Saturday, October 30, 2010

Apple Salad with Dried Cherries and Honey Dressing

I found this recipe in Bon Appétit’s recipe archives; it’s perfect for Rosh Hashanah, since it has both apples and honey, but it’s a good salad in and of itself, especially in the fall. I didn’t use frisée, as I usually find it too bitter; I had Boston lettuce in the fridge, so that’s what I used. I also used pecans instead of walnuts, but they could be omitted. I increased the amount of apples in order to make this a meal. The dried cherries are a great addition, though they can be hard to find sometimes. I’ll definitely make this recipe again! As always, I only assemble the salad right before serving it, and I keep the dressing separately in the fridge.

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp honey
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large head of frisée or your favorite lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (about 6 cups)
2 medium Gala apples, cored, thinly sliced
½ cup dried tart cherries
½ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)

Whisk first 4 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Toss frisée and apple slices in large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Divide among 2 to 4 plates; sprinkle with cherries, walnuts and freshly ground black pepper; serve.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A quick follow-up to Settling in

I bought soap last weekend, and the bars I got were bigger than I expected. I’m assuming there are different bar sizes available everywhere and that I just happened to be in a store that only carried the big ones, but it really does look Texas-Sized compared to my usual bars... Also, there were four a pack instead of three. I don’t want to chalk it up to Texas just yet, though.

So I finally did find a storage solution for the shower at The Container Store: it’s basically a shower caddy, but it hooks over the wall as opposed to on the showerhead. I’m still feeling a little boxed in, but storage-wise, this is just what I was looking for. I’ve also decided that it will be easier to shave my legs if I either turn off the water or let the showerhead hang down while I’m shaving. It’s funny, because while this type of bathroom (shower stall and separate garden tub) looks really nice and was basically all we saw when we were looking at houses, I find it so incredibly inconvenient! The Engineer and I basically agreed that if we had an unlimited budget and were not afraid of resale value, we would redo that part of the bathroom and make a shower/tub combo.

We’re still looking for the elusive bookcase.

On the food front, I recently made a few recipes I’ve shared with you already: a version of the big green salad with avocados and a store-bought red wine dressing, as well as the Spanglish sandwich, with eggs pasteurized in the shell and lightly toasted sourdough bread this time. New recipes will be posted soon, I promise!

I’d also like to say how much the Engineer and I liked Whole Foods’ key lime cupcakes – they’re not lactose-free, and certainly not calorie-free, but once in a while, it’s a great treat.

We also love Stonewall Kitchen products so far. We’ve tried their roasted garlic peanut sauce as well as their Vidalia onion fig sauce, both of which were divine, and I really like their strawberry jam. Don’t hesitate to buy them if you can find them!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Settling in

The Engineer and I are finally really settling in. We have closed on the house, so we are now its rightful owners. And all of our things got here from Montreal yesterday morning, so we have a house full of boxes to unpack. A funny thing happened to our furniture, though: some of it is much smaller than we remembered. Is it because it’s in a house as opposed to an apartment, so it seems smaller? Is it that not seeing it for three months warped our memory? Is it because it’s not Texan and therefore not “bigger” like everything else down here? We’re not sure.

We did finally get a big fridge, though. We had done a lot of research and had decided to buy a stainless steel Kenmore Elite, which has water and ice dispensers that don’t take up ANY room in the fridge itself. Brilliant, no? So we make our purchase on September 22nd, which is to say as soon as we knew when we would be getting the keys to the house, and we ask for a September 24th delivery. At that point, we find out that it can’t be delivered until early November! We decide to settle for the ultra satin, which has the look of stainless steel and is easier to clean. That one can be delivered on October 8th – less than ideal, but much better than November. We end up buying a little fridge to tide us over until then, figuring we can put it in the garage later and use it to store drinks when we have guests staying with us. It looked ridiculous in the spot we had for it, though!

The day before the scheduled delivery, Sears called to tell us that the fridge was still on backorder and wouldn’t be delivered until October 24th. Our heads imploded. I mean, this is Sears’s own brand, so how can they be so low on stock? After much deliberation, we decided to politely tell Sears where they could put their fridge. We ended up getting a Samsung – the reason we hadn’t bought that one to begin with is that it’s much more expensive than the Kenmore, but it was on sale that day, and with the additional rebate Sears gave us to compensate us for our trouble, it was very reasonable, so we went for it. Even though the water dispenser takes up space in the fridge, it’s not THAT much of an issue (though I did prefer the door racks of the Kenmore). Next-day delivery was no problem. And it looks much better in that space!

So the first room we unpacked was the kitchen. That’s because it’s the room we use the most often, so if piles of boxes prevent us from accessing the sink, stovetop or fridge, we’re not happy campers. It is so nice to have all my things back! I’m looking forward to using the stand mixer again, and the ice cream maker, and our knives and the serving dishes... The pantry is already full (that’ll be my next organization project), and most things have been put away, though there are still some items cluttering a countertop for the moment. But all the boxes there are gone, except the ones containing cookbooks, because we don’t yet have a bookcase for that.

The problem with the bookcase is twofold: I’m picky, and our car is small. I had my heart set on a red bookcase from Ikea, but the package doesn’t fit in our car, so it would have to be delivered. However, the Ikea is in Austin, not San Antonio. For this $60 bookcase, the delivery charge is $350! Needless to say that won’t be happening. The bookcase needs to be relatively tall and narrow. We’ve been to every store we can think of here, but I didn’t like anything I saw (I’m pickier than the Engineer, I admit it). We also went to the Goodwill store and the Salvation Army (the latter had some great stuff, actually, but not what we were looking for), as well as a massive neighbourhood-wide yard sale. No luck yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

We’re also still looking for a good storage solution for the shower. While the Engineer is fine with just a bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo, I have at least shampoo and conditioner (plus usually a 2-in-1 for when I’m in a hurry), soap, razor, perhaps some shaving gel or body wash, face wash, body scrub... We tried a shower caddy, but we are adamant that we want a showerhead with a hose attachment, so that didn’t work. I then tried a corner tray with suction cups, but they didn’t stick to our tile! And since the ceiling over the shower is slanted, we can’t install a pole with trays on it (not that there’s enough space in that shower anyway). Does anyone have any ideas for me? Also, does anyone know of a good way to shave one’s legs in a phonebooth-sized space?

Today, I unpacked all my clothes and shoes. While I am thrilled at having something “new” after three months of wearing the same damn things all the time, I’ve been hit by a stark realization. Two, actually. First, while I appear to have more space than I’ve ever had with a new “grown-up” dresser and a walk-in closet, there is actually less storage in there than I had in Montreal (the dresser definitely has less storage, and the closet looks great but is poorly planned, or at least not adapted to our height and the length of our clothes). So I officially have too many clothes now, despite massive culling and donating before the move. Second, I now see that the clothes I do have are mostly clothes I don’t like. I have a lot of things that are too warm (we’re told it’ll get cold in the winter and we’ll need them, but it’s hard to believe that right now), but mostly a lot of things in which I don’t feel good: most of my clothes are excessively casual, and my tastes have changed. My problem is that I get emotionally attached to things, so it’s hard for me to get rid of them. I do have a plan, though; more on that in a later post.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lima Beans with Cumin Mint Dressing

I have no recollection of eating lima beans as a child. Yet, they still scared me, because they tend to be controversial, just like broccoli and Brussels sprouts (and you know my history with those). Well, it turns out that they don’t really taste like much. And that’s great, because you can make them taste like what you want! I love both cumin and fresh mint, so I loved this recipe. It’s really easy to throw together, too. I’m making it again this week, and perhaps I’ll use it as a side dish this Thanksgiving (the American one), as we’ll be hosting the Engineer’s mother this year. This recipe makes about 4 small servings.

½ lb shelled fresh lima beans (or frozen)
1 Tbsp plain lactose-free yogurt
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (though I left mine whole)
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp chopped mint
salt, to taste
mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Have an ice bath ready. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the lima beans and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lima beans to the bowl of ice water. (I’m lazy about ice baths, so I just ran cold water over the beans here instead.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Drain the lima beans and pat dry. Add them to the bowl of dressing and toss.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with mint leaves before serving.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sauce aux échalotes et aux abricots

J’ai fait cette recette parce que la sauce échalotes-abricots avait l’air délicieuse. J’ai fini par simplement faire rôtir le poulet à la poêle, alors c’était très simple, mais la sauce (plutôt une compote) était vraiment bonne. Elle peut aussi être servie avec du porc, en sandwich ou pas, et être faite avec des oignons au lieu des échalotes. J’ai servi avec des carottes rôties à la poêle dans le sirop de gingembre le premier soir, et avec des patates et échalotes rôties au four le deuxième soir. Je recommande fortement cette sauce, peu importe ce qu’elle accompagne!

1 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
5 échalotes de taille moyenne, pelées et tranchées finement
½ tasse de bouillon de poulet
¼ tasse de vinaigre balsamique
2 ou 3 c. à soupe de confiture d’abricots
sel et poivre, au goût

Faire chauffer l’huile d’olive dans une grande poêle à feu moyen. Ajouter les échalotes, assaisonner de sel et de poivre et faire cuire environ 5 minutes, jusqu’à ce qu’elles commencent à amollir et à brunir.

Ajouter le bouillon de poulet aux échalotes et déglacer pendant que le bouillon réduit. Ajouter le vinaigre balsamique, baisser le feu à moyen-doux et faire cuire encore 5 minutes. Ajouter la confiture d’abricots et mélanger. La sauce épaissira, mais pourra encore être mélangée facilement.

Servir avec du poulet, du porc ou ce que vous désirez.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back in the saddle

Well, Jen was right: owning a house is a lot of work. It seems like all we’ve been doing these past two weeks is making lists. Lists of things to do, things to buy, things to finalize. Call the utility company about that gas smell (which was, in fact, a small leak), get the internet access set up, send in the umpteenth document for our mortgage loan application (which was finally accepted). As soon as we complete everything on a list, we have to start a new one – on the exact same topic. We had to buy a clock for the living room, and lamps for the bedroom. As soon as those were crossed off the list, we had to buy a power drill to install the outdoor sensor for the thermometer that comes with the clock (which will help me learn Fahrenheit degrees in contexts other than baking), plus a power cord and light bulbs for the lamps. Insurance company, Sears delivery, Texas DPS to report our change of address. Storage bins, cleaning supplies, pruning scissors. It’s never-ending – but it’s fun.

I really like our new neighbourhood, too. It’s further out of town than I ever expected to be (I’m a city girl), but it’s easier for me living in the suburbs in San Antonio than in Montreal, because in Montreal, I already had all my hangouts downtown, on the Plateau and in Côte-des-Neiges. Here, I’m still getting used to the city, and even though I like the Quarry or the Riverwalk, I don’t mind as much knowing they’re not as accessible as they would be if I lived in a more central location. And it’s really nice taking walks with Darwin in the early mornings. I like going out before 8:00am, when it’s not too hot, everything is still quiet and it feels like we have the place to ourselves. The streets are quiet at any time, but because there’s so much nature around the neighbourhood, early mornings increase our chances of seeing wildlife like deer; I’ve seen several bucks and does, and one fawn. (We’ve got the best of both worlds, because even though there are a lot of deer around, our house is in a cluster of houses that all have 6-foot fences around the backyards, so the deer don’t actually eat any of our plants.) I also saw a small snake, hummingbirds, a leaf insect, and toads, of course. Darwin loves chasing toads, but I don’t let him catch them. And we have an adorable little gecko that comes to our window almost every day.

The vegetation is great, too. I’ve seen cacti and palm trees, though they’re more decorative than anything else. But the decorative plants that really got my attention? Rosemary bushes. In a little park with a bench, where I walk every day to go get the mail (the area really is more rural that I would like to admit). I just love that! I think I’ll plant my own rosemary in the backyard. And I’ll definitely look into getting a small lemon tree, as it seems the climate would support it.

Also, the previous owners forgot something (it fell in the back of a drawer and got stuck; I only found it while cleaning the cupboard underneath it): the biggest cinnamon sticks I’ve ever seen. I’m not even sure it’s real cinnamon, as there’s no species name on the packaging. But I’ll make room for them in my spice collection!

The Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings

I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of Ree Drummond, a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman. If you haven’t, go take a look at her website. And do take the time to read her love story, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels (which may or may not get turned into a movie soon!); it’s a beautiful story and well worth the read.

So anyway, this is her apple dumpling recipe. It’s a low-calorie, healthy dessert... Oh, who am I kidding? It’s a heart attack on a plate. And I don’t often cook like this, but I regret nothing. These dumplings were both easy and addictive, especially when they were still warm, crispy on top and soft on the bottom. I used margarine instead of butter because of the lactose, but I’m sure this would be absolutely delicious with quality butter. There’s Mountain Dew as a surprise ingredient (though after having made this once, I’m sure ginger ale would give it a nice touch too). The Pioneer Woman gives a warning, which I will repeat: “Prepare this dish at your own risk. It is beyond imaginable.”

2 whole Granny Smith apples
2 cans (8 oz cans) of crescent rolls
2 sticks of butter or margarine, salted (seriously)
1 ½ cups of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
cinnamon (or nutmeg), to taste
1 can (12 oz) of Mountain Dew soda (it seems like a lot, but trust me)

Grease a 9”x13” pan. Preheat the oven at 350 °F.

Peel and core the apples. Cut each apple into 8 slices. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in the pan.

Melt the butter, then add the sugar and barely stir. Add the vanilla, barely stir (you want the mixture still lumpy), and pour the entire mixture over the apples. Pour the Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for 40 minutes.

Serve with lactose-free vanilla ice cream if desired, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


OK, I have to report on my dinner, the best burger I’ve had in San Antonio so far. Smashburger leaves some room for improvement, but I just love this place. The restaurant gets its name from the fact that the beef patties are smashed before they’re grilled, which makes for a thin patty that has a tendency to fall apart. It is also a bit wetter than I’d like it to be (I do say wetter, it was more than juicy). Those are the downsides. On the upside, it tastes really good, the egg bun is fantastic, and the fixings are fresh. I had the American Classic burger, hold the pickle; the Engineer had the Texas burger. The sides are wonderful too: we tried the smashfries (French-fried potatoes with olive oil, garlic and rosemary; absolutely divine) and the haystack onions (the thinnest onion rings ever; a little hard to handle, but delicious and addictive). There are also sweet potato fries and veggie frites (fries made with other vegetables like carrots and green beans) that appealed to me, so we’ll have to try more things next time. The Engineer loved the vanilla milkshake (I didn’t have any, because of the lactose, but someday I’ll risk it). There are also chicken burgers, hot dogs and salads, but really, if I’m going to a place called Smashburger, I’m having a beef burger and that’s final. There’s also an option to create your own burger, which I’ll do next time.

I’m still looking for the best sit-down burger (by that, I mean a place where I read down on the menu rather than read up at it). That being said, this place is my local favourite for the moment; the Engineer preferred Five Guys, but not me. I liked these burgers much better, and the sides totally won me over. I mean, why don’t all restaurants have garlic rosemary shoestring fries? They rock! Also, the Engineer does an impression of The Hulk (“Hulk! Smash! Burger!”) when we drive by, which I find very endearing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The good, the bad, the Glutino

I recently tried a Glutino pizza. Glutino is a brand that makes gluten-free food. This particular pizza therefore had a gluten-free crust (made of brown rice flour), but it happened to be dairy-free as well, which meant I could eat it without worrying about lactose. I had high hopes, because Gluten-Free Girl has recommended some of their products.

It turns out that the crust was excellent. Gluten or not, it was really good. The rest of the pizza, however... First of all, it doesn’t look like the picture on the package at all. What kind of a sad cheese imitation is that? Is Amy’s the only one to have mastered soy cheese?

Even baked, it didn’t improve. And the topping on that pie was... awful. I really didn’t enjoy it. Which is too bad, because the crust was great! I’m sure Glutino has other pizzas that are better, and their products such as bread must be good, since Gluten-Free Girl loved them. But this particular spinach pizza is not one I’ll be buying again, that’s for sure. If I ever buy one of Glutino’s pizzas again, I’ll stick with the dairy ones and take Lactaid.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Spanglish Sandwich

Those of you who’ve seen the movie Spanglish might remember the sandwich Adam Sandler makes for Paz Vega; it’s presented as the best sandwich in the world. It turns out that The Kitchn posted the recipe very early on. Since I had bacon left over from a salad recipe, I figured this was a good way to use it. A sandwich is pretty easy to make in any kitchen, and this one was absolutely delicious. It was very filling and made for a great dinner – so great, in fact, that the Engineer bought more bacon so that I could make this again. I used pre-sliced lactose-free Gouda cheese, which was wonderful. I didn’t toast the bread, but either way works. All we had was “lemonaise”, a mayonnaise flavoured with lemon and herbs; personally, I recommend plain mayonnaise, especially homemade (otherwise, use Hellman’s). I’m definitely hanging on to this recipe! I’m giving you proportions for two sandwiches here, but feel free to make just one.

6-8 slices of bacon
4 slices of Monterey Jack or lactose-free Gouda cheese
4 slices of toasted rustic country loaf (pain de campagne)
2 Tbsp of mayonnaise
4-6 tomato slices
4 leaves of Boston lettuce
2 eggs

Cook the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels, reserving the fat in the skillet.

Place slices of cheese on one side of toasted bread for each sandwich. Place in toaster oven or under broiler to melt.

Spread the mayonnaise on the other slice of bread; top with bacon, sliced tomato, and lettuce.

Fry the eggs in the skillet with the bacon fat, turning over briefly when the bottom is set (keep the yolk runny).

Slide the finished eggs on top of the lettuce mix; top with the other slice of bread.

Place the sandwich on a plate and slice in half, letting the yolk run down sandwich. Serve with potato chips.

Cool Melon Salad with Hot Bacon

This is a really simple meal to make, as it has only three main ingredients. The Engineer and I are split as to how we feel about it, though. Personally, I felt that the melon and bacon went quite well together, as melon and prosciutto do, but the Engineer felt this wasn’t the case. I do love arugula and fresh mint, though, and we both love bacon. I recommend cutting the melon in smaller pieces than I did (but not too small; I would recommend a small bite-size piece), and make sure you use great-tasting olive oil (I realized, with this salad, that the one we had bought wasn’t good enough for dressings). Make sure you eat it on the day it is made, as the bacon will go soft otherwise. I’m going to go ahead and recommend this salad, though, despite the Engineer’s reservations.

6 strips of smoked bacon, crumbled into pieces
1 small, sweet melon, such as cantaloupe
several small mint leaves, torn if big
a handful of arugula or spicy cress, washed and dried well
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp lemon juice (about one large lemon)
freshly ground pepper
a few mint sprigs for garnish

Start the bacon cooking. Slice the melon in half, scoop out the seeds and cut into wedges. Cut the skin off the flesh and the flesh into large cubes. Remember to tend to the bacon while cutting the melon. Place the cubes in a bowl and chill in the fridge.

Whisk the olive oil, honey and lemon juice in a bowl. Reserve.

Drain the bacon. Toss the melon, arugula/cress and mint with a drizzle of dressing (you won't need it all). Add the bacon, toss again, and garnish with the fresh pepper and mint springs. Serve immediately.

The Works is expanding!

We’re finally back online, after the Engineer fixed the internet (with a little help from India). And it’s about time, too, because I’ve got news I simply MUST share: The Works will be expanding across Canada. I’m really hoping they open a restaurant in Montreal!

For those of you who haven’t heard of this place (or of my passion for it), let me catch you up to speed. I’ve reviewed it back in 2004 (when sweet potato fries were still nearly unheard of), and it serves simply THE best hamburgers I’ve ever had in my life. That’s why I’ve been on a quest to find the best hamburger in Montreal, and I’ll probably try and do the same in San Antonio, even though others are way ahead of me. The Works, in Ottawa, is a casual dining establishment that serves gourmet burgers: there are close to 70 different options on the menu, and you can choose your patty (beef or organic beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, portobello mushroom cap). The fries, sweet potato fries and onions rings are all fabulous, and servings are huge. But most importantly, the burgers are heavenly. Seriously. (The Engineer, who’s never been to The Works, is worried that I’ve built this up in my mind and that my memories of it exceed reality. But I know I’m right.) I’m not sure how safe it is for people with food allergies, as there are both nuts and peanuts in the restaurant (along with wheat, dairy, eggs and fish), but it is worth asking the location you’re thinking of visiting to see what can be done to accommodate you.

I’ve been trying to find similar restaurants ever since eating there, without success (I just don’t get to go to Ottawa as often as I would like). So you’ll excuse me if I quote an episode of How I Met Your Mother (excellent show, btw), where Marshall was on a similar quest. Marshall’s monologue is perhaps the most beautiful ode to a burger I’ve ever heard; I got it here.

“Just a Burger? Just a burger. Robin, it’s so much more than ‘just a burger’. I mean… that first bite—oh, what heaven that first bite is. The bun, like a sesame freckled breast of an angel, resting gently on the ketchup and mustard below, flavors mingling in a seductive pas de deux. And then… a pickle! The most playful little pickle! Then a slice of tomato, a leaf of lettuce and a… a patty of ground beef so exquisite, swirling in your mouth, breaking apart, and combining again in a fugue of sweets and savor so delightful. This is no mere sandwich of grilled meat and toasted bread, Robin. This is God, speaking to us in food.”

Please watch the video below, where it is compared to a passage from Amadeus.

If you are in Ottawa, do visit The Works. And keep your ears open to see if a location opens near you!