand name was slightly different and how this was NOT the Canadian brand, but the American brand, which was just fine for Americans, but what an outrage to sell it to Canadians! Personally, I had no clue. My family has never been big on lemon pie, nor making pie from packages. Mom always cooked from scratch, so I tend to as well. When I confessed to the woman that I didn't know anything about this brand naming switch, she chatted a bit more then headed off. While I was picking up our weekly chocolate rations, the woman found me again, to let me know that she had spoken with a manager and confirmed that the pie mix was the inferior American brand.

I still knew nothing about the pie brands. But I nodded and smiled and after she left, wondered what it was about me that causes people to come up to me and talk specifically about very Canadian things. I've been told I have a non-Canadian accent. I guess my Texan comes through sometimes, which is a surprise to me since I'm not from East (redneck slur) or West (cowboy drawl) Texas. The husband decided it was just that I seemed like an approachable person. Still, I'm waiting for someone to pop out with a camera and announce that I've been on CTV's Quiz an American! or something.

Our first snow storm proper happened on the night of the 26th! And I had run out of cat food for the morning. Queue the clutzy Texan stumbling through morning icy sidewalks in heavy winter gear first thing in the morning, even before coffee. I think I slipped at least four times and realized I was terrified of barely sloping surfaces. On my way back, I realized that walking on the snow covered grass would speed things up. Texans love snow, but dread being outside in it for anything more than gleeful pointing. This will certainly be an interesting first winter.


  • Betty Crocker's Sausage n' Apple Cheddar Biscuit Bake
  • Image credit: Betty Crocker
    • New! Apple season is past its prime, but we're still finding a few good snacking and baking apples up here. I really wanted something hearty, something one dish, something not dinnery for dinner. This kind of looks like baked dumplings casserole, and both of us love a good breakfast scramble. A somewhat carby treat, but hopefully satisfying for a cold night. No substitutions planned, although we'll probably half the recipe.
    • Final Verdict: I really liked that this was all came out of the oven in one dish, but to be fair, this was quite a mess to make. Saute pan, mixing bowl, cheese grater, casserole dish. The biscuit topping was nice, but the dish didn't really come together. Neither of us felt like it was a dish that made sense. The sausage didn't match with the apple (and there was just way too much apple, and I only used three instead of four!), the texture of the egg was almost hidden. I'd rather make a proper quiche next time.
  • Linda's Low Carb Spinach Lasagna
    • Spinach Lasagna with Sausage and Beef
    • No, this dish isn't fast to put together. Most lasagnas aren't. But it's not difficult either. Typically I make the alternate version which requires sausage, but this week we need to save a bit of coin, so I'll be making do with freezer deals (stocked up on spinach and cream cheese when it was on sale). However, this meal is super satisfying. Friends who have had it, who are not low-carb eaters, have always said they didn't miss the noodles at all. Personally, I find Linda's recipes to be under seasoned, so I always add in fresh ingredients (real onion and garlic) and use the best cheese I can afford. No green canned crap please. It really, truly makes a difference.
  • I Breathe I'm Hungry's Corned Beef and Cabbage Meatballs
    • New! For a while, after moving up here, meatballs were my go to dish. Especially when I had extras knocking around in the freezer. Throw stuff in a bowl, mash and roll? Yeah, I have time for that. I've tried a few other meatball recipes, including bacon and brie stuffed meatballs. Extravagant, but not excellent. My last foray into Cabbagetown* was a disappointing experience with Savoy cabbage rolls. The cabbage never cooked down properly. Hopefully this recipe will be different!
      *Yup, that's a pun for fellow Torontonians.
  • Food Wishes' Salad Lyonnaise
  • Image credit: Food Wishes
    • New! Salads like this often don't get the credit they deserve for being full meals. But how can it not be? A fully, properly emulsified dressing, a perfectly poached egg, thoughtfully balanced ingredients? After a week of meaty casseroles and meatballs, this will be a welcome lift. Plus, any excuse to eat good, freshly prepared French food is a plus in my book.

Sweet Tooth

Image credit: Pastry Affair
  • Pastry Affair's Black Tea and Honey Buttercream Cake
    • New! Oh, I have wanted to make this for so long. The husband loves tea more than coffee, and I have a secret love affair with honey. So much so, I want to care for a few hives in the future. I have trouble imagining the flavor this cake will produce, but I expect it to be softly-spicy. Gentle and satisfying.
    • Final Verdict: I didn't have cake flour, which I think affected the final texture a great deal. Although I accounted for this, the cake still didn't have the moistness I wanted using all-purpose. Regardless, the flavor of the tea really came through in the cake and as I predicted, resulted in a very gentle flavor. The honey buttercream was a smidge too sweet, so next time I would add a bit more salt. Overall, I really liked this.


  • Lunch at La Tortilleria in Kensington Market during Saturday errands. The last time we stopped at this restaurant, it was a late Saturday evening, and we were both starving. Faced with unpleasant fast food and food court options, we took up the recommendation of a friend and tried it out (different location). Husband got a mix of tacos, but because I read the menu carefully, I found Los Campechanos. Corn tortillas stuffed with steak, chorizo, cilantro and onion. Oh yes. Served with salsa verde and fresh guacamole, this plate is an absolute steal at $9. Looking at a long day ahead, after we finished gathering nuts and spices, we both ordered a plate of Los Campechanos and analysed an episode of The Simpsons.

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