Happy Birthday Canada!

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O Canada, I haven’t forgotten you. I hope all you Canada folk are enjoying a day off with lots of barbecues and beer, hot weather at a lake somewhere, potentially some camping? Definitely some fireworks – the more budget, the better.

Z and I (and X) celebrated Canada Day too, albeit a little early, with a Canada Day barbecue on Saturday. We got a pretty decent crowd considering we just moved here, and it was the most international crowd I’ve ever had over at my place. There were a few Canadians, lots of Brits, some French, some Romanian and one Kiwi. Most people were politely happy to celebrate Canada Day. My favourite question: so what exactly happened that you celebrate?

I tried to come up with a Canadian menu that was easy to pull off. We went with the obvious choice: burgers. It did mean that Z had to scramble to get a barbecue before people showed up, but it all turned out okay. I went with some obvious choices, but when few people are actually from Canada, there’s really no point in being subtle. The colours were obviously red and white, which works out well with our new host nation as well. My flavours of choice were maple and bacon, which I tried to infuse into everything somehow. Everyone was very amused.

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I actually forget where I got the idea for these gems: Canadian Living, maybe? They are caprese bites, with bacon sandwiched in between buffalo mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. They are delicious and a little bit cheeky and were a great hit.

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Now this is a dish that I can’t believe I haven’t shared with you yet. It is a family favourite, our taco dip we refer to as “crack dip” because we just can’t get enough of it. It’s pretty basic and very unhealthy, but it has the lovely red and white, as well as the requisite bacon, so I thought it was perfect for the evening.

Taco Dip

8 oz cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

dash garlic powder

1 tomato

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp chopped jalapenos (more or less to taste)

1 tbsp chopped green onion

2 tbsp cooked bacon (crispy)

2 tbsp sliced black olives

Salsa

Shredded cheese

Combine first six ingredients (cream cheese to jalapenos) in a food processor. Spread over the bottom of a 9-in pie plate. Sprinkle green onion, bacon and olives on top and put in the fridge to chill for at least an hour (can prepare overnight). Before serving, spread with salsa and cheese. Serve with taco chips.

I had to make a few adjustments for ingredients here. I changed up the sour cream for creme fraiche, the jalapenos for sambal oelek, and greek olives instead of the sliced black ones. V. international of me, I know. Still excellent. I think I ate most of it.

Another appie I served that I completely forgot to take a photo of, largely because they disappeared so quickly, was maple salmon lollipops. Sincerely delicious, I even got X to try some!

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For dessert, which the kids were eyeing up the whole evening and requested to take home extra with them, were Maple Vanilla Cupcakes. I loved these, they might be my favourite cupcake yet. They’re not extravagant or crazy, but a nice cozy mix of flavours that work really well together. I hilariously failed to make these Canada Day-esque, so I decided to call them birthday cakes instead, since I just turned thirty-cough the other day. I wanted the cakes to be red, with white icing and red maple leafs on top. It all fell apart right away. First, the only red sprinkles I could find were hearts, which looked super Valentines-y. Then I realized the only cupcake liners I had were pink leopard print, not exactly something that says “Canada” to me. Then I tried to dye the cake red. I used the whole damn bottle, and the cakes turned a pretty light pink. I gave up. Here are my beautiful little birthday cakes, recipe courtesy The Little Epicurean food blog (I left off the candied walnuts).

Maple Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cupcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/3 cup whole milk, room temperature

3 Tbsp nonfat yogurt

1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs, room temperature

Maple Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, softened

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 Tbsp maple syrup, grade B

2 Tbsp heavy cream

Vanilla Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, mix together milk, yogurt, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs one a time.

Add half the dry mixture.  Continue to mix and add half of wet mixture.  Add remaining dry mixture, followed by remaining wet mixture.  Mix until there are no more streaks of dry mixture.

Divide batter evenly between prepared muffin tin.  Bake for 18-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, or until cake lightly springs back when touched.  Be sure to rotate pan halfway through baking.  Let cupcakes cool in tin for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

Maple Frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add maple syrup and heavy cream and continue to mix. Add remaining confectioners’ sugar one cup at a time. Beat until smooth and thick.

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Happy birthday to you too, Canada. We love you and miss you.

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