The Keys to My Heart: One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four…My Homemade Mashed Potatoes!

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Okay, so if you know me, you know what my favourite foods are: sweets (especially cake and cupcakes), sushi (bring on the salmon and avocado!), cream cheese (and any cheese for that matter), pasta, and a plethora of veggies including bell peppers, baby spinach, arugula, avocado, mushrooms, and broccoli among many others.  I am also a passionate potato lover!  Let it be known that I have never met a potato I didn’t like.  Baked, roasted, scalloped, mashed, I love them all and I go crazy with toppings and seasonings!  My mum and I sprinkle dry basil flakes on our roasted spuds, I love me some peas and gravy in and on my mashed, and hand me some sour cream with my baked potato and I am a happy girl 😀  My mum and I made a hot, steaming, fresh bowl of mashed potatoes last Friday and I am loving how they turned out! 

We used yummy Yukon gold ones for our homemade mashed potatoes.  For 6-8 potatoes, peeled and quartered, boiling them for about 20 minutes did the job.  After the potatoes came out of the hot tub, we added some margarine (about 3 tablespoons) and a very generous splash of milk.  And I mean generous.  We wanted our mashed potatoes nice and soft and whippy, so we added enough milk to the bowl so that we could see the milk around the edges of the potatoes.  Drowning them would make them soppy and gross, but we added just enough so that the milk peeked through. 

Then came the fun part: mashing!  I’m sure everyone has their favourite kitchen activity (and a not-so-favourite to go along with it.  Chopping onions, anyone?) and mine is using the potato masher, haha.  I had a very fun time mashing my black beans for my black bean burrito filling and I was quite happy to go at it with the masher again.  I guess I find it satisfying mushing things!  *laughs*  We added lots of black pepper, dried basil and parsley flakes, a sprinkling of bacon bits, and a heaping handful of chopped green onions/scallions which gave it some fresh colour and crunch.  The potatoes were delicious and at just the right consistency!

I can’t wait to make another batch sometime and try out some different seasonings and add-ons, maybe some red pepper chili flakes for a little heat, or maybe some corn and beans.  Making potatoes totally reminds me of the episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S in the first season where they’re celebrating Thanksgiving and everyone wants and likes their mashed potatoes in a different way and everyone is bickering because nobody can agree on anything, ha!  So, how does everyone like their potatoes? 😀

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It’s Like Eating a Chocolate Pillow: Creamy, Fluffy Cupcakes from The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie – Part II

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It’s time to haul out the cupcakes and have ourselves a party!  I hope you all liked the scrapbook layout and pictures from yesterday because I’m uber excited to share lots of yummy cupcake photos and musings from my trips to The Sweet Escape.  I’m going to be bold and declare The Sweet Escape as my one of my favourite cupcake places in Toronto.  I have mad love for The Cupcake Shoppe, Blue Banana, and For The Love of Cake off of King St. West in Liberty Village, but I have to say that The Sweet Escape gives me everything I want in a cupcake eating experience.  I mean, sure, the artistry is just as important as the taste (because heck, who wants to eat a cupcake that looks stale and drippy and like it was sat on by an elephant?), but it’s the culmination of the appearance, the taste, and the atmosphere and environment of the cupcakery (or bakery/café) that does it for me.

First off, the cupcakes at The Sweet Escape are the perfect size.  They’re not the size of a thimble and they also don’t look like they’ve been injected with steroids.  They’re beautifully frosted, and nice and neat and pretty.  That covers appearance.  On to price.  These are $2.50 a pop, which puts them on the lowest rung on the price ladder of cupcakeries in Toronto, which is absolutely fantastic.  I have no issues paying a bit more for quality, but seriously, if you could get something that looks great and tastes great (not to mentioned baked and served by lovely people), why wouldn’t you?  And when I’m referring to cupcakeries, I’m talking about the places that specifically serve baked goods specializing in cupcakes.  Yes, Starbucks has some great cupcakes too for $2.25, but they’re not a cupcakery.  They’re a coffee empire and that’s a big difference.

And The Sweet Escape has something that several other places don’t have: seating!  I know, something as simple as a table and chair can tip my love in favour of another place, but it makes sense.  Some people may place orders for cupcakes for parties or take them to go during their lunch hour or break and thus not care about this, but I love having a place to sit to enjoy my cupcake.  Especially since I take a bazillion photos!  I look like a nut otherwise, running around the streets looking for a spot to get a decent shot!  The Sweet Escape has plenty of seating just outside their café and you get a nice little plate and fork to devour your sweet treat. 

And here’s the kicker: their tables are decorated with vintage magazine clippings of baked goods, kitchen goodies, and 50s housewife inspired articles *squeals*!  I absolutely ADORE that about this place.  On the surface (quite literally; these clippings and collages sit right underneath the glass of the table), they’re pretty pictures of cakes and sprinkles and all that jazz.  But underneath this facade is an homage to the connection between food and home, the historical (and even current) socialization of women as wives and mothers, and the artistry and pride of baking.  Just think, you literally eat, read, and learn all at the same time and I LOVE IT!  Okay, so you’re all anxiously awaiting for the cupcake photos and reading about delicious they are, so here we go 😀

So far I’ve tried 4 of their cupcakes: Raspberry Chocolate, Gingerbread (a holiday seasonal), Red Velvet, and Black Velvet.  The Raspberry Chocolate was sweet and subtle with fruity raspberry flavour coming out in the frosting (you got that great raspberry pit flavour and texture without the pits, ha!) with dark chocolate chips sprinkled on top, and the gingerbread was subtly spiced with a tangy cream cheese frosting.  I loved them all, but if you want to know which one knocked my socks off, the Black Velvet (pictured above and below beside her Red Velvet sister) is just amazing, oh my goodness!  The frosting is quite possibly the creamiest, smoothest frosting I have ever had and the chocolate cake…oh man.  When I was eating this cupcake, I felt like I was eating moist, soft, fluffy chocolate pillow.  The cake and frosting melded together in the perfect way and this cupcake is an A+ in every way.  A sweet, chocolatey, creamy mouthful of happiness!  They change up their selection of cupcakes daily, so you may not see all the ones I  mentioned when you go, but if I’m going to recommend any, the Black Velvet, hands down.  Happy salivating, y’all 😉 

*****

The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie is located at 55 Mill St., Building 47 in The Distillery District.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.  The café also sells cute merchandise.  I’m a freak for postcards so I picked one up for $1, yay.

Cupcakes, Cookies, Biscotti, Macarons, and Other Sweet Notions – Escaping to The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie: Part I

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I’m so excited to finally post about The Sweet Escape and to share my scrapbook layout for it! 😀  The first time I mentioned The Sweet Escape was back in December when I was posting about Christmas at the Distillery District, the adorable life-size real gingerbread house right outside the café, and the yummy gingerbread cupcake I had!  And it’s actually been 2 and half years since I first laid eyes on this place for the first time.  I was waiting for the perfect moment to write about this amazing cupcakery, bakery, and café and because I didn’t have a scrapbook layout ready at the time, I’ve been itching for over 2 months to get this post up!  The Sweet Escape is truly a favourite within a favourite with some of my FAVOURITE cupcakes in the city in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Toronto.  Aside from Kensington Market, The Distillery District is is my favourite area to be in.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

Even though the cupcakes here are the biggest pull for me, The Sweet Escape is what I refer to as the “triple threat” of cafés.  You know how celebrities are sometimes referred to as “triple threats” because they can sing, act, and dance?  Well, this pâtisserie, situated in the heart of The Distillery District in downtown Toronto, is a triple threat.  Baked goods, chocolates and candy, and lunch food stuff. 

Michelle Edgar, owner and pastry chef of The Sweet Escape, whips up delicious cupcakes along with cookies, cheesecake, biscotti, meringues, caramels, brownies, and rock candy among many other sweet treats.  On top of all that they serve soup and sandwiches including panini and, from what I hear, some of the BEST pulled pork sandwiches in town.  I will report back when I try one, I promise.  I would have ordered one a long time ago, but it’s so hard not being tempted to order an entire sugar buffet when you’re there!  Not only is their selection of yummies to die for, they also offer lots of gluten-free options!

I have a lot to share, so I’m doing a 2-parter for The Sweet Escape.  I’m going to share all my cupcake love tomorrow, so I leave you now with my scrapbook layout and a bunch of my favourite pictures, enjoy!

 *****

The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie is located at 55 Mill St., Building 47 in The Distillery District.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.

Scrapbook materials used: buttercup yellow, pale yellow, baby pink, bubble gum pink, and baby blue cardstock (Recollections); sky blue cardstock (DCWV); magenta cardstock (Best Occasions); dotted patterned paper; alphabet stickers (K & Company); Christmas gingerbread embellisment stickers (Recollections); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); scalloped edge decorate scissors (Provo Craft).

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – The Melty, Toasty, Crunchy Tuna Melt

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The tuna melt  is one of my favourite Grad Lounge dishes!  It’s funny, when we were in elementary or high school, sandwiches were one of those things that we often brought because 1) hey, that’s just what our parents used to make and if you didn’t like it you didn’t get lunch, 2) they didn’t need to be microwaved, and 3) they didn’t leak and make a mess all over the place (hopefully).  We brought them so often, day in and day out, that we would get bored of them and the last thing you’d want eating out was a sandwich.  And here I am eating a schooltime staple at the age of 25 and loving it: tuna salad.

Now I know it may seem like your regular sammie, but this ain’t no boring schoolyard lunch in a lunch box.  It’s one of my favourites because it incorporates 2 of my sandwich loves: tuna and cheese!  Served together or separately, I’m quite fond of tuna salad and you all know how dearly I adore cheese.  The tuna melt is fab.  It’s served on 3 slices of  toasty, crusty marble rye bread with tuna salad, slices of cucumber, melted marble cheese, and dried parsley flakes sprinkled on top with a side salad of mixed greens and sun-dried tomato dressing.  I love how toasty and warm and soft everything is and the melt gets brownie points in my book because the tuna salad is made in my favourite way: with chopped celery!  It’s how I make my tuna at home and it makes me all squealy knowing others make it and serve it the same way 😀  The tuna melt is part of the permanent Grad Lounge menu, so you can order it any day of the week and it is all sorts of warm and comforting.  Our schooltime sandwich is all grown up.  Awww.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus and have extended their hours to 9pm in the evening from Monday to Thursday, and until 7pm on Friday.

Because I Love Black Beans and Avocado That Much! A Black Bean Burrito My Way

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Following from yesterday’s Fresh post, I’m going to continue declaring my love for black beans!  I loved my black bean burrito dish from Fresh SO much that I wanted to create my own version.  And oh my goodness was this ever delicious and satisfying.  We had a bunch of whole wheat tortillas left over from a previous tortilla night (you know, those nights when you make a batch of chicken or ground beef, make some salsa, chop up a bunch vegetables, that kind of thing) and I had a great idea: make bean burrito filling to go with it!  

It was really fun preparing for this meal just because it felt like it was coming more from me than it was from my mum who does the cooking in the house, you know?  From the grocery shopping to the black bean mashing with my potato masher, it felt good to see a meal from start to finish.  Not to mention that even though my family isn’t vegetarian, it’s been so cool seeing them embrace more vegetarian meals and foods.  Even my carnivore of a brother loves the soy cheese I bought!  😀  He was little weirded out by my meat-less meal, but hey, if I can get him to really like soy cheese, I’ll eventually be able to get him to eat a meal without meat one day!  The black beans were from President’s Blue Menu and they were really good.  A few rinses in the colander and they were good to go.  I had myself a field day with this meal: lots of baby spinach, a handful of alfalfa sprouts, mashed black beans, wedges of avocado with freshly squeezed lime juice, and a dollop of sour cream with a sprinkling of green onions.  SO YUMMY.  Dinner is served! 😀

Don’t Get Fresh With Us…Or Maybe You Can – Black Bean and Vegetarian Deliciousness at Fresh!

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Me and Fresh were finally introduced over the holiday season and I must say, we have become close friends.  We had an instant connection from the beginning and Fresh enjoys my company very much.  Fresh serves me food and I eat it.  It’s win-win for everyone 😀  *laughs*  In all seriousness though, I can’t believe it actually took me so long to eat at Fresh and I was sad that I missed out on my first Fresh dinner with friends from out of town back in November.  My friend Wini raved about the food here and after salivating over everything on their menu online, it was just a matter of time before Fresh and I became acquainted.  But I redeemed myself for my tardiness over the holidays with an awesome lunch and lunch date with my dear friend Katrina from The Demure Muse and it was truly one of my favourites meals EVER, on top of being a really sweet holiday get-together with a friend I don’t get to see often enough ❤

Fresh lives up to its name in food, in decor, and all-around feel.  Everything is bright and cheery and as a nutty scrapbooker, the walls look like patterned scrapbook paper and that makes me happy!  Beautiful colours of green, brown, orange, blue, and magenta burst from the menu and decor and even though the spaces are tighter, it really gives off a warm, communal vibe.  The kind of place where you enjoy the company of friends along with conversation with your next door table and waitress or waiter!  It makes you feel GOOD and it’s a mega popular joint that fills up fast!  And it’s a vegetarian and vegan haven.  Almond, tofu, and veggie burgers, cornbread, curries, soups, noodle bowls, wraps and burritos, and fruit smoothies, protein shakes, and fresh fruit juice are just SOME of the mouth-watering menu items.  Fresh makes it their priority to be socially and environmentally conscious with their food, so they offer wheat and gluten-free options, as well as cheese that is rennet-free (rennet being the digestive enzymes found in the stomaches of cows).

I love me some beans.  I love bean spread, bean salad, bean chili, and especially bean burritos!  The lovely thing about Fresh is that you have the option of enjoying their burritos and wraps in either the grilled whole wheat tortilla or without the tortilla and instead on a bed of greens.  Not don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the grilled goodness of a tortilla as much as the next person, but to have everything IN my burrito ON a bed of leafy green salad for me to fork (or rather chopstick) and stuff in my mouth?!  Inhaling Munching mouthful after mouthful of yummy wrap filling and soft greens, OH.MY.GOD.  And this dish was OH.MY.GOD. ten times over. 

The black bean burrito, with spicy black beans, avocado, lots of alfalfa sprouts, diced cucumber and red onion, freshly chopped cilantro, and slices of tomato on the side as well as Fresh’s signature coleslaw.  Oh!  And I added gorgonzola cheese to it too!  And I munched and washed it down with a yummy glass of lemonade sweetened with agave 🙂  This dish was all sorts of amazing.  It was warm and so wholesome and the black beans had the texture and consistency of soft beans and bean spread and the combination of this with the avocado, gorgonzola, and alfalfa was just yummy and crunchy and creamy…oh gosh, I just want to stuff my face into a whole plate of it now!

I enjoyed my food and eating experience SO MUCH here.  It’s one of those places that I can go back over and over and over and not get bored.  I get excited about going and trying everything I possibly can off their menu.  It makes me all warm and fuzzy knowing that everything is truly delicious and wholesome and full of love and heart.  This outing was special all around, not just with the food but also with the company and it’s food memories like these that I really cherish and keep close to my heart.

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

Big hugs and thanks to Katrina for the picture of me!

Scrapbooking materials used: blue, lime green, emerald green, and tangerine orange cardstock (Recollections); green pinstriped patterned paper (Recollections); blue striped patterned paper; alphabet stickers (K & Company); chipboard adhesive button embellisments (WT Westrim Crafts); orange butterfly pebble clip (‘M’ Making Memories); snowflake embellisment stickers (Recollections); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); circle paper punch (marvy uchida); corner rounder (ek success); scallop edge scissors (Prova Craft).

I Love Cream Cheese and Sashimi – Crunchy, Sweet n’ Sour Moscow Rolls and Little Red Tea Cups at Ginza Sushi

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I’m so excited to finally share my new scrapbook layouts with you all!  I had a huge backlog of pictures that was taking me forever to get through and even though I still have hundreds to organize, I’m making progress! 😀  I never like to rush through a layout and I take a lot of time and care to draw out layout sketches, figure and write out which pictures I want to scrap and in what sizes, the whole nine yards.  And it’s so exciting to get to a new batch of photos even if the photos themselves aren’t the newest; it’s the inspiration and freshness that makes it fun. 

So this is what I would refer to as my personal love letter to cream cheese.  Oh how I love this stuff.  I eat it on bread, with potato chips, mixed in a little pasta sauce, in sushi…I will even eat it by itself on a spoon.  Tis how much I love it.  It’s any wonder I’m not fat.  So imagine my joy several years ago when I discovered sushi concoctions like Philadelphia rolls with smoked salmon, or Philly rolls with avocado and sashimi.  Cream cheese IN sushi!  It’s like the food angels fluttered down to Earth and bestowed these delightful morsels of heaven just for me.  And you can bet that I’m keeping track of all my favourite maki rolls that include cream cheese and where to get them.  A girl’s gotta be organized when it comes to this stuff!  One of my personal favourites so far?  The Moscow rolls from Ginza.

The first time I went to Ginza was a year and a half ago and I loved it from the get-go.  I actually fell in love with it even before I stepped foot in the restaurant!  I don’t know about you, but I’ve become a bit spoiled having the internet at my fingertips and I look up restaurant menus online like crazy when I know I’m going to a place, providing they have a website.  I study the menu with the intensity I probably should have allocated to studying for exams in school, ha. 

Even before the eating experience has started, you can gauge how you feel about a place from their menu.  For one thing, you know the prices.  If it’s unaffordable, you don’t go – it’s that’s simple.  Second, if you’re indecisive like me, it’s makes your life a hell of a lot easier!  You can go into a place at least with an idea of what you want instead of taking eons to decide after you’re seated and everyone is giving you the death stare to hurry the hell up because they’re starving.  And sushi menus are always so much fun to go through! 😀  Since being introduced to cream cheese in sushi, anything of the sort jumps out at me and like a little blinky light, “Moscow Roll” was my little sushi beacon.

 

The rolls are just amazing.  They come in a set of 5 large rolls and are coated in crispy breading for some awesome crunch.  The Moscow Roll contains salmon, tuna, hamachi (yellowtail or Japanese amberjack), tangy cream cheese, and plenty of green scallions sprinkled over top.  And the sauce!  It’s a fusion of sweet chili sauce and sushi mayo drizzled all over and as you can tell from the photos, it’s like an artistic sushi painting! 😀  The taste is wonderfully complex.  You have the texture from the crispy breading, the soft buttery texture of the salmon and fish, and the richness of the cream cheese completely mellows and balances the spiciness of the sauce.  The cream cheese totally knocks it out and it’s just a yummy, messy dish of sushi happiness!

You can tell that I am one happy foodie 😀  Ginza is lovely and not just for the food but also for the atmosphere.  I’ve only been to the Yorkville location on Bay St., but to me, it is the epitome of modern meets fresh meets clean.  It’s peaceful and it’s fresh and vibrant.  And I am especially in love with the little red tea cups!  It gets my heart racing when the utensils and accessories are bright colours and I cannot tell you how much I want to take these cups home with me because they are so pretty oh my goodness.  *laughs*  I’m a tea accessory geek!

Ginza currently serves 4 locations in Toronto and the GTA, with the newest one located in Maple on Major Mackenzie Dr.W and Dufferin St.  That location actually works out okay for me considering I live in Markham, but for those who live in the 416, there’s no need to fret because there are 2 other locations you can gorge on sushi at: Finch Ave. E between Leslie and Bayview in North York, as well as Bay St. and Yorkville which is the one I’ve been to. 

Prices vary depending on the type of food you’re ordering but I’d say a meal would normally average around $6-$10 on the lower end and $12-$15 on the higher end if you’re ordering sushi combinations and such.  Let it be known that Ginza is not exclusive to sushi alone, but also serves Thai and Japanese dishes.  Outside of sushi, you can order tempura, soba noodles (which I’ve tried as well), rice, meat cutlet combos with noodles or rice, and a number of different soups and appetizers.  The quality of food is superb and I really enjoy the selection.  So the next time I go, I’m totally going to try out some other maki rolls and report back!  Oh, and hug and squish my beloved red tea cup ❤

*****

Ginza is located at the following 4 locations:

  1. 7330 Yonge St. (at the intersection of Clark Ave. and Yonge St. in Thornhill)
  2. 652 Finch Ave. East (located between Leslie St. and Bayview Ave. in North York)
  3. 1255 Bay St. (north of Bloor St. W just off of Yorkville Ave.)
  4. 9960 Dufferin St. (right at the intersection of Major Mackenzie Dr. W. in Maple)  

Ginza also offers a 10% student discount at certain locations, so call ahead and ask if you want to take advantage.

Scrapbooking materials used: white and gray cardstock (Recollections); red alphabet stickers (Recollections); patterned journalling cards (Anna Griffin, Darcy collection); sushi menu sticker (Jolee’s).