Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekly Roundup - I Like Your Beast Style

The Stockyards: Beast Style Burger - My hunt for burger perfection took me to a BBQ favourite this week, The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder, home of some of Toronto's favourite smokey and savory BBQ goodness. Never one to disappoint, I knew that The Stockyards griddle-smashed burgers would be sure to win my burger-loving heart. Wanting to try something a little more special than the classic burger or cheeseburger, I opted for a single Beast Style Burger, a mustard seared patty served with secret sauce, caramelized onions, and Stockyards American style smoked cheese. Woah mama! It was love at first bite...and perhaps not sight, considering my lamo photo of a very generic-looking burger. Please don't judge this burger from my pathetic I-was-too-hungry-to-take-a-great-photo photography, because this burger was one of those weak at the knees burgers, the type of burger that any meat lover would dream of. Cooked to perfection, the patty was moist and flavourful, with the toppings heightening the flavours of the patty as opposed to overwhelming them. Near burger perfection I tell ya! I really enjoyed Holy Chuck Burgers take on the griddle-smashed mustard seared burger when I first tried their Big Bad Wolf Burger, but when trying a second time, I found it a little too salty and did take over the natural flavours of the patty. This is not to say that Holy Chuck is not my favourite burger anymore, just that the Stockyards and Holy Chuck are holding hands at first place now. Next time I have my eye on The Stockyards Butter Burger with bone marrow blue cheese red wine butter, onion frites, and butter lettuce.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Do's Of Beer Fest

Last year I walked into the Toronto Festival of Beer a first timer. Donning bright orange pants and a silk tank, with little research beforehand, I thought by simply having my camera and my festival map on hand I was good to go and ready to conquer the festival. From the moment I walked up to Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place, I knew I was out of my element. Already using my map as a fan to attempt to beat the heat, I was kicking myself for not finding comfort in the jean cutoffs that seemed to be the official festival uniform for women. Already parched from our TTC journey, my sister and I headed straight to the first tap we could set our sights on and began our beer drinking debauchery. Completely overwhelmed by the enormous size of the festival and huge selection of exhibitors, we abandoned all previous thoughts of having a game plan, and stumbled into a manic beer drinking mess. Despite our silly, unorganized, and at times messy first experience, we had the time of our lives bouncing around the festival, trying out some new beers, wasting our drink tickets on ones we had already tried in the past, and making lots of new friends! Now, going on my second year of what I now consider to be one of my favourite festivals in the city, I feel full of beer festival wisdom that I feel is my blogger duty to pass on. So before you stumble into the Toronto Festival of Beer this weekend a naive beer fest goer, make sure to know Tho Do's Of Beer Fest to make sure you have the absolute best beer drinking experience. 
  • DO - Download the APP! This year the Beer Fest is going paperless, which is not only good for the environment but also for clumsy or careless festival goers who may accidently leave their festival map at one of the pouring stations. Make sure to download your TFOB 2013 APP before hitting the fest here! Not an Android or iPhone user? No worries, here is a map of the fest for you to print out before this weekend!

  • DO - Try new beer! Go out of your comfort zone and try a new style or brand of beer you're not familiar with or haven't liked the past, you might learn something new about your taste buds! This is all about having a new experience and trying beers that may be tricky to get ahold of, and don't forget to ask others about what beers you should be trying...if they say Molson Canadian, don't trust their advice! 
  • DO - Wear light clothes. Don't make the same mistake that I made last year by wearing pants! I spent the whole day shvitzing up a storm! 
  • DO - Wear comfortable shoes. Honey, put those heels away! This ain't the place! This is an all-day outdoor event with lots of beer and walking on grass. Trust me, you will thank me later.

  • DO - Eat lots of food! There are some awesome food exhibitors at the event that you are definitely going to want to try! Not to mention food will certainly help with soaking up all that alcohol. Check out who's exhibiting this year here
  • DO - Drink lots of water! I know you want to get your drunk on, but you don't want to be that person who passes out from all the beer and heat and ruins your friends also don't want to be the person getting sick and getting kicked out. Make sure you locate the water stations immediately upon arriving at the festival. Trust me, they will be your savior!

  • Do - Make friends. You're not a kid anymore, so have fun making friends with strangers! Ask them what their favourite beers of the fest have been, you might learn something new!
  • DO - Wear and bring sunscreen...especially it you're a redhead! You are going to be outside in mostly uncovered areas all day long in the blazing hot sun. Do yourself a favour and slather on the highest number you can get your hands on. 

  • DO - Find shelter from the sun in the Grilling Tent. Cool down while you learn about pairing beer with food from some of Toronto's hottest chefs! Check out the schedule here to be sure to catch your favourite chef in action.
  • DO - Have a game plan. This is a very large event, so having a general idea of what stands you want to hit will help you to not get overwhelmed. Check out the list of exhibitors to see which breweries sound the most interesting to you.

  • DO - Stay up to date on Twitter! Make sure to have a peek at Twitter every now and then and see what beers other guests are tweeting about. Search the hashtag #BeerMe and make sure to tweet your own faves from the event! 
  • DO - Plan a safe way to get home. This is the absolutely the number one most important tip of the festival. Either take a taxi, the TTC, or have a designated driver pick you up. Don't be an idiot. Don't drink and drive. 
  • DO - Have fun!....obviously! 
Read all about my experience at the festival last year here

Listening To:
Timber Timbre - Bad Ritual

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Summerlicious

Summerlicious At Azure - Date nights can be oh so fun, but they can also be oh so scary for your wallet, so you can imagine my delight at being invited to Azure Restaurant at the Intercontinental Toronto Centre for a complimentary dining experience for two, to check out their new look, sound, and Summerlicious menu by new Chef de Cuisine Grace DiFede. The bustling space had a very downtown vibe, located and sectioned off in the Intercontinental lobby, with beautiful bright glass ceilings allowing natural light to shine down on diners (ahem, perfect for date night complexion). We were greeted by one of the chefs who explained the menu to us, telling us how Chef Grace wanted their Summerlicious menu to reflect their regular menu, just in a smaller scale. Their menu features international flavours using local ingredients, with a rooftop garden where chefs can source fresh herbs. The mouth-watering menu was as follows:
Sweet Corn + Saffron Bisque + Goat Cheese Crouton + Tarragon Oil
Market Greens + Benedictine Cheese + Pickled Shallots + Bartlett Pear + Candied Walnuts Sherry Vinaigrette
East Coast Crab Cake + Lemon Dill Remoulade + Summer Fruit Salsa
Canadian Farmed Beef Strip Loin + Rosemary Garlic Potato Puree + Baby Vegetables + Chard + Port Jus
Pacific Organic Salmon + Orange Shaved Fennel Slaw + Raisins + Pistachio + Asparagus + Pernod Tomato Puree
Eggplant Ricotta Gratin + Basil + Grilled Peppers + Summer Squash
Ice-Wine Strawberry Panna Cotta + Fig Compote + Caramel Tuille
Baileys Chocolate Torte + Vanilla Mousse + Summer Berry Compote
Sorbet Creation - Chef's daily selection of sorbets
Summerlicious At Azure - To start our meal, both my date Chris and I ordered a round of caesars to toast to our date night. We followed that with Chris ordering the Sweet Corn and Saffron Bisque and myself ordering the East Coast Crab Cake. My crab cake was very tasty, the highlight being the summer fruit salsa, which brightened up the dish, but I couldn't help but want to sneak another bite of Chris' bisque, which was absolutely delicious! The massive bowl of soup tasted like summer in a bowl, both comforting and refreshing on an uncomfortably humid day. That creamy and complex creation turned out to be my favourite part of the meal! For our second course I ordered the Pacific Organic Salmon (top photo), with Chris ordering the Canadian Farmed Beef Strip Loin. We were both surprised to see the large portions of beef and salmon arrive to our table, not normally typical of Summerlicious menus. Both dishes were very good, but I particularly liked the bright fresh flavours in my salmon. For dessert, we decided to share both the Ice-Wine Strawberry Panna Cotta and the Baileys Chocolate Torte. Both so incredibly full from our first two courses, I was pretty impressed by just how much dessert we were able to tuck away. Our favourite of the two was the very light tasting panna cotta, a refreshing finish to the meal. A great big THANK YOU to Azure for inviting me to be their guest for the evening and making me feel like a princess. Their tasty menu and incredibly lovely staff made our evening extra special!

Five Guys Burgers & Fries - Although I say I have found my perfect burger from Holy Chuck Burger, I can't help but want to continue the search for perfection, searching for that burger that will make me go weak at the knees, foodgasming with abandon. This week my search took me to Five Guys Burgers & Fries, the much-hyped American chain restaurant known for their messy burgers, massive portions of seasoned fries, and complimentary shelled peanuts. I ordered their Bacon Cheeseburger with a selection of their many complimentary toppings (many of which go further than the standard raw toppings, including grilled onions and mushrooms) and a large order of fries for myself and my friends to share. Right off the bat I couldn't resist going in to try a fry, appreciating their heavy seasoning. Although I loved the first few fries, I got a little sick of the seasoning after a while, especially when they dump another half portion of fries into your takeout bag. I love bag fries (those few fries that end up on the bottom of the bag, giving you a few extra nibbles), but this seemed a little excessive. I hate waste, so when I order a particular portion of fries, I'm ordering it for a reason. By the time we were stuffed to the brim and done with our meal, we still had a full portion of fries in front of us once we topped up our fry container with the remaining bag fries. The burger certainly helped with my burger craving with nice flavour, but I just can't compare it to my good ol' Holy Chuck. It was much drier than the current toronto favorite that people are familiar with from both Holy Chuck and Burgers Priest. Five Guys is certainly much better than your average fast food burger, but for me, it ranks low in compared to the many other craft burgers in the city.

Momofuku Milk Bar - Despite denying that they were going to ever open their famous Milk Bar in Toronto, this week Momofuku made Torontonians dreams come true by opening their sweet shop, sectioned off on the second floor of their glitzy three-story space. Sure that the first few days after opening would be sheer hipster madness, I decided to wait it out before I attempted to brave the space to gorge on their sweet delights. I walked into one of the happiest of surprises on Saturday, just one day after opening, when I was invited to my friends Victoria and Kyle's for snacks and drinks in their lovely condo, and upon entering noticed a big ol' stack of Momofuku cookies on the serving table. I wanted to tackle their friends Ian and Jennie with hugs for supplying us with every flavour of Momofuku's sinfully delicious and unique cookies. I had first tried Momofuku's Compost Cookie (featuring everything from pretzels, potato chips, coffee grinds, and more) when I checked out one of their locations in New York this past fall and fell in love with the wildly delicious cookie, so I was super excited to get to try it again, along with a few of their other flavours. Each and every cookie was so incredibly delicious, I was in my absolute glory! I think I may just have to elbow a few hipsters this week to grab a slice of their infamous Crack Pie for myself. (Regram from @FreshFromAlex)

National Ice Cream Day - After all those Momofuku cookies, you would think we would have had enough of sweets by the time we were heading home from Victoria and Kyle's on Saturday night, but with a Baskin Robbins still open at 12:30 AM on the way home, we couldn't possibly resist a few scoops of Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream in a sugar cone for our walk home. Little did we know that we were only a half-hour into National Ice Cream Day, arguably one of the best days of the year! Because I didn't know it was National Ice Cream Day at the time, that just meant I had to indulge in another scoop and cone the following evening, an hour before National Ice Cream Day would come to an end.

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Listening To:
Timber Timbre - Black Water

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Polenta with Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Asparagus & Cherry Tomatoes & Poached Egg

Food trends can be fun and interesting sometimes, but I find they can also be very limiting and quickly tire. This is why my all-time favourite food trend to date has been the food truck and pop up shop craze, which I consider to be the polar opposite of limiting and tired. There are so many things that I appreciate about this trend, to just name a few: its ability to bring the community together; allowing young budding entrepreneurs to make their mark on the industry, without having to take on the financial strain of opening a brick and mortar; the imaginative dishes that these independent small businesses allow; the accessibility of gourmet foods to the average consumer; I could go on and on. Being a young adult, dealing with a tight wallet, and a city filled with fantastic restaurants that often come with a high price that doesn't always fit my budget, the food truck and pop up shop trend has meant that I have been able to experience all different types of gourmet cuisine, representing all different parts of the world, many of which are from some of Toronto's hottest chefs. This new trend not only makes gourmet cuisine more accessible for the consumer, but for the at-home chef as well. After seeing so many young and fresh chefs taking a stab at taking a chance, playing with various flavour combinations and compositions on the plate, with numerous chefs not having a culinary school background, its boosted my own confidence, making me feel as though I too can create an inspired, striking, gourmet dish in my own home. 

With a night in the apartment all to myself this week, I had a hankering to try something new in the kitchen, and experiment with creating my own gourmet dish. I always love experimenting in the kitchen when no one is around, so that if I fail miserably, no one will be there to see my tears...and by tears I mean dejected face as I sadly eat my failure. As I almost always do, I began my recipe creation brainstorming by having a peek in my fridge, seeing what flavours go together to create something interesting, and avoid a grocery store mission in the grueling heat. I pulled out all the flavours that would mesh well together (concentrating first on the ingredients that needed to be used up) and began jotting down some notes. After lots of scribbles on foolscap, I felt confident that I had something interesting in the works.

With a great playlist on in the background, it felt therapeutic working on this dish. I had decided to try my hand at making polenta once again, topped with roasted prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and cherry tomatoes, a soft-poached egg, caramelized onions, and a parsley pesto. I had prepped everything in advance to avoid any mid-dish making panic, I was calm, I followed my instincts, I tasted everything along the way, seasoning each and every component to the dish, and by the time everything was ready to be plated, I knew I had a winner! Sure enough, the dish looked pretty damn spectacular on the plate (if I do say so myself), that poached egg bursting with the bright yellow yolk, creating what I refer to as "natures dipping sauce" for the garlic polenta, resting on a bed of salty prosciutto, hugging crisp Ontario asparagus, wrinkled and charred cherry tomatoes nestled into the creamy polenta, with a scattering of caramelized onions and fresh parsley pesto...come on...just look at that dish! It's bloody beautiful! Not only did the dish look beautiful, the components also tasted beautiful together. Just an average at-home chef, with no culinary training, making a gourmet dish for myself at home, in less than an hour! If I can do it, you can too! All it takes is challenging yourself, just a little bit, each time you work on a dish. Before you know it, you'll feel like you can take on just about anything! Does this mean a pop up shop of my own is in the works...hmm not a bad idea...Maybe someday! 

Serves 2
1 handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for cooking
1 garlic clove, separated into haves & minced
1/4 red onion, sliced
2 pieces prosciutto
1 handful asparagus, trimmed
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp butter
about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp white vinegar, separated
2 eggs
salt & pepper

  1. Place parsley in the bowl of a mortar. Drizzle over 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 clove of minced garlic and a pinch of salt. Using a pestle, grind together the mixture until parsley is very fine and combined with the olive oil to create a pesto. Set aside.
  2. In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the 1/4 cup sliced red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized.
  3. Wrap each piece of prosciutto around half of the asparagus and lay on a baking sheet. Add the cherry tomatoes to the baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season both well with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until all cherry tomatoes have burst. Keep in turned off oven to keep warm until ready to plate.
  4. While onions are caramelizing and vegetables are roasting, begin cooking the polenta. In a small saucepan heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the 1/4 cup chopped red onion and cook, stirring occasionally until onions are softened. Add the remaining 1/2 a clove of minced garlic and cook for 1-minute. 
  5. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and slowly add the cornmeal in a slow and steady stream while stirring gently. Stir until mixture begins to thicken then cover and cook for 20-minutes, stirring vigorously every 10-minutes.
  6. Add in the butter and parmesan cheese and stir to combine and melt the butter. Season with salt and pepper as needed and keep warm on very low until ready to plate. 
  7. In the last 10-minutes of the polenta cooking, make the poached eggs. Make them either one at a time, with poach pods at the same time, or in separate small saucepans. Place 1 tbsp of white vinegar each into 2 small bowls and carefully crack an egg into each one. Let soak for 4-5-minutes. Bring a small pot filled 3/4 way up with water to a boil. Using a whisk stir the water to create a vortex in the centre and carefully slide in the egg and gently stir to keep the egg moving in a circle. The white should wrap around the yolk to form an oval-type shape. Cook for 4-minutes. Carefully remove and dry on a paper towel. Trim any excess white.
  8. To serve: Separate the polenta into two serving dishes. Top each with half of the roasted tomatoes and the asparagus and prosciutto bundles. Top with the poached eggs and some caramelized onions. Drizzle over the parsley pesto and enjoy immediately. 
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Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Creating & Feasting On Cornmeal Favourites

Harbourfront Empanada Throwdown - An Ecuadorian feast featuring some of the best empanadas you've ever eaten (even after having travelled to South America) is not something that is easily forgotten. For days after attending my friends casual bridal party dinner party (that's a lot of party!), the large and ongoing feast made lovingly by the soon-to-be bride's brother in law Kevin, I still had those mouth-watering, savory veal and potato empanadas on my brain. You can guess that a goofy smile spread across my then drooling face when it was suggested a week later that we check out our favourite Empanada chef, Kevin, battling it out for the top title at the Harbourfront Empanada Throwdown! For $8 you could purchase a sampler plate that allowed you to walk around to all six of the chef stations and taste each empanada that they were serving up, alongside their own salsa. Guests were encouraged to vote on best filling, best pastry, and overall best empanada. 

While my friends and I waited in the long, snaking line, an announcer was going around interviewing those that had already gotten their full empanada plate, asking them which was their favourite. Time and time again we heard people enthusiastically shout into the microphone that "KEVIN IS MY FAVOURITE!" We had no doubt that his oxtail and potato empanadas would knock our socks (er...sandals) off. After finally making our way through the chef stations, we all had a full empanada plate and were ready for tasting! Despite the fact that Kevin's empanada was piping hot, fresh out of the blazing hot oil, I had to bite into his first. I swooned. Perfection. The complex flavours of the filling, mixed with the perfectly crisp and soft cornmeal pastry, dipped into that fresh and spicy salsa had us all cheering for Kevin! Of course we were just as eager to try the other five empanadas, so off we went, making our way through our mini South American feast on a paper plate. I know we're a little biased because we know Kevin personally, but there was no doubt in our minds who the winner should be. Kevin's was miles better than all the others...and you know me, I can be brutally honest when it comes to food. We were shocked to find only a few minutes later, when the winners were announced, that Kevin had only won Best Filling. Were people crazy? Ah well, I guess they just don't know great food...perhaps they should read my blog HAH! Be sure to look into Chanchitos Latin Flavour, by chef Kevin, to cater your next event! I promise you will not be disappointed!
Garlic Polenta with Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus & Cherry Tomatoes & A Poached Egg - With a night in the apartment all to myself this week, I had a hankering to try something new in the kitchen. I always love experimenting in the kitchen when no one is around, so that if I fail miserably, no one will be there to see my tears...and by tears I mean dejected face as I sadly eat my failure. As I always do, I first checked out my fridge to see what I already had on hand so I could avoid a grocery store mission. After jotting down some notes, brainstorming my experimental recipe, I felt confident that I had something interesting in the works. 

With a great playlist on in the background, it felt therapeutic working on this dish. I had prepped everything in advance to avoid any mid-recipe making panic, I was calm, I followed my instincts, I tasted everything along the way, seasoning each and every component to the dish, and by the time everything was ready to be plated, I knew I had a winner! Sure enough, the dish looked pretty damn spectacular on the plate (if I do say so myself), that poached egg bursting with the bright yellow yolk, creating what I refer to as "natures dipping sauce" for the polenta, resting on a bed of slightly crisp prosciutto, hugging crisp Ontario asparagus, wrinkled and charred cherry tomatoes nestled into the creamy polenta, with a scattering of caramelized onions and fresh parsley pesto...come on...just look at that dish! It's bloody beautiful! Not only did the dish look beautiful, the components also tasted beautiful together. I was so incredibly proud of the final product, you can count on this recipe going up on the blog soon! 
Leftover Lovin: Grilled Polenta with Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus, & Lightly Dressed Spinach - The day after my delicious polenta creation, I had a container of leftover garlic polenta, hardened and begging to be grilled up and dressed. Still obsessing over the perfect combination of the roasted prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, I could think of nothing else to sub into the dish. I quickly dressed some fresh spinach with a sweet onion and poppy seed dressing, with my grilled garlic polenta acting as the base for the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and to tie the whole dish together, a small slice of goat cheese, with a dollop of both caramelized onion relish and apricot and jalapeno jelly. With my mom home for dinner that night, she of course got a serving too. Although it wasn't quite as mind-blowing as my dish the previous night, this polenta dish was also pretty damn awesome! It was amazing how that little bit of relish and jelly brought all of the components of the dish together, something my mom was very impressed with. I will definitely be posting this tasty and quick recipe up on my blog soon! Be sure to keep your fridge stocked with versatile relishes, jellies, and other preserves to help you play around and heighten the flavours in the dishes you create in your own kitchen! 

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Listening To:
The Drums - Let's Go Surfing

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Poached Egg with Beans & Avocado

Sometimes the simplest of things can be the most striking. Take a recent lunch that I whipped up for instance. Leftover as-humble-as-can-be Heinz baked beans are reheated and act as the base to hold a soft-poached egg, sliced avocado, Sriracha hot sauce, and a little green onions and cilantro for garnish...and that's all she wrote. Just a few simple ingredients kicking around my fridge turned into a beautifully striking, comforting, and delicious lunch that I am proud to snap a photo of and re-make again for friends and family. No real recipe here, just a few ingredients that needed to be used up that I thought would be good friends together. The party in my mouth proved that those ingredients turned out to be the best of friends! 

* I used Heinz because it was leftover in my fridge! Use more or less to your liking.
** I didn't have fresh cilantro, but I always keep a tube of preserved ready-to-go cilantro in my fridge for flavour emergencies!

1 egg
about 3/4 cup baked beans* 
1/2 avocado, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
Sriracha hot sauce, for garnish
chives, chopped, for garnish
cilantro, chopped, for garnish** 

  1. Reheat baked beans in a small pot on the stove, or in the microwave until hot.
  2. Poach egg for 4 minutes in water with a bit of vinegar in it or using a poach pod.
  3. Place heated beans in a small serving dish. Top with the poached egg. Add the sliced avocado and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Drizzle over desired amount of Sriracha hot sauce and sprinkle with green onions and cilantro. Take a picture and show off to your friends about your simple and delicious lunch! Serve immediately.
Listening To:
Alt-J - Something Good

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Roasted Vegetable & Feta Quinoa

There's nothing like an easy weeknight meal that seems to come together all by itself. I always say that my easiest and most inspired meals come from looking in my fridge, pantry, and countertop to see what needs to be used up, and pulling out all the ingredients who's flavours compliment one another. That's the trick. Literally pull out EVERYTHING that could possibly work together, then edit and scale back from there until you have your dish.  I love doing this because it forces me out of the habit of making the same dishes over and over again, as well as giving me the opportunity to hunt through my fridge to catch anything that is about to expire. The more you do this, the more you get a feel for what essentials you should be stocking your fridge with to ease the challenge of coming up new meal ideas, as well as getting familiar with what's inside your fridge so you will waste less and utilize what you already have so you can save time and money! 

This is exactly how I came up with my new favourite quinoa dish! A container of cherry tomatoes, their skins just beginning to wrinkle, had to be the focus of the dish, as they were in the most dire need of being used up. Because they were not at their freshest, I knew I wanted to roast them. Ok, what other vegetables do I have that like to be roasted? Some Ontario asparagus and a red bell pepper rounded out the perfect trio of veggies for my healthy quinoa. In my fridge safari I also came across two packages of feta cheese and two jars of Greek dressing, a no brainer to toss in. With the veggies being roasted, my quinoa was begging for some fresh bursts of flavour. Parsley, chives, and a squeeze of some fresh lemon quickly did the trick. My dish would have been fine and ready to serve right there, but why not kick up the health factor of the dish with one of my secret weapons that I like to keep stocked in my freezer. I like to keep Cookin' Greens Athlete's Mix in my freezer to have on hand to quickly and easily add a hit of dark leafy green goodness into my meals. I love this blend because it not only contains a number of different dark leafy greens, it also features red bell peppers and white beans to add texture and substance. And can you believe that that's it? It felt like quinoa made itself! In only 20 minutes (with much of that time simply waiting for the quinoa and veggies to cook), I had a delicious and healthy side to pair alongside my roasted salmon, not to mention enough to save for lunch the next day. I loved the simplicity and the big flavours in this quinoa. Whether it's served warm right after cooking, or chilled the next day, I promise you will become a fan of this quick and simple quinoa as well! 

*If you do not have or cannot get ahold of Cookin' Greens Athlete's Mix, sub in 1/2 cup your favourite sautéed dark leafy green such as kale or spinach, as well as 1/3 cup white beans.

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water (you may also use vegetable broth)
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 handful asparagus, trimmed 
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup Cookin' Greens Athlete's Mix*
about 1/3 cup feta
4-5 tbsp Greek salad dressing
1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
3 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper to season

  1. Stir together quinoa and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Turn heat off and let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, lay out the grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, and asparagus on a medium baking pan. Toss with olive oil and season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake in a 350º oven for about 10-minutes, or until tender.
  3. Chop the asparagus into quarters. Stir the roasted vegetables into the cooked quinoa along with the feta, Greek salad dressing, lemon juice, chives, and parsley.
  4. Place Cookin' Greens Athlete's Mix into a small bowl, and add just enough water to cover. Microwave for 1-minute. Drain and add to quinoa.
  5. Taste quinoa and season accordingly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve warm or cooled.
Listening To:
Frank Ocean - Sweet Life

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Origin North Grand Opening

You know you are in for a treat when you spot a giant cauldron-looking bowl, with dry ice billowing out in clouds, in front of the entrance to the event you are about to walk into. This was the opening scene to my evening out at the grand opening of Origin North. Origin North, which is located in the Bayview Village boutique shopping centre, rounds out the trio of Origin restaurants, bringing their high energy atmosphere and diverse global cuisine to the upscale consumers at Bayview Village. The menu, created by Chef Claudio Aprile, reflects the same quirky feel as their other two locations, but has a slightly different menu filled with various tapas options. The grand opening allowed attendees to step inside the new space and experience a taste of their menu with a selection of hors d'oeuvres. 
Beef tartare + ginger + scallion + crispy nori + ponzu
Oyster + radish + yuzu vinaigrette
Fior de latté + caramelized eggplant + peppers
Masa chips + avocado + salsa + pumpkin seeds
Maple cotton candy
Chocolate sparkle cookie
Lemon sour cream ice cream
All of the hors d'oeuvres were absolutely delicious, with the Fior de latté with caramelized eggplant and peppers as my definite favourite. The sweet and smokey eggplant was a sticky and delicious mess of flavour, with the big chunk of fior de latté adding a subtle creaminess, and basil pesto completing the dish with a burst of freshness. I also really enjoyed the cocktails being served, especially the particularly boozy red sangria. My only criticism of the event? Not near enough food! For an event promoting a new restaurant, you would think they would want to highlight the food. Everyone I spoke to that night seemed to feel the same way. Even those much more important than lil ol' me were struggling to get ahold of the hors d'oeuvres. I guess this just means I'm going to have to make my way back to Origin North to indulge in even more!...ahhh so THAT was their plan! Mission accomplished.

Listening To:
The Tragically Hip - Fireworks

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Long Weekend Love

Chicken Tinga Tacos - It's easy to whip up a quick and delicious weeknight meal, all it takes is a little planning...and an extra set of hands in the kitchen sure doesn't hurt! This week my boyfriend Chris and I decided to attack the kitchen together and make something neither of us had ever made before, chicken tinga tacos. On the way to the grocery store, we quickly looked up a recipe for chicken tinga tacos online, and found one that seemed to fit the bill, and would be even better when topped with my Salsa Verde and Chris' guacamole. With both of us working on different parts of the recipe, our dinner was quickly on the table and ready for us to devour. We were so happy with how our tacos turned out, although next time we would definitely add a bit of tomato paste to the tomato and chicken mixture to add more depth of flavour. No doubt, I will be making this recipe again! Check out's recipe for Bite-Size Chipotle Chicken Soft Taco's here and don't forget to add the tomato paste!
Ecuadorian Feast - There was no better way to kick off the long weekend than indulging in a seemingly never-ending Ecuadorian feast! In August my friends Elisa and Chris are getting hitched! A couple that values their friends and family, they wanted to do something special for all of the people in their bridal party and, lucky for me, their significant others. My boyfriend Chris is one of Chris'  (this is sure to get confusing) groomsmen, so lucky, lucky me, I got to tag along! In charge of the South American feast was Elisa's brother in law Kevin, a fantastic chef from Ecuador who was happily stationed in the kitchen, whipping up dish after mouth-watering dish, while us guests pretty much freaked out over all of the delicious and exotic goods. Empanadas, fried plantain, shrimp screwers, BBQ'd pork, rice, roasted pineapple, are just a few of the delicious items that were on the menu that evening. Although all the food that night was exceptional, the hands-down highlight was the veal and potato empanadas that had me (and everyone else) coming back for more all night long. Thank you so much to Elisa and Chris for the incredible hospitality! My belly thanks you immensely! 
The Agarian Cheese Market & Speakeasy - Wanting to escape the city for at least a little bit over the long weekend, Chris and I decided to go on a day trip to Prince Edward County for some biking, beach bathing, and, of course, food and drink indulgence! Having been to Prince Edward County once before last year with my mom, I knew we were in for a great day. We started off our day trip by renting bikes at The Bloomfield Bicycle Company, a really cool bike rental shop covered in quirky and sarcastic signs, and selling and renting pretty much everything bike related. Rentals come in half and full days, and include a bike, helmet, lock, and a water bottle, which you can keep. The knowledgeable and super friendly staff picked out a cute, little, blue KHS hybrid for me and we were off to hit the quiet country roads! After a couple of hours of biking we were ready to hit the beach. A short drive led us to the sandbanks, which although was packed with lots of families, was still incredibly relaxing.

Before we hit the road to head back into the city, we stopped at the same restaurant my mom and I had enjoyed grilled cheese at the last time we were in the County (read about it here!), The Agarian Cheese Market & Speakeasy. Promptly after being seated, the gentleman in charge of front of house informed us that if we had been there before, they had totally revamped their menu. Long gone were the selection of grilled cheeses, and in their place was a small and carefully selected menu of delicious-sounding gourmet dishes, as well as a large cocktail, wine, and tap list. With their incredible selection of gourmet cheeses, we couldn't help but start our meal with a selection of market cheeses, alongside honey, almonds, dried fruit, and gourmet crackers and a much needed pint of Beau's Lug Tread. We followed the cheese platter with myself ordering their smoked whitefish on a buckwheat pancake with creme fraiche (pictured above) and Chris ordering the pork belly with bok choy. Although the portions were small, they were delicious and the perfect size for us on such a hot day. Another pint and a shot of espresso and we were off to head back home and cozy up to watch some Canada Day fireworks. I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my long weekend! Prince Edward County, you will be seeing me again soon!

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Listening To:
TV on the Radio - Keep Your Heart