Rise and Shine: Banana French Toast

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I may not be the morning person I used to be growing up (I whimper when my alarm goes off at 6am – it should be illegal to have to wake up when it’s still pitch black out, good god) but I loooove breakfast foods.  Runny scrambled eggs, sausage, home fries, waffles, French toast, fruit and granola, yogurt parfaits, smoked salmon and cream cheese…I am all over it like mud on a pig.  And given how I’m hungry only, oh I’d say, a few minutes after I wake up, it is imperative that I eat.  I am not joking.  My stomach makes gurgly noises and will start to eat eatself if I don’t feed the poor thing.  It makes me feel like a high maintenance 2-year-old at times, but I look at it this way: I get an extra delicious meal in before everyone else has even stumbled out of bed.  Yup, Deb has already inhaled a breakfast burrito before you’ve even combed your hair.  I kick butt.

Today’s breakfast: banana French toast!  Now I know there are probably an infinite number of ways to make French toast, but here’s how I do it.  If you’re using medium-sized eggs, you can go by a 3:4 ratio: 3 whipped eggs for every 4 pieces of toast.  We made 8 slices of French toast and used 6 eggs and had a little bit of egg mixture left over, so it works just fine.  After cracking the eggs in a large bowl, I pour a splash of milk in (I use 1% but whatever you have on hand should work) and whip them up with either a pair of chopsticks or a fork, whatever works for you. 

Heat your skillet or frying pan on high heat to get it going.  Drizzle a little vegetable oil when the skillet is hot and lower it medium-high heat.  Maximum-high will burn your eggs and toast, and medium isn’t “sizzling” enough to crisp up the toast; you’ll be left with soggy centres if it’s not hot enough.  Spongy and moist, yes, soggy, no.  Lift up the pan and tilt it around so the oil coats the entire surface.  And then you give your bread an egg bath! 😀  Dunk your bread in the egg mixture (I used whole wheat today) coating both sides.  Slap the bread in the skillet and let it hang out for about a minute so the edges can crisp up and the centres can cook before flipping.  Rinse and repeat for the rest of the batch.  Sift powdered sugar or cinnamon over top and add desired fruit (in my case, sliced bananas) and ta-da! 😀

I’m really excited to try out some new granola, quinoa, and dried fruit recipes, and I have a batch of breakfast photos that I haven’t posted on the blog yet, so look out for those too!  Rise and shine, y’all!

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On a Cold Winter’s Night: Mum’s Ground Chicken and Ground Pork Dishes

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One of my mum’s go-to dishes when it’s frigidly cold out is lean ground meat with veggies.  It’s warm, it’s comforting, and really easy to eat as the ground meat is bite-size and therefore very conducive to the hungry shovelling method of eating! 😀  Even though I may not be vegetarian, I am anal about having vegetables with every meal (and if vegetables aren’t available, I eat fruit to supplement) and we always include plenty with the ground meat dishes. 

I’m really accustomed to eating these meat dishes with white rice, but they’re just as good with spaghetti or fettuccine noodles when used to make meat sauce, or as meat filling for tacos, pasta, or wontons.  We’ve gone the lean ground beef route for tacos and tortillas (yay taco bar!), and my grandma and I have made mixed up batches of ground pork for dumplings and wontons to steam for noodles.  Ground meat is really versatile and when seasoned with lots of yummy herbs it’s fab!

Above are two variations: ground pork with yellow bell pepper wedges and king oyster mushrooms, and ground chicken with crunchy chopped celery.  To marinate the meat, my mum will use a bit of corn starch, chopped or minced garlic, black pepper, dry basil flakes, chopped parsley, and either lemon juice or lime juice.  To cut down on sodium, we avoid using salt or soy sauce and opt for herbs and spices instead to flavour the meat.  Marinate for a few hours and you’re good to go!  It’s the coldest weekend of the winter so far, so I hope everyone is staying warm, having some good eatss, and having a good weekend 🙂 

Ice Cream Bonanza and Rainbow-nanza at Marble Slab Creamery – Scrapbook Style, Part II

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The rainbow-esque scrapbook layout of the Marble Slab Creamery photos I just shared with you all!  Punching out circles of paper in a rainbow of colours and slapping down ice cream stickers on the page has never been more fun.  Any excuse to make a scrapbook layout extra colourful, bright, and punchy is fine by me!

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Scrapbooking materials used: goldenrod, sky blue, violet, emerald green, buttercup yellow, bubble gum pink, and beige textured cardstock (Recollections); light blue, white, and brown polka dotted patterned paper (DCVW); ice cream stickers (Sticko); sapphire alphabet stickers (Recollections); pink adhesive gems; circle paper punch (ek success).

Ice Cream Bonanza & Rainbow-nanza at Marble Slab Creamery, Part I

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Okay, so it might has been a teeny bit teeth-chattering when I went out today.  And the weather network is forecasting the coldest weekend of the winter thus far for tomorrow and the day after.  The kind of cold that would most likely cause my eyelashes to stick together causing rapid blinking and weird stares from other people.  So I yes, I am a little loopy in the head for posting pictures of ice cream.  But really, tell me that you don’t love eating ice cream any time.  That if someone were to wave a bowl of it in your face you’d decline.  Well, I sure wouldn’t!  So Marble Slab ice cream it is for today!

To me, Marble Slab may not be your go-to place for ice cream on a frequent basis simply because of the larger portions and the higher-end price range (Marble Slab’s branding strategy offers gourmet ice cream, so you’re looking at around $5-$7), but it screams FUN!  The colours, the variety of mix-ins, the waffles cones and bowls; it’s just pure fun to be able to choose your ice cream and go to town with fun add-ons for whatever sweet tooth mood you might be in. 

There are pre-selected, “put together” menu items that you can order off their menu, as well as the choice of creating your own unique ice cream creation using cones, waffle bowls, different combinations of ice cream, and of course, all the toppings your heart desires.  Tasty Creations (the menu items that are already predetermined in composition) include white chocolate raspberry, s’mores, cookies and cake, rocky road, and a slew of others.  In addition to the classic Marble Slab ice cream creations, they also serve items such as sundaes and banana splits among others. 

If you would prefer creating your own ice cream masterpiece, you can choose a waffle cone, one type of ice cream, and one mixin for a flat price ($4.99 for a regular and $5.99 for a large), with additional mixins coming in at an extra $0.79 each.  It’s a splurge, an indulgence, and a total treat.  I have a huuuge weakness for rainbow sprinkles, (who doesn’t get squealy over sprinkles?!) so I chose the Rainbow-nanza icecream off the Tasty Creations menu ($5.78): sweet cream ice cream mixed with rainbow sprinkles and M&Ms!

Cue the scooping of ice cream, the plop plopping of sweets, and the metal clang-clang of ice cream being made right in front of your very hungry eyes!  Yup, how the ice cream concoction is created is what sets them apart from other ice cream parlours (other than Cold Stone Creamery who use a similar technique and concept): the ice cream and mix-ins are mixed and folded on a frozen marble slab, resulting in a generously creamy ice cream 😀  The frozen surface keeps the ice cream from getting mushed and melty, and the folding allows the candies and sweets to be fully incorporated.  It’s quite fun to watch!  Believe me when I say it’s a technique that really needs to be done with care and patience because it’s not just swirling ice cream around till it’s mushy!

The sweet cream ice cream was fabulous (think vanilla but richer and creamier and with more of a cake batter taste to it) and rainbow sprinkles are always up my alley, but in hindsight, I would have chosen something without the M&Ms.  I love M&Ms to death (they’re my favourite chocolate candies!), but to me, they felt misplaced in the ice cream.  It’s almost as if they interrupted my ice cream eating, if you understand what I mean.  I think if mini M&Ms had been used it would have worked out a little better because the regular-sized ones just didn’t provide the fluidity and cohesiveness that you would want in an ice cream dish.  Textures and flavours are tough things to balance out and sometimes combinations work and sometimes they don’t.  The ice cream was good and it was fun, but I’m looking forward to trying other mixins and ice creams to really get a wider breadth of flavours and textures.

Marble Slab has been around town for awhile now with new locations opening up periodically – I think the newest one is on Yonge St. right by the Eaton Centre – but my first time going was actually just this past summer!  The first location I knew of was the one by Promenade Mall (which is the location I went to for this ice cream trip) and several years later one opened up in Markham on Major Mackenzie Dr. E and Markland St., just east of the 404 Highway exit.  My family might not be as heavily into dessert stuffs as I am, but I blabbed on and on about the creamy ice cream and fun mix-ins enough for them to be intrigued.  So we went and all got ice cream just for fun.  Deb -1, family – 0.  Win win! 😉

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Marble Slab offers ice cream and cakes, and has 2 locations in Toronto as well as one in Markham and one in Thornhill:

  1. 330 Yonge St. (near the intersection of Yonge & Dundas, just north of Dundas)
  2. 2032 Queen St. E (in the Beaches neighbourhood, across the street from the KEW Gardens)
  3. 11 Disera Drive (near the intersection of Bathurst and Centre St., just west of Bathurst)
  4. 735 Markland Street (on Major Mackenzie Dr. E, at the plaza by Canadian Tire, Swiss Chalet, and Montana’s)

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Veggie & Bean Gumbo on Salsa Rice

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I love learning about food.  Ever since I was a little girl, I would pore over recipes in my grandma’s Homemaker’s magazines and make food collages out of random magazine scraps and weekly supermarket flyers.  I never feel more focused, more driven, than when I’m photographing and scrapbooking, and something in me just ignites when I learn about ingredients and origins and histories, so really, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing in a liberal arts university program because hell, I should be out growing herbs and learning about spices at a culinary institute, ha!  I am fascinated by New Orleans and Southern Creole cuisine in general, so I was really excited to take photos of this veggie gumbo dish – and you know, it was just as wonderful eating it too! 😀 

Gumbo is a traditional Louisiana dish, a stew generally served over rice and in this particular case, purely vegetarian.  Not only do I love to eat, I love to know what I’m eating.  When I’m putting a spoonful of yumminess in my mouth, I think, “what in the world is in this that makes this so delicous?”    Some things are obvious when you taste them, while other ingredients are much more subtle and work behind the scenes to complement other tastes and to bring the dish together in a well-rounded way.  I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was when Mike and Paul, who run and cook for The Grad Lounge, gave me their ingredient notes (after I politely and sweetly asked for them of course!).  I think I stared at the paper for the whole day after they gave it to me.

The veggie and bean gumbo is chock full of sweet potatoes, okra, red and green bell peppers, onions, white beans, chopped spinach, and seasoned with black and cayenne pepper, ground cumin, oregano, thyme, and paprika.  The delicious veggie stew sits on top of a bed of salsa rice: white rice cooked in fresh tomato juice (from homemade salsa), and simmered with red onions, lime juice, oregano, chiptole pepper, and cilantro leaves.  And the dollop of sour cream is my own special touch as the coldness and tanginess complements the salsa flavour of the rice and vegetables and, well, I eat and love sour cream with everything!  The vegetables are fresh and juicy, and the salsa rice has this great bold flavour that continues to absorb from the gumbo up top. 

A defining feature of traditonal gumbo is the okra, and as weird as this sounds, I learned of okra from a Baby-Sitters Club book (written from Jessi’s perspective, Jessi being the African-American girl of the group) when I was a little girl!  (I’m not kidding).    And after doing a little research on Wiki, I was fascinated to learn that okra is what inspired the name of the dish: “ki ngombo”, the West African Bantu tribal word for “okra”.  It’s a joy expanding my knowledge and just being more aware of the food in front of me.  Learning about food has this amazing snowball effect for me where one thing leads to another and in this case, it’s learning about okra from my favourite childhood book series 🙂

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The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge and GSA are hosting a Dinner & Dialogue event next Thursday, January 27th, from 5:30pm-7:30pm.  Free movie screening (Spike Lee’s “4 Little Girls”) and free food with some thoughtful discussion about the movie afterward.  All grad students are welcome!

As well, a HUGE thank you to Mike and Paul for being so wonderful and kind to me in taking the time to write out ingredients for dishes I asked about and sharing this information with me for the blog.  I really appreciate it.   

Putting Our Heads and Cupcakes Together: Dufflet Cupcakes

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What’s better than one cupcake?  Two cupcakes! 😀  Call me crazy for blogging about foodie experiences in random order (or backwards in this case), but I wanted to share cupcake pictures before lunch ones and scrapbook pages because cupcakes are just awesome to look at and drool over. 

Less than a month ago during the holidays, my dear friend Katrina, from the demure muse, and I got together for a really awesome lunch and some much needed catch-up girl time downtown.  We headed over to the nearby Lettieri Espresso Bar and Café for some sweets and quickly decided on the Dufflet cupcakes (like there was any need for discussion, ha!).  To get the best of both worlds, Kat and I got a cupcake each and split them in half to share so we would both get half of each flavour.  See, now that’s friendship!  Either that or just pure indecisiveness on both our parts.   Dufflet cupcakes are $3 a pop, which puts them in the mid to higher end in terms of other cupcakeries and bakeries around the city, but considering the size, that’s fine by me!  Our favourite between the mint chocolate and strawberry cream?  The strawberry cream!  ❤ 

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The Lettieri Espresso Bar and Café is a chain with numerous locations all across Toronto.  The one mentioned in this blog post is located at 441 Queen St. W, right at the intersection of Queen W. and Spadina Ave at the southeast corner.

Check the Clock: It’s Sushi Time! Deb’s Favourite Spicy Tuna Rolls and Green Tea Cheesecake

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If you can believe it, the very first time I went to a sushi restaurant or bar was only 2 and a half years ago.  You’d think with all the layouts I post each week and how much I yammer on about rolls that I had been eating sushi for over a decade.  But nope, Sushi Time on Queen St. West was the first sushi place I had ever been to and I’ve been back about 4 times since because I had so much fun that very first time.  I know, what a monster I’ve become within that time period!  😀  However, that’s not to say that I had never eaten sushi before then.  I had been to a number of AYCE (all you can eat) places that served sushi with my family prior to that night, but there’s just so much variation between eateries that you’re bound to be introduced to new things every time you go, and it’s just a different feeling going out for a night on the town and going to a place you’d never been to before.

Going to Sushi Time was uber fun because it was a place of many “firsts” for me: the first time I had sushi pizza: crispy breaded sushi rice with thick slices of salmon sashimi draped over, chopped green onions, and a nice drizzling of mayo sauce!  And my favourite “firsts” from Sushi Time: amazingly yummy spicy tuna rolls and GREEN TEA CHEESECAKE!!!  *skips around the room with glee*  I’ve had spicy tuna many ways and I have to say that Sushi Time’s is my favourite and oh my goodness, the green tea cheesecake. 

Although a lot of sushi restaurants serve some desserts, I find that the dessert selection is rather limited and a sweet tooth like myself needs some sugar!  And Sushi Time delivers.  Some places serve ice cream in flavours like mango, vanilla, green tea, and red bean, others also offer mango pudding, tempura ice cream, or deep fried banana with ice cream.  And don’t get me wrong, I looooove ice cream.  But out of all the places I’ve been to thus far, Sushi Time is the only place that has green tea cheesecake (if someone can prove me wrong, please do, haha!)  and it is so fantastically delicious.  

Most of the time, I avoid ordering the same things when I go back to place; I just enjoy trying out different things off a menu.  But the cheesecake?  I can’t resist it.  I gotta have this sweet morsel of yumminess every time I go and each time is just as great as the last.  It’s a mesh of rich tangy cheesecake with a hint of herbalness and a well-rounded taste of powdery matcha all rolled into one.  It makes my heart melt ❤

And since we’re on the topic of firsts, here’s another one: the top layout, with the picture of the sushi pizza and the picture of me eating said green tea cheesecake, is the very first food scrapbook layout I ever did.  Yup! 😀  I’ve done countless holiday themed pages, friendship ones, art ones, and even a prom book before that.  But the layout you see at the top is my first foodie one and for that reason, very special and sentimental to me ❤

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Sushi Time is located at 325 Queen St. West, in between University and Spadina Ave.  Situated east of Spadina, it’s just past McCaul St. on the south side of Queen.

Scrapbooking materials used: pale celery green, sky blue, and powder blue cardstock (DCVW); red, burgundy, and gray textured construction paper; cream cardstock with silver rosebud embossing (Curry’s Art Store Ltd.); red alphabet stickers (Recollections); silver alphabet stickers (Sticko); sushi stickers (Jolee’s), adhesive gems; 5-petal flower paper punch (ek success).