Bake Sale Alert: The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale is in Toronto This Weekend!

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The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale has made its way to Toronto, and I was at Toronto Vegetarian Association headquarters this afternoon to check out and pick up some yummy goodies!  Founded in 2009, the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale is a 1-week event (April 23rd – May 1st, 2011) that provides the public with a chance to try some delicious sweet treats, gain knowledge about vegan baking and cooking, and to support local charities,organizations, and causes.  Groups, retailers, and organizations from around the world participate in this event by baking vegan treats (many of which are also either organic, raw, gluten, nut, and soy-free, or all of the above) and using the proceeds from the sale to support and further the cause of their choice. 

I’m so happy I got the chance to partake in this event this year!  The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale made its way to Toronto this past week at the TVA headquarters Wednesday evening, and will be making its way to Bloor and Bathurst at Panacea Eco Shop tomorrow from 1-4pm.  If you’re interested in getting involved, I encourage you to go!  There’s plenty of yummy eats to snatch up and it’s for a great cause.  Panacea’s proceeds are specifically going to the Toronto Cat Rescue and I know for a fact that MANY of you are animal-lovers and are passionate about helping out animal shelters and rescue organizations, so I think it’s a great opportunity to get involved in the local community 😀

I had a great time reading up on baking ingredients while I was there and I had a veeeerry fun time picking out baked yummies to bring back home with me!  There was plenty to choose from: maple pecan sticky blondies, oatmeal cookies, raw chocolate cake, and the items I ended up choosing.  I chose some mini blueberry buckwheat muffins (for my mom), a banana chocolate chip muffin (for my brother), some chocolate minty melty cookies, and some DELICIOUS chocolate oatmeal white chocolate sandwich cookies (quite the mouthwatering mouthful…both verbally and literally, mmm!).  It’s been so fun learning about vegan baking and ingredient substitutes for things like butter and eggs.  I’m excited to try out some vegan baking of my own sometime.  Meanwhile, I’m having just as much fun eating vegan sweet goodies!

What makes the experience rewarding for me is knowing what makes vegan baked goods VEGAN.  It’s not enough just to SAY something is vegan the same way it’s not enough to claim something is “organic”.  It’s important to educate myself when I can and conversely, I think it’s equally important to make this information accessible and available.  Here’s a list of some of the ingredients used in these desserts that make them vegan: maple syrup, ground flaxseed, grapeseed oil, lemon juice, mint extract, and olive oil.  I’m super happy I got to go to the bake sale today.  After a miserable week of chillier temperatures and rain, it was beautiful and warm and sunny today and there was no way in hell I was going to pass up this opportunity.  So here’s me reporting back with my goodies, and I hope those of you who are interested get to go to Panacea tomorrow!  Happy weekend everyone!

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The Toronto Vegetarian Association is located at 17 Baldwin St. on the 2nd floor (just west of McCaul St.), literally next to Vegetarian Haven.  Panacea Eco Shop is located at 588 Bloor St. West (on the north side), just west of Markham St.  The nearest major intersection is Bloor St. West and Bathurst St.  Click on the links in my blog post for more information on the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, TVA, and Panacea.

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Who Says Breakfast Food is Only Yummy at the Break of Dawn? Scrambled Eggs & Sausage for Dinner!

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Okay, I’m just going to be upfront about this: I watched footage of Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding 3 times today.  I was on the brink of happy tears all day long and I was absolutely entranced by the whole procession and string of events, from the ceremony to the carriage ride to Buckingham Palace to the balcony kiss.  I even prolonged eating lunch in favour of gluing myself to the television.  I even surprised myself with that move!  I witnessed a very special, beautiful thing today and my heart is filled with joy for both William and Kate.    So my head is a little up in the clouds at the moment with visions of pretty wedding dresses and smiles and Union Jack flags. 

Forgive me then for only posting some pictures of my “breakfast for dinner” dish that I love so dearly!  Given how a number of people around the city woke up in the middle of the night to watch and celebrate the royal wedding, it’s quite possible everyone’s eating schedules have been thrown off a bit.  Tea parties in the wee hours of the morning, lunch for breakfast, and who knows what else!  To celebrate my head-in-the-clouds, mildly disoriented state of mind, I present to you, scrambled eggs and sausage for dinner.  I loooove eating eggs for dinner and I have a weakness for breakfast sausage, so this goes hand-in-hand for me.  A yummy dish of fluffy scrambled eggs with ground breakfast sausage and chopped green onions, seasoned with a little black pepper.  I know I’m not the only one out there who jumps at the chance to eat all-day breakfast at diners and eats “breakfast food” for dinner!  Happy royal wedding day, and happy weekend!  I have LOTS to share with you guys 😀 

 

In Honour of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate – Royalty Love Cupcakes Too, Right?

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Oh gosh, I just had to share these photos with you all! 😀  I went to Short and Sweet Cupcakes today (I know, in the gusting wind blowing around like a whirlpool of air!) and in honour of the royal wedding, they have special cupcakes just for today and tomorrow!  I think it’s adorable and wanted to post these pictures as quickly as possible, not just because it’s timely, but also in case anybody wants a piece of memorabilia to commemorate this special event. 

There have definitely been different opinions voiced about the royal wedding, the role (or lack thereof) the monarch plays in our society, and the media attention that it has garnered since the wedding date was announced.  Just think about it, this is the first royal wedding that is being facebooked, tweeted, Iphoned, Ipadded (did I just say that?  Oh gosh), and blackberried, and really, it’s quite the spectacle. 

No matter how people feel about it though, I’m just happy for them.  I wish them a lifetime of happiness, I think Kate is beautiful, I think William has done his late mum proud, and hell yes, I am excited for the Canadian Mint to release their special royal wedding coins for me to add to my coin collection!  That is, if they haven’t released them already…I should really find out.  ANYWAY.  For those who plan on watching coverage of William and Kate’s wedding, make it a PJ day and have fun with it!  And for those who could care less, grab a sweet treat (like a cupcake) and make a toast to the upcoming weekend 😀 

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Short & Sweet Cupcakes is located at 399 Old Orchard Grove, right off of Avenue Rd. south of Wilson Ave. and north of Lawrence Ave. West.  The royal wedding cupcakes are only available until the end of tomorrow and in limited quantities, so call ahead if you need to: 416-519-6633.

I See Delicious Breakfast in Your Future! All-Day Breakfast and Good Eats at Futures Bakery & Cafe

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I’m so super excited to finally do a blog post featuring Futures Bakery.  It’s one of my favourite places to eat in the city and it’s situated within a very well-known and well-loved neighbourhood in Toronto, The Annex.  Sandwiched between Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St. on Bloor St. West, it’s surrounded by sushi bars, coffee shops, pubs, Thai and Indian restaurants, bookstores, and independent retailers with quirky, offbeat fashions, candy, stationery, and other trinkets.  In other words, it occupies a fabulous location with a heck of a lot of foot traffic during the day!  There’s plenty to explore and I’ve walked up and down this neighbourhood so many times for the past 3 years I’ve lost count.  I’ve been here for breakfast, for lunch, with friends for brainstorming sessions for school, with my boyfriend for a midday meal, and most recently, with my mum and my brother for breakfast, and each time has been fun and has provided me with such a sense of comfort.

Futures Bakery, to me, is a jack of all trades.  The cake selection in the bakery would make anybody’s jaw hit the floor (and then, you know, drool out puddles) with their offerings of key lime cheesecake, Oreo cheesecake, tiramisu cake, black forest cheesecake, and carrot cake cheesecake just to name a bunch.  And their all-day breakfast and lunch/dinner menu offers plenty of delicious eats!  Their breakfast menu includes both sweet and savoury meals such as strawberry, blueberry, and maple crepes, French toast, omelettes, pancakes, eggs benedict, eggs florentine, grilled cheese, and others, served with sides such as toast, fruit salad, and potato wedge home fries. 

Their lunch and dinner entrees are just amazing.  Not only do they offer all-you-cat-eat pierogies night every Wednesday from 5-9pm (the pierogi lover in me squeals like teenybopper at this) but they also have a menu dedicated to ridiculously large sandwiches and comfort food such as cabbage rolls, lasagna, chicken and pork schnitzel, chili, and a selection of soup and salads.  Entrees come with either a choice of 2 salads, or a choice of salad and mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.

I’ve eaten here a handful of times, but I’m going to start by showcasing their breakfast for this blog post first.  I brought my mum and brother to Futures Bakery for breakfast last week for the first time and they both LOVED it and that made me so happy.  And not just because everything tasted delicious, but for other reasons which I’ll get to a bit later in the post.  I adore breakfast food.  I am totally amoured by my vision of the perfect meal: great food, great company, and beautiful sunshine and a light breeze streaming through the windows.  Basically, a meal of relaxation, peacefulness, and absolute bliss.  I ordered the spinach and feta cheese omelette and I was so happy with my food.  A large omelette (I’m positive they must have used 3 eggs for this) chock full of fresh spinach leaves and savoury feta, served with a helping of potato wedge home fries and ketchup, and whole wheat toast with jam and butter.

I loved my omelette and home fries for so many reasons.  My omelette let the feta do the talking.  In other words, it wasn’t salty or oily or overcooked.  The feta was allowed to shine with its creamy saltiness without being overwhelmed by the eggs or the spinach and I was able to appreciate all three without having the flavour muddied up together.  And the awesome thing about the spinach was that there were fresh leaves of it in my omelette.  It didn’t taste like it had been sitting in a packet in the freezer the whole time and really, you can tell.  Frozen spinach does not come in leaves!  The potato wedge home fries definitely deserve lots of “yays!” because they’re soft, not too starchy (I hate the potato wedges that come out so starchy they make your mouth feel parched and then make you want to gag), and I LOVE how they’re seasoned!  They taste like all dressed Ruffles chips!

And here’s why I love Futures Bakery so much.  Of course I love it here because I have enjoyed everything I’ve eaten, but it’s more than that.  Their prices are SO freakin’ awesome (breakfast and entrees for under $10) and their portions of food say this: we want you to eat.  That’s not to say they give you a buffet on a plate and want to give you a heart attack (read: super size syndrome), but you can tell from the food on your plate that they take the care, the time, and the love to give you good food.  They give you bang for your buck and they want you to leave feeling full and satisfied.  

People can say that their biggest turn-off with a place is the atmosphere, the service, the menu choices, etc.  My biggest turn-off is when I can SEE, from my plate, that the establishment is nickeling and dime-ing me.  There is no bigger turn-off.  I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart whenever I get a plate of food from here because it embodies the comfort and love of food, and the people who work here have been so nice and welcoming each time.  And it’s because of all these things that I will continue to come back, time and time again.

*****

Futures Bakery and Cafe is located at 483 Bloor St. West, in between the main intersections and subway stations of Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St.  It sits right at the corner of Bloor St. and Brunswick Ave. on the south side of Bloor.  They are open from 7:30am to 2am 7 days a week.

April Showers Bring May Flowers…and Cupcakes! ‘One Hundred and One’ Ways to Love Short & Sweet Cupcakes

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With the way the weather is panning out, the rain better bring May flowers!  I am making faces at the icky weather outside and missing Short & Sweet Cupcakes because they’ve been closed for the past week for their holiday and they won’t reopen until Wednesday.  I have the worst timing!  It figures I have the biggest hankering for one (or two) of their cupcakes when they’re not open.  And I found this out the hard way when I went last week and saw the sign on their front window saying they were on holiday for Passover from the 19th-26th.  How embarrassing.  Especially considering they have a blog on blogspot with their vacay update.  Face palm moment, sigh.  So meanwhile, I have had to make do with looking at pictures and making a set of colourful spring scrapbook pages to console myself.  I am counting the days and hours till I can sink my teeth into some damn awesome cake and frosting 😀

Single cupcakes are $2.80 each with half a dozen ringing in at $14 and a dozen for $26.  On my quest to try each and every single cupcake of theirs (and to photograph and scrapbook it all), my choice this time around was the ‘One Hundred and One’.  My best guess is that the name is a play on “101 Dalmations” given the black and whiteness of both the puppies and Oreos/cookies and cream!  If you looooove cookies and cream and Oreos like me, you will LOVE this!

Now, the ‘One Hundred and One’ is an Oreo cupcake that resembles and tastes more like the famous creamy Oreo filling than the actual combination of cookie crumble which I think is awesome.  I love anything cookies and cream and Oreo related, but a lot of the time the emphasis is on the cookie and although that’s obviously fantastic, it’s great to see a different kind of interpretation.  The focus here becomes the filling that everyone has come to know and love since childhood.  The cake itself is a mixture of ground Oreo cookie and vanilla cake (hence the speckling), but don’t expect the crumbling cookie texture.  For those who do love crunch, you’re probably better off getting their ‘Chunky Monkey’ cupcake with the chocolate chips in it 🙂  The cake is more uniform in consistency and texture, so you get the flavour of cookie but just not the crumblyness which is perfect for those who don’t like a lot of crunch and prefer a moist flavourful cake.  

And the frosting?  Oh gosh, it tastes like a creamy, delicious mound of Oreo filling.  If you’re the type of person who loves licking the cream filling off the Oreo cookie, you will mop this baby up!  The frosting is buttery smooth (but without actually tasting like butter, ha!) and let me tell you, they are so generous with their frosting.  The ‘One Hundred and One’ is also adorned with a Smartie chocolate on top.  I got the pink one ^_^

This visit to Short & Sweet Cupcakes was so fab because I arrived at the shop right when they opened in the morning and I got to smell the amazing smell of freshed baked cupcakes with their toasty golden brown tops.  I got to watch the cupcakes get frosted, sprinkled, and put out on display and it made me happy just watching the work get done.  After having worked in a flower shop for three years, I knew and understood the pride and joy in creating and crafting and I totally soaked in the busyness and creative energy in the shop that morning.  And I cannot wait to go back again.

*****

Short & Sweet Cupcakes is located at 399 Old Orchard Grove, right off of Avenue Rd. south of Wilson Ave. and north of Lawrence Ave. West.  It’s actually a little closer to Wilson than it is to Lawrence, and if you’re taking public transit (like me) the easiest way to get here is to get off at Wilson subway station and take the 96 bus to Avenue Rd. and walk south.  Old Orchard Grove is on the east side of Avenue Rd.  You can also get here by getting off at York Mills subway station and walking west to Avenue Rd. from Yonge.

Scrapbooking materials used: mint green and white cardstock (Recollections); dusty pink cardstock (Choco Mod Patterns stack by DCWV); rainbow colours of cardstock (Recollections); patterned paper (Choco Mod Patterns stack by DCWV); butterfly stickers (Sticko); pink alphabet stickers (Recollections); circle paper punch; brown rope twine for title banner.

Bunnies and Easter Sunday Baking! Terry’s Carrot Cake Cookies

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It’s Easter Sunday!  I don’t celebrate in any type of religious way, but I’m all sorts of giddy over the pastels, bunnies, chocolate, and all-around cuteness!  Like I promised last night, I have a baked cookie treat for you guys today: CARROT CAKE COOKIES!!  😀  As soon as I saw the recipe in my foodie murder mystery, Cream Puff Murder, I knew I had to bake these and I knew I wanted to bake them for Easter weekend.  I adore carrot cake and thought it had to be awesome in cookie form.  I had a lot of the ingredients on hand already (cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut, etc.) so there wasn’t too much I had to go out and specifically buy for the cookies. 

When I think of Easter and spring I think of marshmallows, chocolates, pastel jelly beans, and carrots (you know, with the bunnies and all), so I figured anything related to those yummies would work.  And I’m really excited to share the recipe and photos for this time because the last time I baked cookies (before these ones but after the mocha butterballs) I had to chuck half the batch and couldn’t get photos to show you all; until I can tinker with the recipe again and make it work, it ain’t getting published!

The cookie dough for these smelled SO amazingly good.  With the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, golden raisins, apple sauce, and crushed pineapple, our big mixing bowl of cookie dough smelled like a fruity cinnamon bun *closes eyes and mentally floats on a heavenly cloud*  The dough needs time to chill (I chilled mine overnight), but it’s so worth it because they turned out great and YES, they taste like delicious carrot cake!  I gotta say, the golden raisins, crushed pineapple, and cinnamon and nutmeg MAKE this recipe and I’m really happy with how they turned out.  YAY!

Recipe for Terry’s Carrot Cake Cookies (yields 10 dozen small cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup, 1/2 pound) at room temperature
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (**Deb’s note: I used the little cups of Mott’s Fruitsations)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (**Deb’s note: I used ground nutmeg from the bulk, it worked just fine)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 20-ounce can crushed pineapple (very well drained)
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (measure after chopping) (**Deb’s note: I’m not a fan of walnuts so I didn’t use them)
  • 3⅟₂cups flour (pack it down in the cup when you measure it)
  • 1 cup coconut (shredded)
  • 3 cups finely grated carrots

**Deb’s note: there was no way I was going to bake 10 dozen, so I actually halved this recipe and it worked out just fine.  I know you can’t halve 3 eggs, so I used my judgment and whipped up two and all I had was 14-ounce can of crushed pineapple so I used about 3/4 of the can.  The cookies turned out great, so it’s safe to halve this recipe if you can’t manage baking 10 dozen!

Directions

  • Beat the butter, sugar, and eggs together until all 3 ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is smooth, fluffy, and light yellow in colour.
  • Pat off any excess liquid from the applesauce with a paper towel.  Add the applesauce to your bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Mix in the vanilla extract.
  • Blend in the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Mix it well until the dough is smooth and is a uniform colour.
  • Drain the excess liquid from the crushed pineapple.  Using a wire mesh sieve, press the pineapple against the sieve to remove as much liquid as possible.  Mix in the pineapple, golden raisins, and chopped walnuts (if using).
  • Blend in the flour, a little bit at a time.  If you try to dump it all in at once, the mixer will beat and puff up a cloud of flour dust and make a mess out of the bowl and your kitchen counter!
  • Stir in the shredded coconut by hand.
  • Stir in the grated carrots by hand.  Mix well to make sure everything is distributed evenly and thorough incorporated.
  • Cover the cookie dough with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

  • When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F, rack in middle position.
  • Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and put 12 dough balls on each sheet.  You can use 2 spoons to scoop and drop the dough, a small icecream scoop, or your hands if you don’t mind getting your hands a bit messy.  Shape the dough into rounds.
  • Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes.  Leave the cookies on the cookie sheets for a minute before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool.

When they are cool enough, proceed to stuff your face.  I ate 3 cookies as soon as they were cool enough.  So soft, yet crunchy from the coconut, carrots, and raisins.  I love these cookies and I’m so happy they turned out well!  There’s actually a cream cheese frosting recipe that goes along with it, but all I had in the fridge was salmon and garden vegetable cream cheese (d’oh!), hardly what I would consider appropriate for cookies, ha!  Leave me a comment if you want the frosting recipe and enjoy the photos and the rest of your Easter weekend! 😀

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Recipe taken from Joanne Fluke’s Cream Puff Murder.  New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2009.  Photograps taken by me.  The recipe can be found on page 139.  Terry refers to a character whom Hannah (the main character of the series) knows in the book.

Easter Just Isn’t Easter Without Chocolate – Chocolate & Bunnies at Teuscher Chocolates

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It’s been a loooong day so although I don’t have a thorough post for you guys tonight, I have something awesome for you all tomorrow to make up for it 😀  My mum and I spent tonight mixing up a delicious smelling bowl of cookie dough to chill overnight and I can’t wait to share the pictures and recipe with everyone for Easter!  In the meantime, here are some photos I took of some cute Easter bunnies and fancy schmancy chocolates in Teuscher Chocolates’s storefront display located in The Manulife Centre at Bloor St. West and Bay St.  I have a TON of fab stuff to share with you guys over the next little while and I’m really looking forward to whipping up some new scrapbook pages.  I hope everyone is having a great long weekend!

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Teuscher Chocolates is located at 55 Bloor St. West inside the Manulife Centre in William Ashley China.