Practically American

Canadian thanksgiving is great, usually mild weather, turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie… But, there’s always been something intriguing about American Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s the massive parades or the four day weekend, but it feels like a bigger deal than in the great white north. I’ve wanted to experience one for a while, at least 12 years, going back to when my bestie and I first became friends and chatted on the phone while she made perfectly sized bread cubes for the stuffing.

The problem with a Thursday holiday, when you’re Canadian, is that it’s hard to coordinate the travel and time off. I’m not one of those people with a plethora of vacation days. So, when the opportunity finally arose to celebrate with my US peeps I wasn’t going to miss it.

As a bonus, we got to celebrate at my besties place in downtown Detroit, which meant a prime view of America’s second oldest thanksgiving parade from the comfort of her living room. I don’t have a great desire to camp out on the sidewalk (in general or for a parade) but I am totally down with eating bacon and eggs while looking down on awesome marching bands and seeing the characters at eye level.

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I did pop out for a second when we took Maddie, the dog, out and was subsequently pelted by clowns throwing Mardi Gras beads. Good thing I don’t have a clown phobia or we’d have a problem.

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Appetizers, including a dairy-free version of my warm spinach dip, while we chatted and watched football ( Go Lions!).

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Hanging out with J, her parents (whom I claim as my American parents) and cuddling Maddie was a perfect way to spend the day!

And then it was turkey time! Hey-oooo! Growing up my big-fat-Canadian thanksgiving usually had turkey, cranberry sauce, mom’s sweet potato mash (no marshmallows), roasted potatoes and veggies. So, I was excited to sit down to, what I think of, as the American version; turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole (beans+gravy for me bc dairy).

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J was awesome and made separate dairy free versions of the gravy, mashed potatoes and aforementioned green beans. Everything was so delicious, I even super enjoyed the gravy (Whole Foods 365 brand, vegan mushroom gravy) which isn’t normally my thing, I’m glad J insisted on getting some for me!

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After rolling out of my chair and trying not to doze in the living room I found some room for Apple crisp and (almond dream) ice cream.

IMG_1949.JPGHot tip, J used oil on the topping, instead of butter, to easily make it dairy free!

And so ends my first American Thanksgiving! Stuffing and gravy and football, oh my! I just might me a little more American now.
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Thankful for…

Friends have been asking if I was going to keep blogging and my immediate response is surprise. I know people, other than my besties, read this neglected corner of the internet but for them to bring it up independently is a fun surprise. After I get over myself, my answer is generally that I have a serious and steady blogging relationship with my email. I’ve written numerous posts, emailed them to myself, and never posted them – my email account has been on the receiving end of some delicious “recipes”, maybe someday I’ll share.

Until then, in honor (<—intentional ‘murican spelling) of FINALLY being in the USA for American Thanksgiving, I give you a list of what I’m loving lately. One could even say I’m thankful for these items, especially the dairy-free items that fill the dairy cow shaped hole in my heart (thanks for nothing genetics).

Candy Cane Pretzel Flats

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THANK YOU for this gloriously perfect snack Whole Foods.

Amy Poehlers’ Yes, Please

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‘nuff said. Go read (first, more below, and then her book). It’s apropos that I’m posting this on Wednesday because she’s a total #WCW. So pumped to be her when I grow up.

 

Gluten free waffles

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You have likely heard me cry over dairy, a lot. I’d apologize but you can eat it and I can’t, so there’s that. You have also likely heard me poke fun at gluten free bandwagoners (y’all with a legit issue/celiac, I am not talking to you, that sucks). Well, I am temporarily suspending my mocking to thank gluten free waffles for also being dairy-free, because sometimes a girl just needs a waffle… particularly as a vessel for ice cream or bread replacement.  

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So, until a dood wants to make me some of that ish from scratch (while also making a killer nut-milk latte, with hearts in the foam, no I am not unreasonable lol), these waffles will do just fine. Actually, on second thought, I’d rather spend time with the aforementioned dood so I’ll stick with the frozen variety indefinitely. Thank you bandwagoners!

Bonus points if you know why that one had to follow Amy.

 

The Fall

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A brilliant British series, just starting it’s second season in the UK, featuring Gillian Anderson as a detective and Jamie Dornan as a serial killer. The first season is only 5 episodes (90 minutes each) and available on both US and Canadian netflix. It is so well done, and not a huge time commitment, so please bingewatch today and join us in feeling weirdly attracted to Jamie’s character. I mean, he’s a serial killer, sure, but sexual magnetism for days. He’s also the lead in 50 Shades but he looks so much better here with facial hair, and don’t worry, he really can act (brilliantly at that). 

This is what you get when you attempt to google a shirtless picture of him from the show… Not that I know anyone who would do that.

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And because gratuitous… Also, some people(possibly him) say his eyes are grey, they are blue. I have a thing for blue eyes so I know, though I will concede to grey-blue and possibly projecting my preferences.

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Season 2 is also currently airing Friday nights in Canada, not sure about the US. You’re welcome in advance.

OCHO Coconut chocolate bar

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Fulfilling my cravings for a Bounty bar since 2014, they’re legit good, not just ‘good for being dairy free’. I first found these at a Whole Foods in LA but recently spotted them at a Meijer in Michigan and a specialty vegan bakery in Toronto. If you can’t have dairy watch out for this brands other flavours, they have dairy.

Crunchy Sunbutter

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Who doesn’t love salty, crunchy and delicious? I like to make this a “low carb” snack and just eat it off a spoon or fork (you will inevitably run out of spoons). I’m kidding about the low-carb-ness (give me all the carbs) but not about running out of spoons. I recommend one jar per week (also not a joke).

Earth Balance Mac n Cheese

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Dairy-free comfort food.

Coconut milk yogurt 

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Soy yogurt just isn’t great and almond yogurt is heinous but this stuff is legit. No, it’s not the “real” stuff but it’s a pretty great stand-in if you need one. I like the fruit and chocolate flavours but the vanilla was only okay. Heads up that it’s pretty tangy, almost like greek yogurt.

Chocolate coconut water

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Yes, I derided friends for this one. Yes, I feel like a hypocritical jerk when I drink it, but it’s freaking delicious! Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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And that’s all she wrote… because she has to go walk of 1/80th of the dairy free pizza (thanks Whole Foods) she nommed last night, for no other reason than to make room for tomorrow’s perfectly sized bread cubes (bestie joke). And, truthfully, because I also want to make sure I fit into my outfit for tomorrow. CAN’T WAIT!

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Say it with food.

One of the things my yiayia (grandma) always used to tell me was “whatever you want, everything you want”. From foot rubs to peeling me grapes and removing all the white pith from each clementine piece before hand feeding me, she was always demonstrating that she’d do anything for me (even if it involved stinky feet). Well, except for “letting” me win at cards, I earned those victories fair and square.

The summer after my 16th birthday was spent in Greece, where my grandmother summered for a number of years. Our family had a home there, but my only other visit had been 8 years earlier, so I was excited to spend a glorious 6 weeks in the sun with my favourite girl, the cutest little lady in any room.

Every morning she would make the rounds in town (market, fish monger, butcher) with her brother and then we’d have breakfast before she started (or continued) cooking for the day. And every. single. day. she made me a fresh plate of calamari. She was an amazing cook; turning out delectable pans of fish, beans (fasolakia), meat, and traditional greek dishes, but her granddaughter was obsessed so she made calamari too. Served with a Village salad made of  tomato & cucumber from next door, olive oil from the trees surrounding the house, and feta (because it makes it beta *wink*) life could not get more perfect. Well, until it was time to hit one of the beautiful beaches in the afternoon.

There’s no doubt I enjoyed beach hopping and going out to the town square every night. I was the perfect age to enjoy and appreciate what a gift I was being given… I mean, midnight gyros!! But when I look back it’s not the beach that made that time so perfect, it’s the time we spent around the table at home, just the two of us, that has stayed with me. Is it any wonder food is one of my love languages? That I get the same pleasure from sharing food with people I care about? Most importantly, is it a surprise I teared up (that’s a whole lot of emotion for me) in the middle of Meijer when I saw my favourite seasonal popcorn was out but contains dairy? Or that I am mourning candy cane oreos that are evidently extinct? No, it certainly is not.

So maybe there aren’t candy cane oreos in my future*, and I haven’t been home in weeks, but this month has been straight up delicious and it feels like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

Finally, if you’re just here for the food porn, here’s a pic from one of my favourite Detroit eateries, Green Dot Stables – $3 pints and incredible sliders $2-3/each. You won’t be sorry if you order the fried chicken (always) or the BCT.

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If you are a fan of epic times then order the truffle fries, find out what the mystery meat is, and add bacon to the dessert slider (secret menu trick revealed). Boom.

Stay kind. Eat well.

 

*In the interest of full disclosure, there could technically be candy cane oreos in my future… Some people curate a wine collection, I have a limited edition oreo stash. It’s okay to be jealous.

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On food and love

Food is love and the passionate food scene in LA is part of what makes it feel like home. I sit at a table or order at a counter and chat with bartenders, waiters, chefs, managers or owners who all exhibit passion for the food on the menu. From the simplest take-out Panini shop to my favourite fancier sit-down place, who hosts Anthony Bourdain days later, I am feeding my soul not just my stomach – just like my mother and hers before.

They say you’re more satisfied by a meal you prepare than picking up prepared food, I think the same applies to any meal that’s crafted – whether by your own hands or not. One sunny afternoon I sit down to a late lunch at Hostario del Piccolo, a friends favourite and one of Venice Beach’s hot spots, serving small plates of quality Italian food with a distinctly Mediterranean taste that takes me back to my own family cooking.

I bypass the enticing wood fire pizzas and pasta’s – though I’m severely tempted by the squid ink pizza crust and pasta carbonara special I have to pass due to a dairy allergy. The restaurant manager and I end up discussing the menu and, after mentioning a few items that caught my eye, I order based on her suggestions.

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With a buon-appetito  the meal begins with an heirloom tomato stack reminiscent of ‘village salads’ standard on Greek islands – though we’re officially dining in Italy so the olives are Italian and there’s hearty bread croutons instead of feta cheese. Italian or Greek, tomato tomahto, I scoop up all traces of the quality olive oil before the next dish arrives.

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A wonderful medley of roasted seasonal vegetables and octopus – the kind of dish that’s so simple yet relies on quality ingredients and precise cooking so the natural flavours can shine through.

It’s not until the final dish that I nearly give into the urge to look over my shoulder for my yiayia – surely her heart and gourmet cooking skills are behind this dish.

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The pork itself imbued with such flavor that the chef must have stood my by yiayia’s side for years, learning by watching her put similar dishes together with ease. I swallow the mournful ache of missing her with the next bite and enjoy – this is love, not just food.

 In loving memory of my yiayia November 16, 1926 – October 3 2012. To say you are dearly missed would be stating the obvious; one of the greatest gifts I ever received was you and it’ll be a lifelong love affair.

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Not another gift list!

Some people celebrate this holiday where they’re thankful for the pilgrims after they conquered the Indians… or something like that.

While I do reserve a special thank you for the Pilgrims giving us pumpkin pie I try to be thankful for the little things year round.

So, as the year draws to a close, I wanted to give thanks for a few things that stood out this year, material and otherwise.

Thank you sweet baby jesus for California and my besties. At one of the most difficult times in my life we lived out my dream of driving down the California coast. From San Fran, through Big Sur, all the way to San Diego, it was everything I hoped for and more (OMG TAMALES). One of my best memories, after the 2010 Olympics (duh). I love you bubbies!!

THIGH HIGH SOCKS. After realizing I was meant to be a tamale-eating Californian my blood thinned itself as confirmation. Since California is not yet part of Canada I’m learning how to dress as someone who is FREEZING cold 99.7% of the time. I now understand why hats, gloves, mitts and long underwear exist. But for those days I don’t feel like wearing two pairs of skinny jeans (it is possible, and just as sexy & fun as it sounds), THIGH HIGH SOCKS. I bought them for extra warmth but jeyzus they’re sexier than matching bras and undies. Treat yo self!

The police sometimes get a bad rap but they’re topping my list this year. One in particular who stayed and sat with me in an ER waiting room until I was taken back. She not only distracted me and related a similar experience, but left me her contact info and followed up with me a few times herself. Showing someone, even a stranger,  that you care is beyond underrated.

Health care professionals can get a bad rap too and not always undeservedly. But hopefully, like in life, we all experience good with the bad – I’m thankful for that this year. Two doctors stand out in particular for their caring and compassion, they probably saved my life as directly as if I’d been bleeding out on their operating table (Castle-style). Thank you for fighting for me and for somehow finding the right words.

Speaking of Castle, still saving my life when I need 42 minutes and 47 seconds to breathe.

Canada. You’re my favourite. Thanks for the free health care, it’s enough to make up for nothing being candy cane flavoured.

America, you can be a lot of things but you’re also the Bethlehem of candy cane flavoured EVERYTHING and I love you for it. There’s just one thing, could the M&M people please make a candy cane flavor, peppermint does not count.

Sriracha Candy Canes. You’re not one of the 12-steps for sriracha addicts, so I haven’t  tried you yet (also, my carryon luggage was full of candy cane schtuff), but I’m thankful to live in a part of the world that’s privileged enough to have stupid (amazing) shit like this. We’re not perfect, and we buy too much useless crap we probably can’t afford, but we’re very lucky to live where we are. If you’re reading this (and it’s not been transcribed into Braille being read around a campfire) you’re somewhere warm, with a device that’s got the internets, so by “we” I’m including you.

Hugs. Whether they’re a squeezey or a spoon train (my personal fave) I love anything involving a wee cuddle.

Everyone and anyone, near or far, who made me laugh this year.

Wishing you all love, happiness and good health. Mwah, mwah, mwah.

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Thai Quinoa Salad–tastes like sunshine.

Hey peeps! I hope you are all enjoying so sunny weather wherever you are. This is my favourite time of year, it’s warm but not humid and the trees and flowers are just gorgeous.

If you follow me on instagram you’ll notice my account has become naturgram because when I’m not at work or sleeping I’m outside and inevitably taking 20395843567029348 photos of some flowery sh*t which I post incessantly. Don’t worry, all my follower love it so hard.

Anyway, the real reason I’m posting (from a patio while I recharge my solar panels) is to share some noms. After all that’s why I have this blog that mentions nothing about food directly in the title, just in every post. Right, then.

As I mentioned, it’s warm and you (I ) don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove/oven all day and salads actually sound good because they taste like sunshine instead of mushy veggies trucked in from whoknowswhere. Fresh spring rolls have also been at the top of my recent noms list only, it’s weird, but they don’t seem to make themselves. So, instead of rolling out the rice paper I give you this Thai-inspired quinoa salad. And I can put Thai in the title because it uses Thai basil okay!

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Thai Quinoa Salad

1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 – 1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup cucumber, chopped
3 TBSP Soy Sauce (divided in half)
3 TBSP Mirin (divided in half)
3-4 TBSP chopped Thai basil (This is not your mama’s basil and we’re not making pasta sauce, try an asian supermarket – you won’t be sorry)
4 TBSP Hoisin Sauce
12 oz Shrimp

Marinate shrimp in 1.5 TBSP soy sauce and 1.5 TBSP mirin before sautéing, then set aside to cool.

Cook quinoa in 1 cup water, 1.5 TBSP soy sauce, 1.5 TBSP mirin and let cool.

Combine shrimp, quinoa, cucumber and carrots, Thai basil and hoisin sauce. If you’re not serving this immediately (it will keep in the fridge for a little while) then do not add the Thai basil and Hoisin sauce until just before serving.

Enjoy kiddos!

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Quinoa Pudding Recipe

A couple of months ago I wondered if you could make pudding or dessert with quinoa. Yes, I wonder ridiculous things like this – solving the world’s problems one food idea at a time.

Anyway, in addition to cooking with quinoa I’ve enjoyed quinoa granola and hot breakfast cereals so dessert was the next natural step. Right? Duh!

I found some great inspiration recipes and wanted to share my current fave. It’s super simple and reminiscent of rice pudding.

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Quinoa Pudding
1 Banana
1c Milk (I used almond)
1/3c Quinoa
2/3c Water
1TBSP Sugar
1tsp Earth Balance/Butter
Pinch of Salt
1TBSP vanilla (or to taste)
1-2TBSP Cinnamon (or to taste)

Rinse and drain quinoa then cook in water according to package.

Combine remaining ingredients (except butter) in a food processor or blender. Add to the cooked pot of quinoa and stir to combine over medium heat. Add butter and serve when smooth.

Makes 4 servings.

Keep leftovers in a tightly sealed container and warm in microwave for 30-60seconds before eating.

I’ve been loving this as dessert but it would also be a great breakfast, waaay better than oatmeal. Hope you enjoy!

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Candy Cane Shortbread–A Christmas Staple

Christmas treats have always been tied to Christmas memories. From intricate Greek treats churned out by my mom and yiayia to experimenting with new recipes it’s just not Christmas without a baking day.

My typical MO is a batch of macarons, trying something new, and massive batches of old favourites. This year was way more low- key than normal but I couldn’t let the season pass without a few favourites.

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And it just wouldn’t be Christmastime without Candy Cane Shortbread; the perfect combination of carbs+chocolate+pepperminty goodness.

Candy Cane Shortbread

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup  unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
8 ounces chocolate (chocolate chips or your favourite bar chopped)
1 package Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line metal baking pan with parchment paper letting excess hang over sides of pan.

2. Whisk flour and salt together using an electic mixer until creamy. Beat in sugar slowly until mixture is just combined. Add in vanilla and then egg yolk. Gradually add in flour mixture until just blended.

3. With a tablespoon drop dough onto pan and use your fingers to flatten into an even layer. Use a fork to pierce dough all over.

4. Bake shortbread  until light golden brown, 28-30 minutes. Immediately sprinkle chocolate on top and let it soften before spreading into a thin layer. Pop pan back into warm oven if needed. Sprinkle chopped candy cane kisses on top and let cool.

5. Using the parchment paper overhang lift shortbread from pan and cut into pieces using a large knife.

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Enjoy!

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CHOlicious Taco Dip #justaddgood

Earlier this week I got an early Christmas present from my friends at Chobani so I could ‘just add good’ to my recipes. They were just in time to help me bring something delicious to one of my Christmas parties. I came up with this CHOlicious dip that went FAST!

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CHOlicious Taco Dip

1 cup plain Chobani
1/2 package of taco seasoning
1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
1 cup salsa
2 green onions, sliced
Sprinkle of grated cheese

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1. Combine Chobani and taco seasoning then spread on bottom of serving bowl
2. Top with salsa and hot sauce
3. Sprinkle with green onions and cheese
4. Serve with veggies, pita/tortilla chips

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Adding Chobani was a great way to lighten up a staple party dip! YUMM!

However you’re celebrating the holidays I hope it’s delicious and festive.

xo
C

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Favourite Things…

Ho ho ho Happy-almost-Christmas! In the spirit of the season I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve been loving lately. I’m not Oprah but these are some of my favourite things.

Angie’s Holidrizzle Popcorn – I can’t decide if I love the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt or White Chocolate Peppermint better. I’ll keep sampling until I reach a decision and get back to you.

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 Dear SugarTiny beautiful things. Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar. This book changed me. It changed how and what I wrote about this summer. It made me laugh, it made me sob and it made me grateful.

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If ever there was a book that could use words on a page to have an intimate conversation; to validate, to comfort, to make you think and to simultaneously push, nudge, shove and inspire the reader, this is the one.

As the side of the cover image above says “Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.” It fell into my hands when I didn’t know a life raft of text existed or that I even needed one. If you’re open to it, you’ll discover a lot about yourself within these pages.

Full Moon Rising – Neil Halstead. This song is such a beauty it makes me wish I still skated.

A Very She & Him Christmas – one of the new additions to this year’s Christmas playlist, it’s so much fun!

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For Lovers Only – a beautiful, heart wrenching, wonderous love story. Simply stunning.

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Wishing you love and light for the Holidays. If you have any faves you’d like to share drop me a comment or tweet, I’d love to discover more things to obsess about!!

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