Nana’s Potato Salad

Over the weekend, we celebrated my dad’s birthday. We tend to spend our family occasions at home and cook a nice meal. On the odd occasion, we order take out Chinese food (which was always my birthday request growing up). I’ve learned to plan the meal ahead. I’ve got better at timing the things I’m cooking. Each time, the meal seems to come out a little bit better.

Dad’s birthday request was for steak. I got to choose the side dishes. So, I picked up some gorgeous sirloin steaks from The Bauer Butcher, fresh Ontario asparagus from Vincenzo’s (asparagus season is coming to an end soon, so I’m eating as much of this delicious vegetable as possible), and some potatoes for a potato salad. To top it all off, Nana made an amazing confetti cake (dad’s favourite).

BBQ Sirloin Steaks

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Now, would you be surprised if I told you that the highlight of the meal is the potato salad?

You see, it’s my nana’s recipe and a family favourite. Nana has made her family-famous potato salad ever since I can remember… and ever since dad can remember. I have fond memories of spending weekends with Nana as a child and there always being an amazing array of delicious home cooked food. And her potato salad is among my favourites (also check out some of her other recipes that I’ve deconstructed and posted, including Macaroni and Cheese Casserole and Asparagus Soup). As a child I flat out refused to eat potato salad. I claimed I didn’t like it. I especially didn’t like the pre-made potato salads from the grocery store and fast food restaurants (I still don’t really like most of them). However, Nana’s potato salad was the exception. Not only did I eat it, I would go back for seconds.

Steamed Asparagus

The “recipe” is another one that I’ve had to watch time after time to document. The vague directions call for potatoes (it doesn’t say how many), the oil and vinegar dressing is the only thing that is really precise. And that’s as long as you know that the recipe is for 5 servings.

This weekend, I made the salad under Nana’s supervision. The salad was very well received by my family! No complaints. No comparisons. No suggestions for next time. It was just like Nana’s. Hooray! Now I need to make it again without supervision to really put my take on the potato salad to the test.

What makes her salad so much better? So one, she serves it warm. I don’t know why, but this makes a difference in the flavour. Her salad is good as leftovers but is definitely best served and consumed fresh. Like, within an hour of making the salad. It has great sweet and sour flavours in the dressing. It’s smooth with delicious crunch pieces of fresh vegetables. It doesn’t take too much time or effort to make. It just tastes better. (And I don’t think it’s nostalgia making me say this!)

Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Nana’s Potato Salad

Adapted from her sister’s recipe


  • 5 large potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups when cubed) – approximate cost $1.75
  • 2 teaspoons sugar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 tablespoons salad oil (canola or olive oil works well) – approximate cost $0.10
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, diced – approximate cost $0.25
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, sliced thinly – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 (slightly heaping) cup mayonnaise – approximate cost $1.00


  1. Boil and drain the potatoes.
  2. Allow them to cool until they can be handled.
  3. Peel the potato skin.
    1. If you like the potato skins, skip this step. For my own salad, I would leave the potato skin on. Nana prefers the potato skins removed.
  4. Cut potato into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Combine sugar and vinegar, stirring constantly until dissolved.
  6. Add salad oil to the vinegar and sugar mix.
  7. Pour oil and vinegar mix over hot potatoes.
  8. Allow the potatoes to cool until lukewarm, about room temperature.
  9. Add celery, green pepper, and green onion pieces.
  10. Mix well.
  11. Add pepper and mayonnaise.
  12. Mix thoroughly.
  13. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 5 servings (approximate cost: $0.80 per serving).

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Bryan’s Step-Father’s Red Chile and Enchilada Casserole

Bryan and I don’t often go out of town. You might not guess because I’ve posted already this month about travelling to Northern Ontario. This time, the destination was much closer: Toronto. Bryan’s sister is currently living in Toronto and his step-father came for a visit, so we took the opportunity to finally visit. And we hope to visit his sister M again soon!!

We spent most of our day at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

I didn’t get any “good” shots of the group. Bryan and his step-father managed to make a “kissy-face” in every one! 🙂

Race time!

This is not my usual sort of activity. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about it as well. I brought a book with me just in case I was bored. Fortunately, that was not the case. I had such a great time with Bryan and his family. They’re a lot of fun to be around!

However, I think my favourite part of the day was dinner. We went back to M and C’s place in Toronto where Bryan’s step-father taught us how to make his Red Chile and Enchilada Casserole. We all pitched in one way or another (despite the kitchen being a bit on the small side). The “kids” made guacamole while the “parent” worked on the Red Chile and Enchilada Casserole. He went through the recipe with us step-by-step, explaining what he was doing and allowing for the occasional photo-op along the way.

The master chef showing us how to fry a corn tortilla.

There was enough left over that we got to bring some of the red chile home. I’ve since made another enchilada casserole. I’m so glad we documented the process… now we can make our own red chile sauce at home!

Red Chile

Bryan’s step-father’s recipe, posted with permission


  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef – approximate cost $6.50
  • 3 heaping + 1 level tablespoons all-purpose flour – approximate cost $0.30
  • 4 ounces (red) guajilli molido chile powder – approximate cost $4.00
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • Approximately 1/2 cup canola oil – approximate cost $0.25
  • Water (about 6 cups)


  1. Brown 1 lb ground beef in a large pot.
  2. Drain any liquid from the ground beef.
  3. Heat 1/4″ oil (approximately 1/2 cup) in a small frying pan over medium heat.
  4. Turn down the heat.
  5. Stir 3 heaping + 1 level tablespoons of flour into the oil
  6. Stir constantly until the flour dissolves.
  7. Add 4 ounces of (red) guajilli molido chile powder.
  8. Stir until it becomes a thick paste.
  9. Add chile paste to ground beef.
  10. Fill the pot to about half with water (about 6 cups).
  11. Add a teaspoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of sea salt.
  12. Bring to boil and let the sauce thicken.
  13. Stir frequently.
  14. Remove from heat and divide into three batches.

Makes 3 batches of red chile (approximate cost: $3.73 per serving).

Red Chile Enchilada Casserole

Also Bryan’s step-father’s recipe, posted with permission


  • 2 cups red chile – approximate cost $1.24
  • 12 yellow corn tortillas – approximate cost $0.40
  • 2 cans of pinto beans (liquid reserved) – approximate cost $2.20
  • 2 cups Mexican cheese blend, shredded (cheddar, mozzarealla, and american cheeses) – approximate cost $4.00
  • Canola oil (for frying) – approximate cost $0.25


  1. Heat 1/4″ oil in a frying pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Very lightly fry 6 yellow corn tortillas.
  4. Place on paper towels to remove some of the oil.
  5. Pour 1/2 juice from the can of pinto beans into a 9×13 baking dish (it should coat the bottom of the dish).
  6. Distribute the fried tortillas into an even layer in the baking dish (it’s ok if they overlap).
  7. Pour the can of pinto beans (and remaining liquid) on top of the tortillas.
  8. Top with 2 ladles of chile sauce (about 1 cup).
  9. Sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  10. Repeat steps 3-9 to make a second layer on the enchilada casserole.
  11. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the cheese and sauce begin to bubble.
  12. Let stand on the counter for a few minutes.
  13. Serve and enjoy! (Optional: Serve with flour tortillas to soak up any extra sauce)

Makes 6 servings (approximate cost: $1.35 per serving).

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Improv Challenge: Cinnamon and Sugar (Strawberry Cobbler)

Once again I find myself thinking… it’s been way too long since I’ve posted on my blog! Last post, I had just made it through the exam season. Since then, I’ve been quite busy as usual.

I took a short vacation to visit one of my very best friends and her family in Northern Ontario. I spent 3 wonderful days visiting and relaxing. The time out of the city was much needed.

Waterfall in South River

Waterfall in South River

We made a day-trip to Pickerel River where H’s aunt and uncle own a lovely cottage. It had been about 10 years since my last visit. As children, we visited for a week most summers, not a whole lot has changed (except they finished building the house). We even fit in a short kayaking trip! I wish I had been brave enough to bring my camera along, the was a waterfall down the river that was still frozen.

Pickerel River

Pickerel River

A beaver swimming in the Pickerel River

A beaver swimming in the Pickerel River

I have to admit I didn’t really want to come home. Don’t get me wrong, I missed Bryan and Loki. And I was looking forward to starting my summer classes. But a full week away would have been nice. 🙂

I’m excited to once again be participating in the Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! This month, the challenge ingredients are cinnamon and sugar. So far, I’ve shared:

This month, my dish is inspired by my trip up north. When we visited Pickerel River, H’s mom made a lovely peach cobbler that we took along for dessert. For the challenge, I made a Strawberry Cobbler!

Strawberry Cobbler

Inspired by S’s Peach Cobbler


Fruit Filling

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 cup COLD water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice – approximate cost $0.20
  • 3 cups sliced strawberries – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon – approximate cost $0.10


  • 1 cup flour – approximate cost $0.40
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 cup whole milk – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided into 6 – approximate cost $0.30


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare the fruit filling.
    1. Combine the cornstarch and cold water in a cup.
    2. Mix well.
    3. Add cornstarch mixture and brown sugar to a sauce pot.
    4. Cook over medium heat until thickened and sugar is dissolved.
    5. Remove from heat.
    6. Add lemon juice.
    7. Add strawberries.
    8. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
    9. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  3. Prepare the topping.
    1. Combine flour, cane sugar, baking powder, and sea salt in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Add milk, stirring constantly.
    3. Add water, stirring until well-mixed (no dry flour).
  4. Spoon the topping over the fruit (leaving it in dumpling shapes).
  5. Dot each dumpling with butter.
  6. Bake the cobbler for about 25 minutes (or until topping is cooked through and golden brown).
  7. Cool slightly.
  8. Serve warm and enjoy!

Makes 6 servings (approximate cost: $0.60 per serving).

Introducing Rascal, the Yellow Lab and White Shepherd Mix!

Last week, I introduced Rebel. This week I’m introducing Rascal, the youngest of my family’s dogs.

Rascal playing keep-away

Rascal playing keep-away

Rascal is, in many ways, Rebel’s opposite. Obviously, Rascal has a light coloured fur and Rebel has dark fur. While Rebel is independent, Rascal is social and snuggly. And he’s quite lazy in comparison to Rebel. When I visit home, Rascal is the first to try to sit in my lap and be pet. He’ll play with me and go for walks, but is tired afterwards and happy to rest.

While Rebel is still playing fetch, Rascal will sit beside me and watch.

Rascal is tired, time to relax!

Rascal is tired, time to relax!

Rascal appreciates all food. Well, sort of. He eats so fast we’re not sure he actually tastes many of his treats. He’ll try anything you put in front of him and will attempt to eat it, even if it’s something he dislikes. He’s not fond of citrus flavours, especially limes and lime-flavoured jello.

Introducing Rebel, the Austrian Shepherd!

While my family’s dogs have their own page on this blog, and I talk about them often, I realized I hadn’t officially introduced them.

I’ll start with Rebel, because he’s the oldest.

I asked Rebel if he would like to go for a walk...

I asked Rebel if he would like to go for a walk…

Rebel is a 4 year old Austrian Shepherd. He’s fiercely independent and very intelligent (And very sweet, but don’t let him know I told you). He loves being active. When I visit, he knows there will be a walk at some point. He’s very patient waiting for his walk, at least until dinner is over. Then he knows it’s walk time (and sometimes whines if I’m not ready to go out walking right away). When we’re not walking, Rebel enjoys playing frisbee and swimming.

Rebel retrieving a frisbee

Rebel retrieving a frisbee

Rebel is a picky eater. He prefers meats and dislikes most vegetables. However, he’ll eat his vegetables if he thinks you might give them to Rascal.

Day 22: Cooking inspiration

This is my little brother (my inspiration for starting this blog) and Nana (one of my biggest cooking influences).

This picture is from last summer, at my brother’s college convocation. He now works at a really fancy restaurant in town. I’m so proud of him!

I’ve spent a lot of time with Nana learning how to cook. She’s taught me so many things and even taught me a few recipes handed-down from my great-grandmother. You know, the kind that you have to learn by practicing because a recipe never seems to work. She’s taught me a lot about eating healthy on a budget (the theme of this blog!).

Niagara Icewine Festival and winery tour

I’m not a wine expert. And, until this weekend, I didn’t think I had any preferences in wine. This weekend, women in the family set out to enjoy the Niagara Icewine Festival by touring six wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake (we were celebrating everyone’s birthday on the same day because it is difficult to get all of us together outside of holidays).

We got together early on Saturday morning and compiled a list of the wineries on the tour that we would like to visit. I chose mine based on the food being served. My aunt consolidated the list and chose the six most popular wineries, mapped the best route, and we set out!

Part way through the day we realized we were making good time and deviated from the plan… we made a stop in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake where there were more festivities. We stopped at the Trisha Romance art gallery, shopped, stopped for a quick snack, and walked through a few neighbourhoods.

At the end of the day, I realized that I do indeed have a preference when it comes to wines. I prefer sweet or semi-sweet wines over dry wines. And I prefer red wines over white wines. Some of the food pairings surprised me. Every food we tried was delicious. I can’t tell you if they actually paired well with the wines.

My favourite quote of the day: “this wine smells like my bath salts, which smell really good.”

However, the best part of the day was spending it with my family. We really had a great time just being together!

Have you ever been on a wine tour in Niagara? Which wineries did you visit? Which would you recommend?

Between the Lines Family Estate Winery

A really cute, friendly, family-run winery. The parents own the vineyard. The children run the winery/wine-making. We got to enjoy our wine and treats right beside the fermenting wine.

Wines we tasted:

  • 2010 Gewürztraminer Icewine
  • Cabernet Merlot

Food served:

  • 2009 Vidal Icewine white chocolate truffle
  • 2009 Cabernet Franc Icewine dark chocolate truffle

Cattail Creek Estate Winery

How could you not try a wine called Catastrophe that has pictures of adorable kitties on the label?

Wines we tasted:

  • Select Late Harvest Riesling 2007, VQA Niagara on the Lake
  • 2008 Catastrophe Chocolate Strawberry Infusion
  • 2009 Catastrophe Chocolate Orange Infusion

Food served:

  • Butter Chicken with Mango Chutney served with Papadum Chips

Marynissen Estates Winery

We got to walk throughout the shop and peruse the storage area full of wine barrels. The Pad Thai was delicious… but I accidentally added too much sriracha sauce to mine. Despite being super spicy, it was still fantastic!

Wines we tasted:

  • 2004 Vidal Icewine

Food served:

  • Authentic Pad Thai prepared by Nutchalai “Amm” Chiprasit

Niagara College Teaching Winery

Our first and last stop of the day. We didn’t want to make purchases too early in the tour… but still enjoyed the wine very much at the end of the day and had to stop by on our way home.

Wines we tasted:

  • 2009 Dean’s List Cabernet Franc Icewine

Food served:

  • Whole wheat and roasted garlic flan with rosemary venison-mushroom ragout

Riverview Cellars Winery

I loved the view at this winery, it overlooks the Niagara River. I brought home a bottle of the 2009 Fontana Dolce VQA to share with B.

Wines we tasted:

  • 2010 Cabernet Franc Icewine
  • 2009 Fontana Dolce VQA

Food served:

  • Fresh fruit skewers and homemade cinnamon-cranberry biscotti dipped in a chocolate fountain

Strewn Winery

This was the last winery on our list. It was probably the most unique place on the tour. Strewn is not strictly a winery, is also has a restaurant and cooking school in the same building.

Wines we tasted:

  • 2006 Riesling icewine
  • 2008 Rogue’s Lot Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2008 Cabernet Franc
  • Merlot
  • Warm mulled wine

Food served:

  • Warm apricot streusel

Meet Loki

Who is that cat that is always staring hungrily at my food?


  • Favourite foods: tuna, garlic sauce,  green apples
  • Least favourite foods: lemon, lime, sauerkraut

When I met Loki, she needed me just as much as I needed her in my life. She found me in the winter a few years ago, she was the neighbourhood stray. I had recently moved to a different student-house and missed having a pet, so it was not difficult for her to persuade me to let her stay.

When Loki first wandered into our home, she was a skinny and scruffy looking cat. To my surprise, she came right up to my roommate and me, allowed us to pet her and happily ate the half a can of tuna we offered. We played with her for a bit, put the cat outside, and closed the door. She meowed pitifully! At that moment, I knew she was here to stay.

A few weeks later, Loki (named for her curiosity and habit of getting into mischief) was a looking much healthier. We soon found out there were kittens on the way (five tiny kittens to be exact). What an experience! Not only did I have to learn how to care for a cat, but I also got a crash course in raising kittens.

The kittens have since grown and found good homes. Loki is now a happy, healthy, and well-loved cat.

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